Ísuya: the Arhuaca woman and the social fabric

Innovative and disruptive solution that promotes empowerment and the relevance of the role of Arhuaca woman in the family and community, promoting nutritional food security.


Valledupar, César,

Category / Sub-Category / Topic

Healthcare, Feeding

Type of investment needed


Associated SDGs

The challenge

Food insecurity figures prevail in the Arhuaca communities despite of having a territory with agricultural potential. According to the latest measurement, 7 out of 10 people suffer from malnutrition in Jewrwa, currently caused by the high levels of food insecurity.

The project

The initiative consists of creating spaces for building trust, healing and strengthening the social fabric, where women will be the protagonists in the development of their communities, promoting nutritional food security.

This is an innovative and disruptive solution, as it promotes systemic change through the role of women in the Arhuaca community. Sustainability is based on the empowerment and relevance of the role of women in the family and the community.

Implementation will be in the following strategic lines:

  1. Development of spaces for trust, healing and strengthening of social fabric (Isuyas): healing conversations will be facilitated along the kitchens of the homes, to help creating relationships of trust among women, increasing their support networks, through the exchange of experiences and knowledge. At the same time, another purpose is to strengthen their self-esteem, their ability to participate in the community and to enhance their role in social dynamics.
  2. Training in Food and Nutritional Security: training will be provided on how to grow food and prepare diverse and more nutritious recipes that are culturally accepted. In addition, a seedbed for food sustainability is to be provided.
  3. Organization of a Gastronomic Festival: the social fabric and community organization will be strengthened by events where families can share new recipes with the community. The objective is to improve nutritional quality, by including foods grown in the gardens.

Know more...

In Colombia, there are more than 105 indigenous ethnic groups throughout the national territory. The Arhuaca community is one of the largest in terms of population size and cultural relevance. It is located in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a mountain range in northern Colombia. It is organized through traditional villages throughout its vast territory, with about 34,700 Arhuaco Indians living there.

The Jewrwa village is located in the foothills of the department of Cesar, where about 460 families (4,600 inhabitants) live. They are mainly engaged in agricultural activities and subsistence crops such as coffee, cacao, sugarcane, rice, and wheat. They are known for the backpacks (bags) made by the women, which are of great cultural and economic value to the community. At the same time, they are an ethnic group committed to the care of mother earth, water and natural resources. They are known as the older brothers, because of the ancestral wisdom they possess.

The Arhuaca indigenous community enjoys independence from the national government of Colombia, and is politically constituted by governors and cabildos. Here the figure of the Mamos (spiritual leaders of their community) stands out, who have a very important ancestral power in the territory. Families are formed at an early age by men and women, with an average of three to five children. The man is the one who does the farm work and provides for the family economically. The woman is the one who takes care of the children, weaves, cooks and is in charge of everything related to the care of the family. The governors, councils and leaders are men; women do not hold important or influential positions in their communities.

The problem of food insecurity is affected by the social and cultural system of the Arhuaca communities, where family dynamics and food customs play a key role. It has been identified that the man, being the economic provider, is the one who has the priority in family nutrition and that the lack of friendship ties among Arhuaca women represents a barrier to their empowerment and active participation in the development of their communities.

1. Development of spaces for trust, healing and strengthening of the social fabric (Ísuyas): protective spaces will be provided to strengthen self-esteem, increase the capacity to participate in the community and enhance the role of women in social dynamics.

2. Training in Food and Nutritional Security: food education and nutritional accompaniment will be provided along with capacity building for agricultural development through training workshops under the methodology of dialogue of knowledge. In turn, a seedbed will be created for the food sustainability of the community and campaigns will be launched with families for the consumption of cleaner water. In a cross-cutting manner, the replication of new Isuyas will be promoted, initiating the growth of the model and the scale that will allow reaching dozens of them.

3. Organization of a Gastronomic Festival: two community events will be held with the objective of enhancing the Arhuaca food culture, promoting the consumption of fruits and vegetables, and highlighting the role of women in the community.

Direct results:

  • Development of 10 spaces for trust, healing and strengthening of the social fabric (Isuyas).
  • 100 Arhuaca women will actively participate in the meetings, strengthening their self-esteem and improving their support networks.
  • 100 women will receive training in nutritional food security.
  • 20 women are empowered to replicate the Isuyas model reaching 200 more women. 
  • Diverse food preparations and cooking methods will ensure nutrient diversity.
  • Creation of a seedbed for community food sustainability.
  • More diverse, sustainable gardens, with food consumed whole and integrated into their daily habits.
  • At least 250 of the 460 families will participate in food festivals.

Expected impact:

  • Improve by 40% the food security of the women participants of the Isuyas and their families in the first year of intervention.
  • Decrease malnutrition among women participants of the Isuyas and their families by 20% in 12 months.
  • Achieve that 75% of the women adhere to the Isuyas strategy, measured by permanent attendance to meetings and replication of the model.

  • IPS Wintukwa: fundamental organization to articulate with the Arhuaco villages, being a strategic partner to intervene in the social and cultural system of the communities.
  • Red de Innovación Local
  • Ashoka LATAM
  • Universidad de la Sabana, Gastronomy career.
  • Platos sin fronteras
  • Planeta Rural
  • Zolem: school of life, experts in working on the Self to achieve changes in mentalities and thus live with purpose.

  •  Yesid Seycundivey Zapata: Indigenous leader of the Arhuaca community of Jewrwa. Mail: seykundiveyzr@gmail.com - Colombia
  • Andrea Escobar Hoyos: Executive Director and Co founder of Fundación Soydoy. Mail: direccion@soydoy.org - Colombia


(*): In kind/pro bonus

(**): Financing

Goods and inputs

Alimentos para preparaciones (**)

u$s 5900.00

u$s 2100.00

u$s 3800.00

Semillas y materiales para huertas (**)

u$s 4900.00

u$s 1500.00

u$s 3400.00

Material impreso (*) (**)

u$s 700.00

u$s 0.00

u$s 700.00

Material digital (**)

u$s 450.00

u$s 0.00

u$s 450.00

Kit cocina (ollas, sartenes y utensilios de cocina, productos de aseo) (*) (**)

u$s 1300.00

u$s 0.00

u$s 1300.00


Transporte, alojamiento y alimentación (equipo Soydoy) (**)

u$s 6800.00

u$s 2500.00

u$s 4300.00

Human resources

1 Profesional área social (**)

u$s 20800.00

u$s 3900.00

u$s 16900.00

1 Nutricionista (**)

u$s 8000.00

u$s 0.00

u$s 8000.00

1 Gestora social Soydoy y 3 gestoras sociales arhuacas (**)

u$s 6000.00

u$s 0.00

u$s 6000.00


u$s 54850.00

u$s 10000.00

u$s 44850.00

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