Kavanayén is an Arekuna Pemon community located in the savannas of southern Venezuela within the Cainama National Park and in the Gran Sabana Municipality of Bolivar State. It was founded by a Capuchin mission in 1943 which offered housing to the Pemón Arekuna in return for converting to Christinality. The community has a population of approximately 1350 people, with most people housed in distinctive housing made from quarried rock and concrete with corrugated iron roofs. There is a primary and secondary school and a university campus, as well as a clinic, computer and internet centre, shops, restaurants and guesthouses. Many houses have satellite TV which arrived in 2012. Electricity is provided by hydropower from a dam and the water is filtered before being piped to the houses. There is a house for the President of Venezuela outside the village and an office of the electricity company – CVG Electrificación del Caroní (EDELCA).

There are several levels of organization; the main defined by the ‘Captaincy’ which is led by an elected representative of the community every three years; and ‘Community Councils’ implemented by the Venezuelan state. An institution that also has organizational functions within Kavanayén is the technical and agricultural school which involves children, youth, parents and guardians. Growing food, especially the staple cassava,  is an important family activity. However, with the population rising, finding land in the nearby forest for the farm (known locally as ‘kanuko’) is becoming increasingly difficult, and people are travelling further away to find fertile ground and experimenting with the cultivation of vegetable gardens within the village.

Located within a UNESCO World Hertiage site, Kavanayén is a popular tourist destination and the community runs its own Emasensen Tourism Cooperative. Although it is a successful community owned solution, tourism is seasonal and there are several challenges to the Cooperative including limited infrastructure, the state of roads and political and economic instability at national level. As gold prices have increased, mining has become an alternative livelihood option, particularly for young people, but this has been at the expense of traditional farming and with associated social and environmental problems. Loss of culture (including language) has been identified as a priority issue by the community and there have been recent projects to reinvigorate lost traditional practices such as fire management in the savannas. COBRA hopes to contribute to these cultural rescue activities by strengthening solutions developed locally in order to enhance the potential to address changes in the future.

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