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Gnabes and Brunkas indigenous people of Costa Rica take their first steps in the design of textiles for new market segments

  • They participated in an IMAS training process, led by CATIE, which allowed them to develop capacities at the business level.

December 11, 2019. Recently, a training process was successfully completed whereby 34 indigenous people (32 women and two men) from the Gnabe ethnic groups, from the territories of Coto Brus, Altos de San Antonio, Abrojo Montezuma and Comte Burica, as well as from the Brunka ethnic group, from the territory of Boruca, in the Brunca region of Costa Rica, received business training and specialized in textile redesign. This was part of a project of the Joint Institute for Social Assistance (Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social, IMAS, its Spanish acronym), led by the Agribusiness Development Unit of CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center).

Through the training they had the opportunity to start creating new pieces of clothing for a new market segment and sell them outside their communities.

In order to publicize the new designs produced, within the framework of the launch of Stylos Magazine, a fashion show was held at the Hotel KC, in Sabana Sur.

"For the indigenous women who participated in the fashion show, the experience was very enriching and also allowed them to revalue their work, their culture and the struggle they make every day to support their families," said Evelyn Cháves, a researcher with CATIE's Agribusiness Development Unit.

According to Cháves, this process represented for the UDA a learning process, an internal reinvention to adequately meet the new demands of the rural world, where agriculture is no longer the only activity that people develop to improve their livelihoods.

The process was supported by the national designer, Víctor Alemán, and the company INOV8, as part of a strategic alliance.

At the fashion show, Juan Luis Bermúdez, executive president of IMAS, thanked CATIE for its work and identified new opportunities to continue developing capacities in Costa Rica's indigenous territories with the support of the Center.  

This is the second time CATIE has conducted a training process with IMAS in the Brunca region. In 2018 there was the first experience with a focus on agriculture, while by 2019 the focus was on products and services associated with tourism.

A second phase is expected to include specialization and capacity building processes for marketing, quality improvement and product finishing, as well as accompaniment to incorporate indigenous entrepreneurs in new points of sale.


Woman participating in the fashion show


More information:

Evelyn Chaves Jaén
Agribusiness Development Unit
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Written by:

Karla Salazar Leiva
Information Technology and Communication
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