CHIRAPAQ was founded in 1986, in the context of the terrorist violence that was afflicting Peru. This is why our working on behalf of culture is strictly tied to the defence of life, and it led us to work with migrants and displaced persons in soup kitchens in Ayacucho, Lima and Huancayo. Those who used them – mostly children, women and elderly people – found not only revitalizing nourishment for their bodies, but also a way of recovering, in some measure, their community way of life, which they had painfully lost.
In 1990, we decided to concentrate our efforts on Ayacucho, in coordination with what was then the Ayacucho Association of Families of Missing Persons (ANFASEP), giving substance to the proposal of ‘Improved nutrition with native and local products’ and serving approximately 240 children, victims of violence and acute malnutrition each day. The artistic-expression workshops complemented physical recovery with emotional recovery.
This action was to produce the seed from which the Ñoqanchiq Programme grew, a space for the development of creative and artistic skills for children, helping them to overcome the trauma of violence, to assert their identity and build self-esteem. The adult women also encountered a space for rehabilitation showing the children and young people their knowledge of weaving on the back-strap loom.
It was never suggested that the soup kitchens should have a welfare function but, rather, were to serve as centres for socio-cultural revival in a context of terrorist violence and extreme poverty, where the right to life went hand in hand with the right to one’s own culture. The next step was to seek a certain sustainability for the provision of supplies, for which we implemented small organic gardens and the rearing of small animals.
This experience made us realize that we could work for the recovery of Andean cultivars which were being lost owing to abandonment of the countryside (forced displacement of people) and the commercial expansion of non-native products which, although relatively cheap, do not provide such good food value. It was thus that in 1996 the Food Sovereignty and Security Programme came into being in order to retrieve ancient traditional agricultural knowledge and practices and, with them, the rich biodiversity of the zone.
The decision to advocate for policies that defend women’s rights arose from the central role played by women in the processes of nutrition, who would take on the commitment to work for the wellbeing of their neighbourhoods and communities. At the same time, the world was preparing for the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing 95). CHIRAPAQ, through its Indigenous Woman programme, took up the challenge to encourage indigenous women to act with a view to Beijing 95, first with participatory diagnoses of the situation of indigenous women, and then promoting their articulation.
In 30 years of work for our peoples and cultures, we have shown a face which must not be lost, a culture that has resisted and survived, and which contributes to society proposals including its knowledge and values, a world-view, and respect for nature – nowadays more relevant than ever.