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Davis UWC Student Receives Projects for Peace Grant

A St. Lawrence University senior has received a prestigious grant to study ongoing land disputes among native populations in Paraguay.

Facundo Rivarola ’14 was awarded a grant for his project titled “Irrigating the Past, Harvesting the Future” as part of the Davis United World College’s scholar program, Projects for Peace for 2014.

His project will focus on the Aché aboriginal population, a hunter-gatherer society that traditionally lived in the eastern forests of Paraguay in South America. The Achés had been displaced from their ancestral lands throughout the 20th century and were often enslaved to work in cotton and soybean fields owned by wealthy landowners. A democratic transition in Paraguay during the 1990s paved the way for the Aché to return to their native lands in 2010. However, regaining their land, Facundo says, did not end their struggle.

“The Aché may have received their land back, but there was no government support for them to return to their original ways of living,” Facundo said. “But some agricultural knowledge remains from working in the fields for many years, and now there are community gardens, irrigation projects and even those trying to preserve their cultural food identity.”

Facundo explained that while Paraguay is an agriculturally fertile nation, corruption over many decades has kept the majority of agricultural lands in the hands of a very small number of wealthy landowners.

Facundo collected data last summer for his research while in Paraguay. This summer, after graduating from St. Lawrence, he will return to Paraguay and compile the research data in order to write a report that will be delivered to Davis UWC. This project aims to work closely with the community members to build a community garden with a rain water collection system for irrigation and other basic community needs. Six volunteers from the Agricultural Studies Program at the Universidad Nacional de Asunción will also participate.

“This is an ethnographic study that will hopefully prepare me for future research,” said Facundo, who plans to attend graduate school in Switzerland in 2015. “I love being in the field researching, and I want to do something practical when I return to Paraguay.”

The Projects for Peace program invites undergraduates at American colleges and universities in the Davis UWC scholars program to design grassroots projects that they will implement during the summer. The objective of the program is to encourage and support motivated youth to create and carry out ideas for building peace. The projects judged to be the most promising and feasible receive $10,000 each.