Story by Amparo Carrillo | National Administrator | Heifer Peru
Photos by Heifer Peru

In Peruvian communities, there is still a strong effort to preserve ancestral heritage. Ayni, or Andean reciprocity, and Minka, the process whereby people work together for a common interest, are Incan practices and traditions that represent and encourage the ideas of sharing the workload, helping others and cooperating–just like the Full Participation Cornerstone of Heifer International’s 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development. 

When a house is built, neighbors all join in to share the work. Every member of the community cooperates and participates in the big task of helping a new family set up a home. During festive occasions in the mountains, everyone forms a big circle and dances huaynos, carnavales and mulisas to Andean rhythms inside the circle. For this activity to work, every person must work together to maintain the circle while dancing.

Thanks to these traditions and practices, many new construction projects that benefit the entire community have been completed. The whole community joined together to construct irrigation canals, highways, warehouses and ahijaderos (a plot of pastures with abundant moisture reserved for the dry season and frequently fenced with a stone wall) in the village.

Like the Full Participation Cornerstone, Heifer encourages Ayni and Minka traditions in the Andean villages where it works. By honoring and encouraging these ancestral values, which are deeply embedded in the lives of the people, it supports a collective commitment to pursue common goals and objectives within a project. To encourage Full Participation within a Heifer project, it is also important that all the participating members of the project and nearby villages celebrate milestones once they have been achieved. In Cajamarca, for example, villages perform a big circular dance to celebrate Passing on the Gift®. This dance encourages harmony and sharing and reminds them to keep in mind that “everyone is part of a whole, every person is important; we are dancers in the circle of sustainability.” Through the sharing of responsibility combined with even the smallest resources from Heifer, we are able to fulfill Heifer’s great goal: to help families improve their conditions so they can get ahead in life.

Heifer Peru says: “Minka for development!” Minka is a word in the native language Quechua that means “work together.” Heifer and the communities we work with know that the development process requires respect for certain processes, accountability, and, most importantly, understanding the appropriate customs and traditions of participation, cooperation, integration and collaboration. Working together in Full Participation, we are dancing our way to success. 

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Author

Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.