Abya Yala Fund exists to support self-development initiatives of indigenous people in Central and South America and Mexico. AYF's board of directors has chosen:
(1) the environment, (2) organizational development, and (3) alternative models of indigenous development, as priorities for funding over the next two years.
AYF board needs to carefully select projects that have an excellent potential for success specifically, projects that will:
A) Prior to funding a project, AYF must make a realistic and objective assessment of the institutional capacity of the group.
B) Incorporate organizational development plans, with specific objectives and activities, as part of each project. Critical training areas include:
A) Another crucial component of successful indigenous self-development is political awareness. In order to fully participate in and benefit from local development initiatives, community members need to understand their reality, including the following areas:
B) A process of conscientization, with educational activities that start where people are and advance from there, must be incorporated with any project.
Conscientization is a term popularized by Paulo Freire wherein people learn to make conscious value choices and create processes balancing social and personal goals. Freire explains the process in which people "not as recipients but as knowing subjects, achieve a deepening awareness of the sociological reality which shapes their lives and of their capacity to transform that reality (de Silva et al. 1979: 56)."
Territory Surveys, Maps & Legal Issues
A) In order to provide long-term land security, legalization of indigenous territory is crucial. This is a prerequisite to investing labor and resources in soil conservation, agroforestry and alternative development, not to mention preservation of indigenous culture and language.
B) Skills development is needed in the following areas:
C) Identify appropriate organizations, with trainers that are both technically experienced and culturally able to earn the confidence of indigenous people (ideally, indigenous trainers), to carry out these types of training.
D) Projects that share information, techniques and strategies for land demarcation and legalization should be a special priority.
Training of Promoters
A) The function of promoter should be built into the project from the beginning of any development endeavor.
B) A plan for popular education, human development and training should be developed by the community as an integrated part of the overall project.
C) Training should be primarily practice-oriented with minimal theory; exchanges, meetings, events, demonstrations, field trips and other experiential activities should be the majority of most training.
D) Select promoters, ideally indigenous people from the community or region, with great care. Develop and follow stringent criteria to ensure that participants are politically aware, committed to the community and the work, have some natural skills as educators, and have a personal stake in success.
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A) Support projects that support the innovative combination of traditional and modern resource management techniques should be a priority.
Alternative Income Sources
A) Search for strategies/projects that create or improve on alternative economic activities.
B) Promote projects that involve people at all levels, from donor representatives to local governments to national NGOs to local grassroots implementing groups.
C) Seek out and support projects that are part of a larger strategy that incorporates commercialization strategies, regional development plans and economic (and/or political) policy reform.
Promotion of Techniques
A) Promote sustainable agriculture and agroforestry for farmers in fragile areas (former tropical forest land, steep hillsides, coastal lowlands, denuded highlands and so on).
B) Attention should be given to developing appropriate promotional methods, media and messages to respond to people's self-identified problems with effective tools and easily adoptable practices.
A) Support projects that gather good data about trends in resource use, causes and speed of degradation, methods and rates of species regeneration, sustainable levels of utilization, alternative sources of energy and income is needed to ensure that self-development endeavors have the desired results.
B) Projects that apply practical, participatory research that is clearly defined, very specific and an integral part of a larger project (or series of related projects) should receive special attention.
C) Community members should be trained in data collection and analysis as well as in investigation of trends and natural processes that will determine the priorities and provide baseline data for subsequent monitoring and evaluation.
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Use of Technology
A) Support projects that develop formal and informal communications networks and the appropriate use of technological tools, including the:
B) Prior analysis should be made by communities and organizations of their communication needs, such as the equipment on hand and required, and their personnel's level of technical knowledge and application skills.
C) We must recognize the need for initial and supplementary training. The training can sometimes take place in groups; other situations require tailored on-site orientation and training.
Training Guide for Promoters
A) Good local technical extensionists are often hard to find and in most cases must be recruited, trained and developed on-site, to ensure that their technical, social and promotional skills are appropriate to their community and its needs.
B) The experiences gained and lessons learned about the training process should be combined with information gathered about other communication training programs to create practical, modular training guides for promoters.
Technical Information Exchange
A) Projects that increase the access by indigenous communities and organizations to sustainable development information, techniques and strategies should be a special priority.
B) Projects designed to create and broaden communication networks (mentioned above) can partially serve the purpose of opening access to this critical information.
C) Meanwhile, one idea would be to support a small group of researchers to begin to collect information on environmentally-sound development projects using existing networks and organizations. Once collected and packaged, this information could be made available to community development practitioners through a variety of methods -- from cartoon guide books to videos, from a fax-on-demand system to e-mail and the Internet.
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A) Projects aimed at creating or strengthening alliances between indigenous communities, poor peasants, and small- and even medium-sized ranchers are another priority of AYF.
Development of Indigenous and Peasant Reserves
A) AYF supports initiatives in which local communities are the reserve managers and decision-makers. natural resource experts are available for advice and counsel and technical assistance from external sources is only requested as needed. This would be in sharp contrast to the traditional Protected Areas, which are decreed by governments and managed by environmental experts and bureaucrats, with local communities simply expected to comply with imposed regulations.
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