Fernando Alvarado: “We work on strengthening the Bolivian peasant communities”
¿Can you tell us briefly what ACLO is and what is it centred on?
The ACLO Foundation was founded in 1966. Just this year we have completed 45 years of service. It was born essentially around literacy issues. In Bolivia, in the sixties, there were high levels of illiteracy, especially in the peasant communities. As you know, Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, after Haiti, in spite of having numerous natural resources. Then, the ACLO Foundation is born precisely to answer those needs of the people in the countryside, of the Chuquisaca peasants and Indians. It is formed in Chuquisaca and then it grows to Tarija and afterword to Potosi that is why we are in the south of Bolivia.
The main work started with adult education projects. Educating doesn't mean teaching to read and write or learn the letters of the alphabet, but rather, above all, teaching how to see reality, their reality to the country people. Because of this to our institution, founded by the Society of Jesus, Our principal objective was to make grow the peasants potential, of the rural areas Indians, of the Quechas. From where we have founded ourselves with the objective of promoting education as development, That is, to alphabetize, to teach to read and write, but to teach to read their reality to transform it, to change it.
During these 45 years of history, ACLO has tried to meet the challenges of our country's context: poverty, marginality, lack of education. Currently we continue with this task, but we have moved from exclusively educational and cultural projects to economic/productive ones.
¿How many people are there currently in ACLO?
We are 119 people between the three regions. In each region there are 30 or 40 workers, They are multi-disciplinary teams, that is, we have economists, sociologists, social workers, educators, agronomists, etc.
¿Approximately, how many beneficiaries are there?
We are presently working in 9 municipalities of the three departments. This comes to signify more than 500 communities, or 2.000 families. On top, we have communication media. The radio stations are popular and alternatives, that is, they are not commercial but rather oriented to community services and that's why we broadcast in their native languages: Quechua or Guarani.
¿What challenges are ACLO facing in Bolivia at the present time?
In our last strategic plan we are prioritizing 4 large challenges. The first one is the issue of the environment and the climate change; the second is that of production, meaning, food security; the third, is citizen participation, principally in the building of autonomies; and the last one is the research and incidence on the public policies. These four subjects are the ones we want to address in the next six years.
For us the fundamental issue is the integral human development, We are interested in that the less protected subjects, like the peasants, can become the main actors of their own history. In Bolivia we are living big changes now because the Indians are in power [with Evo Morales as President].
¿Are you living this situation as an advantageous environment?
Of course, this is what we want and what we have fought for. But there are some mistakes as well... There exist many interests and many internal contradictions. After such a long time, it can't be that Bolivia continues to live a situation of injustice and disadvantage. I believe that Bolivia is living a process of change. I believe that it is living a moment of great opportunities and that we are in the best moment to be able to deepen these changes, strengthen and disseminate them, we want to make proposals, motivate the strengthening and change of our country.
ACLO is active in this process, we are interested in working hard on the changes. Politically, there is a government that represents the rural people, but at an economic and benefits level there lacks a lot in the rural areas.
The situation in our country is complex but is full of hope. The majority of the population continues to look for changes. I think that we should ask ourselves what type of development we are looking for, one that ruins nature or one that is part of it. The society wants to progress but at what cost. Globally, ACLO's task is to deepen these changes, strengthen them and spread them, we want to make proposals, motivate the strengthening and change of our country.
¿How can Entreculturas continue to support the work of ACLO?
In many ways, the subject of education is your subject. We too understand education as development; we think that if we want a new society we have to form new men and women, with new behaviour, new values. Education is very important when we ask ourselves what type of humanity and society we want to build. We want that the human beings in this world are able to build a fair and, equitable and fraternal coexistence.
Education occurs in many different places and many different ways, and we relate to you precisely because Entreculturas is in the more excluded sectors. There it continues to support education development: both formal and informal, for adults and for children. Entreculturas has a lot in common with us, above all in this approach to change our society from the education base, from the families and the communities. We walk hand in hand, and I hope that this will be so for a long time.