Argentina’s northernmost provinces of Jujuy and Salta are home to 30 Indigenous communities that are organized under the network of the Kollas Indigenous Communities of the Territory of Salinas Grandes and Laguna de Guayatayoc. Big salt flats, such as the Salinas Grande salt flats (4,700 square kilometers), are unique ecosystems within these communities’ ancestral territory that provide them with natural resources (e.g., water and salt) for subsistence, work, and production, being closely connected with their life, culture, and history. These Indigenous peoples have built their lives around the region’s arid climate by sustainably harvesting salt, herding cattle, and growing crops. However, in 2010 the provincial governments granted licenses to foreign mining companies to exploit lithium without consulting the communities, which constitutes a violation of Indigenous peoples’ rights for Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Because Lithium mining requires enormous volumes of water, it poses a threat to the livelihoods of these Indigenous communities in this extremely dry area.
In particular, the communities of El Angosto, Saladillos, and Santuario de Tres Pozos in the Jujuy Province have turned to livestock farming and wood exploitation to survive as a consequence of water insecurity and loss of income from salt harvesting. Yet, over the years, soil degradation and deforestation have emerged. Furthermore, the abandonment of traditional practices in the use of adobe in infrastructure construction has highly contributed to the deforestation issues in the area. Adobe is a construction material and a traditional building method based on ancestral knowledge. It is generally used in Indigenous territories in Latin America due to limited access to conventional construction materials, a function of both economic difficulties and distance to urban areas.
To this end, the ICCA-GSI project, under Phase 1, supports the three communities in sustainable use of natural resources by revitalizing their ancestral knowledge in adobe construction. Appropriate technologies in renewable energies were introduced to reduce firewood consumption and provide clean energy for cooking, which is vital for sustainable development and good health in the rural villages. While the current pandemic prevented face-to-face meetings and access to materials for the installation of technologies, the strong organizational capacities of the communities have resulted in the replacement of traditional open-air and clay stoves with ecological kitchens and ovens, as well as in the installation of adobe Trombe walls and solar heaters in many homes. The adobe Trombe Wall is a passive heating system that captures the sun's radiation and transfers it to the home’s interior spaces. These technologies have helped improve household comfort, decrease pressure on vegetation cover, and reduce health problems, as well as the hours spent by women and children in searching and hauling firewood.