We are two graduate students studying international development at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS). As part of our degree we have spent time researching multidimensional poverty in the highlands of the Andes Mountains in the Sacred Valley of Peru. Through our fieldwork we have come to recognize the disadvantages and hardship faced by many rural communities, which result from the challenges of accessing resources far from urban centers.
We believe that a key asset for insuring health of communities is access to financial resources. These resources allow families to invest in livelihoods, education, and health, as well as fortifying them against unexpected shocks and times of hardship. Through our research we have found that the ability to invest in the well being and security of families is not shared by all. In rural communities many are prevented by distance from accessing formal financial services and are excluded from government social programs. This poses many developmental challenges, and creates barriers to communities reaching their full potential.
Based on this finding we have returned to Peru seeking to better understand the financial culture and strategies in rural communities in the Andes. It is our hope that, through this research, we can identify ways to support financial opportunities in rural communities, and work with local partners to expand access to valuable financial resources.
Rural indigenous populations in the highlands of the Andes Mountains face a legacy of inequality and marginalization. The reverberations of a history of violence are acutely felt by the indigenous populations. These communities suffered atrocious human rights violations, as they were caught between the guerrilla forces of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and the forces of the Peruvian government. Of the half million inhabitants displaced in the war, and the 70,000 systematically eliminated or “disappeared”, the majority were indigenous. Many displaced people returned home to conditions of extreme poverty and hardship.
The repercussions of disproportionate targeting during the civil war based on socioeconomic status still influences economic opportunities of rural populations today. This has created an inequitable dichotomy between those in the urban centers who have access to government support and the tools for economic development, and the rural indigenous poor who do not. In its 2003 recommendations, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Peru called for a process “that would better distribute power and provide equal opportunities for development to all Peruvians… [as] the problem of exclusion continues to generate inequality throughout Peruvian society.” Our purpose seeks to develop strategies to overcome these challenges and to promote equal opportunity for development for the most severely affected populations.
Our vision is a more robust and stable economic environment with increased opportunities for the rural poor. Improved access to financial services and social programs is paramount for providing these populations the means to invest in their families, livelihoods, and the community. We aim to increase access to governmental social benefits, as well as to savings, microloans, and knowledge about responsible financial practices. We hope to help families gain resources which can be used in the manner they deem most beneficial. For example, they will be able to buy school books for their children, purchase agricultural inputs, or create a new business. Additionally, through increased savings, families will have resources to fall back on in times of economic hardship, providing more financial stability throughout the year. Through these activities the economy of the communities as a whole will improve, providing families with much needed support to recover from the challenges of the past and enjoy improved prospects for a future of equality and opportunity.
 Baraybar, José P. and Peña, Jesús. “Forensics, Memory, and Development: a Peruvian perspective.” Hemispheric Institute: e-misférica. http://hemisphericinstitute.org/hemi/en/e72-putis-essay