“Let’s Achieve Well Being Sustainably”: Addressing a gap in conservation extension
One of the biggest challenges communities face is planning and implementing income-generating projects, a key priority in the quality of life plans. Although many NGOs worldwide initiate such projects, there is often a lack of foll0w-through or adequate training on how to manage finances and expectations about what can be achieved. We knew that communities needed better skill development tools if people were going to sustain conservation-compatible income generation over the long-term. We were thrilled to discover an existing toolkit to support small scale entrepreneurs in the Amazon of Perú designed by the Focal Bosques group at the Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana (IIAP). IIAP’s toolkit “Fortaleciendo capacidades empresariales en las comunidades amazónicas” (2008) is designed to improve leadership, organization and planning skills as well as quality control and sustainability. It contained wonderful illustrations, lots of interactive activities and games to teach basic skills. But, it needed adjustments to strengthen links to local cultural values and practices, so that acquired skills built on existing social assets. We undertook a year-long participatory process to modify the toolkit. This new toolkit contains a role-playing game and three training modules. Each module has a series of interactive activities and games to explain and explore fundamental concepts, and gives the user an opportunity to experience “hands-on action”. We developed and validated the toolkit with our partner The Center for Amazon Community Ecology (CACE) and women artisans from 4 indigenous villages around Ampiyacu-Apayacu Regional Conservation Area in Loreto Perú.
We tested the game and each of the modules in the participating communities of Brillo Nuevo and Pucaurquillo Bora and Murui in the Ampiyacu watershed around Ampiyacu-Apayacu Regional Conservation Area in Loreto Perú. These are two communities where CACE has active programs with artisans making handcrafts out of chambira palm fiber. The artisans—around 40 women—participated in nine workshops, learning to plan, manage finances, control quality, and other essential skills through the game and the interactive activities. At each workshop, they provided feedback on what worked and what remained a challenge. The editorial team then used the feedback to refine the materials. The outcome is a toolkit consisting of a 136-page illustrated manual, materials for the game and interactive activities (such as dice, paper money, accounting forms), and a 50-minute video version of the manual that uses photos and voice over narrative to explain the fundamentals of the game and training modules. The video is especially intended for community leaders who may find the text challenging.
Dr. Campbell Plowden, the Director of CACE/CECAMA, captured the lessons learned and the impact of our project in a prize-winning essay he wrote about the experience of working with the toolkit (Project Report Oct. 9/2014 “Learning to work together in the right way” http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/amazon-native-artisans-and-rainforest-conservation)
We quote him here:
“Artisans played games, role-played dealing with buyers, and drew pictures of chambira palm trees they would plant to replenish their fiber for woven crafts. They formed mock companies that competed to make as many woven bracelets of the same design as they could in five minutes. They examined their results, talked about how to do it better, and went again. They worked hard, laughed hard, and enjoyed being together. We saw that these artisans had both a deep desire and capacity to learn new skills. They wanted to sell more crafts to better support their families, and they wanted to gain the confidence and pride of creating quality work.”