The crafts people are Wichi Indians, who are one of the largest groups of indigenous people living mainly between the two rivers, Bermejo and Pilcomayo in northern Argentina. The Pilcomayo forms the border between Argentina and Paraguay.
Alec also set up the Siwok Foundation, a charitable trust in Argentina. Alec remains a passionate advocate for the rights of indigenous people and uses his expertise in agriculture and care for the environment to develop a garden project with Wichi families in addition to Siwok Crafts.
The Garden Project started because a young Wichi girl died of protein deficiency. Wichi families have traditionally grown a few crops to supplement their diet, but Alec felt sure their health situation could be improved if they had support to bore more water wells and with that water plus drip irrigation learn better market gardening techniques to produce more food. Half of Wichi children are malnourished.
The vision is to see the Wichi people live sustainably, with dignity, in their own lands, neither depending on donations nor having to migrate in search of work. Both Siwok Crafts and the Garden Project help to fulfil this vision. People in the UK and elsewhere who have purchased Siwok Crafts have helped to provide a livelihood for over 100 families in the Chaco.
In addition to crafts, we sell individual Wichi paintings depicting their life and environments and also two books which provide more first-hand information about living among the people of the Chaco; Under an Algarrobo Tree by Bishop David Leake, who was born and grew up in the Chaco and a book by the late Bishop Bill Flagg, who was a great encouragement to Alec. Bill’s vision was to increase sales in order to improve the Wichi way of life while preserving their culture and restoring their dignity. His vision is still being realised.