Alianza Arkana Spotlight on Diego Villegas Kau

This week Alianza Arkana interviews Diego Villegas Kau. Diego, who studied Forestry Science at Lima´s renowned agrarian university “La Molina”, has recently taken on the role of project administer for Alianza Arkana’s Community-based Solutions program.

AA: Can you tell us something about what your work involves Diego?

Diego: My main role is overseeing Alianza Arkana’s permaculture projects in the District of Yarinacocha. For example this involves visiting the project sites and maintaining a clear communication between our permaculture technicians, members of the communities where we work and the Alianza Arkana office. In this way we can implement projects that are sensitive to cultural and working practices in the communities. Active community participation at all stages of project design and implementation is an essential ingredient to success. From an administrative point of view we must realise that people in the communities have a different culture, and way of doing things, and to meet our objectives me must adapt ourselves to them rather than trying to get them to adapt to our working rhythms.

The amount of information that people in the communities have is remarkable, if we really listen to them we can use this source of knowledge to discover solutions to different problems. So I see our work at Alianza Arkana as helping to facilitate this process, and offering financial and technical support in order to enact local solutions.

What interests you most about this work?

Diego: I especially like the fact that the solutions we help to implement in the communities work outside of the structures of the national or world economy. By encouraging self-sufficiency, these communities will become more resilient. So if there’s an economic crash and these communities do not depend on goods like oil, they will be able to weather the storm. I love the fact that the indigenous people have a survival method based on solidarity. So while they do not have any kind of formal social welfare system like pensions or health care, old people and the sick are taken care of in the community.

How did you come to work for Alianza Arkana?

Diego: I’ve now lived in this region (Ucayali) for 12 years, and in Pucallpa since 2007. During that time I’ve worked on a number of different projects, but I think it’s necessary to say that before starting this work, I had been feeling very disillusioned about the work done by many organizations in the rainforest. Many NGOs grow too quickly and in this growth phase there is too much priority given to obtaining grants by any means possible to enact projects. As a consequence, the process and community participation is often marginalised, and the organization promises more than what will be possible just as a means to gain a source of funding. Then when it comes to project implementation, the NGO is confronted with the difficulties, and ends up focusing just on completing what they can as more of a box ticking exercise. Inevitably, the fundamental objectives of this work become lost. When the opportunity arose to work with Alianza Arkana I was excited to do something productive about this.

By doing this work, what kind of changes do you hope to see in the future?

Diego: For me a key thing is self-sufficiency, previously the communities where we work had no need for outside goods. If it’s possible to bring back biodiversity to this region, the indigenous people can have an abundant local food source once again. Currently, most young people leave their communities in the search for employment, in order to support their families. Typically, in the city they are forced into doing monotonous, low paid work. I’d like to see a future where young people want to stay within their communities, where there are economic alternatives so they can live a satisfactory and healthy life.

Deborah Rivett, Wednesday, 11 September 2013

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