In 2017, in a progression from our water and health programs, DESEA undertook a community development program to build economic sustainability. This program features close collaboration with communities to assist in project organization, investment concepts, applications for government support, and liaison services between individual communities and business partners inside and outside of Peru. As part of this effort, we provide instruction for community members in financial planning and management. A strong local economy keeps families together by reducing the need for men to go elsewhere for paid work. The alleviation of poverty and improvement of living standards represents our fourth step in the achievement of community wellbeing.
Combating Poverty with Community Development
Our Social and Economic Development Program
Present community economies are primarily based on subsistence agriculture supplemented by temporary jobs secured by men who travel outside of the community. Typical family income ranges from extreme poverty (less than one USD per day) to standard poverty levels (1-2 USD per day). Our social development program is aimed at reducing these challenges by providing communities with knowledge and services to improve community-based opportunities. As one example, the women in one project community have formed a women’s association to focus on local social and economic initiatives.
The group, named Asociación Muñay Tikari (“Beautiful Flowering” Association in Quechua), produces hand-woven bracelets that are sold in the United States through a DESEA Peru partner. Proceeds from each order, divided equally among association members, give women the unique and empowering experience of earning an income themselves to support their families. As their earning potential grows, members are taught how to prioritize expenses and increase savings for emergencies, particularly those arising from health issues. As the project develops, members plan to invest part of their income into future projects with the potential to provide community-wide benefits.
To Combat Poverty with Community Development
In Peru, the Comunidades Campesinas (rural indigenous communities) are recognized by the national government within the constitutional framework as democratic institutions autonomous in their organization, communal work, and use of land. Legal statutes lay out the structure, rules, and laws of the community. Each Comunidad Campesina possesses a board of directors as well as committees that meet regularly to plan community advancement initiatives. Community leaders present community issues and offer proposals for action during routine assemblies where members voice opinions and collectively make decisions.
DESEA supports boards of directors in served communities with development planning processes. During assemblies, our staff work with board members and the community at large to create a vision for the community by setting short and long-term goals. We provide further support by connecting communities with organizations that can contribute to their economic development activities.
In several project areas, we’ve collaborated closely with communities by contributing construction materials and labor to the design of multiuse community halls. We’ve funded master builders to work on each community hall construction project, resulting in local men and women improving their adobe-building skills.