Since 2012, MAPLE Chile has worked With Mapuche communities to help create a community-powered finance tool that fits their traditional values and culture.

Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.
— U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of 2007, Article 4.


In 2012, on the Pacific coast of northern Patagonia, the Mapuche-Lafkenche (Lafken = sea / che = people) indigenous community of Llaguepulli decided to invite MAPLE to their ancestral territories of the Lake Budi basin, to co-design and support the implementation of a culturally appropriate financial tool to be administered by the community itself (“Member-Owned Financial Institution”), this tool would serve the Lafkenche communities priorities, cultural values, and land ethics or Az mapu.

In June of 2014 we completed a year of action research and community dialogues to establish objectives, commitments and statutes.  The process culminated in the creation of a project to pilot the first-ever Mapuche member owned and managed bank, more appropriated named a mutual support society by the 25 women, men, youth, and elderly from Lake Budi who became founding partners.  This financial organization was co-designed to meet the needs of members and the community in the service of self-determination.

The local team and advisory council that now control this mutual support financial organization since 2014,  have been successful in managing members’ monetary and non-monetary assets, with a 100% return rate and investment of 4 times the net value of collective savings. Neighboring Mapuche communities have also now begun to adopt this model due to its success in relation to funding community-based initiatives. 

Members of the Mutual Support Group, both through loans given to families´economic initiatives under Mapuche social and environmental criteria and cultural protocols, prioritizing innovative solutions over conventional farming.  

To complement the savings and community finance tools offered by this Mutual Support Group –a model now being replicated - , and in accordance with 16 Strategic Directions  prioritized by our community partners , MAPLE has  designed and implemented several multi-dimensional projects.   addressing social, cultural, environmental, and economic holistic impacts.  This processes of co-designing indigenous self-management tools and  delivering these to local teams, have resulted in replicable methods, being systematized through toolkits and publications, and lead to innovative functioning self-managed models such as Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo (Mutual Support Group), self-sustainable tree nurseries, and artisan management tools enabling quality standards through a materials fund managed by women weavers.

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MAPLE Chile works with Mapuche (Mapu = earth / che = people) communities in the southern region of Lake Budi, Teodoro Schmidt commune, seeking autonomous economic development in their ancestral lands. We share with our associates the belief that the solutions to such demands must be articulated directly by the communities themselves.

Since 2012 MAPLE Chile has assisted Mapuche communities in the formulation, implementation, and replication of models of autonomous microdevelopment, such as small community-owned banks, self-sustainable tree nurseries, and artisan management tools, with the objective of supporting their cultural identity, cohesion, and traditional leadership. For more information on the tools being co-implemented with our community partners, please see our Lake Budi´s project´s map.

The key to MAPLE Chile’s methodology is to offer our community partners  long-term participative processes that are transparent and flexible, or, in other words, “Slow Development”, enabling partners to create teams through mutual learning, and develop capacities of holistic economic management that include the environment and cultural heritage and that manifest in the creation of tools for multi-dimensional self-development of the community monetary and non-monetary assets. By 2020, MAPLE Chile aims to develop a strategic association with organizations administered by Mapuche leaders and professionals to jointly provide assistance for indigenous self-development to more Mapuche-Lafkenche communities within the cultural and territorial context of Lake Budi.


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The Mapuche are the people (che) of the earth (mapu), with close to a million members in Chile. The Lake Budi basin is a traditional Mapuche-Lafkenche territory or Ayllarewe, declared as a conservation zone (2002), consisting of nine Rewe that group together dozens of smaller communities, comprising a total of around 15,000 members.

MAPLE works with Mapuche-Lafkenche communities, in Chile that self-identify as People of the Ocean, given their closeness to the southern Pacific coast and the mega-diverse, brackish Lake Budi. Nevertheless, similarly to many indigenous communities around the world, the Lafkenche way of life is threatened by out-migration of youth, economic dependency, and environmental degradation.

Against all odds, the Ayllarewe Budi families are committed to preserve their language, ceremonies, traditional authorities, and self-government based on consensus. Since 2013, with the support of MAPLE, they have developed effective and holistic tools for self-management to counteract the threats caused by globalization and environmental change: instead of promoting dependency, we create self-sufficiency through co-designed local management tools and capacities, that will eventually be completely controlled by the communities themselves.


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In conjunction with our associates at Lake Budi, MAPLE has been developing a set of tools that since 2015 have been gradually implemented through processes of development of capacities that have allowed the flourishing of a vibrant circular economy, by simultaneously strengthening indigenous self-management in the following four interconnected areas:

● Community Finances: The communities have the capacity to administer their own monetary and non-monetary assets, in balanced and interconnected economies. “Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo” o Rekülüwun, which means, “to support each other”. This replicable model is the first of its kind in Chile, and perhaps the world: the 40 members may fulfill their obligation through monetary and in-kind deposits, following the tradition of “trafkintu” or reciprocal gift giving.

● Cultural Preservation and Management: The communities can develop methods to manage their cultural assets, to create intergenerational resilience and positive identities in an ever-more globalized context. In conjunction with the Mapuche Women Kuzao Zomo association (Entrepreneur Women of the Allipen Community), MAPLE is developing culturally appropriate tools and protocols for the artisanal design and quality evaluation, as well as marketing and financial administration designed to tend to the mission of the associated women, which is to guard their ancestral and collective expressions through mutual learning, while they contribute to the income of their households without having to abandon their communities.

Environmental Restoration and Sustainable Access: From a local and cultural context, the Mapuche communities, just like many Indigenous People’s, can heal their territories and teach others ways of living with the environment. Since 2015, using agro ecological tools, regenerative agroforestry, and nurseries, MAPLE’s field team has worked with 55 families to plant more than 5000 native species in their family farms and incorporate regenerative landscaping techniques to control runoff, erosion, and water pollution, and with this safeguard and revitalize active components of the environment, such as native plants, fishing, and the mega-diverse wetlands (Declared Priority Conservation Sites) and simultaneously reverse the largest threat to Lake Budi’s survival: it’s slow death from eutrophication.

International Connections:  As and international organization, we are committed to linking the communities with international partners, allies, and supporters. We have created a Friends of MAPLE platform, that allows students volunteers, and professors, from a diverse set of institutions, such as the University of Oregon, Duke University, and Wooster College, to connect with our work in Chile. Under the belief that indigenous communities can respectfully share their stories with new allies and partners to co-create solutions to shared challenges, MAPLE has facilitated engaging international support for the Budi communities, such as the Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Learning Fund, and the Virginia Gildersleeve Fund, amongst others, to create initiatives led by the communities themselves that resonate with our original mission, and that range from the renovation of infrastructure for the community’s Mapuche school (2015, 2018), to the establishment of a just agro ecological Mapuche quinoa trade cooperative (2017-2018), to the acquisition of new capacities and equipment’s for artisans.