Accelerating Community Development in Indigenous Communities in the South American Gran Chaco

Accelerating Community Development in Indigenous Communities in the South American Gran Chaco

Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay

A well-organized community knows its rights and plans for the future. In the Gran Chaco region, community members lead participatory community mapping. They are charting
the locations of natural assets and existing infrastructure to better plan and advocate with authorities to meet the community’s basic needs. Photo: Fundapaz

The CWS Gran Chaco program is a long-term, cross-border initiative that strengthens local ecumenical partnerships and grassroots efforts to build the skills and capacity of indigenous peoples – especially women – to advocate effectively for their rights to land, water, education, health, food and a life free from violence.

In response to chronic drought, our team supports community-led advocacy to accelerate government investment in small-scale water solutions, particularly family and community rainwater harvesting systems. Participating communities are trained by CWS partners Fundapaz, CERDET and JUM to use participatory mapping and geographic information system tools as part of their advocacy. These groups succeeded in many of their petitions to municipal and state authorities and made community decisions that were better informed about land and natural resource use and management.

In late 2016, our team redefined its approach to work in Paraguay to adapt to local political and partnership contexts and in response to lessons learned in previous years. In partnership with Comite de Iglesias of Paraguay, CWS’s food security and development work began in March 2017 with 90 families in the communities of San Patricio and San Fernando.

In eight remote locations in the Gran Chaco, organized indigenous women developed and led municipal advocacy campaigns. They were accompanied by CWS implementing partners JUM, CERDET, Endepa and Fundapaz, and they successfully engaged and mobilized local authorities, non-indigenous allies and indigenous male leaders.

CWS and partners have helped build 25 rooftop rainwater catchment systems in local schools, increasing the rainwater harvest and storage capacity by
160,000 gallons.