Jiw community in Guavaire region
Vicente (76) sits in the sun. He explains the merits of the handmade basket his people have made for generations. It’s his job to teach his great grandson Andreas to make traditional handicrafts.
“All young people must learn,” he says. “They should all learn as I did before.”
But many of the old handicrafts that are traditional to the Jiw are dying out. The community has been uprooted from its ancestral land time and again because of the conflict. With each displacement, a little of their unique culture and traditions are lost.
In 2009, the Government classified the Jiw as one of the country’s 30 endangered tribes.
Forty years displaced
Some of the 17 families in this small community in El Salado have been displaced by violence since 1970.
Vicente, his daughter Luzdary (66) and Andreas are three generations of Jiw that have finally returned to their ancestral lands. They are part of a group that the Norwegian Refugee Council has helped to return to a place they can finally call home.
Traditionally a hunting tribe, Andreas proudly shows off a spear he uses for hunting.
“There are fewer animals nowadays than before though, and the men in the community must walk up to 8 hours when they go to hunt meat to feed the community,” says Andreas.
Andreas wants to work with computers when he finishes school. “People who work on computers make more money,” he laughs.
Vicente recognizes that the numbers of their people are falling. “Some families were as big as 50 people before,” he recalls. “But now are as small as 30. They left for the towns.”
A peace deal signed in Colombia in 2016 paved the way for the country to rebuild, after the decades-long war.
International organizations are keen to support, and funding is coming in for development projects like strengthening peace. However, small communities like the Jiw who are in humanitarian need have been somewhat neglected.
Building a future
The Norwegian Refugee Council has been working with the Jiw Community in the Guaviare region since September 2015. We are helping to rebuild homes for hundreds of displaceden, women and children returning to their ancestral lands. We provide free legal counseling so that people know their rights on land issues. We also support children to return to school.
Date: February 2017
Photo credit: NRC / Michelle Delaney