The indigenous approach of developement

The indigenous approach of developement

The economic rationality of indigenous peoples is not accumulation, but harmonious relationship with the environment.

During the Minga, an ancient tradition of collective work, people work for the benefit of the community, but also enjoy time together. (Midwives met in Minga for cultivating medicinal plants · Cotacachi · Ecuador Photo Alejo Cock)

From a western point of view, the concept of development is understood mainly as “economic development”, that is to say an improvement in material conditions of life. Whilst for many indigenous cultures, development is the search for harmony.

In the kichwa language there is no word that translates “Development” in the western sense of the world. The translation would be closer to “the fulfilment of a full life”, which is “Sumak Kawsay”.

In the Andean vision, “Sumak Kawsay” is the balance between Munaj [the economical dimension], Yachay [the learning, knowledge dimension]. Thus we can say that “development” and “sub-development” in the western sense are not adequate concepts in the vision of indigenous peoples.

Today “Sumak Kawsay” appears in the new constitutions of Bolivia and Ecuador. It is the first time that a notion that expresses ancestral practices of cohabitation, which are respectful of nature and of human beings, is out lined as the “must-be” of a society.

“ I don’t feel under-developed or poor…. because I have my lore, my culture, my behaviour, my environment, my land……so I don’t see how anyone could consider me as being under-developed”
Cesar Pilataxi Ecuadorean leader

In the XXI century, the challenge for the indigenous peoples is to live in this globalised world without giving up their worldview or their identity.

Offering to the "Pachamama" or Mother Earth, to thank for giving us life: water, food and plants for health. (Equinox Day · Cotacachi · Ecuador · Photo Alix de Roten)

Despite centuries of oppression, many indigenous cultures have survived. In the XXI Century native people are still fighting to protect their ancestral lands, natural resources, cultural practices and languages. The exploitation (oil companies, mines, timber industry, gas industry…) on their lands, deforestation, assimilation policies or prejudice are some of the threats facing them.

But this century also carries new hopes: on one hand in some sectors of society, the indigenous proposals on development have been welcomed, as can be seen from the high participation of the indigenous peoples in the World Social Forum in Belém do Pará, Brazil, in January 2009. On the other hand, on a legal level, the approval, in 2007, of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, that protects the right of these peoples to “freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”, is an important international recognition of the secular struggle of native people. These changes open new horizons for the development of indigenous models in the field of economics, culture, education, health, politics, etc.

In the next posts, we we will publish examples of current economic initiatives that have their roots in the history and tradition of the indigenous peoples. As well as presenting a major opportunity for the future of these people, and are an effective way of dealing with the global challenges of the XXI century, which unbridled consumerism and the ensuing imbalance in the global ecosystem not to mention exacerbating social inequalities.

The girls at the Intercultural Bilingual School "Amauta Ñaupi" live from young the intimate relationship that a person should have with nature. (Amauta Ñaupi · Puyo · Ecuador · Photo Alejo Cock)

This work on the indigenous approach of developement is part of a global investigation I made for the Red Cross’ campaign “Harmony Peoples” indigenous approaches in a global world.

Bankomunal : how communities can be self-financed

Bankomunal : how communities can be self-financed

FUNDEFIR (Rural Finance Foundation) is a Venezuelan foundation, which has been working for 14 years developing a methodology to provide financial services to communities and individuals excluded from the formal financial system. FUNDEFIR’s model, called Bankomunales, is based on the exclusive use of funds from members of the community, as a source of funding.

The old informal system of communal savings, with more benefits

In many communities in Latin America and Africa, the problem is not so much the lack of income than its irregularity. To solve this problem, informal mechanisms have been traditionally used in these communities to meet the needs of credit and savings: each person in the group gives money to a communal fund, from which anyone can ask for a loan if needed, and return the money according to pre-established conditions.

The Bankomunales’ system is based on this old common fund mechanism, but the novelty is that local funds are not only” savings deposits”, but “micro investments”, through which participants buy shares of the organization and benefit from a return on investment. The new model not only allows access to financial services, but also provides financial education and community organization.

Learning from the failures in the traditional microcredit system

The system of microcredits granted by banks is being criticized today by some analysts as well as by the Prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheik Hasina Wazed, who consider that most borrowers do not appear to be climbing out of poverty, and that a sizable minority is getting trapped in a spiral of debt. With the Bankomunales system, the benefits from the microcredits are reverted to the community. “The community members are the owners of the money so they get double benefit: the use they made of it and the interest. And this causes a strong change of mentality” Raydán Solomon says, the social entrepreneur at the front of this initiative (1).

“Muhammad Yunnus taught the world that the poor people could be financed. We have shown that they can be self-financed.” he adds, defining his project.

A model for international experiment.

Currently, there are about two hundred Bankomunales in eleven states of Venezuela. Repayment rates are of 99% and the success of the model has led to its export to five countries on three continents: Spain, Senegal, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia.

More information
In Spain : Comunidades Autofinanciadas CAF

Think global, act rural

Think global, act rural

Think global, act rural (solutions locales pour un désordre global), from french filmmaker Coline Serreau is a fantastic overview of the insane situation of productivist agriculture in the world today, but it is much more : she filmed amazing and efficient initiatives around the world, showing that well managed, organic agriculture has a very high performance because it is free and durable. It’s time to recuperate common sense in the field of agriculture.

See trailer

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