Bua de los Tsa'chila

  • Alfonso Aguavil - director of the Shinopi Bolon cultural center
  • a volunteer project in sustainable development for the Tsa'chila culture of Santo Domingo in Ecuador
  • Yanapuma carries out projects in agriculture and horticulture as well as nutritional training for the Tsa'chila in Santo Domingo province
  • an international volunteer helps with our sustainable cacao production project

Comuna Bua de los Tsa'chila

The community of Bua is one of 7 remaining communities of the Tsachila culture. There are only around 2500 Tsachila left, and Bua is one of the communities that is working hard to preserve their rich culture in the face of the encroachments of modern life, most notably the rapidly expanding town of Santo Domingo which lies only a few kilometers to the east.

The Tsachila are renowned throughout Ecuador as shamans and healers, with a rich tradition of medicinal plant use. They are widely known as "Colorados," a reference to the red "achiote" paste that they use to dye their hair and the lines they paint on their bodies.

At Bua there is a cultural group, "Shinopi Bolon", which is developing an ethnographic musuem, interpretative trails through the last remaining jungle, and a medicinal and botanical garden. There are projects to reintroduce native species of trees through reforestation, as well as native animals that had been hunted out or disappeared over the last half century.

Yanapuma´s current projects in Bua are as follows:

  • Agriculture and Reforestation: We maintain a permanent employee in Bua to work on improving agricultural techniques and making their system both more sustainable and more appropriate to their traditional cultural values. Principally we are working to improve and make sustainable cacao production, as well as reforestation with productive species
  • Community: We are working with different sections of the community and with the local school to promote leadership skills, organizational capacity, and improve self-esteem, to better enable the Tsa'chila to develop their ability to control their own lives and futures. This work cross-cuts all the axes we work in as there is a great need for the Tsa'chila to learn many of the skills that we take for granted.
  • Health: We renovated a disused building beside the local school to serve as a center for the promotion of health and well-being, to combine traditional medicine with modern medicine and to traing locals as health promoters to work on nutrition, hygiene, pre and post natal care, sexual and reproductive health, etc. So far we have not had the resources to realize these goals, but continue to seek funding to develop the centre
  • Education: Yanapuma sends volunteers and interns to work in the local school to help develop curriculum, teach English and other subjects like hygiene and nutrition, etc.
  • Cultural Center Shinopi Bolon: We have been working with groups of volunteers on constructing cabañas, ecological toilets, and other infrastructure, as well as on maintaining forest paths and the medicinal gardens, and the development of the tourist and visitor potential of the site.
  • Waste and recycling: We have been sending volunteers and interns to work on recycling as there is currently no regular waste removal service in Bua.
  • Sustainable Economies: We are working with 2 Cajas Solidarias that lend money to community members to cover expenses such as buying seeds and materials for their farms and developing small enterprises.
  • Cabildo: The Cabildo is an elected committee that governs the affairs of the community, but they lack all the basic skills to be efficient and effective. We are working on organization, leadership, administration and accounting with them.


Volunteeringultural Exchange Opportunities

Long-term volunteers are welcome to teach English and other subjects in the local school, help in curriculum development and to work on development of the musuem, medicinal gardens, reforestation and agriculture, health initiatives, waste and recycling, communication and participation, leadership, etc.

Group projects are organized from time to time in Bua around specific community activities.