First Nations-to-Nations Building 

First Nations-to-Nations Building

By Alison Guzman

June 20, 2019

Edited by 

Teodora C. Hasegan, PhD

Sociocultural Anthropologist

Para versión en Español haz click aquí

Nowadays, suddenly everyone loves the “indigenous cause.” When we began this work with the Mapuche communities in Chile 6 years ago, indigenous issues were unprioritized and to a great extent, invisible in the mainstream media. Thanks to the #NODAPL today, it has grown to a hot topic, along with #decolonization — terms and social media hashtags that have increased in popularity only recently in North America. 


Edgar Villanueva, from the Lumbee Nation, brings to our attention the links between the philanthropy world and why Native Americans are receiving less funding. His recent book, Decolonizing Wealth, “provides a provocative analysis of the dysfunctional colonial dynamics at play in philanthropy and finance” and makes references to “The New Colonialists” which, according to Foreign Policy, are Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders and Mercy Corps, not to mention the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to name a few.


According to Inside Philanthropy, Native Americans make up about 5.4 million people, which represents almost 2 percent of the U.S. population, but philanthropic support remains low, at less than 0.5 percent of annual foundation grant dollars in the United States. Despite this, according to a report by First Nations Development Institute in 2018, Growing Inequity: Large Foundation Giving to Native American Organizations and Causes, philanthropists in the United States are giving less to Native American organizations, as the number of causes and groups has increased. From 2006 to 2014, annual giving by large foundations declined by 29%, or a $35 million reduction in funding, and most of it was awarded to non-Native nonprofits supporting Native American causes. 


The same could be said for the situation in Chile, where important philanthropic development is ironically made by the extractive industries themselves, support for Mapuche causes and investments is inadequate and minimal. That said, most initiatives coming from Mapuche communities rely almost entirely on small government subsidies for “entrepreneurship” opportunities. Indigenous communities in general in South America, including Chile, are considered by governments as part of the problem, and not the solution. Let’s just support more empredimientos (small businesses), they say. Oh wait, for how many communities? Nevermind, let´s just divide it into small grants. 




MAPLE Chile collaborates with Mapuche communities upon invitation only. To date, we have been invited by four communities of Lake Budi ancestral coastal territories, and are working there with local Mapuche communications groups such as the Mapuche film school and radio network, Werken Kurruf. MAPLE also brings in a broad network of Chile-based and outside collaborators, including the Municipality of Teodoro Schmidt, CONAF (Forest Service), Experimental Center for Agroforestry Huelemu (Chile), Kennedy Foundation (WWT Chile), Fundacion Nucleo Nativo (Chile), and A2Delante (Canada). 


MAPLE Chile Hub (or Experiential Lab) for Indigenous Economies of Good-Living (Kume Mongeleal) will serve the communities in the Budi area, and new networks near the Villarrica region, where it will be based. To this end, multiple local and global partners are being assembled through a fully participatory consent process involving our community partners and relevant Mapuche traditional authorities who are the stewards of the lands on which we will be operating. 


Since 2012, we at MAPLE Microdevelopment  Chile have been working as an embedded field team, while serving as connectors to our mission with Mapuche communities in southern Chile and gathering support for holistic indigenous asset building—that is, taking the strengths of a community and  creating ways for sustainable growth of community assets managed by indigenous people themselves. A very challenging task to take upon, I must say. Yet, proudly, and thanks to The Bay and Paul Foundations who have endlessly believed in our work, we continue to focus on what communities have, and not what they don´t have. We understand that with what they have, communities can start to strategically provide a better future for their families and their region through indigenous asset-building. 


Since 2017, MAPLE and the Budi communities are linking into networks of organic agriculture (quinoa= kinwa Mapuche) with the community of Epucura, one of the neighboring communities of Villarrica. MAPLE Chile´s vision is to strengthen these community links in the region, by strategically diffusing a toolkit and methodologies that build indigenous community wealth and traditional assets, of which we have also began dialogues with Corporacion Newen, a historical Mapuche Nonprofit lead by Mapuche practitioners. International allies and support go hand in hand with this vision. Currently, we are in conversations with the University of Oregon, the Institute of American Indian Arts, and in early March with the T´souke Nation in Canada (Vancouver Island, British Columbia), as we prepare to launch a collaborative Hub based in Villarrica, a medium-sized beautiful city in the heart of Mapuche country. 


Our transition to the Hub will enable us to create collaborative networks with more Mapuche allies and partners, and link to the university centers based in this city. This will lead to a stronger dissemination and wider impact of tools for economic empowerment and decolonization. We have established a partnership with Fundación Kennedy, a domestic NGO with staff based in Villarrica, which supports a wetland conservation project nearby. The Mapuche-descent ecologist Lorena Ojeda has visited the community of Llaguepulli to assess indicators for a joint program for wetland restoration in the Lake Budi basin, through the community native nurseries co-developed by MAPLE.


MAPLE Chile Philanthropy


In the past, in our expectations to grow, consolidate our teams, and formalize as a branch in Chile, we have come across philanthropic barriers. Today, our mission can only become more impactful if we transition to the next level in collaboration and resources to consolidate our staff and create an actual physical space for network-building and connections with philanthropists, universities, First Nations throughout the Americas, and individuals like yourselves. 


A beautiful challenge, indeed. How do we present ourselves as a non-Native group authentically supporting causes we feel are relevant for Native communities and the planet? (addressing Climate Change, of course). How do we gather networks, as a US nonprofit with 501c3 status, to North American philanthropists for causes in South America? What can our role be here in Mapuche ancestral lands, after 6 years as a field team embedded in Mapuche-asset building? 


There are some encouraging signs that we are not alone in these efforts. Let´s talk about Nation-to-Nation (in the context of first nations- indigenous peoples) building for generative economies.


Native community initiatives throughout the American hemispheres are very similar. Take, for instance, the Pueblo Peoples´ Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute of New Mexico, in the southwest of the United States, or that of our very own Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo here co-designed with the Mapuche Llaguepulli Community, keeping up ways of traditional lives to connect to healthy foods and living. Or look at the indigenous communities across North America who are rejecting non-indigenous energy projects in favor of community-led sustainable energy in their own lands. 


Jump back to March 13, 2019, where we went to pick up from the airport here in the Araucania Region, Chief Gordon Planes, his son Ryan Planes, and delegation member Andres Ibañes of Canadian-based A2Delante (an external team also working with Native communities based in Montreal). Chief Gordon comes from the T´souke Nation, Straits Salishans, of about 260 registered members from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. If you are in the Pacific Northwest (hello my fellow Oregonians!), they receive visitors from all over the world to see their community-led projects. 


He flew from one side of the Pacific Ocean to meet with First Nations on the other side of the Pacific: the Lafkenche-Mapuche First Nations of Lago Budi. In fact, one of our first exchanges dealt just with that: Who’s to say that their ancestors, from either region of the Pacific, did not travel miles to exchange and share knowledge with one another? After all, indigenous water cultures linked to canoes, fishing, and seamen traveled expansively throughout their territory looking for game, exploring flora and fauna, and to quench their thirst for the unknown. It is no surprise, for example, that the water Polynesian cultures ended up in southern Chile thousands and thousands of years ago.  Who’s to say that this isn’t true for the  coastal Salish Peoples? Scientists, genealogists, and archeologists are still catching up to the possibility that sea-exchange was actually a lot more expansive than evidence shows. We must wait patiently for updates to confirm what First Nations already knew about each other.


T´Sou-ke Nation is famous for community-managed development projects. Thanks to Chief Gordon, who has been chief of the T’Sou-ke First Nation since 2007, his community has embarked on a 100-year process to build a new community vision that focuses on autonomy, food security, cultural renaissance and economic development.


Under his leadership, the T’Sou-ke First Nation has emerged as a leader in renewable and green energy as they have launched a solar micro-grid model project. The community has generated electricity through the project for more than a decade and has attracted international attention for the initiative. You can find more information on their website, where you will discover a First Nations that are organized and have their priorities straight as a community. In fact, creating their own community wealth, in all that this encompasses— whether it be fisheries or energy—is what builds community culture and resilience. 


Jump to 2019, now they have extensive greenhouses not only to grow their own food but to enter into the international markets of natural cultivation and management of oysters, prawns, shrimp, clams, and salmon. All this because their philosophy is to have minimal impact on Mother Earth, coexisting with Her, and ensuring a future for the next generations. Not to mention that their environment is still intact and abundant. 


I would like to quote Chief Gordon from a gathering we had with him and the families of the Mapuche community Malalwe-Chanko:


"But maybe one day that could happen: bring our youth here, to gather with the Youth of the Mapuche, that will send that positive light to the world in how our people have lived since time immemorial, and a light footprint on Mother Earth. The words that I convey at home, are the words that I say now. And the words that I will also say to governments, that there is good work to do in the future. And this we knew for a long time."


"The responsibility is handed down to our children at the guidance of our elders to keep that journey alive. I think there is a lot of work we can do together, and I think we will because what I personally think, is that the world has to change, and they are coming forward to indigenous peoples for advice on how to live a proper way. So I think this is just the beginning. And I don´t think we have a word in our culture that refers to the concept of never seeing each other again. Our elders told me one time, that indigenous peoples know how to communicate with one another and it doesn´t matter how far apart you are. And we have been doing this for a very long time. I see the opportunity that is coming forward now."


See? I couldn´t have said it better.


He mentions the fact that indigenous peoples can work together. The importance of linking Native youth to each other. He said that many are coming forward to indigenous communities for their advice (of course, the state of our Planet Earth is very concerning!). And he said that communication between Peoples is important, no matter the distance. First Nations-to-Nations building.


So where are we in all this? We are the connectors. Organizations like A2Delante and MAPLE Microdevelopment Chile can be vessels of connections between First Nations. Communities need each other to build themselves up. And for what the term "communities"  it’s worth in today’s ever-more globalized world, I am referring to traditional communities who have lived in their lands for thousands and thousands of years. They are still there! And the Youth today are more active than ever.


Native Americans in Philanthropy are working towards bringing more and better-informed philanthropic support and services to Native people. According to their article When Eagles Hatch: Native Americans in Philanthropy and Native Youth Activism published on March 19, 2019, they are working to build: "a network of Native and non-Native nonprofits, tribal communities, foundations and community leaders who are committed to engaging, learning and sharing resources and best practices grounded in Native values and traditions.”  


Each community, like community garden beds, is pushing forward with their ideas of community wealth, coexisting with the Earth, while dealing with Climate Change. But due to knowledge and wisdom passed down for hundreds of generations, they contain precious inputs very relevant for our Western societies. We can work with them to transition their communities to become the new community wealth hubs of a future, to coexist with them in a post-colonial context.


As Marjorie Kelly, Executive Vice President and a Senior Fellow with The Democracy Collaborative puts it, we really need to own our future through Generative Economies. We resonate with her work in that they are leading The Learning/Action Lab for Community Wealth Building, a five-year project working with Native American organizations to build wealth in Indigenous communities, as connectors. 


We are eager to delve into a new stage as external allies and supporters. Much like Marjorie Kelly´s vision of creating community-generated economies, or Katherine Gibson (who we had the pleasure to meet in 2018), a feminist economic geographer and co-founder of The Community Economies Research Network (CERN) and the Community Economies Collective (CEC), MAPLE Microdevelopment Chile, as external collaborators to Native communities, can be connectors and philanthropists for communities searching for their path to environmental resilience, economic decolonization, and self-sustainability. There is so much we can build together through creating and potentiating collaborative institutional spaces for sharing inter-indigenous learnings, co-designing methods, initiating global community-to-community support, and most importantly, hope. 


The calling we are wanting to abide by goes two ways, to work and learn from traditional land-based communities and their ways of coexisting with nature; while at the same time, take the opportunity to create a beacon for hope—that it is possible to live in a world where traditional societies can confront the challenges of globalization, pollution, and deforestation, by disseminating best-practices and knowledge and survive as healthy communities. Co-existing with our planet is Resilience.


Idealistic you say? Nope. Hope today is considered practical. Look around you. Are you in a world of solutions? If we don ́t change the way things are, we are foolishly leading our societies and future generations off a cliff of unsustainable abyss. And yet, I do believe change is happening and a transition is happening, because we believe in First Nations communities and their visionary leaders.


Perhaps a step in inter-Nation building is sharing each other's experiences. Experiences where they can mutually learn from each other and share results. Through mutual learning and establishing collaboration, such as the T´Souke Nation has done with the Mapuche-Lafkenche Nation, where youth can travel to each other's communities and participate and learn what is nation-building and preparing the community for future generations. We see this happening throughout the Americas—Pueblo youth in Mapuche lands, Mapuche youth in Salish lands, Native organizations speaking directly with Mapuche ones… Collaborators and supporters such as MAPLE can be a valuable connection for Nations working together.


The Vision 


MAPLE Chile program co-directors Alison and Ignacio are already in the process of moving to Villarrica, a small city located in the heart of the Mapuche country, 90 km from Budi and 80 km from Temuco. Villarrica (estimated 50,000 population according to 2012 census), the last area to be conquered by the Spanish during colonization, is a tourist destination, university town, surrounded by the Villarrica National Park and numerous Mapuche communities, and several nonprofits dedicated to conservation, fair trade, plus a strong tourism sector, ever more permeated by ideas of triple bottom line sustainability, and participation of numerous and once completely excluded Mapuche communities living in this mountainous area. MAPLE Chile will fill a specific niche in the emerging Villarrica institutional ecosystem, in between academic research, a few mainstream local development programs run by churches and local government, and environmentalism, providing a unique approach to indigenous self-development, connections between this dynamic center to Lake Budi as a stronghold of Mapuche culture and language, and a 5-year trajectory as embedded field-team, currently preparing publications in written and audiovisual formats for delivering our toolkits and processes for replication and adaptive mutual learning (to be soon launched in a seminar we are organizing for later this year). We hope that two years from now, the Hub initiated by MAPLE Chile and our partners will become an anchor institution for dialogues around indigenous economic decolonization and for installing flexible self-management capacities in the territories where we work through: evaluate and potentiate long-term outcomes, peer-to-peer extension through mutual learning, retreat-like workshops, seminars, internships, academic and technological collaboration, social investment, fair trade, and cultural enterprise incubation. 

As an invitation to consider the full potential of indigenous interconnection, we also want to share with you a video on this encounter co-facilitated by A2Delante and MAPLE Chile earlier this year 2019. Video: Standing with Each Other     

Will you be a part of it? 


For more information on MAPLE´s work with Mapuche communities please visit our website at . We are also interested in hearing directly from you!

Resident Leadership Roles for Self-Governing at Emerald Village Eugene

MAPLE has encouraged EVE residents to take on leadership roles, so to learn skills such as managing and organizing committee meetings, communication, and time-management. Residents are currently shadowing members of the interim board under positions such as presidents, vice president, treasurer, secretary, and committee co-coordinators. Residents will soon be ready to take on these positions themsleves.


Bag Sales at Emerald Village Eugene

Residents at EVE learned about a new rule at University of Oregon that bans opaque bags. With support from MAPLE, Residents seized on this excellent fundraising opportunity, and personally designed a clear bag with their logo on the front. They set up merch tables near Autzen Stadium, and successfully sold hundreds of bags! Residents generated over $5,500 for their new community fund!


Sustainable Landscaping at Emerald Village Eugene

Emerald Village Residents have had the opportunity to install the landscape that connects each of their homes. With support from MAPLE’s own landscape professional, the residents collaborated to put hundreds of plants in their village grounds. They learned the craft of drainage by grading swales and raingardens; and a few helped build the structure for their phenomenal community gathering space. Since the installation, residents have even been talking about producing succulents, herbs, and crops, as the beginnings of a micro-business. 

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An Unexpected Trip to Cambodia, October 2018: Recovery of Ancestral Knowledge and Ways of Life

By Fernando Quilaqueo Calfuqueo

Field Coordinator for MAPLE Microdevelopment Chile

Member of the Llaguepulli Mapuche Community

January 2018

Translated and Edited by Teodora C. Hasegan, Anthropologist, Ph.D.

Original Spanish Version: Click Here

Please also enjoy our most recent video field update featuring Fernando by clicking here!

An unexpected invitation…

It was to our honor and delight that the PAWANKA Foundation sent an invitation to the Community of Llaguepulli to participate in a gathering of Indigenous leaders from several pockets of our Cambodia! I had never been to Cambodia before, or that part of Asia.  Cambodia is a small country in Asia, with a population similar in terms of size to that of Chile, but very different socially, economically and culturally from Chile.

My community were recipients of a grant for the first time awarded in 2017  by the Pawanka Foundation (supported by the Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Learning, an indigenous-led grant-making initiative) to help us transition to a healthier agriculture, by re-linking our native seeds and ancestral knowledge. With the support of MAPLE Microdevelopment Chile and together with two more members, Fresia Painefil and Kelv Painefil, I participated at the gathering in Cambodia as a representative appointed by the leaders of the community and as a member of the management team of MAPLE Microdevelopment Chile’s program for transition to agroecology.

Photo 1.  The delegation to Cambodia with members from the Mapuche community of Llaguepulli: Fernando Quilaqueo (center), Kelv Painefil (to his left), and Fresia Painefil (second from right), October 2018.

Photo 1. The delegation to Cambodia with members from the Mapuche community of Llaguepulli: Fernando Quilaqueo (center), Kelv Painefil (to his left), and Fresia Painefil (second from right), October 2018.

The Objectives of the Trip

The purpose of this trip was to participate in the Regional Exchange of Learning about Seeds, Food Security and Agroecology meeting held between October 22 and 26, 2018 in the city of Siem Reap in Cambodia. This meeting was organized and funded by the PAWANKA Foundation and the Organization for the Promotion of the KUI Culture of the Preah Wijía Province of Cambodia, and represented an occasion for past grantees to share experiences of their community initiatives. It was an opportunity for us First Peoples Communities to discuss projects we have implemented and developed on the recovery of ancestral knowledge (especially related to seeds) and ways of life (based on the relation between  human beings and nature). The gathering had a gender and holistic approach in the context of climate change. Indigenous women were convoked to speak about holistic agricultural solutions in their communities such as organic agriculture and safeguarding of native foods. 

Some of the Communities and institutions that participated were: the host, the Organization for the Promotion of the Kui Culture of the Province of Preah Wijía in Cambodia (OPKC); Trinamul Unnayan Sangstha from Bangladesh (TUS); Mizquito community from Nicaragua; and the Mapuche Community of Llaguepulli from Chile, Joan Carlin (Pawanka Foundation Director), Mariana López (Pawanka Foundation Coordinator), Karla Busch (Pawanka Foundation Executive), and Yuri Futamura and Alan Zulch (from the TAMALPAIS Foundation) (headquartered in San Rafael California), main donors of PAWANKA funds, also participated.


What We Learned from the Gathering

Among the main experiences and lessons shared by the participating Communities in this meeting I should highlight the similarity in the processes of social, cultural, and economic changes caused by colonization and state policies. There is also an incessant struggle for self-determination and conservation of natural resources, which are threatened mainly by timber and monoculture industries, especially in Cambodia and Bangladesh.

 But I remember also the successful experience of collaborative relations between the Kui Community, through the elders’ council, and the local police and the province. Jointly and through a strategic plan, they work to protect their native forest already restored and managed by the Kui Community itself. This would be inconceivable even in Wallmapu (a Mapuche ancestral territory), where the police have very different interests than the defense of collective rights.


International Allies to Indigenous Peoples

International allies are key for creating support to First Peoples striving for a better Planet. For example, the collaborative approach of our international allies in the territory is to install and develop tools or self-management capabilities in the Communities with regard to natural resources and family economy which are in accordance with the natural cycles or Mapuche Lafquenche worldview. Our great challenge in the medium and long- term is to consolidate a self-management team in the Community to lead our own development proposals, and become ever more autonomous in the decision-making processes while strengthening our youth to become the future leaders of our communities and family economies.

I learned that the Kui Community, especially, maintains its cultural traditions intact. Its relationship with forests is of vital importance for its economy and families because the tropical forest has a great biodiversity of species which constitute the main source of nutrition for families, in addition to providing wood, harvesting resin, fish and livestock.

Collectively, the Community grows traditional organic crops of rice, tubers, corn and beans, many of them using their own traditional seeds, incorporating techniques in rotation management and association of crops. The forest soils are very fertile and have a productive cycle because the tropical climate with two seasons (winter and summer) allows them to have up to two annual harvests and an abundant availability of water resources throughout the year. Each family home in the Community owns a small garden for vegetables and tropical fruits, such as: coconut, bananas, mangoes, dragon fruit, jackfruit, etc.

On the other hand, in our territory, due to a temperate climate with very different seasons, the cultivation systems are very different, with annual harvests, so the production cycle is less dynamic. At the same time however, both Kui and Mapuche cultures are similar in  their respect for the holistic sense of care for seeds, land and biodiversity.

Photo 2.  Fresia Painefil and Fernando Quilaqueo, from the Llaguepulli Community

Photo 2. Fresia Painefil and Fernando Quilaqueo, from the Llaguepulli Community

Vision for the Future

Currently, I am developing a collaborative work plan in the Community of Llaguepulli with MAPLE Microdevelopment Chile as part of the community management team. This involves, on one hand, supporting 12 families that are in the process of agroecological transition, by strengthening their crops of quinoa, native potatoes, vegetables and fruits through the recovery of seeds of local ecotypes, without agro-toxic products. On the other hand, we are working on a community proposal complementary to the previous one and which relates to the revaluation of our environmental assets. These are fundamental for transition, soil recovery, wetlands, and, through agroforestry, are linked to our community nursery. Since its setting-up, this nursery already has a permanent stock of annual production of species native to the area, aiming at restoring the community and the territory.

The Community of Llaguepulli, culturally very active, is a point of national reference in developing models of self-management in community tourism, intercultural education, and community bank (Mutual Support). The vision for the future is to also be a reference point for the restoration and conservation of community food and environmental heritage.



One of the best experiences at this event was, without a doubt, sharing about our agro-ecological transition and restoration program in the Community of Llaguepulli. Also special for me, as a Field Coordinator member of MAPLE Microdevelopment Chile and member of this Community, was to witness the efforts to strengthen the Kume Monguen (good living) in other places.

Today, as always, Indigenous Peoples need assistance to carry out their proposals with an endogenous perspective according to their own needs, especially in critical areas, such as recovery of environmental assets, which is closely related to strengthening the social structure of our people.

The training of young leaders empowered with tools for community self-management and with a gender approach is the vision of institutions such as MAPLE Microdevelopment Chile and PAWANKA to achieve a holistic and integral development in our Communities. This is why PAWANKA has decided to continue to finance this year our program for strengthening the economy and nutrition of our families, in order to empower the community management team. We appreciate both MAPLE Microdevelopment Chile and PAWANKA for their trust in us and the opportunity to undertake this great challenge.

Finally, I would like to thank all those who made possible this important experience: the entire community management team at MAPLE Microdevelopment Chile, my family, Community, and PAWANKA.

Llaguepulli, Pewü (Spring) 2018

Photo 3.  Cambodia

Photo 3. Cambodia

Photos by Alan Zulch, Tamalpais Trust




The Emergence of the Lafkenche Tree Nurseries for Lake Budi’s Eco-cultural Biodiversity

By Ignacio Krell Rivera, M.A. in Environmental Studies

Translated and Edited by Teodora C. Hasegan, PhD in Anthropology

 Author´s Note: As an environmental sociologist working with Mapuche communities and leaders for 20 years, in this blog post, I aim to provide information as well as a few conceptual frameworks to interested readers and supporters so we can understand why a simple project such a community tree nursery network, can have a major impact in regenerating, not only endemic temperate forests and coastal marshlands, but also the indigenous Lafkenche (People of the Sea) eco-cultural knowledge as well as a more balanced economy with a stronger role of indigenous communities, families and women. (Para una versión en español haga click acá.)

            Please also enjoy a small clip featuring this collaborative effort available at MAPLE’s youtube channel by clicking here!

Thank you,

Ignacio Krell Rivera, November 2018, La Araucanía, Chile


 Soil erosion and socio-environmental vulnerability in Lafkenche Lands of Northern Patagonia

The erosion of soils and the degradation of other environmental resources fundamental to rural life and production—such as water, eco-cultural biodiversity, aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems—and the resulting devaluation of agriculture in general, and the small indigenous agriculture in particular, are global phenomena that affected Araucanía region of Northern Patagonia severely, with 28.6% of its soils eroded (CIREN 2010) and the higher rates of rurality and poverty in Chile, a mid-level income but highly unequal country.

 In the Araucanía region, an enormous and once fertile section of the northern Patagonia in south-central Chile, and broadly speaking, the historic territory of the Mapuche indigenous nation, this severe damage of soils and other natural resources is the product of a chain of processes triggered by violent colonization of the ancestral and previously autonomous country of the Mapuche (People of the Land) in the late 19th and early 20th century, not long ago covered by a thick mantle of endemic temperate forest.   

Lake Budi

Lake Budi

According to a report by Universidad Mayor (2011), the main socio-environmental threats for Lake Budi, the ancestral territory of the Lafkenche (People of the Sea) —an Indigenous Development Area (ADI) since 1996, whose mega-diverse wetlands were also declared Priority Conservation Site in 2002 are: “a) Soil erosion and degradation, which increase when developing practices that do not take into account the capacity of the land use and the size of the property; b) Loss of biodiversity” (U. Mayor 2011, p. 6).

As in many of the Araucania Region’s basins, the aforementioned historical causes of environmental degradation were triggered by the late extractive colonization of the area, in this case, by the timber enterprise “Budi Colonization Company”, as well as the so called “reduction” of its indigenous inhabitants -a term used in the late 19th century to describe the displacement and forced settlement of Mapuche indigenous families in small plots in coastal areas with steep slopes. This “reduction” of the Lafkenche communities and their resource base was followed, by mid 20th century, by the gradual fragmentation of remaining indigenous lands and the adoption by small Lafkenche farmers of state-promoted but inadequate cultivation and intensification practices with chemical inputs (Mariola 2018). To this day, the pressure of productive and subsistence activities on forests, soils, waters, ecosystems, the action of wind and water on exposed surfaces, slopes and banks; and the cumulative impacts of the massive introduction of exotic forest monocultures with high water demand, have caused almost irreversible  deforestation and fragmentation of the ecosystems in the Budi basin, with the consequent losses on the quality of soils, water and biodiversity over the entire basin (Peña Cortes 2006, University of Chile 2010).

 This widespread environmental degradation of indigenous lands of Lake Budi, limits their uses in sustainable family and community businesses such as tourism, organic agriculture, valorization of berries and native foods, and even traditional activities, such as grazing and the cultivation of grain and potatoes. This negatively affects the economies of its 15 thousand inhabitants, grouped in 120 Indigenous Communities and dedicated mostly to subsistence agriculture, family tourism and crafts.

 In Budi, entwined historical trends of degradation of environmental resources and socio-environmental vulnerability continue to heavily impact a new generation of Mapuche-Lafkenche, who is massively out-migrating in search of economic opportunities or sometimes just temporal sustenance in big farms –endangering also linguistic and cultural intergenerational transmission.

The recovery of introfillmongén

 Introfillmonguén can be broadly translated from Mapudungun as “Eco-cultural biodiversity” –literally, all interconnected life. Currently, MAPLE Microdevelopment Chile works with three Indigenous Communities: Malalwe-Chanko, Allipen, and Llaguepulli -all in the municipality of Teodoro Schmidt and within the ADI Budi. In collaboration with multiple actors, these Communities are developing alternatives to conventional agriculture, such as cultural tourism, and crop cultivation, processing and cooking native organic foods, gaining national and international notoriety.

 With support from MAPLE Chile, these communities, together with an interdisciplinary team and partners through programs with national and international funds, and have learned that by incorporating native and multipurpose trees into their land they allow the recuperation of ecosystems and environmental assets and services that add  value to degraded lands while improving the environmental quality of the basin and its water systems, fisheries and bio-cultural resources, such as the endangered indigenous knowledge of herbal medicine. These three  Lafkenche Communities, using small grants from the Environmental Protection Fund of the Ministry of the Environment (FPA-MMA) and international projects, and supported by the National Forest Corporation(CONAF), the National Institute of Agricultural Research (INIA), and the local Municipality, have already set up their own small native and fruit tree nurseries, have trained working teams with technical and managerial  skills, and now seek to co-design an associative strategy to achieve sustainability, impact and scale. And, through joint training workshops and community- to- community exchanges of learning, information and genetic material (seeds and clones), these three communities have also established a basis for now building a network of community nurseries to effectively address the integral environmental management of the basin.


Community leaders working with the MAPLE Chile team and other allies, have realized that adding to the aforementioned historical factors of environmental degradation, there is a gap in the supply of native and multipurpose species by public and private entities in the area, and a lack of incentives and collaborative methodologies that could involve small indigenous owners in incorporating these species into their lands and economies are foreclosing the chances of Lafeknche communities to curve the damage by re-incorporating a biodiverse vegetal cover. We have found, for instance, that of the 250 registered commercial nurseries in the Araucanía region, only 15 are located within the 5 coastal municipalities—these being some of the most affected by deforestation, erosion and socio-environmental vulnerability—and of these nurseries, only 2 produce native or fruit trees (Source: SAG Registry of Nurseries).

The Lafkenche Nurseries’ Network will address this gap as:

1. Community nurseries can be engines for reforestation and regeneration of environmental assets throughout the basin, encouraging the incorporation of biodiverse vegetation cover by offering incentives through a locally relevant offer, at a low cost;

2. These community nurseries, through an associative strategy, can become economically sustainable while generating a surplus, which can be invested in promoting social and environmental objectives of the associated communities.

In sum, the Nursery Network for Itrofillmonguén (or eco-cultural biodiversity) of Lake Budi  can become a Lafkenche environmental self-management model with potential to regenerate the Budi’s itrofillmonguen, currently under threat, by stopping the chain of consequences of extraction and marginalization, while re-valorizing indigenous properties and restoring the resources of the basin, enhancing their tourism and agro-ecological potential, in a sustainable way and with full participation and self-governance of between 3 to 120 communities of ADI Budi.

MAPLE helps setting up an Indigenous Tree Nursery Network based on the needs and capacities of the communities in the Budi basin territory

The role of MAPLE Microdevelopment, the main partner of this project, is to co-create capacities, work teams, and appropriate, low-cost tools and methods to promote from within the communities themselves the environmentally, socially and financially sustainable development of the basin. Fernando Quilaqueo, a community-based agro-ecologist and MAPLE’s field coordinator, explains:

“The tools and techniques that we have developed for some years in the context of our community environmental restoration program we have called Liftuayiñ taiñ Lewfu, were first implemented in the Allipen Community, and later replicated by the Llaguepulli and the Malalwe-Chanko Communities.  Each planting season we have been able to encourage a number of families (currently at 60) to enclose spaces within their farms to plant native species such as Maiten, Notro, Maqui, Pilo pilo, Hualle, to establish a multipurpose tree curtains, buffering Menoko (natural springs) and wetlands, as well as the re-establishment of woodlands in eroded slopes either through contour lines and hillside infiltration ditches. From the initial implementation of these agroforestry techniques, we have seen a huge advance, both in the valuation of natural and human resources and in the progress in the restoration of our territory. So far we have planted more than 5000 native trees, and now that we have our own community nurseries for the production of native or multi-purpose plants which are of great interest for our communities’ restoration plan, we can hope for long-term positive impact on our territory, the Budi basin.”

Our team taking a walk in the Allipen Community: Tree lines created to recover environmental assets can be observed.

Our team taking a walk in the Allipen Community: Tree lines created to recover environmental assets can be observed.

MAPLE and our community partners and collaborators are also developing a focus on the role of women and youth in the propagation, cultivation, and value addition of native berries such as murta (ugni molinae) and maqui (aristotelia chilensis). Lamngen (Sister) Olga, one of two women in charge of Allipén’s Tree Nursery who has been participating in capacity building processes since 2016, says that, for her, being responsible for the project, “it is a pride, in the first place, and I want to thank the Community and those who are supporting us for having set up this nursery, because we had never thought of having a nursery here... so close, so close to my home. We started with little, we did not know anything, and we have learned a lot.” 

Reflecting on the broader issues connecting this project with identity, environment, and economies, Olga adds: “The plants that are native, that our own, of Mother Earth itself, are disappearing. They are now only replanting eucalyptus and pines, and we are no longer seeing native plants in our lands. With my family, we are well now in that sense, because we can have these murta plants” Lamngen Juanita, her co-worker in the nursery project, adds in relation tu the propagation and reincorporation to the murta o üngi native berries (ugni molinae) to Lafkenche lands and economies: “The murta is a red berry from which you can make jams and desserts, and perhaps other things we have yet to learn: I’ve heard one can make really good ice cream with it!”

The pilot murta berry garden installed in the Allipen Community in 2016

The pilot murta berry garden installed in the Allipen Community in 2016

During 2017, the first nursery installed in 2015 was able to deliver plants locally to the aforementioned collaborative regenerative effort donating species, valued at 1 million pesos, to members of the community, and reaching sales of about 200 thousand pesos to individuals, which allowed to cover some operational costs. Thus, 80 families affiliated with 3 Indigenous Communities are already benefiting from the environmental impacts associated with access to a supply of native and multipurpose plants, locally relevant, biodiverse and at low cost. Each greenhouse also generates 2 jobs, directly benefiting 6 local families with training and stable and dignified work. Moreover, the inventory of the 3 nurseries continues to grow, in number and diversity, and the communities, with the guidance of external assistants, are seizing the opportunity to sustain the operation of their nurseries through the associative marketing of a part of the production, thus preventing programs from being closed down due to the lack of external support for the managers.  

All these community-owned assets and capacities offer today a strong base for an Indigenous-managed, self-sustainable model of territorial regeneration. From now on, the challenge will be to agree on and implement adaptive strategies to explore the potential of this Lafkenche endogenous proposal for indigenous-controlled eco-social regeneration which can have the following and crucial advantages with respect to the offers and proposals coming from the dominant Chilean society:

1. It generates exchange, income and promotes self-financing, so it does not depend on external subsidies beyond the initial phases of installation and incubation; on the contrary, it may generate income, community assets, and employment, in a sustainable, environmental, social, and financial manner.

2. It generates a local offer of trees, biodiverse, culturally relevant and at a low cost, addressed to the local communities, which can also be subsidized with the income produced by commercial operations.

3. Stimulates local participation by generating levels of trust, flexibility, and adaptability unprecedented in “top-down” programs, by respecting and implementing cultural protocols and recognizing the role of the Mapuche people’s own authorities through relevant mechanisms of decision-making and self-governance.

4. It opens spaces for the global dialogue on ecological knowledge, by stimulating cross-cultural collaboration by scientists and Mapuche wise men and women to co-generate knowledge as well as physical reserves of genetic resources (seeds and species of plants, shrubs, and native trees) essential for its restoration of the territory.


 Replicability and scalability are at the heart of the model, which originates in the association of 3 Communities that work together to raise the quality and volume of supply and thus achieve sustainability. In the short-term, the model allows the incorporation of more nurseries within the ADI Budi where the Network and its main ally, MAPLE Microdevelopment Chile, will be able to support the creation of new nurseries until the environmental self-management reaches the necessary scale to exercise the integral regenerative management of the basin. In addition, the model, once tested, will be transferable to other three ADI established in Mapuche ancestral territories, along with the learning and methods generated from within the Lafkenche territory of Lake Budi. Together with an interdisciplinary team in the territory, it will promote participation, associability and Lafkenche economic, cultural and socio-environmental self-governance in Lake Budi.

 As a community enterprise, the Network will support associative marketing, which will allow associates to offer, in a sustainable manner, a crucial socio-environmental service to between 3 to 120 ADI communities: an offer of native and multipurpose trees (fruit trees and others of low water demand) at low cost—to be subsidized by sales at market prices to external customers—that will encourage their incorporation into small family groups.

Furthermore, as a policy creator, within the framework of the 5 ADIs established in the southern zone, the Network will demonstrate that support for the installation and incubation stages of community nursery networks can be effective, efficient, and with high impact, generating value for indigenous lands in addition to promoting environmental and economic self-management in these communities.

If you want to be part of this collaborative cross-cultural effort, you can contact us at or directly at or

Since 2013, MAPLE’s interdisciplinary team, made up of co-directors Alison Guzmán (M.A..) and Ignacio Krell (M.A.) (for bios click here) and its more than 10 collaborators in 3 communities of Budi, has conducted co-design processes for tools of sustainable development and management in the areas of community micro-finance (Llaguipulli Mutual Support Group 2013, Bank of Materials for Artisans 2017), management of cultural assets (Joint project on Kuzao Zomo Entrepreneurs Association 2016), and environmental management (nurseries 2015, 2016, 2017, rainwater harvesting 2017, regenerative agroforestry and native berry orchards, soil and organic seeds recovery 2016, 2107, 2018). In the area of management of environmental assets, the team collaborates with actors involved with the issue of degradation and devaluation of indigenous environmental assets: the Municipality of T. Schmidt, CONAF, INIA Carillanca, Huelemu Experimental Center and Kennedy Foundation, with support from domestic sources (MMA - Indigenous Environmental Protection Fund 2015, 2016 and 2017) and international sources, such as International Foundation, Keepers of the Earth Fund, Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Learning Fund, The Bay and Paul Foundations, among others.



Departamento de Ciencias Ecológicas Facultad de Ciencias Universidad de Chile (2010) Análisis del Impacto Económico y Social y Objetivos de Calidad Ambiental del Lago Budi. Laboratorio de Modelación Ecológica, Santiago, Chile.

Flores, Juan P., Martínez, Eduardo (2010) Determinación de la erosión actual y potencial de los suelos de Chile. Publicación CIREN N°139.

Mariola, Matthew J. (2018) Limited Fertility, Limited Land: Barriers to Sustainability in a Chilean Agrarian Community. In “Sustainability of Agroecosystems”. IntechOpen

Peña-Cortés, Fernando et al. (2006) Dinámica del paisaje para el período 1980-2004 en la cuenca costera del Lago Budi, Chile. Consideraciones para la conservación de sus humedales. Ecología Austral 16:183-196.

Universidad Mayor de Chile (2011) Documento de diagnóstico: Estudio de Riesgo y Actualización PRC de Saavedra. Temuco, Chile.


ADI- Area of Indigenous Development (Area de Desarrollo Indígena)

CONAF - National Forest Corporation (Corporación Nacional Forestal)

INIA - National Institute of Agricultural Research (Instituto Nacional de Investigación Agropecuaria)

MMA - Ministry of the Environment (Ministerio del Medio Ambiente)

SAG –Servicio Agrícola Ganadero

Wise Words on Community Development Work from One of Our Own!

As part of our close work with Ugandan communities to develop sustainable, locally managed economies, MAPLE also focuses on making access to clean water sustainable for the communities we serve.  Grace Burleson, a graduate student of mechanical engineering and anthropology at Oregon State University, has served as a field intern for MAPLE in Uganda on three different occasions.  In this article, Grace offers sage advice to all organizations and communities working on this important issue.  We are grateful for her work and for her guidance.


Engaging Financial Self-Management Processes in a Mapuche Context

Many indigenous and rural communities around the world find themselves excluded from the direct benefits of national economic growth and run the risk of becoming ever more marginalized, with their culture and environment at risk of becoming devastated.  Yet, these communities are resilient, often prefer autonomy, and tend to have the resources and capacities to establish sustainable microeconomies.

August-September 2016: Important steps for Replicating the Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo!

By Alison Guzman and Ignacio Krell

2016 is coming to an end, and so much has happened for MAPLE Microdevelopment in Mapuche ancestral territory.

Three years ago today, in 2013, the first Mapuche Mutual Support Group began to take shape, as a collaborative between MAPLE Microdevelopment Chile and  the  small Indigenous (Mapuche-Lafkenche) community of Llaguepulli, located in the Lake Budi basin in coastal Araucanía Region, northern Patagonia, Chile.

Now in its third cycle of collective saving, this community-powered financing tool for indigenous self-determination is up and running, is composed of 40 members, has a life and identity of its own, and a mission to safeguard one of the world's remaining ancient linkages between culture, environment, and economies. The goal of linking the financing tool to a community self-sustainable business is being accomplished as we speak: linking income to family agriculture and traditional wool textiles.


Since early 2015, the MAPLE/Llaguepulli collaborative has expanded its aims towards community-driven multidimensional benchmarks linked to social, cultural, environmental and economic goals of the community. In the process, we expanded to working with two more neighboring communities of the Lago Budi basin.

So, we´d like to fill you in a bit on some of this work:

  • As of October 2016, we are providing participatory design and investment in appropriate technologies to strengthening family foods and livelihoods by gaining both food resilience and access to new markets through designing culturally-appropriate tools for sustainable intensification, recuperating native seeds and chicken, and re-capitalizing environmental assets and rebuilding organic soils. We are working closely with the women of the community due to their role in caring their household greenhouses and gardens.

  • We are developing community-led methods for environmental management, with a focus in gradual recuperation of forests, soils and waters, through propagation of native forests through tree nursing and control of erosion and runoff through infiltration lines and multi-purpose agroforestry (Only this past winter we planted more than 2000 native trees both in Llaguepulli and the neighboring community of Allipén!) while strengthening gardens and soils with a traditional resource: algae exchanged with a neighboring coastal Lafkenche community of Nigue. 140 sacks of Algae were distributed to 30 families in Llaguepulli to begin the learning process for making algae-based compost and fertilizers.

In the cultural and educational management area, we are working with the community school to establish a strong basis for income generation, and with two different groups of artisan women, in Llaguepulli and Allipén, to whom we are supporting in planning and leveraging key investment for innovation and value adding in the production of Mapuche arts and textiles and improving their management of supplies and sales through an artisan fund.



MAPLE Chile will be launching its second collaborative with a Mapuche community to create a community-powered finance tool servicing indigenous economic self-determination!

After careful dialogues and agreements, we are honored to have been invited by Malalwe-Chanko (also as Llaguepulli and Allipén, one of the lake Budi’s basin 110 Mapuche-Lafkenche communities or lof that form the  ancestral territory Ayllarewe Fudilewfü) to begin a replication process with their community, that builds on what has been learned in neighboring Llaguepulli.

As we speak with elders and leaders of the community, we are finding that the lof’s families have had a long-standing struggle for community cultural and land rights –a cause shared with many communities in Mapuche ancestral lands in Northern Patagonia, both in Chile and in Argentina. But we are also learning that despite these imposed disadvantages, they have been able to accomplish many things: In the last few decades Malalwe-Chanko’s families have pursued environmentally sustainable agriculture, empowered the youth, revitalized Traditional Authorities, and begun a successful Mapuche textiles and arts production.

In addition, through their strong links with First Nations of Quebec and a team based in Montreal that work on indigenous community development, Malalwe-Chanko has been able to launch a community-led communications project, giving opportunities and tools for youth to launch 5 micro-documentaries from within. You can watch their work here!


Inspired by their neighbor Llaguepulli’s first experience, now they are eyeing the creation of their own community-powered finance tool servicing Mapuche self-determination, and we at MAPLE Microdevelopment, are honored to be working with them.

Since September 2016, a team has come together, made of MAPLE practitioners Alison Guzman and Ignacio Krell, and two young filmmakers of Malalwe-Chanko, Mariana Hualme and Liwen Raín –who, with assistance by MAPLE Microdevelopment and under the guidance of the lof’s families and traditional authorities, will be in charge with leading the creation of the second Mapuche Mutual Support Group in the region. With them, a preparatory 4-step process has been agreed upon::

  1. Initial Dialogues with Community Members and Traditional Authorities

  2. Mutual learning through 10 collaborative sessions

  3. Community-led needs and capacities assessment

  4. Consensus Building towards adapting the GAM Model to Malalwe-Chanko’s unique priorities and strengths.

 On a separate, but related note, MAPLE Microdevelopment is formalizing its non-profit status in Chile, and preparing a publication and a new website for this country branch. We hope to keep you updated on our progress in the next few months. Stay tuned for more!



By Ron Severson

As director of MAPLE Microdevelopment, I recently returned from a one-month visit to MAPLE’s field offices in Uganda.  This was my seventh visit since MAPLE started operations in Uganda eight years ago, so being there with Ugandan colleagues and friends is beginning to feel like a second home.   While much happened during my visit, this blog entry focuses on MAPLE’s growing partnership with TERREWODE.  A Ugandan NGO founded by Alice Emasu, TERREWODE focuses on preventing obstetric fistula, identifying and treating girls and women who have suffered fistula, and restoring survivors to lives of dignity (Check it out! MAPLE is partnering with TERREWODE to help fistula survivors develop sustainable income generating opportunities.  We are starting by building a business, together, to export handmade, all-natural goat milk soap made by fistula survivors in the Teso sub-Region of Uganda to Italy.  More on that later in this blog entry!

Fistula is a birthing injury that occurs when a hole forms between a women’s birth canal and rectum or bladder, often leaving her incontinent of urine and feces.  In wealthier nations obstetric fistula has nearly been eradicated.  Yet over 200,000 women in Uganda currently suffer from this condition, and those who do are often ostracized due to misunderstandings about the causes and treatability of the condition. The causes of obstetric fistula are many and include inadequate access to medical care and illegal practices of child marriage still occurring in some villages, but these and other causes mostly arise from realities associated with living in poverty.

TERREWODE is the leading organization in Uganda dedicated to eradicating obstetric fistula.  Together with other organizations, TERREWODE is transforming the lives of girls and women, not only through prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation but also through advancement and increased enforcement of the rights of girls and women—the right to avoid childhood marriage, the right to attend school, the right to medical care, the right to own land, the right to make a livelihood.

MAPLE Microdevelopment is devoted to assisting families and communities achieve financial self-sufficiency through education and entrepreneurship.  We are not a health services organization.  Yet, anyone from a family or community that struggles economically knows how difficult it is to separate issues of health and well-being from economic empowerment.  Entrepreneurial businesses often fail if a person or a family member becomes ill.  At the same time, strengthening the capacity to generate income and to support others can also strengthen one’s dignity.  This is particularly true for fistula survivors in Uganda, which makes TERREWODE Uganda and MAPLE Microdevelopment Uganda strong partners.  In its core areas of expertise, MAPLE can assist the women served by TERREWODE to build and manage sustainable sources of income.

For almost a year, now, TERREWODE and fistula survivors who live in rural areas in the Teso sub-Region of Eastern Uganda have been working to start a goat milk soap project.  When Joni Kabana, a photographer from Oregon, visited TERREWODE and gave Alice Emasu, TERREWODE’s founder and director, a gift of goat milk soap from a ranch near Spray, Oregon, Alice immediately said, “We could do this ourselves!”  

Since then, much has happened, and this blog entry will not do justice to the full story.  Let it suffice to say that TERREWODE received an initial grant to obtain and raise milk goats, that fistula survivors are now rearing and milking those goats, that Dardi Troen, a designer and soap-maker from Portland, Oregon, helped train fistula survivors to make beautiful, all-natural soap with goat milk and local shea butter, that students from Oregon State University’s Humanitarian Engineering Program tested the soap under various conditions and production processes, and that MAPLE Microdevelopment is now working closely with TERREWODE to design and implement a viable business plan to empower fistula survivors and their communities.

I experienced some pretty amazing things in relation to this project during the month of July.  Together with Rogers Muduku, our country director, Hyacinth Walimbwa, MAPLE field officer, and Chris Kuhn a UO grad and intern, I visited TERREWODE in Soroti, Uganda, twice for several days.  It’s an ever-inspiring place with ever-inspiring leaders, management team members, trainers--and particularly the fistula survivors themselves.  During our first visit, TERREWODE was conducting a two-week rehabilitation program for fistula survivors whose surgeries had not yet succeeded.  While the first surgery for women who suffer this condition often succeeds, TERREWODE is expanding their outreach to serve women whose surgery has so far been unsuccessful.

It would be difficult to imagine a more resilient group of people anywhere in the world than the women involved in this session.  Some of them had received no treatment or support for 20 years or more; others were still teenagers.  Most had lost a child during birth; others had a child with them.  The women were sharing their stories, supporting one another, learning to manage the physical, social, and psychological dimensions of living with fistula, crying and laughing together, gaining skills in income generation such as baking, weaving, tailoring, and making soap, and participating in drama and song as a way to express themselves and raise awareness in their own villages when they return.  All were emerging from isolation into a community made strong through shared experience and a shared commitment to end fistula, forever.

We also visited a village, where fistula survivors and solidarity groups sang, danced, and performed a drama for women attending the two-week rehabilitation session.  While the women connect strongly with each other at TERREWODE’s Reintegration Center in Soroti, it means a lot to them to meet other women who have returned to their villages and have been able to reestablish strong, dignified livelihoods.  At the end of the performances, the two groups of women met and embraced.  After that, everybody danced.  (Yeah, even me.  That’s what you do, and no one judges you on style points.  Good thing in my case.)  These outreach and introduction sessions constitute one of the many ways TERREWODE forms a network of supporters dedicated to eradicating obstetric fistula and respecting, even celebrating survivors of this condition all across Uganda.

Also during this first visit, our MAPLE team engaged in several dialogues about the soap making project to map out the principles guiding this new business as well as the direct and indirect costs of producing soap, locally, and establishing a distribution channel, internationally.  We also took inventory of all materials currently used in the soap making project.  Of course, some of the soap will be sold or gifted locally, within and across villages, yet selling among neighbors does not produce the returns necessary to break long-standing cycles of poverty.  The same characteristics that make local soap ordinary and low-priced in Uganda also make it uniquely valuable in regions of the world where many people wish to use soap that is not mass produced, that is free of artificial additives, and that benefits others and the environment.

Visiting one of the villages where rearing and milking the goats is occurring was a highlight.  Partly the visit was made to understand the costs associated with raising goats, a necessary step to design a viable financial model and to understand issues related to scaling the business over time.  Yet, meeting the fistula survivors locally in charge of the project and seeing the fistula solidarity group members tend to the gardens, feed and milk the goats, and build onto the goat sheds to make room for new goats gave me a much stronger sense of the community-nature and potential of this project.  Children loved the goats, too, of course, and the kid goats (as the original goats are now reproducing at a fine pace!) love to sneak out of their pens if they can, frolic around with children from the village chasing after them, and play king of the hill on any nearby anthill.  

This particular village had four goats, two female goats, a male goat, and one kid goat.  The other female goat was pregnant with what must be twin goats!  The two female goats produce about five liters of goat milk a day.  That’s enough goat milk to make 800 1.2 ounce bars of soap, the unit size of soap needed for the current international market opportunity.  Some other issues also became more apparent during the visit to the village.  As the village has no access to electricity, the milk cannot be preserved very long.  When soap is being made centrally at the TERREWODE Reintegration Center in Soroti, it needs to be transported immediately.  We hope to resolve this issue by investing in solar refrigerators for each village involved, but have yet to test this part of the process.

On the day before leaving Uganda, I met with Alice Emasu and TERREWODE’s financial directors, Lillian Awizia and Amudu David, at TERREWODE’s Kampala office.  The purpose of the meeting was to further develop the business plan, particularly the pricing model, the logistics of the pilot phase, and the long-term revenue projections.  While it is difficult to project future revenues prior to conducting the pilot, we all agreed that this is a social business.  Any decisions made must include the fistula survivors and must improve their health and well-being, strengthen their communities, raise awareness about fistula, and advance the rights of girls and women in Uganda—while also producing high quality soap.  We also discussed several possible ways that members of village solidarity groups for fistula survivors could participate in income generating activities as part of scaling the business over time.  Shea nuts grow naturally in the area.  Some community members could process the nuts into shea butter, thereby replacing the current cost of purchasing shea butter.

Other members could be in charge of printing, packaging, and messaging for end users of the soap and for transport.  Still others could engage in complementary businesses: buying and selling of milk goats; selling surplus milk; bee keeping and honey harvesting (as bees’ wax can be used as a substitute for lye in the making of soap); building goat sheds; planting and harvesting of multiuse plants like ground nuts (the goats eat the greens while people eat and sell the nuts); buying and selling of veterinary supplies in hard-to-reach villages; training of fistula survivors and solidarity groups in other villages as the business scales.  Furthermore, we agreed that some of the revenues produced from this social business should go directly into the savings and loan funds managed by fistula survivors and solidarity groups to support new income generating activities, help pay school fees to keep youth (especially girls) in school past primary level, and cover transport to hospitals for women who experience complications in their pregnancy.  In short and in so many ways, this project can become much more than a cottage industry!

I will close with the most recent update on this project.  Currently, women in five villages continue to raise and milk the goats, the goats continue to reproduce, and some fistula survivors know how to make beautiful goat milk and shea butter soap.  Alice Emasu and TERREWODE would like to ensure that women from all five participating villages can participate in the soap making process and earn sustainable incomes from this business as it grows, so TERREWODE is preparing to train new soap makers in the next test run of soap-making in Soroti.  This next test run is also necessary for making all process improvements to have the soap approved by the Ugandan Bureau of Standards for sales.  Dardi Troen is designing the packaging and Joni Kabana is drafting the messaging for the soap—as the messaging about eradicating fistula in this case is as important as the product itself.   This may include small weavings in a particular design made by the women themselves in their villages in combination with printing.  MAPLE has found an initial buyer for the pilot phase of international soap distribution—one of MAPLE’s own board members!  Cliff Johnson, co-founder with Eric Breon of Vacasa, a rapidly growing, worldwide vacation rental business (check it out manages the international markets for Vacasa.  He is interested in doing what he can, within Vacasa’s business model, to ensure that Vacasa has a positive social and environmental impact on communities.  He has agreed to purchase the pilot shipment of soap for testing in Vacasa’s Italian market.  Conducting this pilot will enable MAPLE and TERREWODE to establish an international distribution channel and will provide us all with the necessary customer feedback and data necessary for predicting demand and planning for growth over time.  Also, the MAPLE Uganda team continues their financial and market analyses to build and implement a viable business model, and we at MAPLE headquarters in Eugene, Oregon, have nearly completed the initial business plan based on field research in Uganda and international market research.

Lastly, another MAPLE board member, Emily Myers, has developed a crowdfunding site through which anyone, from anywhere in the world, using any currency, can donate to support the pilot phase of this amazing project.  The site will be up from today, August 25, 2016, through October 23, 2016.  50% of the $3,000 target amount will go to TERREWODE and 50% will go to MAPLE, in both cases to help cover the costs of making this pilot successful.

So, if you do nothing else, please check out this crowdfunding site right now!

Let’s help fistula survivors make beautiful soap, tell their stories to the world to help women everywhere, and earn income to support themselves, their families, and communities!


Ron Severson, Executive Director, MAPLE Microdevelopment

Photographs provided by Joni Kabana

Check it out !

My Experience in Lago Budi by Molly Frazier

My name is Molly Frazier and I am a MAPLE volunteer and Board Member. I recently graduated from the University of Oregon with a major in Business and a minor in Spanish. After graduation I had the opportunity to travel throughout South America. My travels took me many places, one being Llaguepulli, Chile where MAPLE Microdevelopment has been working since 2012. 

For one week in July I had the pleasure of staying in Llaguepulli. I was hosted by three incredible families who, along with the rest of the community, welcomed me with open arms. During this week I got to see MAPLE’s role in the community and how it has impacted the Mapuche families living there. As a board member of MAPLE I was eager to experience first hand the difference MAPLE has made and continues to make in the Llaguepulli Community.  

MAPLE’s main program in the community is the Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo.  Llaguepulli's Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo, based on the Mapuche context of mutual support (rekulluwun-keyuwun) began its first pilot stage in 2014, thanks to MAPLE and in collaboration with the Llaguepulli community. It started with 24 members, but now consists of a steady 35-40 members from the Llaguepulli community and is in its third cycle. The uniqueness of this model is what makes it so special, since it caters to Mapuche everyday life and cultural context. Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo works by using group savings to fund initiative and emergency loans. In short, it is providing people with security and access to capital; both of which make a profound impact for the individuals and families involved.  

I had the opportunity to observe one of Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo’s meetings during my stay. This particular meeting was for initiative loans. A record number of members presented their proposals for a range of initiatives ranging from purchasing materials for a garden and chicken coops, to supporting artisans in the community. Listening to the members make their proposals, I could tell these were matters that were very important to them. The communal desire to see everyone in the group succeed was made evident when all the initiative proposals were granted.

Another way I experienced MAPLE’s impact in the community was through talking with the local staff. Two of the women on MAPLE’s team hosted me during my stay at Lago Budi. We had several rich conversations, many of which centered on MAPLE. Silvia, who changed professions by joining the MAPLE team, explained to me that working for MAPLE does not feel like “work” because she is doing something she loves. Nadia, who has been with the MAPLE team since it began working with the community, relayed to me how important it is to her that MAPLE operates the way it does. That is, working with the community and understanding their wants and needs in order to build a program the people can take ownership of and support.

Finally, I saw how strong of a bond MAPLE has made with the community. As Alison and Ignacio introduced me to members of the community I could tell they are regarded as dear friends and highly respected for the work they have been doing with MAPLE.

My stay not only opened my eyes to MAPLE’s impact but also to the beauty and wonders of Llaguepulli. In the community one can see farmland, native forests, Mapuche Rukas, an array of animals, and of course Lake Budi. The lake is beautiful from every angle but my favorite was experiencing its vastness through a paddleboat across its shores. On my last day in the community I was invited to a Mapuche Ceremony. It was truly an amazing experience to participate in the ceremony and be further welcomed into the community.   

I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to stay in Lago Budi and experience the kindness of the community, the beauty of the area, and the positive impact MAPLE is making.

The video below shows an interview in chile of Molly with MAPLE's staff member Alison Guzman

(Click Here to play Video in another window) 

A First Step - The Mapuche of Chile and the Maori of New Zealand

By MAPLE Microdevelopment - Chile

The Llaguepulli Community and its allies, including the MAPLE Chile team, wrote to invite the New Zealand Ambassador to Llaguepulli. On January 28 and 29, 2016, representatives of the New Zealand Embassy in Chile, including Ambassador Jacqui Caine, and Policy Advisor Maria Jesus Prieto, visited The Llaguepulli Community, for activities associated with The Community’s Kompu Lof School and The Lago Budi Tourism Committee.

The New Zealand delegation started their visit with a lunch at the Lago Budi Mapuche Gastronomy Center, with the hospitality of local entrepreneur, Don Mauricio Painefil, and his family. There, the Ambassador received a warm welcome from the Longko of Llaguepulli, don Jorge Calfuqueo. She also visited the School where she learned more of MAPLE’s contribution towards the tree nursery and new organic gardens.

Ambassador Caine learned through two days of community dialogue and activities, at both the Longko’s ruka and the MapuLawen Medicinal Garden, about the School’s projection, as well as of best practices and challenges in tourism. Community members heard from Ambassador Caine of her Maori tribal community, and New Zealand experiences in Maori-Government relations and Maori development. Topics included developing Maori-Mapuche relations for promoting community-managed education for language revitalization initiatives and sustainable development. Cultural insights in traditional medicine, education and history were shared.

To make things more exciting, the New Zealand Ambassador personally delivered a letter confirming a grant under the Fondo Embajada de Nueva Zelandia, to a project, supported by MAPLE’s team, to refurbish the Schools’s furniture and gym supplies.    This will be a key contribution to the School and its students and teachers –providing a boost for the new school year which will begin in March 2016.

During the Embassy’s visit, facilitated by MAPLE Microdevelopment practitioners Ignacio Krell and Alison Guzman, and hosted by Fresia Painefil and Nadia Painefil, two of the Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo community managers, Ambassador Caine and Ms. Prieto learned more of MAPLE’s work in the region and its role in helping the Community attain self-sustainable asset management strategies.

The Llaguepulli Community considered the New Zealand Embassy’s visit to be a symbolic representation of a continuing dialogue between Mapuche and Maori First Nations, strengthening each other’s’ efforts and supporting these long-lasting relations.

una semana con... a week with... La comunidad mapuche de llaguepulli

By Delaney Swink

I recently spent a week living with three separate Mapuche families, in the Araucanía region of southern Chile. In just one week, I was able to participate in the day-to-day lives of these families, scraping the surface of understanding some of the issues they face, and observing firsthand how MAPLE is becoming an integral factor in helping Mapuche families revive their culture and develop their community in ways that fit their community goals. 

(A Mapuche Mural, Alison Guzman and Delaney Swink, Horses Grazing by the Lake)

The discrimination and injustice that the Mapuche people face dates all the way back to the abuse that took place during European colonization of the country, along with the forced evangelization that still exists and caused forfeiture of traditional beliefs and practices. Still more oppression took place under the Pinochet dictatorship – a patent lack of respect for the Mapuche’s right to their own land and territory as Pinochet endeavored to forcibly homogenize the country and cease traditional practices in attempt to modernize and "westernize” Chile. Everything from the seizing of native land, forced evangelization, banishment of the native language of Mapudungun, to current day Chilean textbooks that unjustly portray Mapuche as lazy drunks (and go on to win national awards for their accurate cultural depictions), the discrimination that the Mapuche face is a prevalent part of their history and current daily lives. 

Speaking to la Señora Virginia and her husband Geronimo brings light to current day struggles of the Mapuche people in their desire for autonomy amid limitations imposed by the Chilean government. The Mapuche are given minimal assistance from the government - limited social services, poor infrastructure of unpaved roads and faulty pipes that carry a water supply that runs brown in many homes - yet they are forced to pay taxes that don't serve them. They are further forced to answer to Chilean authorities for everything from building code regulations for tourist lodgings to being fined by the Chilean carabineros (police) who pass through the community for the purpose of regulations but seemingly not to actually serve or protect the community. 

As I stood in Señora Graciela Chela’s grassy field, watching her recently broken horse feed on the weeds and listening to her speak about when Llaguepulli first got water, she spoke about how all the men would get up early in the morning to walk to the water source to start building the canals and laying the pipes. She laughed remembering that a skeptic neighbor said he would cut off his ear if water actually sprang from the tap once they had finished connecting the pipes. Luckily he still has his ear, Señora Chela chuckled, but not because the venture was unsuccessful. She notes that the water runs brown in many homes, carrying sediment and minerals, but it's better than gathering the children as the sun rose each morning to walk to the water source and collect it in buckets, as Señora Chela did with her ten siblings as a child. Nevertheless, this anecdote illustrates just one example of how the Chilean government has disregarded the Mapuche communities. It was not the resolve of the Chilean government to provide pipelines to their people that allowed water to flow into the homes of Llaguepulli. Instead it was the efforts of Llaguepulli community members rising early every morning to dig the canals and place the pipes that met this basic need – and even then, decades after the rest of Chile enjoyed the luxury of running water.

Rinsing Organic Potatoes

Soon after running water came the luxury of light - electricity installed in most of the houses. It was a revolutionary change, but not one that electricity companies would overlook as an opportunity to take advantage of the native people. Señora Chela pointed out that, as another form of discrimination, the electricity companies continued to raise prices on the Mapuche people without telling them. Soon community members were crushed by electricity bills without adequate notification that the costs were rising.

Now many Mapuche people are trying to take back what is rightfully theirs. They hope to revive their culture that has been systematically suppressed. The struggle for most is to find a balance between cultural autonomy while still gaining rights due to them as citizens of the state - rights that were revoked throughout history since the start of colonization. The Mapuche people hope to reintroduce the Mapudungun language into schools (since it was banned during the dictatorship), and to continue other cultural and spiritual traditions. To achieve this goal, they must build a financial system that shields them from outside sources or large loans that trap people in the treacherous cycle of debt that many banks do, and the way that many nonprofits end up doing in their attempts to help people fund projects.

As a micro-development NGO that strives to build resources within the already self-sufficient Mapuche community, MAPLE can help the Mapuche reach their self-defined goals. There are many factors that set MAPLE apart and make them successful – one key factor being the community with which they work. Many NGOs focus on the suffering and poor, importing western tactics and ideologies to "fix the problem," often causing more harm than good - often further proliferating the white savior complex. MAPLE, on the other hand, works with the Mapuche community.  The Mapuche community actually invited MAPLE to come and assist in creating a self-managed micro financing plan that works with the demands of the community - only after approval of the assembly, led by the president and Lonco of the community (the main leaders of the community). 

Delaney Swink and Ignacio Krell

Sylvia (sister of the Llaguepulli Lonco -elected spiritual leader of the community) is one of four women working on the MAPLE Apoyo Mutuo team, and she made it clear that "MAPLE es nuestra herramienta - no somos una herramienta de MAPLE." (MAPLE is our tool, we are not MAPLE's tool.) This statement is key to the mission of MAPLE. MAPLE follows the needs of the people, working on a case-to-case basis to help set up micro finance programs that help community members lend amongst themselves, or set up a system that will allow them to achieve their goals of community or personal development - everything from helping groups of families split the cost of a pig in order to all benefit from its profits, to providing a monetary loan system for families building cabañas (cabins) to generate revenue from tourists, to improving home gardens from which many families sustain their diets. Sylvia explained to me how society dictates that, in order to be a working professional, one must go to the city and get a job and start a life there. Instead, Sylvia points out, many Mapuche of Llaguepulli have returned or stayed in the community to be professionals in their field in their own community, and to her this is a form of rebellion against the constraints Chilean society puts on the indigenous people. There is an expectation to conform to Chilean life, when in reality many Mapuche people don’t actually identify as Chilean at all – but MAPLE does not require Mapuche people to work within this expectation of conformity.

Sylvia says that active but peaceful activism also exists within the school in Llaguepulli, aptly named Kom Pu Lof Ni Kimeltuwe in the Mapudungun language. This school is the only school in all of Chile that teaches Mapudungun to all students as part of the curriculum. To the community, this curriculum is also a form of peaceful rebellion against the constraints society puts on the Mapuche. 

Outside of the cultural sphere of the Mapuche people, the environmental sphere of Mapuche territory has been all but destroyed by logging companies that take their land, and plant eucalyptus and pine that encroach on the Mapuche’s livelihood and destroy the native plants and trees. This is another important fight of the Mapuche people. For this reason, MAPLE (along with some of the Mapuche communities in the area of lake Budi) is making an effort to reforest the areas with plants that belong there - not trees just intended to be felled for the timber industry.  I was personally able to get my hands dirty with this newer project, a reforestation plan that focuses on self-sustaining native plants and trees, by helping MAPLE directors Alison and Ignacio manage part of the area that is being replanted. Throughout all of my experiences within the community, it became clear to me that land is something hugely valuable to the Mapuche; not just spiritually, but also practically as a means of survival.

Preparing the land

In the few days I spent with Patchi's family, I got to experience the importance of their family "huertas" (gardens) and other crops. Her family has two long greenhouses full of vegetables and herbs, fields of potatoes and quinoa, all that they use to sustain their own diets and feed the tourist groups that visit the eatery her family runs. Most families have gardens and a crop like Pachi’s family has, gardens that they rely on for their own sustenance. For this reason, gardening practices are hugely important. Another one of the projects I had the pleasure of working on during my stay was to help with an experimental garden organized by Matt Mariola, a professor currently on his research sabbatical in Llaguepulli. Mariola has connected with MAPLE to work on solutions for more efficient, organic gardening practices - since almost all families are nearly self-sustaining with their own gardens, these new practices will produce immediate returns.  

Organic greenhouses for the community

During my ten days in Llaguepulli I began to understand the importance of indigenous preservation - preservation of cultures that have existed for thousands of years and whose existence has been tested on multiple occasions throughout history. A culture whose kindness, warmness, and openness I experienced firsthand. Their value of family is more than I have ever witnessed - even after living in Valparaiso with a host family for five months. The affection between siblings, the time spent all together, the random visits to the tio's house just to say hi (that result in returning home with a bucket full of "papas buna" - fermented potatoes to be boiled in water with sugar and eaten as a traditional dessert) all have deeper ties than meet the eye. Even going to the field to pick potatoes was a family affair, which with Pachi’s family even included 18-month-old Alonso in his padded onesie. 

With the Llaguepulli community, I experienced first-hand how the families truly do live off the land, making very few trips into town for groceries, generally consuming what their crops produce - something I can't help but compare to the completely unsustainable food industry that I buy into back in the US. Señora Chela's husband said he has never even been into Temuco, the nearest big city two hours away, where many people from the community go to visit big name brand stores and buy a lot of their clothes and other goods. Their connection to the earth is apparent – such as rejecting capitalistic celebrations like Christmas and remaining with their traditional ones, such as the Nguillatun celebration that I was able to participate in on my last day with the community, where families came together to honor the earth and make offerings to the land and ocean. These traditions are part of what has shaped Chile, but have been forgotten and erased from the country’s history and current-day awareness. In a similar way, native cultures made the United States what it is today, but have been similarly forgotten; discriminated against, and forced off their land.

For these reasons it remains deeply important to preserve these indigenous cultures, and to my surprise, each of the families that hosted me explained that their hope for change lies in the hands of foreigners. As Mapuche people, they face apathy on the part of most Chileans who only see them as the stereotyped versions of who they really are and fail to take their demands seriously. On the other hand, the international community provides some form of hope for the Mapuche people. With enough support and understanding from the outside, they can start to reach their goals and regain the rights they deserve. As survivors of extreme oppression, it is a fight for them to re-claim what was once theirs, but now is a time of political optimism for the Mapuche and with the help of groups such as MAPLE they hold more hope.  


Delaney Swink is a student at the University of Oregon, studying Romance Languages and International Studies.  She has served as a Student Ambassador and the Public Relations Director for the International Business and Economics Club at the UO and is currently spending time abroad studying in Chile and Morocco.  Delaney was recently awarded the Shephard Family Scholarship for Study Abroad from the Robert D. Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon.  

A Glimpse of Empowerment and Inspiration From Uganda

Written By: MAPLE Microdevelopment

Bernard, a shortstop for the MAPLE baseball team in Lira, Uganda, talks about his experience with school and baseball, what they mean for his life, and what he wants for his future.



What is your experience with baseball? Do you feel you have come a long way?


“I love baseball and this sport has changed my life mentally and physically, I know I have a lot to do to get better but I can’t stop or quit. I want to become somebody in the future and working hard with class work and baseball will get me there. If this dream came true I would put up baseball fields in my country and facilities for others to play in. I love to see a big impact from this sport in my country and my life. Thank you MAPLE for bringing this experience to us, I am proud to be involved.” Bernard


Bernard goes on to talk about his love of Baseball, and the appreciation he has for his two coaches from MAPLE, Bernard and Mark:

"It is about two years now since I play baseball and I want to keep going. My first experience involved with baseball was last year in May when I went to the little league baseball tournament at the age of 10 with my teammates who made it there. I personally had a lot to do for myself from what I saw from the teams that came to the tournament and how well they played.  I looked at their level of play and said to myself, 'I will be the best I can be next year,' and this is still how I feel." 

"I feel I have gotten better physically , morally, and mentally which makes me stronger from last year. I celebrate my coaches Bernard and Mark for building this confidence in me. I thought I would never come this far, after wanting to give up and quit several times last year. This is a new sport to me.  I had never seen this game until last year when it was introduced to my school, and now it is my preferred and best sport in my life. I don’t know what will stop me, maybe if there is no one to keep me going...  I can’t stop thinking about baseball.  It has brought a smile and happiness to my life and my family for several reasons. Coach Bernard and Mark are my inspiration in this sport, they have been there for my betterment and I celebrate them always. May God keep them going as we enjoy our career with this great sport, for they are skillful and have got talent that we need to get better each day.   Thank you all."                Bernard



Bernard’s story of inspiration and empowerment is one of many. 



Since 2008, MAPLE has been working in post-conflict Uganda to help build the dreams and futures of strong, intelligent, and motivated youth.  Through MAPLE’s Sports Training program for baseball and softball, children learn skills they need on the field and skills they need in life.  They learn about hard work, team work, discipline, and leadership.  In a country where nearly 50% of the population is age 0-14, the people of Uganda are depending on a capable youth ,with these skills and abilities, to raise its communities out of extreme poverty.

This story of success and empowerment is only one of the nearly 60 projects MAPLE can tell from Africa and South America.  

If you would like to hear more about other projects, or more about MAPLE and what we do and how we do it, check out the rest of our website, visit our Facebook page, or email us at     

With the continued help of our amazing supporters, volunteers, interns, and staff, we will continue to find community-based grassroots solutions help communities in Africa and South America achieve financial independence and foster well-being for generations to come.


Join Us! 


Trekking through Mapuche Lands: A note from a MAPLE Volunteer

By: Cam Brand

The distance to travel between Eugene, Oregon and the community we work with, Llaguepulli, in Southern Chile, is by no means a quick trip.  And as the community members prepare themselves for colder months to come, we here in Oregon are anticipating the sunnier season.  But being in different hemispheres hasn’t prevented us from forming a close connection over the past two years.

For a few weeks in December and February, I skipped out on Oregon’s cold, wet winter, to have a visit with the community and be a part of this connection that has been growing through our community finance project there.  This project, now aptly named Apoyo Mutuo, just finished a successful pilot stage with initial members utilizing group savings to fund income-generating projects of their choice.  Coming all the way from Eugene, I planned on staying with families throughout my visit, and I was excited to see how the cultural norms of the community and the Mapuche way of life were integrated and connected with the project. 

The first noticeable presence of this connection has its traces back to the name of the project, Apoyo Mutuo.  The translation of the project’s name is ‘mutual support,’ and this is a cultural tradition within the community that is deeply engrained in their way of life. For instance, many of the daily family meals I experienced are almost always joined by guests outside of the family, whether by invitation or spontaneous visit.  And this community generosity carries over into the framework for their labor economy, where work, labor, and individual skills are often inter-exchanged and traded cooperatively.  In one case, one community member might offer his help with someone’s wheat harvest, in return for some of the crop’s harvested grain.   This interexchange and invitation culture common throughout the daily life in Llaguepulli is rooted in the ideals of reciprocity, where support is not only received, but given in return. 

And this ideal of reciprocity not only exists between the community members, but also between themselves and the land.  The Mapuche and the community we work with have such a deep connection with the land, both physically and spiritually. From the different foods they cultivate such as potatoes, wheat, and beans, to the natural medicinal practice of Lawen, the families rely on the earth and it’s resources not only as a source for sustenance and health, but also as a source of their identity.  Mapuche, after all, means ‘people of the land.’   The community has many vibrant craft traditions that carry forward the Mapuche identity as well.  The tallera traditional weaving art, can be seen practiced by women many times of the week, whose traditional designs carry a significance related to the Mapuche cosmology. Further craft traditions can be found in the amazing food, such as the traditional Catuto bread that I was shown how to make.  Craft traditions like these and their connection to the land, are important considerations in the continuing design of Apoyo Mutuo, because for the members of Llaguepulli, a financial tool that increases economic leverage is only as successful as it’s enduring ability to preserve the Mapuche culture.

When reflecting on my experiences living with different families and immersing myself in the Mapuche culture, I begin to understand that the project isn’t just designed in connection with different cultural traditions and values, it IS their culture.  From the underlying framework to the daily operations to the expected lasting effects, Apoyo Mutuo is becoming a success because the people that it supports are leading its evolution.  For MAPLE, as an organization that values cultural diversity, this is of the utmost importance in our collaborative efforts; that our projects, in being designed with and by the community, are a reflection of the culture they come from.


Being a part of this connection that we have created from Oregon to Llaguepulli puts the world in a different perspective for me.  We have built a bridge between two different sides of the world and between two different cultures who are learning from one another.  But we don’t want to create an exclusive means of exchange between MAPLE’s internal team and the communities we work with.  You are just as important in these growing connections.  We grow only as far as our roots will allow us.  Our foundation for growth, our root system, is people like you who are passionate about our mission and our process for designing sustainable solutions throughout the world.  Our organization and our projects are made up of people who work hard to keep this process going, and if you have an idea, a thought, or any questions about how to get more directly involved in what we are creating, don’t be shy to get in touch with me at     






MAPLE Chile Field Update May 2015

By: Alison Guzman and Ignacio Krell

A new perspective of forming an economy. The Mapuche Llaguepulli community has done it. With support from MAPLE, The Bay and Paul Foundation, International Foundation, First Peoples Worldwide, and other allies and partners to this project, they are embarking on a new economic perspective, based on traditional cultural Mapuche principles, while protecting and safeguarding their culture, values, and traditional practices of both monetary and non-monetary assets.

A transition phase is taking place in the Llaguepulli community. And we want you to be a part of it.


There is a community called Llaguepulli, located on one of the coasts of splendid Lago Budi. They are a community comprised of forty Mapuche-Lafkenche families. The Lafkenche, or People of the Sea, have coexisted with the lafken ,or sea,  for thousands of years living on fish, seaweed, and quinoa. Today, they represent a strong minority of the Mapuche peoples, with families scattered in south-central coasts of Chile. They continue to have strong links to the ocean, and believe strongly in the conscious spirit or ngen that coexist with their families.

To be a Lafkenche today is no easy task. Leaders must strive to maintain the wisdom of their ancestors and preserve what is inherently culturally theirs, as they face continuous pressure from globalization. In this sense, not only are Lafkenche men and women striving to strengthen their children through cultural and traditional methods, but also ensuring their children excel in the “western” world.

Today, the Lafkenche peoples of the Llaguepulli Community, are creating a new world for themselves and for the children of their children. What is their long term vision? To create resilience. Autonomy to adapt to change without changing. Resilience in every aspect: in the cultural, in the social, in the economic, in the health, in the education. They have great paths ahead, yet challenging.

 Since 2005, after they recovered their community school, from the previous, external administration, they have pursued a mission to create the first and only Mapuche curriculum with courses on Mapuche history, culture, ceremonies, and language of Mapudungun.  

And what MAPLE is super excited to tell you about… In 2011, the Llaguepulli Community embarked on a new dialogue on how to strengthen their local Mapuche economy by managing their own monetary assets. The community invited MAPLE Microdevelopment to be part of these dialogues, and in 2012, we were invited to co-design the first ever Mapuche member-owned institution with the community. After months of participatory, interdisciplinary research, we found that a resilient self-sustainable financial tool that could complement the Llaguepulli Lafkenche peoples’ mission of safeguarding their environment, their culture, and their identity, would have a strong foundation on Mapuche cultural practices and Kimün, or wisdom.  

MAPLE Microdevelopment and the Llaguepulli Community put their findings to practice and created the first Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo, a pilot project that began in June of 2014, ending now in April 2015 as a success!

The Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo:

 And what MAPLE is super excited to tell you about… In 2011, the Llaguepulli Community embarked on a new dialogue on how to strengthen their local Mapuche economy and managing their own monetary assets. The community invited MAPLE Microdevelopment to be part of these dialogues, and in 2012, we were invited to co-design the first ever Mapuche member owned institution with the community. In 2013 we began fieldwork and participatory research with a team of Llaguepulli members consisting of 2 young Mapuche women (and a year later 2 more) and an Advisory Council consisting of the Llaguepulli President and Traditional Authorities such as the Longko, or traditional chief.

MAPLE Microdevelopment and the Llaguepulli Community put their findings to practice and created the first Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo, a pilot project that began in June of 2014, ending now in April 2015 as a success!

 After months of participatory, interdisciplinary research, we found that a resilient self-sustainable economic system in the Llaguepulli community cannot exist without the guidance and sagacity of Mapuche Traditional Authorities; that financial tools and processes need to complement the Llaguepulli Lafkenche peoples’ mission of safeguarding their environment, their culture, and their identity; that a visionary innovative tool cannot exist without a strong foundation of Mapuche cultural identity and Kimun or wisdom.

 In June 2014, the families decided to put into practice what they had been working for over a year. And Lafkenche community members of Llaguepulli made their first savings pool.

But this was not just any savings pool- it was a savings group where members could not only save in pesos, but in other non-monetary assets: seeds, handicrafts, sheep, just as long as it was made or produced in the community, adapting the Lafkenche peoples’ cycles of sowing and harvest. This type of model meant that anyone could participate in the first ever Mapuche bank, even if they had no money. It also meant that local economic assets would be strengthened and used to further create a strong economy.

 Moreover, it meant a model was created based on the Mapuche concept of rekelluwun or mutual support. The Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo was born under the guidance of cultural leaders and it re-introduced in new shapes traditional ways of thinking and doing “economy” that have long existed before colonial times yet risked disappearance.

This year 2015, as the winter solstice (Mapuche new year) approaches the southern cone, the community is accomplishing something never done before in the region: The first, pilot cycle of the Mutual Support Group has successfully closed, and the next cycle, including many more members, is about to begin.

We are asking you to challenge how you see the economy today, and join us in supporting this new way of thinking. The future is here.

Supporters to this Project: The Bay and Paul Foundations, First Peoples Worldwide, The International Foundation and Individuals like yourselves!




MAPLE Field Update: Half-way Into Pilot

Between innovative transformations and everyday life

By: Alison guzman and ignacio krell

When we arrived in 2013 from Oregon to the Llaguepulli community´s home, the ancestral Lafkenche territory (Ayllarewe) of Budileufu, or Lake Budi, their purpose of creating a “Mapuche Bank” there was a germinal one, with infinite possibilities, and all yet to be done. To our honor and after one year of dialogues, we were invited to begin on a “blank slate” and to gradually be guided by the community in their quest to establish their own innovative indigenous finance model.

From Left:  Vivi, Nadia, Virginia, Ito, young Ayen, Palo, Fresia, Alison, and Luzmira standing outside the group's new office.

From Left: Vivi, Nadia, Virginia, Ito, young Ayen, Palo, Fresia, Alison, and Luzmira standing outside the group's new office.

A year and a half later, the idea has turned into a concrete entity, the Lafkenche Mutual Support Group, and as its potential is becoming ever clearer, our team also faces increased responsibility.

A little bit about us. MAPLE Microdevelopment, as a global organization with presence in Uganda, Chile and Oregon, specializes in creating and consolidating self-sustainable and self-managed finance institutions from within marginalized communities. We cater to the needs of our community partners through embedded intercultural teams using multidimensional “microdevelopment” methodologies that stem from interaction and mutual learning.

In June 2013, fieldwork began in Chile (our first project in Latin America, and the first of its kind in a Mapuche indigenous context) with us, and two community women leaders, Nadia and Fresia, forming the interdisciplinary team that would conduct community dialogues and comprehensive studies based on quantitative and qualitative tools. This, in preparation for the pilot implementation of a culturally appropriate institution: An institution that the community, in itself diverse, could own, to holistically strengthen their Lof - communal territory that includes all life-forms.

In March of 2014, two additional community practitioners -Viviana and Silvia- joined our team, and in May, we started up the pilot Mutual Support Group, with 25 founding members. As a mechanism of inclusiveness built upon traditional practices (we "discovered” in our 2013 study), each member made deposits in either currency or local produce and services.

Agreed upon by-laws established that indigenous autonomy and self-regulation of the institution, based on az-Mapu, or Mapuche MAPLE Microdevelopment Chile Field Update- November 2014Cultural Norms, were to be safeguarded by Llaguepulli´s Longko and other leaders gathered in the Group´s Resolution Council.

In June 2014, the Group of Mutual Support made their first loans. And now, in November, they just inaugurated a fully operating office providing regular mutual support services.

During this year and a half of collaboration and dialogues, our main goal has been to design institutional forms that complement current ways of self-management and self-regulation of the Mapuche community. And as sought for, the new institution, the Llaguepulli Mutual Support Group, is becoming a part of everyday life.

The institution will keep evolving, organically and through design, to reflect the essence of Mapuche values as it becomes part of the Lof. We welcome this tool as an everyday tool that members and their families can begin to reinvent as an everyday social practice. Our main challenge is from now on to safeguard its strengths and build upon them, while maintaining the quest for the fullest potential of the new model.

We can do this by incorporating education and cultural awareness activities; events that allow us to communicate our achievements and challenges. For example, back in September, the four managers of the management team decided to organize a trafkintun. This type of event has sought to revitalize the ancient practice of gift exchange, which for the Mapuche people continues to be of vital importance in the eco-cultural resilience of their peoples.

The event was attended by over 150 people (apologies, no pictures could be taken), with whom they could share local products but also ideas and forward-thinking discussions on strengthening the economies of Mapuche communities and territories, and their ability to dynamically resist pressures from complex global changes.

Everyone agreed that now is ever more important to make visible the viable community organizational models that can strengthen the economic and socio-environmental resilience of indigenous peoples´ communities and territories. And that is what MAPLE is all about.