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International Day of Indigenous Peoples

Ten out of 36 (or 28%) finalists in the “Experiences in Social Innovation” competition organized by ECLAC and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, are indigenous. After a rigorous selection process, these 36 finalists standout among a total of 2,600 applications received from almost all countries in the region.

As to the indigenous initiatives, their tasks are quite diverse but they have a common denominator: the capacity to associate to overcome poverty and reaffirm cultural identity. They seek to increase their community involvement as citizens with economic, social and cultural rights and as indigenous peoples, with collective rights.

The projects excel for their creativity and innovation. Community participation is the basis of their proposals, which are easily replicable in other communities due to their low costs, operational simplicity and good results. In other words, they apply efficient strategies to improve their living standards.

Between 8% and 10% of total continental population is indigenous, with over 400 different dialects. These communities are not only the poorest in the region, but have the least access to health services, education, basic services and drinking water and have the most precarious living conditions. All of the above added to scarce cultural recognition.

  • Determined to regain their cultural identity and change the negative image of indigenous peoples in the eyes of the white community (which associates them with poverty and marginality)  indigenous communities in Salta, Jujuy, Formosa, El Chaco and Santa Fe, Argentina, created a communication network. Currently, 135 radio stations broadcast their news, provided by local correspondents. (Contact: Jorge Frías, coordinacionrci@arnet.com.ar  Tel: (54) 3722-421600).
  • On a Peruvian Amazon reservation, an indigenous community and NGO associated to create a sustainable development model that not only protects an ecologically vulnerable zone, but also generates income for its inhabitants (Contact: Javier Noriega, pronaturaleza@pronaturaleza. org. Tel: (51-65) 23-50-53).
  • A female Quechua community, with the help of a nun, created a company of export quality, knitted alpaca products. Currently, they export their entire production to the United Sates and are assessing their approach to the Japanese market (Contact: Victoria Quispe,  cip_victoria@yahoo.es; Tel: (51-51) 327589 y 322224).
  • A co-op unites 140 small-scale agricultural producers, descendants of natives of Quebrada de Humahuaca, in Jujuy, Argentina, to recover Andean traditional crops. Currently, they sell over 40 varieties of potatoes and corn. (Contact: javierrodriguez@cauqueva.com.ar ; Tel: (54) 388 499 7185).
  • In the Peruvian highlands, families of scarce economic resources, with support of an NGO, increase family income by using an innovative technology to cultivate trout at over 4,000 meters of altitude (Contact: Pedro Ramos Jara,  iniquillach@hotmail.com).
  • In the Bolivian highlands, 773 families work collectively to eradicate a poisonous weed from their grasslands that invades their crops and kills cattle, forcing peasants to migrate to surrounding cities. (Contact: Giannpierre Fiorilo, giannpierre@yahoo.com Tel: (591 2) 528-1288).
  • The General Council of Williche Caciques (Indian Chiefs) in Chiloe – island in southern Chile – reached an agreement with local authorities on a complementary health model based on a system of co-management that integrates the indigenous worldview – and their ancestral medicinal knowledge – with modern medicine. (Contact: Manuel Muñoz Millalonco, ccchilwe@telsur.cl, Tel: (56-65) 53 26 60; 53 26 61). 
  • In the Colombian Tolima Department, the bi-cultural model of medicine is used with the Pijao and Paez indigenous peoples. Within the model’s framework, planting orchards with medicinal herbs, using traditional popular medicines and providing medical attention from the perspective of the indigenous worldview, are encouraged. (Contact: cesarculma@hotmail.com, Tel: (57 98) 262-5085).
  • In the State of Amazons, Brazil, an NGO works with the Hupdäh Indian community on an education and medical attention model. This model includes developing a Hup alphabet, improving literacy rates and training “indigenous health promoters” to provide basic medical attention in their community for diseases usually unknown to the indigenous population (Contact: Marina Machado, Email: sslim@uol.com.br Tel: (5511) 5539 – 2968 / 5539 – 3803).
  • Local, female Quechua-speaking volunteers, specially trained to tend problems of intra-family violence, work hard in Cusco to provide support for female victims of family violence. They accompany family violence victims through the process of denouncing the aggression and all follow-up steps. They involve the entire community, bringing about awareness and transforming the attitudes of battered women’s children and husbands, as well as police, judges and academics to provoke changes for a better lifestyle (Contact: Rocío Franco,  rfranco@idl.org.pe; (51-1) 422-0244).

Complete information on this competition, including multi-media materials in Spanish, English, French and Portuguese, is posted at: www.cepal.org/dds/innovacionsocial/portada_i.htm.
E-mail:  innovacion.social@cepal.org. Telephones:  (56-2) 210-2148/ 2451/2263.

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