International Partnerships

Indigenous Partners

Throughout our travels in Central and South America, we've encountered a wide range of indigenous peoples holding on to their cultures in the face of pressures of development, deforestation, and sale of ancestral lands, to support unsustainable large-scale agricultural operations, modernization, and the misguided belief that they need to westernize before they can be considered anything other than third world. These pressures usually end up destroying native lands and tearing apart communities, and discouraging native customs and values.  Many communities, however, have a strong desire to live contrary to these destructive options, in ways that enable them to continue living their traditional lives that will preserve their culture and identity.  They find themselves in a struggle, sometimes lacking the tools and knowledge to be self-sutainable.

The Quechua of the high Andes..the Salasaca of Ecuador..the Shuar of the Amazon..the Kuna of Panama...to name just a few.

Our staff at CECLA have ties to these cultures that we work to strengthen in ways that benefit both their cultures and ours.

First and foremost: we have a great deal WE can learn from THEM with regards to small scale agriculture, low impact lifestyles, living simply, and community values. Through stories, discussions, and various linkages, (including in some cases potentially having our members be able to communicate with them via email) our members will have the opportunity to have windows into their lives, thoughts, and views. On occasion, we'll be trying to arrange a visit or two from them.

Secondly: We'll be exploring ways in which we can help them with their economic reality by supporting their efforts at maintaining their culture and teaching them to be more self-sustainable.  In many places, small family gardening practices, once a common traditional knowledge, have been abandoned in exchange for chemically enhanced mono-culture crops, which they often sell to buy food from large-scale farming operations. Most crops are grown with pesticides and chemical fertilizers, which are completely unregulated in these countries. Many farmers die from exposure to these chemicals. The most unfortunate part of this situation is that, through the eyes of most farmers, there is no other option. They no longer remember traditional methods or how to grow food sustainably. But families in small communities (who almost all grow crops) are interested in learning the tools which will allow them to care for their lands and the health of their families, growing food sustainably. It is our hope at CECLA that we can do our part to bring them this knowledge, starting at the community level, and helping it spread to neighboring communties.

All of these cultures have unique artisans and craftspeople, and many produce goods that may be of interest to our members. We'll highlight some of these crafts on our web site, and in our lodge. Weavings from Alonso Pilla, master weaver of the Salasaca culture; soaps produced by farmers committed to sustainable agriculture in the Darien Province of Panama, and so on.

In this way we hope to do our part to strengthen the global community, share cultures and perspectives, finding out what works best to lead us into a better future.