Choroequepaio

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In Bolivia, the traditionally marginalized Guarani people are finding their place at the table through One Great Hour of Sharing-supported efforts to provide assistance and education to indigenous people groups.

In February 2014 the Guarani community of Choroequepaio participated for the first time in their local agricultural fair—a very important annual community event. Farmers exchange seeds, learn about different varieties of foods and sell products at the fair. The farmers from Choroequepaio not only attended it, they also sold out of all the goods they brought—a testimony to the quality of their farming skills. The presence of farmers from Choroequepaio represents a significant step towards reducing racism against the Guarani people—with one of the stereotypes being that they are lazy and do not produce quality products.

Choroequepaio is a community of ten families that were able to leave exploitative jobs as laborers seven years ago and start over to build a better community and life for their families through programs supported by One Great Hour of Sharing. The programs helped them gain legal title to 13,000 acres of land as well as access training in improved agricultural techniques, which allows them to be self-supporting. It was very hard at first—they lived in tents and even received death threats from their nonindigenous neighbors. Community leader Eyber Barrientos recalls, “We had nothing…I felt that we had failed.”

But today the community of Choroequepaio thrives. Papaya and citrus trees line gardens that are bursting with nutritious vegetables for the families to eat and sell in the market. However, their community is still fragile. Barrientos explains that getting housing and water has been a struggle. “We have to visit the municipal authorities and request support for basic facilities many times; we have to keep up the pressure, otherwise we will be completely ignored and forgotten,” he says. “We have water but it is not enough—it is really only for basic household use—but we have no other option but to also use it for the vegetable gardens. We are worried that one day the service will be cut or severely reduced.”

But they are prospering far beyond the limitations of their community, this is a group of people who are empowered to make a better life for themselves and for their children. Barrientos explains that their plan for the future is “to begin to work with livestock—we have the land and many of us have experience…We also want to ensure that all the young people have the opportunity to go to secondary school and have access to the education that most of us did not have. One youth has already received a scholarship to study at college.”

Artistic expression of the Choroequepaio agricultural fair.