Paiter Suruí handicrafts: income and intergenerational knowledge exchange

Apart from being an important source of income for the Paiter Suruí Indigenous People, handicrafts are also a way of transmitting knowledge from elder to younger women. In the village of Gapgir at the Sete de Setembro Indigenous Land, their entire artisanal production of clay pieces is one of the ways in which culture and life have been transmitted across generations.

Aiming to help strengthen this chain and identify new markets for their products, the Nossa Floresta Nossa Casa project (Our Forest, Our Home) has  developed actions together with women from Gapgir, located in the municipality of Cacoal, in the state of Rondônia.

In recent months, Indigenous People have struggled because of the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to support them, one of the project's initiatives was the provision of over 450 kits with tools to facilitate gathering of materials and production to artisans of 21 different ethnic groups living in eight Indigenous lands.

 “Handicrafts are a way to keep our culture alive. We also learn a lot from our elders. Our challenge is to ensure that women continue producing, and that they are able to sell their production,” says young Sobitxem Suruí, artisan leader in her village.

Discussions and reflections  foster entrepreneurship among the artisans, value their work and their ability to generate income. One of the topics addressed was the need to compute costs into the final sale price of each piece.

For Carina Cinta Larga, from the Roosevelt  Indigenous Land, supporting their work has a positive impact on the communities. "Handicrafts are a very important source of income for us. Women rely on this income. And it is a way of strengthening our culture, which we need to pass on from generation to generation," says Carina.

Biojewelry — The group of artisans from the Gapgir village include 59 women, many of whom are very young. They produce clay pots, cups, fruit bowls, jars, and other household items, some of which are used at commemorative events and festivals. They also create biojewels from seeds, fibers, cotton, and coconut shells.

According to Sobitxem, one of the difficulties in working with seeds is that they are often gathered from hard-to-reach areas in the Amazon rainforest. That is why they are planning to create family agroforestry systems this year, and will also launch a pilot to recover areas through direct seeding. This technique is called “muvuca”, an Indigenous word that means mixture.

“This pilot will be launched under a partnership between Forest Trends and the Arbor Day Foundation, in collaboration with Ecoporé e Associação Rede de Sementes do Xingu, which aims to plant one million new trees at Indigenous Lands using Agroforestry techniques. Such techniques have been developed to increase carbon storage, support forest biodiversity, and promote income generation for communities,” explains Forest Trends consultant Tatiana Tintino.

Strengthening the chainNossa Floresta Nossa Casa is coordinated by the Forest Trends Communities and Territorial Governance Initiative (ICGT-FT), one of the implementers of the Partnership for the Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity (PCAB). Its operation and management are supported by Greendata — Socioeconomic and Environmental Management and Innovation Center, and by the Partnership Platform for the Amazon (PPA).

It has been operating since 2019 on eight Indigenous lands in the states of Rondônia and Mato Grosso: Igarapé Lourdes, Kwazá do Rio São Pedro, Rio Branco, Rio Mequéns, Roosevelt, Sete de Setembro, Tubarão Latundê, and Zoró.

Nossa Floresta Nossa Casa aims to strengthen Indigenous economic initiatives and the economic governance of Indigenous lands. It pursues this objective by structuring the value chains of Brazil nuts, cocoa, açaí and handicraft as priority areas, as well as providing training on territorial economic governance to create more favorable conditions for market access. In addition, it promotes commercial partnerships based on fair and ethical trade principles.

The Sete de Setembro Indigenous Land is located at the border between Mato Grosso and Rondônia, a stretch that integrates the Tupi Mondé Ethnoenvironmental Corridor, which includes a large number of Indigenous lands that are linked together. This corridor forms what is known as the Tupi Guaporé Territory, which also includes the Itenez-Mamoré-Guaporé Binational Ecological Corridor, and the Tupi Kwahiva.

The region comprises more than 5 million hectares of protected areas. More than 10,000 people live there, of whom 80%  are Indigenous.

More information on the project is available here.