Chile: At Work for the Centuries-Old Roots of the Pehuenche People
The Peheunche people of Chile have a deep bond with nature and the earth written in their DNA. In the indigenous language, mapudungun, their name means “people of the pehuén”, a common tree in Andean regions that local communities have cared for and cultivated for centuries in order to use piñones, special pine nuts used in the traditional diet.
The Pehuenche community living near Enel’s Pangue hydroelectric plant, in the Bío Bío region, calls itself “El Avellano” [hazelnut ed], to further emphasise this centuries-old bond with the piñones trees, and has found support in preserving the cultivation of pehuén nuts in Enel Generación.
Technologies for Preserving History
There are about 40 families living near our hydroelectric plant, who care for six hectares of area forests where they harvest the piñones by hand to then process them following traditional methods and turn them into various food products to consume or sell.
The El Avellano community is committed to obtaining the Designation of Origin for each of the products made with the typical nuts of the area.
"For the pehuenche community, the care and cultivation of the trees and their fruits is a way of preserving their centuries-old culture and also of guaranteeing economic support."
Through the Pehuén Foundation, set up after the construction of the Pangue plant, we’ve launched a project to introduce the use of technology in the processing of the nuts.
New machines and solutions help the pehuenche families develop a semi-industrial production system in full respect of the culture and traditions.
Employment and Products DOC
The Foundation’s project supports the community both through the supply of research materials and through the management of the forests of pehuén, and includes the development of a management plan for the woods that is shared with the Corporación Nacional Forestal (Conaf), agency of the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture.
"Thanks to a constant dialogue with the population of El Avellano, we’ve launched a three-step programme for professional training and the introduction of new machinery to process the nuts."
In the first phase of the programme, 15 members of the local community took part in a training course in “Management, processing and marketing of food products of the territory”, held at the Centre for Agroindustrial Technology Development at the University of Concepción.
The course participants obtained a certification for the new technical skills gained and, at the end of the training course, the second phase of the programme began with the purchase of machinery for treating the nuts, reducing processing times significantly.
The third phase, in progress now, involves the construction and implementation of a processing facility and then the commercialisation of the nuts, which will receive official certification from the regional Secretary of the Chilean Ministry of Health.
After years of working together, the El Avellano community is modernising its production processes thanks to an interesting fusion of tradition and innovation, able to put technology to work for ancient pehuenche culture.