When sustainable development meets indigenous knowledge

Okay so… even though it wouldn’t be very professional of me to show some preference for some kind of projects, I must say I have a thing for those related to indigenous cultures. And with this project, Desarrollo Alternativo en Satipo (DAS) the European Union and the Peruvian government did something amazing and HUGE, and huge translates to thirteen thousand families benefiting from this program.

Indigenous communities are often pushed by economical reasons. Ensuring decent job opportunities on their lands ensures they permanency and the protection of their culture.

Satipo, the largest province of the Junín region in Perú, is pretty close to where 70% of the cocaine produced in the country is made. This puts pressure on the Nomatsiguenga people, while also creating armed conflicts. So before this project started, a lot of people used to grow coca leaves for the drug cartels. So besides being part of this operation, they were ruled by them and as you can imagine… labor rights were off the table.

So this project was targeting farmers, to get them into legal production, saving their lands from the cartels, promote sustainable development and the protection of their resources, and put up the fight against drugs. Being in Satipo, I spent a day and a half with the Nomatsiguenga listening to their stories, getting to know how life changing this has been for them and how much safer they feel now not having to work in illegal activities. The DAS program took cocoa farmers and showed them how to make the most out of what they produce, instead of just selling the fruit, they’re no processing it, making jams and liquors and selling them as separate products, which gives them variety and more income.

Safety was a big concern for the Nomatsiguenga. Now their kids can safely play and go to school.

And with income comes something else… yep, you got that right! Access to stuff. It was quite curious to see the Nomatsiguenga using cell phones, TVs, and some even pick up trucks. Usually, when you think about visiting an indigenous community you expect things to be more… rustic. But I must say, it made me really happy to see them doing it, and here’s why:

They’re adapting to new ways and technologies because they want to and because they can afford it, not because they’re being pushed somewhere else because of a bad economic situation and this is thanks to years of developing the DAS program.

Two sisters watch TV after their study time.

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