What is Minga?
By Camila Franco • 5 April 2023
There is a tradition that was once common to all cultures, one that is a part of our human nature even when our current societies don’t encourage it. It’s about people coming together with the purpose of reaching a common goal, with no money exchange involved.
In most countries of South America we call it minga or minka. It has the power to conjure up the best in each person and the best in the community. The term is Kichwa and means “to ask for help and promise something in return”, so it is also related to the ancient practice of barter.
The mingas are called by the leaders of the community, neighborhoods or organizations, to achieve an end that benefits the population in general. For example, to clear the land for a sports field, to maintain the school, or to build the sidewalks of certain streets. Furthermore, the mingas are also organized by neighbors who need a hand with the harvest of their products, the construction of their house, repairing the damage from a major accident, among other needs.
So what do you get in return for your hard work?
Start by having a good time socializing with your family, friends, and other members of the community, as these events tend to have a celebratory feeling. During minga, there is a group that prepares food and drinks with ingredients donated by those who have crops or raise animals.
Another group that takes care of children and teaches them to participate with small tasks, and there are others who lend their hand at work from dawn till dusk. At the end of the day, it’s quite common for everyone to get together to celebrate, enjoy delicious local food and drink while dancing to good music.
What you really get in return is the satisfaction of teamwork for reaching a common goal, and the assurance of knowing that the help is reciprocated and that there will always be someone willing to give you a hand when needed.
Keeping these traditions alive is what has helped many indigenous communities stay united. Especially for the communities that live deep in the jungle, in the mountains or far from big cities with scarce resources, and don’t receive much help from the government.
The people still honor the truth of their ancestors that tells them that together they are stronger. Everyone’s role in the community is valued and it is important for the balance and permanence of life.
Minga at Waking Herbs
At Waking Herbs we are always finding ways to integrate ancestral knowledge into our day-to-day practices. At our headquarters and nature reserve, we organize ecological events with the surrounding communities to come and share knowledge about conservation and sustainable living.
It all revolves around the concept of minga. Friends come early and help out with setting up tents and preparing the space, others share their music and arts throughout the day, and even those who can’t join send us cakes and other delicious foods for everyone to enjoy.
Likewise, when we receive trees for reforestation, our providers from indigenous communities come and help us plant them. Many times, they need support from us too when organizing important events for their communities or families and we gladly join to give them a hand.
At Waking Herbs we believe that the Minga concept could help people in western societies to reflect on their cooperation within their own communities, and hopefully, get inspired to share workloads and knowledge for the benefit of all!