Celine Tschirhart

Royal Holloway University of London
Egham, United Kingdom

Sharing experiences with indigenous communities

COBRA's work in the Selva de Matavén, Colombia

May 22, 2014

Céline Tschirhart reports on an exchange that took place in Laguna Colorada, a small community of about 120 people in the far east of Colombia.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom 9 April to 21 April 2014, thanks to the support of the United Nations Development Programme in Colombia (UNDP) and the Guiana Shield Initiative (GSI), an exchange took place between indigenous communities of the North Rupununi and the Selva de Mataven of eastern Colombia (see here for more information about UNDP/GSI projects in the Selva de Mataven). Firstly, the representatives of the North Rupununi were invited to share their experiences of local governance and communication in a two-day workshop within the Puinave community of Laguna Cacao. The objective of this workshop was to create guidelines to solve governance issues for the local indigenous organisation, the Asociación de Cabildos y Autoridades Tradicionales Indígenas de la Selva de Mataven (ACATISEMA). Secondly, training in the COBRA approach was carried out within the Sikuani community of Laguna Colorada.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlthough there were time constraints, this exchange between communities involved in the COBRA project and communities involved in UNDP/GSI projects was very successful. People from Laguna Colorada were extremely enthusiastic and very quickly took ownership of the process. Although in many communities the highlight of COBRA activities can be the use of the audio-visual equipment, the people from Laguna Colorada surprised us by focusing intensely on their community owned solution, on the value of exchanging experiences with people from the North Rupununi, and on the use of visual methods as a way of empowerment. Participants from Laguna Colorada are now in charge of documenting their community owned solution, which is the community owned Sikuani education (educación propia Sikuani), and to start implementing a North Rupununi best practice to support one of their main challenges in the area: communication. Inspired by Radio Paiwomak, they are going to work towards implementing a community radio station.


The remarkable capacity for taking ownership of a foreign process and of working in a highly participatory way shown by this community suggests great possibilities for future exchanges in the Guiana Shield.



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