Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mutual Learning and Accompaniment

Map from BBC News.
In the Southwest Colombian department of Nariño (on the border with Ecuador), the Lutheran Church is accompanying the indigenous Pasto community in an environmental/food security project. The project involves supporting the construction and maintenance of organic gardens as well as farming cuy (guinea pigs) [same concept as fish farms], which are a delicacy for the indigenous peoples in this region.

We visited all the participants gardens to discuss what they were leaning,
what challenges they were facing,
and how the project could be strengthened. 
(Photo credit -Curtis Kline)
A similar project exists in Boyaca (a department of Colombia, north of Bogota, and fish farming in place of cuy) with non-indigenous peoples. The idea is that these two very different communities will visit each other’s projects, share experiences, knowledge about ecologies and food/environmental issues, to learn from and share with each other, strengthening both projects.

The indigenous Pastos invited me to come and hold a workshop about the international system of protecting and promoting the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as experiences other indigenous communities have had regarding the protection of their rights. This past week, July 21-25, I was able to go visit the environmental project, hold the workshop and get to know many of the leaders of the community.

Beginning my presentation with participants from the
environmental project and various community leaders.
(Photo credit - Jairo Suarez) 
A view of the participants of the workshop.
(Photo credit - Jairo Suarez)

The community received the issues well, and invited me and the human rights program of the Lutheran church to continue in accompaniment with them around issues of the rights of indigenous peoples. We identified several vulnerable areas to focus on regarding the rights of the indigenous Pastos, ranging from the recuperation of their traditional language to protecting their environment against mining incursions.

After learning what rights are protected internationally as well
as in the Colombian constitution, the participants analyzed the areas
where the protection of these rights is not being implemented.
(Photo credit - Jairo Suarez) 
The possibility of replicating the workshop, as well as future activities with this community is exciting. The indigenous Pasto women are very involved with the association of indigenous women of Nariño, and could potentially involved four other indigenous nations in these workshops and discussion on how to protect their rights. 

The opportunities are numerous and exciting, especially the opening of space for intercultural dialogue, the learning of different ways of understanding the world, and the building of relationships of solidarity.

Above is a music video from a group of talented Pasto youth musicians. The video shows various important components to the culture, as well as many beautiful landscapes of their territory. 

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