Land Restitution to the Nivacle-Manjui: Self-Sufficiency and Sustainable Use

Together with the community of Yacacvash, we are looking for alternatives that strengthen self-sufficiency, ways to realize sustainable small-scale land use and advocate for an ecological and careful use of land, crops and animals.

The settlement was built in an impressive effort by the people themselves. It consists of small houses, an elementary school, communal fields and the infrastructure for keeping a communal herd of cattle. This was made possible by government funding programs and the financial support of our associations, the Hölstein church community in Baselland, the help of Mennonite settlement advisors and a local circle of friends of Mennonite farmers who bought agricultural machinery for the community.

Today, 75 families (about 320 people) live in Yacacvash. In their family gardens they grow pumpkins, corn, beans, watermelons, sweet potatoes, manioc, and in the larger communal fields they grow sesame, castor, beans, amongst other things, as niche products for the market. The cattle herd provides meat for their own consumption as well as for sale. The collectively generated profit from farming and livestock is used to maintain the infrastructure of the settlement and to finance health insurance. The self-sufficiency of the community is not yet guaranteed and the members remain temporarily dependent on wage labour for Mennonite employers. Our common goal, which we are working toward, is self-sufficiency.


This group of Nivacle Manjui was expropriated through the establishment of the Prats Gill military base and private cattle ranches, and deported by the army to Mission Sandhorst in the Mennonite colony of Neuland in the mid-1980s. Here, its members lived under extremely precarious conditions from day labour.

On behalf of their group, the chiefs Kiko Segundo, Francisco Castro and Carlos Moreno approached the state authorities (INDI) in 1990 with a claim for land, a right guaranteed by the Paraguayan Constitution. Since this claim remained unsuccessful for years, our foundation started negotiations with the German owners at the time in 1999, and between 1999 and 2004 purchased several land parcels for transfer to the Nivacle-Manjui, who then founded the Yacacvash settlement in 2001.

Our contribution

Land purchase: In 1999, our foundation purchased 1’830 hectares of land for the community. In the period from 2001 to 2014, another 2'385 ha of forest and savannah were purchased in stages (land with a total value of CHF 1'264'000).

Improvement of living conditions:

Various actors and organizations have supported the community of Yacacvash establishing livestock farming (fences, water supply, building up the livestock herd) and in purchasing agricultural machinery.

© Verena Dyck

Tomasito Ricardo

«At the Mission station Sandhorst, space was very tight; we had no space to plant. In Yacacvash we have the opportunity to live a life of peace and dignity. I am satisfied that I have a field here where I grow pumpkins, beans, corn, watermelons and fruit trees. I am also happy about the house I built with my family.»

© Fernando Allen

Further projects and goals

Ayoreo-Totobiegosode Biosphere Reserve: Forest Protection

The forest that provides the livelihood for the Totobiegosode and shapes their way of life is currently threatened by massive deforestation for cattle ranching, illegitimate appropriation of land (land grabbing) by settlers and international corporations, and illegal invasions by loggers.

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© Gerald Henzinger

Gran Chaco: Colonisation and Deforestation

The Gran Chaco (approx. 1'000'000 km2) is the largest forested area in the lowlands of South America after the Amazon basin. It has a subtropical climate and is a unique and fragile ecosystem of dry forests and savannas with an exceptional biodiversity. The Chaco is also the homeland of indigenous people (about 250’000 persons): groups that were colonised and resettled since the mid-20th century and groups of the Ayoreode, who still live without permanent contact with the colonising society.

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© Gerald Henzinger