Thursday, February 4, 2010

Social Entrepreneurship Case Study: Kallari Cooperative of Ecuador

Indigenous communities around the world face seemingly insurmountable odds against national governments and corporations that seek to explore, and often exploit, the peoples and their land. The Quichua of the Ecuadorian Amazon too face such problems; oil exploration in their territory often means that they are removed from their lands and become dependent on the government for basic needs which they were once able to meet. Although many indigenous groups in the Ecuadorian Amazon have appealed to the government to forbid or limit oil exploration in their territory, the government does not have an incentive to stop oil exploration irrespective of the permanent damage it has on the fragile ecosystem. There are also many instances when the Quichua are persuaded to give up their territory through manipulative means.

When I studied abroad in Ecuador, I came to know of the Kallari Cooperative's cafe in the capital city of Quito. The cooperative is made up of hundreds of Amazonian Quichua families who create arts and crafts and manufacture their own chocolate, giving the families a sustainable way of generating income without having to exploit their land through logging and oil exploration. As a self-sustaining community, the cooperative has been able to preserve their way of life without growing dependent on the government while sharing their culture and stories of resilience with the world.

Kallari chocolates are manufactured entirely by the collective and are scrumptious; social entrepreneurship never tasted this good.

Lessons to be drawn
The Kallari cooperative works because it engages the community it is working for/with; every member of the community is a stakeholder with an important role to play, from the administrative aspects, to manufacturing chocolate or creating crafts. The community themselves see the value in their work. When a community feels it has the talents and manpower to succeed, the community feels it is in control of its destiny and mobilization becomes easier. As a social entrepreneur it is important to work with a community by first asking the community what its needs are, then inviting the community to be a part of the solution.

Read More:
* Impacts of Oil Drilling on Ecuadorian Indigenous groups
* Survival International (Tribal Peoples' rights organization)

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