Sumaq amaña is an Andean concept difficult to translate from Quechua, but CAFOD’s very own LiveSimply gets close. Sumaq amaña builds on the values of solidarity, living in harmony with nature and reciprocity, meaning I help you when I can, in the knowledge that someone will help me when I need it.
Sumaq amaña is about “living well collectively” rather than individual well-being or living better than others. It is an anti-status and anti-private ownership interpretation of well-being, tied in closely to people’s indigenous identity. Sabino Mamani, a Bolivian indigenous leader explains:
“We don’t want to lose our identity as indigenous people. This land is used in common. We decide which areas are used for pasture and which for planting. We all live as one family.”
I can hear you think “That sounds nice, but it’s ideological, not practical”.
But if there is one thing I am learning from the Andean people, is that ideology and pragmatism are not mutually exclusive. For example, where Sabino lives soils are so poor they need to lie fallow for many years.
It is much more practical to organize crop rotation over a large area. If families owned land privately, they might be stuck with land that is only good for very wet years, or very dry. Never a good thing in the Andean mountains plagued by eccentric weather, not to mention climate change. Community councils also have the flexibility to allocate land according to need and family size.
When you come to Bolivia, the first thing you will see is that Sumaq amaña exists in strong contrast to individualism, inequality and remorseless exploitation of natural resources.
But if on your visit you dig a little deeper, you will see that Sumaq amaña is not a thing of the past, but shows us a different future.
Posted by KarenL