November 12, 2018
El Futuro Está en el Monte, a project that seeks to enhance the ancestral knowledge of the communities
For Elda Rojis and the rest of the Wichi women who make up the Chitsaj association of artisans, the mountain is a kind of supermarket from which they can obtain food without having to pay.

"He always fed us for his animals and plants, and from there we took out the chaguar plant, breaking our hands and feet, to make handicrafts and also to eat." When the cold weather arrives, the chaguar becomes small and when it is cloudy, we burn it and eat it, we make a mountain of branches and we throw the plants up, it is similar to pineapple, it is sweet, "adds Rojis.

In his house hangs a sign that says "Crafts Wichi" because there works this association integrated by 185 women who live in different places and neighborhoods.

Every week, the coordinators of each group meet to better organize the work. Paulina Quiroga, Marta Azarte, Francisca Polo, Graciela Yacante, Lorena Maciel and Guillermina Gómez, are some of the women who are sitting in a circle under the shade of a tree.

The living room is the meeting place for the women who make up Chitsaj. There they meet three times a week to share their knowledge, work their handicrafts in chaguar, welcome tourists, conduct design workshops, water care, and sex education. There they also make decisions, they distribute the different orders, they train in different topics such as sewing, and they learn to use touch phones, tablets and computers.

"The place has an Internet connection because it became the Gran Chaco Nanum Village and forms part of a network of learning centers based on access to technology where organizations can strengthen the productive activity or the services they carry out." explains Melissa Rojas, graduated in social work and member of the Gran Chaco Foundation team. Meanwhile, a group of three women laugh out loud while they watch photos on a Tablet.

Francisca Polo, one of the artisans, starts weaving with the chaguar, and explains how they are doing the different drawings. At age 17, his mother began teaching him how to work with the loom. "I really like making crafts, it takes a while because I also have to cook and wash, so I do it in my free time," he says.

Chitsaj is one of the associations that are part of El Futuro Está en el Monte, an articulation between the social sector (Gran Chaco Foundation, CIDA, Copsol, Avina Foundation and the Fundación Los Grobo), companies and the State that promotes the Gran Chaco region business models that promote a sustainable, competitive and inclusive development, through the enhancement of natural and cultural capital, combining innovation with local knowledge. They do this by supporting grassroots organizations that work on issues related to livestock, forest production, agriculture, handicrafts or beekeeping, in the provinces of Chaco, Santiago del Estero, Salta, Jujuy and Formosa, but it also extends to Paraguay and Bolivia.

"This is done in a way that is friendly to the environment and overcoming climate changes for the people, and the producers are mostly economically vulnerable or in the process of developing, and the network provides them with technical training," Horacio explains. Duk, coordinator of the self-construction cisterns program of the Gran Chaco Foundation. It also promotes the strengthening of communities, innovation and the care and restoration of the ecosystem.

The products Chitsaj sells the most are looms, drawings and dream catchers. Women are trained in fabrics, and those who know best transmit knowledge from generation to generation, such as the quality of the dots and the techniques of dyeing. The association has legal status and monotributo to be able to invoice.

Paulina Quiroga is its president and also the one in charge of the 27 artisans of the Nazario Paraje where the main problem they have is water. "Without water we can not live and it is very difficult to have an orchard.To dye the chaguar we also need water because we have to boil the fruits of the plants in pots." The water in the lagoon is used for this process but it must be cleaned with a cloth to filter it.

I will want to teach my daughters everything I know. When I weave, they are by my side learning", he says.

One of the objectives of the accompaniment of El Futuro El Monte is that these families can expand their future horizons and learn to diversify. "We accompany them in their development process, craftsmanship is one of the components that can help them get ahead, it is the activity traditionally carried out by communities, and we also show them that there are other possibilities, one of which is the orchard, another is the inclusion of technology in their lives, learning to use tools that strengthen competencies in them to face the challenges of the world today, "says Rojas.

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