We are committed to indigenous rights and environmental protection in the Paraguayan Chaco. Indigenous people, the original inhabitants of the forest, have a right to their territories. Their communities have a deep knowledge and long experience in dwelling on the land and ways of living with the forest sustainably, preserving it for future generations.
Our foundation and association in Switzerland work together with partner organisations in the Chaco to promote the implementation of existing indigenous land rights and land restitution to indigenous communities in the Chaco.
After the hand-over of land titles, we support the communities to continue with sustainable practices, to secure their territories and rights, and to improve their living conditions and health.
The communities thus receive a livelihood, a space for self-determination and make a significant contribution to the protection of the dry forest and its biodiversity in the Chaco.
Foundation & Associations
The Foundation for Indigenous Communities in Paraguay and Association for Indigenous Communities in Paraguay (both based in Riehen, Switzerland) were established in 1997.
The Foundation supervises the activities of the Association’s Board of Directors, approving the expenses proposed by the Board of Directors, and reporting annually to the Swiss Federal Supervisory Authority for Foundations. The Foundation also administers the Health Fund Project (‘Fondo de Salud’)
All three institutions are non-profit organisations. The association currently has approximately 300 members, volonteers and donors.
The board members of the association in Switzerland coordinate activities with the target communities and partner organisations in Paraguay, collect and manage donations, maintain contact with members and donors, purchase forested land for restitution to indigenous communities in the Chaco, use funds to secure and protect forest areas and promote self-sufficiency and sustainable use of land. See: Statutes.
Since 1993, the NGO GAT (Gente, Ambiente y Territorio) accompanied the land restitution to the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode. Since its withdrawal at the end of 2019, the NGO ESPACIOS has taken over the collaboration with the communities. Espacios remains committed to the protection of the territory and forest, the legal defense of indigenous rights, and the empowerment/or: strengthening of the indigenous organisation OPIT (Organización Payipie Ichadie Totobiegosode), the self-determination and participation of the Totobiegosode. Espacios works closely with OPIT and coordinates its activities with institutions in the field of environmental protection and indigenous rights, it carries out documentation and public relations for the concerns and rights of the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode and also accompanies them in the area of health care.
Our contact persons are the social anthropologists Verena Regehr and Vera Regehr in the Chaco and the physician Dr. Fernando Elias in Asunción.
OPIT (Organización Payipie Ichadie Totobiegosode - New Thoughts and Ways of the Totobiegosode),
The association of six chiefs, whose official spokesperson is Porai Picanerai, represents the matters and priorities of Totobiegosode communities and advocates for their rights and interests to government institutions and private organisations.
International Organisations: UNESCO: Man and the Biosphere Program, Survival International (London), Rainforest Foundation (Norway), Amnesty International (Germany and Paraguay).
A large network of friends in Paraguay, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Canada and the USA.
Verena Regehr, founding member of the project
«Since my arrival in Chaco - more than 50 years ago - I have been committed, together with a large circle of friends, to the rights of indigenous peoples and to environmental protection in Chaco. It pains my soul to see how the Chaco landscape is currently being irretrievably destroyed by deforestation and the overexploitation of its precious resources, and how indigenous peoples are being disenfranchised, exploited, displaced and discriminated. I dream of a world and future in which a peaceful, just, joyful, respectful and responsible coexistence of different ways of life as well as people and the environment is possible. I dedicate my life to creating the conditions and connections for this.»