How the Women of Pampa Brava are Emerging from Poverty in a Sustainable Way
The Wichí women of the Formosa province in Northeast Argentina are truly an example of how fair trade has created sustainable livelihoods in even the most trying of circumstances. These indigenous women have found opportunity in the face of oppression and carved a path to progress by preserving traditional art forms.
There is a reason you do not hear much about the indigenous groups of Argentina. Few groups have been able to survive since Spanish conquerors first pushed them out in 1586. In the face of a degraded and isolated environment, the Wichí people have struggled to maintain their hunter-gatherer existence. Considering that over 85 percent of Wichí do not speak Spanish or have a formal education, opportunities to work and generate income are scarce.
Pampa Brava, a fair trade organization in Buenos Aires works with Wichí artisans that use traditional art forms to create sustainable livelihoods. The handmade goods are sold in the United States through the fair trade nonprofit organization Global Goods Partners, with all proceeds going towards community development, ensuring that the women and their families have access to clean water, health care and education.
The women weave elaborate pieces of jewelry and accessories out of the Chaguar plant, which is endemic to the Chaco region. The women chop off the leaves of the plant using machetes because of the numerous and dangerous thorns. They shred the inside of the leaves into very thin strips and allow the strips to dry naturally in the sun for several days.
The women coat their fingers in ashes and then roll and twist the shreds together into threads Large vats of organic dye are prepared using seasonally available roots, bark, fruit and leaves that are used to give the threads color.
The women then weave the colored thread together using a vertical loom weaving device and a small stick, which works much like a crochet needle. The woven patterns are inspired by traditional designs and depict images of nature such as the chest of the woodpecker and the ears of the armadillo.
In addition to the concrete ways in which the partnership between Pampa Brava and Global Goods Partners has improved the livelihoods of the Wichí women, their quality of life has been impacted in many positive aspects. The women of Pampa Brava have gained a sense of empowerment that comes with earning an income; they have an enhanced sense of community, which comes from working cooperatively for the collective benefit; and they have found a voice through artistic expression, when once they were socially ostracized.
To support the women of Pampa Brava, shop online at www.globalgoodspartners.org.
Article by Kelly N. Sandoval