Fellow Since 2001
OIBI-Associação Indígena da Bacia do Içana
This profile was prepared when André Fernando was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2001.
The New Idea
André Fernando, a member of the Baniwa indigenous group, has created a mechanism for isolated, disadvantaged, and marginalized indigenous communities in the Amazon to address their social problems. Working with the Indigenous Organization of the Içana River Basin, he implements innovative programs in education, traditional medicine, and income generation. André realizes that the key to success is the collective "buy-in" of individual community members, and thus he teaches indigenous communities to form associations. The associations, open to all community members, provide spaces for participants to collectively prioritize their problems, develop or adapt solutions, and elect representatives to carry out plans. André then trains association directors to execute programs that look beyond their communities to incorporate successful social and economic practices without compromising their traditions and cultures. He teaches them how to use the association to create partnerships in business, government and social sectors in order to communicate the richness of their culture to the rest of society. By establishing associations throughout the region, André is creating a common structure among communities of different ethnic groups. He is using this network as a base for spreading an array of innovative solutions to education, health, and income generation challenges. As a result, indigenous communities gain strength and improve their quality of life.