Fellow Since 1996
Fundación Cruzada Patagonica
This profile was prepared when Germán Pollitzer was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Germán Pollitzer's initiative embodies two central concepts. The first is that a successful "development model" for indigenous communities requires a carefully coordinated combination of activities, including steps guaranteeing secure title to the lands that they occupy, the development of new educational opportunities of high quality and relevance to community needs and the introduction (or reintroduction) and nurturing of sustainable methods of agricultural production and land use. The second central concept is that each component activity must be sensitively attuned to the cultural traditions and values of the indigenous people, eschew paternalistic, "top-down" approaches and enlist, from its start, the vigorous participation of the communities involved.In association with his colleagues in a Patagonia-based nongovernmental organization, the Cross-Patagonia Foundation, Germán is implementing the first of those concepts through several mutually supportive endeavors. He has long been engaged in a lengthy and continuing effort to obtain land titles and record them in a "civil registry" containing the basic documentation required by the relevant law. In 1995 he launched a new bilingual boarding school with an unprecedented curriculum painstakingly attuned to the economic and social needs of indigenous communities. He has also developed a demonstration farm, now in operation, that is closely linked both to the school and to a series of "satellite" farms in the surrounding region.The second concept is the essential and defining ingredient of all of the activities in which he is engaged. He is not attempting to "save" indigenous communities by enticing them to adopt "superior" modern technology. Quite the contrary, the production techniques that he is nurturing and the habits of communal interaction that he is encouraging reflect local customs and culture. And, thus derived, they are attracting the full and committed participation of growing numbers of indigenous communities.