The Experience of the Quebrada de Humahuaca, Province of Jujuy

By Paz Bossio

In 2021, U4C launched an ambitious project – working with aboriginal communities in northern Argentina. In partnership and collaboration with Rotary Peace Fellow Magda Zurita and local partner Paz Bossio, the needs and expectations of indigenous people in these communities were identified, sensitively acknowledged and assessed. During this process, many challenges were identified by meeting with community leaders. They expressed that there are insufficient education and training opportunities to achieve sustainable economic development so local communities could improve their circumstances and tackle the social, economic and environmental challenges and struggles confronting aboriginal people in Argentina.

U4C has worked closely with the Union of Small Aboriginal Producers of Jujuy and Salta (UPPAJS), an association of more than 25 aboriginal communities, to address community-perceived needs and interests thru workshops and community mapping activities. This process strengthened trust-building between community leaders, U4C, and local partner, Paz Bossio, who has worked with aboriginal populations in this region for many years. The goal was to engage in the process of identifying local needs and interests in ways that assured the perceived relevance of strategies and buy-in among intended beneficiaries. People from the Aboriginal Communities of Azul Pampa, Coctaca, Caspala, Chorrillos, Chucalezna, Coraya, Guazadurazno, Uquia, Miyuyoc, Palca de Aparzo, Varas, Pucara, San Roque, Iruya y Santa Ana, mainly from the Department of Humahuaca, have been engaged and committed in the process.

As a result, the Leadership and Entrepreneurship Program to advance Sustainable Economic Development was created to empower the aboriginal communities of Jujuy and Salta by providing them with training, adaptation tools and technologies to support the development of sustainable economic micro-enterprises. By training entrepreneurs and leaders, new skills will emerge to strengthen the aboriginal communities of the Quebrada de Humahuaca, a Natural, Cultural and Landscape Heritage of Humanity, declared by UNESCO in 2003.

Some of them have expressed their experiences, challenges and dreams.  One of them is Sonia Gregorio, 39 years old, from the Palca de Aparzo-Varas Community who shared with us: “Palca, means union of rivers, both Palca and Varas were born as places or stalls where the grandparents rested with the animals to get to Humahuaca. It is an area of small producers dedicated to producing beans, peas, potatoes in some places, fodder barley, alfalfa and quinoa, and animal husbandry. Being the ancestral lands of our grandparents, there are ancient and old mills showing how great wheat and barley production was. As a strength, we have the tradition of our communities from a religious approach with pre-Hispanic churches from the 1600s and 1800s”.

Gimena Zarate, a 23-year-old leader, from the Community of Pucará, told us that “our community’s strengths are its various entrepreneurs such as artisans and regional foods, the attractions of its hills such as the Hornocal, the Pucará viewpoint and the Church, among others. One weakness we have is the lack of water, which makes it difficult to plant different vegetables. As projects, we want to have enough water and offer more things that we have and that we know as a community”.  Don Santos Tactata, 61 years old, also shared and contributed with all his experiences, enriching the intergenerational meeting and reminding us that as attractions, there are also cave paintings and petroglyphs that show man’s presence since time immemorial.

Community leaders are eager to learn how to design and implement innovative projects to facilitate sustainable positive impacts in their territories. Areas of focus include the fields of tourism, regional gastronomy, and weaving to value their own territory, culture, agriculture and the ancestral knowledge transmitted from generation to generation.  U4C is thrilled to launch this initiative!  Stay tuned for more updates.

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