Peace Corps Volunteers Worldwide Work to Eradicate Hunger and Increase Food Security

October 16, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 16, 2014 – Peace Corps volunteers help communities around the world secure a healthy and reliable food supply, address shortages of clean water, and reduce malnutrition. Today on World Food Day, celebrated annually on Oct. 16, the Peace Corps recognizes volunteers who are helping to eradicate hunger and increase food security at the grassroots level. Below is the story of one volunteer who is promoting nutrient-rich crop production in his Peruvian community.

Peace Corps volunteer Michael Mazotti uses a worm bed to compost organic waste.

Peace Corps volunteer Michael Mazotti of San Jose, California, has developed a large-scale organic waste management system that is not only keeping his community in Peru clean but also generating nutrient-rich composted fertilizer for his community’s crop gardens, fruit trees and grass. By adding slow-release nutrients to the crops, the rich fertilizer is fostering expanded crop growth.

Mazotti is currently producing more than 1,100 pounds of compost weekly through a process called vermicomposting – a fast, non-hazardous way to turn organic waste into high-quality, natural fertilizer using worms.

“What started as a tiny worm bed grew 1,000 percent in the first year,” said Mazotti, a graduate of Sacramento State University who has been living in Peru since 2012. “We were shocked at how successful the process was.”

Located along the northwestern coast of Peru, Mazotti’s community is home to unique ecosystems and archeological centers and attracts thousands of tourists each year. To manage the buildup of inorganic waste brought in by the influx of visitors, the local government established a recycling program, but Mazotti and his local counterpart noticed that organic waste was still accumulating.

Worm beds used to create fertilizer.

“I went on a hunt for ideas on how to dispose of a sizable amount of organic waste efficiently,” Mazotti said. “I first focused on regular composting but became discouraged when I saw how much space and time this method would require. Then I saw an online article about vermicomposting and worms’ ability to eat away at waste quickly as a method of organic waste management.”

Mazotti and his local counterpart purchased supplies to build their first worm bed and filled it with organic waste from the market. When they realized how quickly the worms were able to convert waste into fertilizer, they began working with local farmers and merchants to expand the system.

“Once the program begins to produce more natural fertilizer than can be used in my community, the government will begin to offer it for sale. It is quite amazing how sustainable this project ended up being.”

Volunteers across Peace Corps’ six project sectors promote food security in their communities. The Peace Corps is one of eleven federal departments and agencies contributing to the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future. More than 1,200 Peace Corps volunteers have played a role in taking important food security messaging and practices to the grassroots level.

About Peace Corps/Peru: There are currently 258 volunteers in Peru working in the areas of youth and community development, health and environment. During their service in Peru, volunteers learn to speak the local languages, including Spanish and Quechua. More than 3,270 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Peru since the program was established in 1962.

About the Peace Corps: As the preeminent international service organization of the United States, the Peace Corps sends Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. Peace Corps volunteers work at the grassroots level with local governments, schools, communities, small businesses and entrepreneurs to develop sustainable solutions that address challenges in education, health, economic development, agriculture, environment and youth development. When they return home, volunteers bring their knowledge and experiences – and a global outlook – back to the United States that enriches the lives of those around them. President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961 to foster a better understanding among Americans and people of other countries. Since then, more than 215,000 Americans of all ages have served in 139 countries worldwide. Visit www.peacecorps.gov to learn more.

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