Center for Amazon Community Ecology (CACE) is a recipient of our 2015 Feedback Fund. Recently they shared these insights with us.
We promote conservation and sustainable livelihoods by building stronger communities in the Peruvian Amazon. The Fund allowed us to ask local artisans we work with in the Ampiyacu about their economic realities and dreams. How does making more crafts help them achieve their goals?
In 2015, we sent Peruvian videographer Tulio Davila to talk with 18 artisans over two weeks. He asked about:
- sources of family income
- personal and family goals
- handicraft production
What we learned:
Income range, dependency
We have a better sense of the upper and lower range of income in the village and how important selling crafts is to many families. CACE appears to be the major craft buyer from some artisans but a minor one for others.
Our goals reflect their goals
We had assumed artisans wanted to sell more. We asked them to describe their goals for one year and five years and set personal craft production targets. They showed us how many more crafts our organizations would need to sell if artisans met their goals.
In the past, people wanted enough money to buy a few basic items (like soap, salt and kerosene) to supplement their subsistence lifestyles. As access to electricity increases, lights, TVs, and DVD players become more common. Many people now want bigger houses, bigger boats and engines, chain saws, refrigerators, and nicer clothes. A few want to raise fish, raise cattle or expand the size of their fields. Some goals are focused on increasing their means to increase income while others describe the amenities they could get with more money. What they expect from CACE also evolves.
Confirming that our partners have materialistic aspirations was not surprising but it revealed something important. While artisans are well aware of the challenges, most families want to stay and improve their standard of living in their remote villages instead of moving to cities. We recognize this has significant implications for our work and forest conservation. We need to help our partners increase their income from sustainable enterprises. Their desire to make money may matter more to them than whether their efforts damage the forest.
Recognizing urban migration as a looming problem
The stakes are higher now. Families often worked so their children could learn a trade, and leave the village when they grew up. Now it seems entire families are leaving villages. Adults want to get regular and higher paying work, and they want their children to attend higher quality grade schools. This emigration threatens to create a downward spiral in local development because the regional government will close down secondary schools if their enrollment drops below a minimum number of students. If the villages at the frontier of the forest continue to shrink, there will be fewer and fewer people with a vested interest in keeping the forest intact to support their low-impact lifestyles. This will leave the forests more vulnerable to predatory exploitation by outsiders.
Our hope is that increasing opportunities for sustainable livelihoods will show more people that they can improve their standard of living without leaving behind their traditional forest lands and culture. For some, the desire to move may be motivated by wanting to learn and do different things in addition to making more money. Some families are addressing both needs by opening up little shops out of their homes. As we further develop craft making and essential oil enterprises in the villages, my hope is that managing these activities will provide intellectual stimulation for bright young women and men who might otherwise choose to seek such challenges in the city.
In our next post, we’ll talk about how we learned how to ask these questions.
Author: Campbell Plowden
This is an example of a GlobalGiving organizations that Listens, Acts, and Learns.