Yanapuma began to work with the Tsa'chila culture in 2007 at the invitation of Alfonso Aguavil, the leader of the cultural group in the comuna Bua de los Tsa'chila. At first our work was limited to sending volunteer groups to help in the development of the Shinopi Bolon cultural center, building cabañas and ecological sanitation in the center as well as on several farms.
From that beginning we spread into other areas: education, reforestation, community construction projects, sustainable cacao production, health promotion and well-being, vegetable plots, mapping and more. An overarching concern has always been to encourage the development of skills in the community as well as improve cultural self-esteem and organizational abilities.
Working with the Tsa'chila has been an immense challenge, principally due to the largely unapparent differences between our culture and theirs. A semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer people who lived in independent family units in the rainforest that once covered the entire region from the western slopes of the Andes to the Pacific ocean, their lifestyle was abrubtly interrupted by a mass influx of colonists who felled the forest and began farming all around them. Read more.
Yanapuma's work in with the Tsa'chila can be split into the following program areas:
We are working to improve the knowledge and practice of environmentally friendly agricultural production systems to provide alternative sources of income from more lucrative, specialty crops such as cacao alongside the development of native tree nurseries for reforestation to protect local water- courses and improve soil vitality. In addition we promote horticulture in the form of small family gardens for vegetable production and barter, with the eventual aim of sale of vegetables outside the community.
Yanapuma facilitates integrated health promotion through a combination of practical solutions to water, sanitation, and food security deficiencies, and capacity development in hygiene, nutrition, and preventative health practices. This has included the creation of a health and well-being promotion center next to the local school in Bua, which serves as a focal point for training of local health promoters and the dissemination of information about health maintenance and promotion. Nutritional education along with the development of vegetable gardens in the school and on family farms has been another key strategy for improving diet and health.
The foundation works with long-term volunteers and interns to provide English and PC tuition and other topics in the schools as well as to the adult groups in the communities. A focus on youth and children as the locus of change for the future is an important strategy for aiding these communities to adapt successfully.
Presently we are working with the Tsachila in a variety of ways that will lead to increased income generation from sustainable and non-damaging activities. These include improving cacao production, experimenting with complementary crops, developing small scale horticulture, tree nurseries to produce saplings for sale, developing crafts production, and promoting appropriate tourism.