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.

MAPLE Field Update: A Turning Point

By: Alison Guzman and Ignacio Krell

Graciela, Vicky and Pedro, the three members who received the first loans to support their initiatives.

Graciela, Vicky and Pedro, the three members who received the first loans to support their initiatives.

These are extraordinary times. 

They are also times when new models can have considerable impact. The rainy first moon of this Mapuche Year (which begins with each Winter Solstice) has been the foundational moment for the first Mapuche savings and loans association - or better, as defined by its founding members, the Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo Llaguepulli. This institution, with the support of MAPLE’s mission of catering to communities through microdevelopment, is in the last phase of being fully managed by the community themselves.

Alas, this is no ordinary savings and loans group. This Mapuche community bank is deeply rooted in mutual support, pooling together assets to build access to resources and to overcome financial barriers to Mapuche self-development.  For the Lafkenche Lof of Llaguepulli, the search for culturally appropriate institutions is the culmination of an entire Mapuche generation’s struggle for their rights as indigenous peoples; a struggle that also encompasses creating the nation’s first Mapuche-managed school in 2005, not to mention the recovery of some of their lands in the region. 

A little over a year now has passed since MAPLE stepped into these lands, eager to take upon the challenge of co-creating a Mapuche managed savings and groups association with cultural and environmental benchmarks. Thanks to The Bay and Paul Foundations, The International Foundation, First Peoples Worldwide, and individual donors like yourselves, we have been able to make this happen.

Through 6-months field research and broad community outreach and dialogues in 2013, and discussing by-laws and reaching commitments  during the 4 months pre- implementation in 2014, our team has ensured that Lafkenche priorities are incorporated and monitored:

1) The strengthening of Az Mapu: Mapuche Traditional Authorities, into the governing principles.

2) Inclusiveness to all individuals, including those that cannot enter with monetary assets but can enter with animals, labor, and handicrafts. 

3) Supporting initiatives and instances respectful to Mapuche families, their Kimun (knowledge) and Itrofilmonguen (environment). 

4) Honoring the process of Mapuche self-determination, autonomy, and self-development.

On July 11th, the Grupo Apoyo Mutuo Llaguepulli gave out their first loans. By then, the group had saved together over 1,000,000 pesos, an amount that was divided up into loans for initiatives, and loans for emergency loans.

It was a happening moment really. Nearly all 24 members showed up, many of them brought their family members and children with them. The team’s Mapuche managers (Fresia, Nadia, Silvia, and Viviana) each made traditional Mapuche bread in the ashes of a ruka fire. Fruits, jams, and cheese were shared. And, such as in traditional homes and meetings, the typical practice of the mate drink was passed counterclockwise, ensuring that no one was left out. The fireplace was fully lit, keeping the room warm during the windy and rainy winter evening. A space of comfort, intimacy, and inclusion indeed.

Headed by the Longko (traditional chief), the Group’s Resolution Council, provided reassertion of the ever-more-important role of Mapuche norms (Az Mapu) and self-determination, paving the way towards the signing of the agreed-upon by-laws by all members present. Soon afterwards the evaluation of proposals for this year’s Initiative Support Loans could proceed.

The evaluation process was designed to incorporate Mapuche ways: through oral expressions both in Mapudungun and Spanish. But to ensure thorough and transparent evaluation, MAPLE’s management team also prepared a list of questions that was available to the members prior to this meeting. In this way, not only was the member able to make a proposal based on his or her personal and family needs, but also able to touch upon issues relevant to the community as a whole. 

The 3 proposals brought forth by members were carefully thought out and relevant to the community: Two Araucania chicken hen houses- the famous chickens that originate in the region and are known for their blue eggs; and a greenhouse where organic vegetables could be grown and sold locally or given through trafkintu (gift exchange). After reaching final consensus, the group decided to make the Initiative Support Loans available to all three proposals, dedicating more funds to the person who had prepared and provided the best proposal. The evaluation process also proved to be inclusive of diversity: two women and a young man, all three from different generations including a Papay or elder.

A key result of a participatory institutional design was that, guided by the Longko and the management team, the assembly was able to ask beneficiaries to commit to environmental and cultural safeguards: i.e. using organic feed; not using pesticides, and reusing organic waste. Thus, the henhouses will breed rare native Araucano chickens, and produce eggs and meat, not only for local market and tourism supply, but also for Trafkin, or “giftexchange” within the Llaguepulli community, a key mechanism for biodiversity and economic resilience.

After a moment of gratitude, speeches, and job-well-done, community leaders and members expressed the importance of the project and how relevant it is for their vision of their community. Through the solemn presence of Az Mapu, this project is already strengthening the local economy and creating new linkages while asserting Mapuche self-determination.

After all, this is perhaps the first time in a long time the community has had the power to choose together where to invest their financial resources.

A Look Into The Future

We have reached a turning point and a lot of work is yet to be done.  Weekly meetings with the Llaguepulli team continue to take place, as we transition into a very important component of the project: communications and strategic planning.

The Llaguepulli team envisions a future where thier voices will become ever stronger in telling the story of thier Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo Llaguepulli.  They are planning a Trafkintu event in the community inviting friends, family and neighboring communities.  In this way, they can share more information about the project to close family and friends in neighboring communities.  We are also discussing ideas on how to develop strategic communications more broadly through a micro-documentary.  

We feel honored as part of MAPLE by the responsibility to ensure they garner the support needed.