Where the Land is Flat: El Chaco

I'm in Paraguay to spend a few days with my friend Manuel. For the past three years, he's been leading projects in this drought-prone region with the Italian international development cooperation agency COOPI. He primarily works with indigenous communities to develop strategies that can help them cope with the massive changes in their environment caused by ongoing large-scale land expansion and river damming by the cattle industry. COOPI has helped install new water pumps, irrigation equipment, and develop growing methods and commercial crops that give the indigenous inhabitants of the Chaco greater options by which to sustain themselves. These cooperations also aim to build awareness in these communities about their rights and fair working conditions, in the hope of helping them conserve and shape their sense of identity in a country that gives them little support in light of the disruptions to their culture and once more nomadic, ancestral way of living. Because I am arriving at the peak of the rainy season, everything is lush green and birds and frogs sing all day and night long, but the area is normally bone-dry and brown nine months of the year. To get a better idea of COOPI's work in the Chaco, I recommend watching this documentary: Los caminos del Chaco (in Spanish).