Football helps boost indigenous peoples’ income in Colombia

Aug 8, 2011

Indigenous families are celebrating the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, August 9, by selling their crafts in Bogotá, Colombia. (Photo: UNDP / Elizabet Yarce)

Bogotá – Sixty indigenous families in Colombia are celebrating the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, August 9, by selling their crafts in Bogotá, one of the host cities of FIFA’s U-20 World Cup, a football tournament for national teams with players under the age of 20.

The indigenous peoples from 19 ethnic groups have been living in extreme poverty in Bogotá after being displaced from their ancestral lands in the aftermath of the armed conflict.

More than 80 percent of them were trained in sales and marketing techniques in recent months, enabling them to better market their handicrafts in hotels and malls in the Colombian capital during the FIFA U-20 World Cup, between July 29 and August 20.

The initiative results from a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) partnership with the Bogotá City Hall, the Government of Colombia and the Indigenous Council Mesa Indígena, a civil organization of forcibly displaced indigenous peoples living in Bogotá.

The World Cup is gathering between 20,000 and 30,000 foreign tourists who are bringing revenues of US$ 100 million into the country, according to the Government of Colombia.

"We are taking advantage of the influx of tourists to boost market entry opportunities for indigenous peoples within the private sector’s inclusive business and corporate social responsibility initiatives," said Xavier Hernandez, an official of the UNDP’s poverty reduction and sustainable development programme.

Hotels and malls will continue selling indigenous peoples crafts a couple of months after the World Cup as part of UNDP’s Inclusive Economic Development Project. Businesses are also supporting the indigenous peoples by purchasing necessary material to make handicrafts, promoting products in window shops and providing transportation and food.

As pointed out by Evelio Rodríguez Martínez, a native of the Kankuamo peoples and leader of 19 communities, this lifestyle option enables them to make a dignified living, working with their hands and using the knowledge passed down generations, which is their most significant ancestral legacy.

"Together, [indigenous peoples] are custodians of a valuable and often fast-disappearing cultural heritage," said the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message for the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples."

There are more than 370 million indigenous peoples in some 90 countries worldwide. They make up almost 6 percent of the world's population, but 15 percent of the poor and one-third of the 900 million people living in extreme poverty in rural areas.

In his message, Ban also encouraged countries "to take concrete steps to address the challenges facing indigenous peoples—including marginalization, extreme poverty, and loss of lands, territories, and resources."

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was created by the United Nations in 1994 to further strengthen international cooperation in solving the problems faced by indigenous peoples in areas such as human rights, environment, development, education and health.

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