In the Mapudungun language Lleulleu means to melt. Its namesake body of water is a lake situated to the west of the Nahuelbuta range in the Biobío Region, which is considered to be some of the purest water in Latin America.
There are Mapuche communities along the Lleulleu Lake who maintain their traditions and work to preserve their culture. This is the precise area where CMPC is carrying out a set of initiatives called the “Lleulleu Project” in support of the 14 communities in the area.
What is involved? It includes working together with neighbors on programs to increase employability, prevent dropping out of school, build community infrastructure, improve access to water for human consumption and irrigation, promote tourism and create alliances to foment developmental initiatives that help lead to more opportunities in the area.
“Every day at CMPC we operate side-by-side with 380 Mapuche communities in various parts of southern Chile. As a company we are interested in being a part of the lived reality of our neighbors where we have facilities,” said Augusto Robert, CMPC Corporate Affairs Manager for the southern region.
In fact the set of initiatives that are currently fully underway have helped create around 400 jobs in the area in forestry, fire prevention and fighting, native forest restoration, construction and tourism.
One of the major projects underway is the implementation of native plant nurseries with 13 Mapuche communities in Tirúa, near Lleulleu Lake. The goal is to protect the lake by restoring native vegetation, generating jobs in forestry and helping reactivate the local economy in conjunction with restoration where both entrepreneurship and productive capacities of the communities are promoted.
So far 19 community nurseries have been built where native plants are being grown in order to restore the entire lakeshore area, the protection zones of water tributaries, as well as the areas within CMPC properties and the communities.
This has directly created 150 new jobs, 95% of which are filled by women.
This work has been undertaken together with the Industrial Corporation for the Regional Development of Biobío (CIDERE) and the Universidad del Desarrollo that has created a business plan for producing and selling plants from the greenhouses. Production has already reached about 100,000 native plants ready for transfer with 70,000 more currently germinating.
One concrete example of these initiatives that have already produced good results in terms of job creation and the agricultural development of the area is the Potato Producers Cooperative. It sells potatoes from Tirúa under the brand Poñi. Additionally, it is now a profitable hub for berries, beekeeping and vegetables.
Twenty deep wells have been perforated for watering native plant greenhouses and agricultural products to ensure these projects last.
However, the amount of available water means a permanent solution must be found for the shortage of water on hand for human consumption. This is why CMPC together with Desafío Levantemos Chile has created the “Water for Chile Challenge” that seeks efficient solutions to this problem.
The aim of the “Lleulleu Project” is to decrease the number of people abandoning higher education. Young people living in this area who begin this level of education are often faced with a number of challenges that make it hard to complete it.
This is why the intervention includes support, workshop, academic tutoring and counseling regarding employability and monthly financial grants. So far 215 students have benefitted from the program that was set up in alliance with a specialized foundation.
Furthermore, a number of educational workshops and classes have been created in order to help increase the employability of the residents free of charge. Course topics include tourism, forestry, plant production, administration, and food hygiene and handling.
Atilio Pérez has a potato business and took one of the courses. He says, “They gave us tools that we hadn’t known about as well as skills that, although we may have already had them, we weren’t sure how to administer them. That’s why this course has been essential for me in advancing my business.”
Tourism and infrastructure
“The course I took in this program taught me how to get more involved and be more organized in my tourism vocation,” said Erica Huaiquipán. Given the natural beauty of the area, one of the main productive activities has to do with tourism such as camping, cabin rentals and intercultural gastronomy.
This is why the “Lleulleu Project” also includes improving equipment and infrastructure, and the sanitation, architectural and commercial aspects of tourism activities.
Community infrastructure will be given to the Mapuche communities since the vast majority does not have any development centers or spaces. Ten community centers are under consideration along with improving schools and churches.
In the short term, a certified firewood production cooperative is being set up in which five communities will work on the sustainable management of 500 hectares of their own forests to create an eco-friendly product that will also create jobs and income.
“The aim of this activity is that the agreement between the communities and the company can help protect the lake and the environmental and cultural characteristics of the Mapuche people,” added Augusto Robert.