Experiences the ASCIM has made with new settlements

In the history of the ASCIM we have dealt with different models of accompanying the resettlement and settlement of Indian groups in the central Chaco. For example during the period of 1979 – 1988 five new settlements were built up following a model of integral development: Paz del Chaco, Nicha Tôyish, Nueva Promesa, Armonía and Casuarina. The priority objective of this project was to get the groups to become rooted on their land, to secure an economic subsistence and strengthen community services. To achieve that, a relatively high starting investment in infrastructure, equipping and accompanying the settlers was made with an average cost of approximately US$ 2,500 per family.
Parallel to the mentioned projects another four settlements were carried out in the central Chaco by different organizations, partially on plots of land secured by the ASCIM: Laguna Negra, Campo Loa, Estribo and Casanillo. In these settlements a model of development adapted to the culture was used. The priority objective of these projects was to cause little change in the lifestyle of these settlers and hence to continue, as much as possible, with known economic systems: gathering, producing honey, breeding sheep and goats, handicraft, horticulture and wage-labor. The project investments went for infrastructure, equipping and accompanying the project, and on average amounted to an estimated US$ 1,250 per family.
During the nineties many international finance institutions changed their strategies towards not wanting to support big, integral projects anymore, but smaller ones that were submitted by the target groups themselves. The goal was to make the settler groups “capable of negotiating” and to show them how to enforce their rights through making demands of the government institutions. In this context the only thing to do was to put the “settlement packages” together in such a way, that the different organizations were directed towards inter-institutional cooperation according to what they offered.
During the last few years the ASCIM tried out this model in the following settlements: Laguna Verde, Anaconda, Koé Pyahú and La Princesa. The contributions from outside, among others from the departmental governments, were used for the infrastructure, the social services and housing construction, while the ASCIM took over the coordination and consultation and aided smaller economic projects. An average of US$ 1,000 per family may already have been invested. However, all of the four projects are still without a guaranteed basis for subsistence.
Some reflections on what the ASCIM has learnt in the process of carrying out these projects within the frames of these different models:
1. Motivation and vision of the target group play a decisive role in the success of the project. If the group is mainly motivated by a crisis of subsistence, their goal is to achieve short-term provision; “dependence on a patron” as well as on a relief organization is highly regarded there. However, if the group, for example, has the vision of getting their own piece of land for long-term socio-political security, prospects are much better.
2. The role of the accompanying organization has to be clarified before the implementation of the project and continued systematically throughout the time of cooperation. It is a safe assumption that the expectations of the target group and the conception of itself that the partner organization has will never coincide straight off. The continued clarification of responsibilities contributes to gradually achieving cooperation on a partnership basis. Difficulties arise when various institutions with different guidelines collaborate; then a lot of coordinated dialogue becomes necessary.
3. The economic productivity of a new settlement decides whether the settler group can become “sedentary” in the long run. This factor of profitability should be clarified in the plan before the resettlement. Experience teaches that economic versatility is the best prerequisite for the solution of the subsistence question; security –from the perspective of the Chaco Indian– is achieved when there are always various economic options open: garden produce, material that can be gathered, crafts, relationships for possible wage-labor, and some family members who have a job or are good at negotiating to bring in resources from outside.
4. The “generous” starting investments in water-supply, roads, school, health posts, marketing possibilities, equipping with agricultural implements and installations for livestock farming are no “white-washed luxury”; they –according to the experiences of the ASCIM– have a direct impact on the motivation and economic success of the settlers.
5. Accompanying and advising the settler group have no prescribed duration, but depend mostly on what kind of advisory relationship there is. Normally the need for advice changes constantly, according to group initiatives and visions. Here it is characteristic that the demand regarding advice his leaning more and more towards the technical and administrative. Thereby, in the case of the ASCIM, it has helped to annually and jointly assess, negotiate and fix in writing the needs and relationships.

Wilmar Stahl
Advising anthropologist of the ASCIM
September 2005

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