Indigenous handicrafts in the Tupi Guaporé Territory: a source of income and knowledge exchange between generations

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In addition to being an important source of income for the Paiter Suruí indigenous people, handicrafts are also a way of transmitting knowledge among the elderly and young women. In the village of Gapgir, in the Sete de Setembro Indigenous Land (TI) Sete de Setembro, the entirely handcrafted production of clay pieces has been one of the ways of transmitting culture and way of life.

Aiming to help strengthen this chain and seek new markets for the sale of products, the Nossa Floresta Nossa Casa project has been developing actions together with the women of the village, located in the municipality of Cacoal, in the state of Rondônia.

In recent months, indigenous people have struggled because of restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. To support women in this village and other TIs, one of the project's initiatives was to make available more than 450 tool kits to facilitate collection and production. 

“The handicraft is a way to keep our culture alive. We also learned a lot from the old women. Our challenge is to ensure that women continue producing and are able to sell their items”, says the young Sobitxem Suruí, leader of the artisans at Gapgir.

Conversations and reflections were also promoted to stimulate the entrepreneurial gaze of the artisans, valuing work and the condition to generate income. One of the topics discussed was the need to incorporate costs into the sale value of each piece.

For the indigenous Carina Cinta Larga, from the Roosevelt Indigenous Land, the strengthening of the work has a positive impact on the communities. “Handcraft is a very important income for us, women depend on this income, and even more strengthening our culture, which we need to pass on from generation to generation”, says Carina.

Bio-jewels

The group of artisans from the Gapgir village brings together 59 women, many of them young, who produce clay pots, cups, fruit bowls, jars and other household items. Some are manufactured for use at commemorative parties. They also create bio-jewels from seeds, fibers, cotton and coconut shells.

According to Sobitxem, one of the difficulties in working with seeds is the collection in places of difficult access in the Amazon rainforest. Therefore, this year, family agroforestry systems are planned to be planted and a pilot plan to be started in the village to recover areas through direct seeding. This technique is called “muvuca”, a word of indigenous origin that means mixture.

“This pilot will be carried out as part of the Forest Trends partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation, in collaboration with Ecoporé and the Xingu Seeds Association, to plant one million new trees in Indigenous Lands using agroforestry techniques developed to increase storage of carbon, support the biodiversity of the forest and promote the generation of income for the communities”, explains Tatiana Tintino, Forest Trends consultant.

Strengthening the chain

The Nossa Floresta Nossa Casa project is coordinated by the Communities and Territorial Governance Initiative of Forest Trends (ICGT-FT), one of the implementers of the Partnership for the Conservation of Biodiversity in the Amazon (PCAB), in partnership with Greendata – Center for Socioeconomic Management and Innovation and Environmental and the Partners for the Amazon Platform (PPA) in operational and management.

Developed since 2019, the project operates in the states of Rondônia and Mato Grosso, in the ILs Igarapé Lourdes, Kwazá do Rio São Pedro, Rio Branco, Rio Mequéns, Roosevelt, Sete de Setembro, Tubarão Latundê and Zoró. Altogether there are 21 peoples in eight Indigenous Lands. 

It aims to strengthen indigenous governance and economic initiatives. It pursues this objective through the priority structuring of the Brazil nut, cocoa, açaí and handicraft value chains, as well as training in territorial economic governance, so that good conditions for market access are created. It also liaises with commercial partnerships based on fair and ethical trade principles.

TI Sete de Setembro is located on the border between Mato Grosso and Rondônia, a stretch that integrates the Tupi Mondé Ethnoenvironmental Corridor, a large portion of TIs linked together. This corridor makes up the so-called Tupi Guaporé territory, which also includes the Itenez-Mamoré-Guaporé Binational Ecological Corridor and the Tupi Kwahiva.

There are more than 5 million hectares of protected areas, where more than 10 thousand people live, of which 80% are indigenous.

To learn more about the project, go to: ppa.org.br/portfolio