Text by Adam Andros
Photography by Sophie Pinchetti
In order to inspire and empower our neighbors to diversify their income and sustenance opportunities, the Chaikuni Institute recently collaborated with the prestigious Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonia Peruana (IIAP) to facilitate a workshop focused on rural fish farming. Fish farming is an important economic activity for low-income rural caserios and villages of the Peruvian Amazon, as a complement for or an alternative to the ubiquitous and soil depleting monocultures of yucca or plantain upon which most communities depend.
The main objective of our workshop was to provide a solid grounding in both the theory and practice of rural fish farming, guided by academic experts on the field. It was aimed at both beginning and experienced fish farmers, providing a space where difficulties and challenges could be addressed in a pragmatic way by the experts, while also promoting group cohesion and strengthening the bonds between the villages and The Chaikuni Institute.
The workshop took place in the community of Tres Unidos, a mestizo caserio just outside of the Temple of the Way of Light, with the participation of 13 people from the surrounding villages, two facilitators from the Chaikuni institute (including our wonderful forest engineer Silvia) and 1 principal instructor from the IIAP, the biologist Manuel Soplin.
The main points discussed during the workshop centered around notions of self-sufficiency and income diversity. Fish farms were presented as opportunities to secure a steady source of quality, clean and delicious protein that also provides income opportunities by channeling surplus into the local market. Furthermore, we dedicated time to the presentation of good practices and troubleshooting, anticipating the difficulties new farmers may encounter.
In order to do so, we examined and outlined the desired characteristics of the terrains allocated for the construction of new fish-farms, we established standards for fish density, fish nutrition, hygiene and care and provided solutions to protect the fish from predatory animals. Our intention always is to strike a balance between sustainability, ecology, viability and production.
Our friend Manuel Soplin, biologist for the IIAP, also arranged for our community members to have free access to gamitana (Colossoma macropomum) fish fry, in order to help the new entrepreneurs kick start their enterprises with the right foot. We want to extend our gratitude and appreciation to Manuel and the whole team at the IIAP for their generosity and dedication.
After a fascinating and engaging theoretical presentation by Manuel and Silvia, and a simple and delicious lunch, we went on an excursion to visit the land that had been designated for the construction of our neighbor Mr. Marcelo Tenazoa’s new fish farm. It was an opportunity for Silvia and Manuel to assess the location of the pool, provide insights into the building process and offer some guidelines and recommendations to secure the success of this new project.
After answering questions and clearing doubts, we also visited the fish farms of another neighbor, Mr. Eder Baneo. Our friend Eder has been farming fish for a while, and is currently facing difficulties getting rid of a parasitic plague that appears to be hindering the development of his prized fish. Our friend from the IIAP, Manuel Soplin, kindly collected samples from the pools in order to have the analyzed in the laboratories of the institution.
We are extremely happy for the dedication and commitment of our neighbors in Tres Unidos to sustainable development and abundant living systems. We are looking forward to see how these new projects develop, and are happy, as always, to have our team of trained and willing workers at the disposition of the village in order to implement novel community projects in order to further and strengthen the reciprocal relationships between Chaikuni , the Temple of the Way of Light, and our wider Amazonian family and community.
Text by Sarah Kerremans & José Fachín, indigenous advisor
Photographs from the Chaikuni Institute & FECONAT Archive
On June 12 2017, the selection process for the Public and International Tender N°01-2017-FONAM for consultancy services to elaborate Rehabilitation Plans for 32 sites impacted by hydrocarbon activities in the basins of the Pastaza, Tigre and Corrientes rivers was nullified. None of the companies that presented themselves (Consorcio Tema Litoclean, J.Cesar Ingenieros & Consultores S.A.C. y Hidrogeocol-Ecuador CIA LTDA, Consorcio Ecodes Varichem, Seacrest Group Peru-NSF Envirolab S.A.C. , Domus Consultoria Ambiental) were deemed qualified enough to initiate the important work of designing rehabilitation plans for effective environmental remediation in these Amazonian river basins so heavily impacted by oil activities.
The tender opened on April 20 and was meant to lead to the selection of a company capable of designing these remediation plans in no more than 270 days from the date of engagement. The plans ought to describe the characteristics of the 32 prioritized impacted sites, evaluate health and environmental risks, and propose rehabilitation methods with a calculation of their costs. The elaboration of the rehabilitation plans is prior to the start of the remediation activities. However, the government promised to initiate remediation activities in 2017. With the public tender currently nullified, responding to one of the most pressing demands of the communities in the river basins of Loreto is once again being delayed. Moreover, there is the just worry that the government may now lower the minimum requirements for the public tender process, enabling a less adequate company to be signed on to carry out this highly specialized work as a consequence.
In addition, what will happen to other contaminated sites, which are not included in clean-up plans? In oil concession 192 alone, there are approximately 2 000 impacted sites. Will petroleum be aggressively exploited in lot 192 in order to make the North-Peruvian Oil Pipeline (ONP) profitable and increase state revenues from royalties, which will lead to a pretended social agreement between the communities and the state? Clearly, cleaning up 32 sites will neither resolve the pending demands nor the latent social unrest.
Proposal of aggressive petroleum extraction in Loreto
On May 19th this year, the government Commission for Amazonian, Andean, and Afro-Peruvian Peoples, Environment and Ecology, led by congresswoman Maria Elena Foronda, summoned a decentralized public hearing in Iquitos by request of the indigenous organizations affected by petroleum activity in Loreto. Besides debating the urgency and necessity to approve the proposed indigenous and local environmental monitoring law, the commission presented the advances of the Investigation Commission into the oil spills of the North-Peruvian oil pipeline (ONP). Congressman Cesar Villanueva, who is heading the Commission, stated that they had been able to identify two major problems: neglect of the maintenance of the pipeline and corruption. For the ONP’s future viability, strong investment is needed. For this reason, Villanueva presented two options; either the pipeline is left in its current state and no investment is made, or one works towards increased oil productivity, so that transport costs are reduced (currently approx. 10 USD/barrel). According to the congressional representative, there would need to be an explosive increase in production in order to save the ONP. “Under a new social agreement between the state and the communities in the river basins, the latter could accept this new model”, Villanueva stated during the hearing.
Doesn’t effectively cleaning up oil spills form a part of a credible social agreement?
The authorities know well that indigenous peoples living within the area of influence of the historic petroleum circuit (Lot 192, Lot 8, and along the ONP) have been putting an effective and complete remediation of their contaminated territories on the agenda for many years now. Furthermore, when the contract of Pluspetrol Norte SA for oil lot 192 expired in August 2015 and a consultation process for the new licensing of lot 192 was going to be initiated, different indigenous organizations demanded five minimal conditions which should be complied with before any kind of consultation process should start. Among these conditions is the remediation of their territories. To describe the magnitude of the environmental damage caused by over four decades of oil activity in Loreto lies beyond the scope of this article – but just as an indicator: approximately 2 000 contaminated sites exist in lot 192 alone, according to the records of Peru’s Agency for Environmental Assessment and Enforcement (OEFA) and the former operating oil company Pluspetrol. After the oil spills in Cuninico and San Pedro in 2014, the situation along the North-Peruvian pipeline became even worse in the past two years, with over a dozen spills recorded in 2016 causing further destruction and suffering. The local population repeatedly denounced the ineffectiveness of the remediation methods implemented. Generally speaking, after clean-up activities were declared finished, crude oil would reappear if the earth was stirred up. The “remediated” soil is not suitable for planting any crop, and during flooding in the rainy season, crude oil would rise to the surface.
As a result of the demands of the indigenous peoples of the Pastaza, Tigre, Corrientes and Marañón River basins, the “law which creates the contingency fund for environmental remediation” (Ley N° 30321) was approved in May 2015. The Contingency Fund (henceforth called “the Fund”) was created to finance environmental remediation activities for contaminated sites in Northern Loreto – the sad legacy of over four decades of hydrocarbon exploitation. The contaminated sites have generated major risks to health and the environment, and deserve the state’s immediate attention and prioritization. As seed funding for remediation activities in the geographic area of the four affected Amazonian river basins, 50 million Peruvian soles were transferred to the Fund with 30 million soles coming from the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MINEM) and 20 million soles from the OEFA. The fund is managed by the National Fund for the Environment (FONAM) and administered by a board consisting of nine representatives, including four indigenous representatives from the respective river basins. According to the legal regulation DS N° 039-2016-EM, those four indigenous representatives come from four indigenous organizations (namely FEDIQUEP, FECONAT, ACODECOSPAT and FECONACO) which participated in the Multi-sectorial Commission that was implemented according to the Supreme Resolution Nº 119-2014-PCM. The regulation was approved at the end of 2016; nearly two years after the publication of the law. Its approval was fast tracked thanks to a massive protest of indigenous peoples from five river basins, all of which have been affected by oil activity. They were united in protest in the native community of Saramuro/Saramurillo from September to December 2016 (see the Saramurillo agreement: “The government commits to approving the Regulation of the Law of the Contingency Fund for Environmental Remediation no later than January 15th, 2017”).
One of the seven points brought forth by indigenous organizations in Saramurillo (there are about 20 organizations in the area of the historic petroleum circuit) was the demand for an effective remediation. One of the solutions to this demand, as proposed by the delegates of the state during the intercultural political dialogue in Saramurillo, was to implement this through the Contingency Fund of the FONAM. As a result, the following additional agreements were reached in Saramurillo regarding the functioning of the Fund:
• The representatives of the government commit to push for a legislative initiative in order to modify the Law 30321, as soon as possible, with the goal to include a representative from the Chambira River basin in the Fund.
• From this day on, half of the meetings of the Administering Board of the Fund shall be decentralized [i.e. not be held in Lima but in the provinces]. The organizations will appoint their representative per river basin. His/her name will be communicated to the FONAM. Representation per river basin can rotate. This mechanism should be integrated in the regulation of the Law 30321. FONAM shall facilitate the implementation of the meetings.
The Fund was created over two years ago: what has been done?
Two years have passed since the Fund was created through Law 30321. Different opinions exist with regards to these past two years. From a legal-technical viewpoint, one could argue that the two years served to (i) take a decision about the equal distribution of the funds per river basin (12.5 million soles each); (ii) for the board to publish a list of over 32 prioritized contaminated sites (this list is different from the list initially proposed by OEFA); (iii) to elaborate important instruments (the regulation of the law, and amongst others, an environmental management instrument for application, and terms of reference); and (iv) to assure indigenous participation in the decisions to be taken and the remediation work to be carried out. In an area that has been dependent upon on the oil industry for 45 years, the demand for employment from the communities and the communal businesses that some have formed seems to be a constant in these times of low oil productivity. In other words, employment is an important part of the indigenous agendas.
The perseverance and efforts of many who participated in the different meetings and spaces of the Fund during those two years should be recognized and admired. However, it is worth evaluating the Fund’s two years of existence from a more political perspective, in the context of the defense of fundamental human rights.
Is technification deviating attention from a process that is fundamentally about the defense of basic human rights?
The stakeholders involved in the Fund – the board, technical groups – have met countless times over the last two years. Both the number of meetings and the “unexpected agenda” to solve gaps in the legal normative (due to the diffuse definition and/or the interpretation of the law) have nurtured a different viewpoint, equally valid. It is legitimate to argue that the meetings have served to keep essentially political actors busy in a space which is exclusively legal-technical during decisive moments (such as during the prior consultation process of the oil lot 192, the withdrawal of Pluspetrol from lot 192, or the defense measure in Saramurillo). Put differently, a technical dialogue with indigenous organizations may serve other ends, when in reality what was needed is strong political will from different sectors of the state.
It is not just a few isolated, discontent or misinformed communities who questioned the slow process and the seemingly infinite number of meetings. FECONAT, the long-standing organization from the Tiger River representing 25 indigenous Kichwa communities which has legally been part of the administrative board of the Fund from its beginning, has questioned this “technification” on several occasions as well as its distancing from the fundamental demands of indigenous peoples. Moreover, in July 2015, during the prior consultation process, FECONAT suspended its participation in the meetings in FONAM in order to focus on the important consultation process underway. They did the same from September to December 2016 during the defense measure in Saramurillo, in which the organization participated actively. A letter from FECONAT to the FONAM on September 27 2016 reads:
“… through this letter we express the following: For 27 days now, there has been an indigenous protest on the Marañon River organized by peoples of the river basins, as a consequence of years and years of contamination and suffering due to the oil activity, and on the other hand few concrete results. It is illegitimate to be dialoguing in Lima while the peoples are demanding immediate remediation. FECONAT is part of this legitimate protest and demands that adequate measures be taken in this matter in order to solve the fundamental demands for all of us who are living in the affected river basins…”
In order to facilitate participation in the technical meetings, FECONAT suggested several times that meetings be held in Iquitos. At the end of 2015, when four communities from the upper Tigre River led by the former president of FECONAT decided to form a new organization (OPIKAPFE) and demanded to participate in the meetings of the Fund, FECONAT immediately displayed positive intentions to resolve the problem to the benefits of the whole river basin. The minutes of the second session of the board, held in Iquitos on December 16 2016, confirms this. It was decided that OPIKAPFE will be participating in the meetings actively but without the right to vote due to the legality issue of the Fund’s administration. FECONAT even suggested to the board that OPIKAPFE should be included since they are all relatives belonging to the same affected people. Consequently, they accepted that OPIKAPFE participates in the recently formed selection committee for the company to be contracted for elaborating the remediation plans.
During the debates in Saramurillo, FECONAT as well as other representatives from organizations that are not yet legally a part of the Fund, strongly questioned its functioning. Many called it a typical example of what happens in a lot of the spaces that the Peruvian State creates for dialoguing: countless meetings, few tangible results, technification of the debates, decisions are taken by somewhat closed groups, and meetings are often held in the capital far away from community assemblies. Furthermore, they also questioned the representations within the Fund’s administrative board.
Is the state obliged to include everyone affected in its participation mechanism?
The Peruvian state – one may claim as an intentional strategy – tends to excessively put emphasis on the procedures (due process) of the different spaces of dialogue, in such a way that these spaces convert themselves into closed or exclusive spaces. It is difficult for the indigenous organizations and leaders not to adopt the same idea. The state and/or other actors use a language of legality and legitimacy, which is attractive and somewhat validates the work and effort of some. When other representations appear, indigenous peoples also start to use a language of legality and legitimacy (e.g. they are not part of the law, they were only just founded, they just recently started to care, their agenda is not legitimate) which distracts from the essential issues at stake. In other words, the indigenous peoples loose themselves in discussions on procedures and due process, often forgetting their own customs and traditions of decision-making. In some occasions, as in the case of the Contingency Fund, technical groups are formed, such as to support the administrative board. Interlocutors in the form of advisors/professionals – the large majority of them being non-indigenous individuals, occupy these spaces. Not all organizations manage to find the kind of financial or technical support to be duly represented in these arenas. Additionally, some NGOs or professionals, be it out of ignorance or personal interest, adopt the same discourse about legitimacy (which is far beyond their role). This generates inequalities regarding participation and access to information, and consequently in decision-making processes. In some cases, it even leads to an appropriation of the issues by the interlocutors. For the above reasons, the participants of the protest in Saramurillo firmly rejected what they call the path of eternal technical debates. Instead, they proposed an intercultural debate directly between indigenous leaders, without interlocutors.
Furthermore, the defense movement in Saramurillo strongly questioned the representation within the Fund for the Marañon River basin, since there are many different indigenous organizations along this river. (“From what we hear, the Marañon River is just one person. But there are a lot of indigenous organizations in the Marañon. We cannot permit that a few individuals decide over our future and that of our river basins.” – Miguel Manihuari, President of AIDECOS during the debate in Saramurillo). The fact that not everyone affected was invited by the state to participate within the ambit of the law was also strongly questioned by representatives from the other river basins. Contamination is not a stable element. It cannot be (mis)used to foster competition between organizations that represent the same people, affected by the same cause. (“The dialogue roundtable [of the Four River Basins] wasn’t representing four river basins. It represented four organizations”, Daniel Saboya, president of FEPIAURC, during the debate in Saramurillo). Moreover, the organizations have their own internal dynamics, which are subject to a constant process of change. For the same reasons the debate in Saramurillo questioned the method applied by the board to select the 32 prioritized impacted sites. Respecting the law, intervention should be prioritized according to variables such as major health and environmental risks, and not on the basis of other possible variables (e.g. whether or not they are part of the geographic area of one or another organization, in order to later argue that this organization has more prioritized sites).
With the aim of contributing to a solution regarding the representation issue, the organizations gathered in Saramurillo agreed that the one representative per river basin shall be elected by the river basins (and not by any single organization), according to the customs and traditions of the peoples. Moreover, it was agreed that half of the sessions should be decentralized, and either be held in Iquitos or in the communities, in order to strengthen indigenous participation and the intercultural dialogue, without interlocutors from Lima.
Nonetheless, when approving the regulation of the law 30321 on December 26 2016, the state didn’t integrate any of the agreements from Saramurillo. By doing so, and only a few days after the agreements in Saramurillo were signed, FONAM lost the opportunity to strengthen and enrich its participation mechanisms and include all the affected communities from the river basins. There was a real hope that this new government would be different, with a genuine will to establish a new social agreement between the state and the indigenous peoples. For this reason, the indigenous peoples continue to demand the fulfillment of the agreements reached in Saramurillo and the modification of the law and the regulation. During their last visit to the capital, in a meeting with the different sectors on June 15 2017, the indigenous leaders demanded that FONAM urgently organizes a decentralized meeting inviting all the affected and responsible parties.
Text by Sarah Kerremans & Sophie Pinchetti
Photography by Sophie Pinchetti
Could the recent mobilization held at Saramurillo in the Northern Peruvian Amazon be remembered as the one that finally brought much needed justice to indigenous peoples affected by over 40 years of irresponsible oil activity? In mid-December 2016, 31 agreements were signed between Peruvian government officials and indigenous peoples. Will things be different this time, will the accords be complied with? In the wake of too many state promises left unfulfilled and the constant oil spills on their territories, hopes are nevertheless high for the thousands of native peoples who united during 117 days in the native community of Saramurillo to demand respect for their rights and to call for an end to the oil destruction of the Peruvian Amazon.
Coming from five river basins of the Marañón, Corrientes, Pastaza, Tigre and Chambira, this broad coalition at Saramurillo was formed by different Amazonian peoples such as the Kukama, Urarinas, Achuar, Kichwa and Quechua. Approximately 3,000 people were present at the peak of the protest. All have suffered the impacts of pollution on their territories owing to Peru’s two oldest Amazonian oil fields and pipeline.
The agreements concluded this three-and-a-half-month long protest, which began on September 1st 2016. Indigenous peoples sustained a blockade of a section of the Marañón river as a means to press for their demands until November 29th. After several failed attempts at dialogue, and instead of militarizing the conflict, the Peruvian government responded this time by renewing the dialogue on site in Saramurillo with a state commission headed consecutively by Minister of Justice & Human Rights Marisol Pérez Tello, Minister of Energy & Mining Gonzalo Tamayo, and Minister of Production Bruno Giuffra in December 2016. “The main problem here is employment,” affirmed Peru’s Minister of Energy & Mining, “tell me, indigenous leaders, who amongst you haven’t been working for the oil companies?” Hundreds of people gathered at the traditionally built community centre stared at him in silence. Our Executive Director and legal counsellor to the indigenous people Sarah Kerremans testifies: “I almost fell off my chair when hearing the Minister’s opening words to hundreds of indigenous fathers and mothers with exhausted yet hopeful hearts and minds after 117 days of pacific protest. One Achuar leader stood up to break the silence, he was very gentle when he spoke: “We know you duty holders from Lima have difficulties to understand what we really mean, but don’t worry, we will not get tired of explaining our legitimate demands, not even if we have to do so for several days, over and over again. It will necessarily be an intercultural debate”. It was a strong statement that set out the rules for this long debate, which resulted in 31 signed agreements.”
The Peruvian region of Loreto – a micro Venezuela, whose local economy has depended upon oil for the past 4 decades, entered a severe economic crisis in 2015 when the international oil price per barrel dropped. Yet the indigenous peoples’ first demands at Saramurillo were not about jobs. Sarah, a fundamental rights specialist who has been involved in numerous dialogues, round tables and prior consultation processes between indigenous peoples and the Peruvian state over the last three years, sees a trend: “This is part of a broader strategy. First of all, the Peruvian state has not been a guarantor for fundamental rights in Loreto for a long time. When indigenous peoples claim their rights after four decades of oil activity on their ancestral lands – fundamental rights such as the right to clean water, their territories and the right to life itself, they are not listened to. There seems to be a tendency to use the idea of jobs creation, or even the so called “empresas comunales” to meet these demands. This might work for a while and does give the impression of direct satisfaction and immediate attention in places where there was little attention before. But after a while, community members see that the problem remains the same over the long term. So one of the main issues put on the table in Saramurillo was not about employment, but rather the immediate and effective remediation of the thousands of contaminated sites in oil lot 192 (operator: Pacific Stratus Energy, former operator Pluspetrol), oil lot 8 (current operator: PlusPetrol) and along the 800 km long pipelines (operator: Petroperu) which cross the Amazon.”
Important Agreements for the Past, Present & Future
The process that allowed the agreements was not simple nor was it free of tensions. The debate became a space where indigenous democracy and republican democracy sought to understand each other in order to restore trust and seek justice for the demands. Unlike the usual technical roundtables, the methodology insisted upon by indigenous peoples at Saramurillo was for an intercultural political debate in the presence of a Minister of the state.
The Saramurillo accords notably call for the effective remediation of contaminated sites to begin in 2017. Alongside of this, agreements include an independent inspection of the Northern Peruvian Pipeline in the first half of 2017, as well as other pipelines that cross Blocks 192 and 8, with the participation of indigenous representatives.
“With regards to the pipeline in the Marañon river, we are speaking of an emergency: the rainy season is now underway and the crude from over 12 oil spills last year alone will uncontrollably spread and contaminate the drinking water of the Marañon river, the city of Iquitos, and the Amazon further downriver. The goal of the current government: to continue to exploit oil in the Amazon as soon as possible, despite the corrosion of the old pipelines and despite the many social and environmental problems. So, is that still viable? We hear a new language in the discourse of indigenous leaders in this part of the Amazon and this led to an important agreement to implement a parliamentary commission to discuss this”, comments our Executive Director Sarah Kerremans.
Under the Saramurillo accords, a community environmental monitoring law and nationwide discussions on Peru’s energy future, in particular with regards to the Amazon region, could see the day through the introduction of a bill by the the Congressional Commission on Andean and Amazonian Peoples, Afro-Peruvians, the Environment and Ecology.
“Oil has not served to improve our Loreto region”, observes Kichwa advisor Jose Fachin. “The economy of indigenous peoples cannot be dependent upon oil activity, neither can Loreto. We want to potentiate our own resources, train ourselves and diversify local economy, and not suffer from pollution. That is why we have to work on an investment plan so that people can improve their quality of life without oil activity, which has been imposed upon us”. In this regard, specific agreements were reached regarding health, education, sanitation, electrification, infrastructure, access to social programs, and a special development plan for various income-producing projects in the communities as compensation for damages. The first stage of this development plan was initiated during a dialogue with a Multisectorial Commission in January 2017, and is due to present its first progress report in June 2017.
Accords also aim to to investigate the impacts of the four-plus decades of oil operations in Blocks 192 and 8 through the establishment of a Truth Commission involving the government, indigenous organizations and oil companies in order to identify the improvements that can be made.
Not everything was agreements: issues such as land titling in protected areas and payments for easements related to the Petroperú pipeline went unresolved. But even so, through the implementation of the Saramurillo accords, indigenous peoples hope to see concrete results in the immediate, mid and long term since there is a commitment of five years with the current government.
More Unity, More Strength
In the face of too many previous agreements left unfulfilled, more unity is the best strategy forward, affirm the indigenous federations united in Saramurillo. Two months on from the signing of the accords, they continue to stand together, ready and vigilant as to the compliance of the accords made by this new government, which “wants do things differently and wants to fulfil” in the words of Peru’s Prime Minister Fernando Zavala during his visit to Saramurillo on December 19th 2016 to pledge government support for the accords.
Whether there was sunshine or rain, the strategic alliance of these indigenous federations brought together native Amazonian peoples from different languages and ethnicities who ate, slept, laughed, cried, stood strong and hoped side by side. A new horizon, cultural pride and dignity rose through this struggle for territorial defence and their collective and individual rights. “Today, indigenous peoples have united like never before”, declares Shipibo leader and President of ACONAKKU James Rodriguez Acho. “This unity is going to pervade”, insists Achuar leader & President of FEPIAURC Daniel Saboya Mayanchi, “because it is not just the unity of federations or river basins, it is the unity of communities and community members who are at the essence and giving this credibility”.
While the mobilization at Saramurillo on the ground may have come to a close for now, the indigenous unity built during this landmark mobilization is still growing in strengths. This month, more indigenous organizations joined in the platform of the five river basins. The coalition now includes 15 indigenous organizations, each one representing villages affected by oil activity in the Peruvian Amazon. Together, these organizations are uniting to show that their struggle for the land, water and life itself continues.
Watch our short film on the story of Saramurillo, sharing the voices of indigenous peoples united in this struggle. Also available in Spanish language.
JAMES RODRÍGUEZ ACHO
Shipibo leader & President of ACONAKKU
“Indigenous peoples today have united like never before. It is a privilege to be defending our rights and this is why we have mobilized. We are from different ethnicities, speaking different languages. We are defending the dignity and physical integrity of life for our children and future.”
YOLANDA NARO GREFFA
“Water is life. That is why we look after our water, so that it doesn’t get contaminated. But then the companies contaminated our rivers and forests, and brought so many illnesses. The lowland rainforest of Peru has been declared the lungs of our world. But they have deteriorated it, we are losing it. If we fight to preserve it, yes it will be the lungs, yes, it will continue to be so. Now if the state doesn’t respond to us, many things are going to happen. Careful.”
JAIRO SANDI MAYANCHI
Leader of Saramuro, passed away two months after the signing of the agreements
“Where have the 40 years of the oil exploitation gone? Nothing has improved. We don’t have anything that serves us, we are in extreme poverty. If the people are united today, it is not because they want money. It is to demand our just right so that the government listens to us, because no one listens to us. If you don’t protest and don’t speak up, no one listens.”
JULIA CHUJE RUIZ
Kichwa member of FECONAT
“I remember as a child seeing how my family and people lived before. They lived a peaceful life. We ate fish and meat, healthy food – not like it is now. Now we eat fish that is contaminated with oil. The companies are truly criminal because so many have died. These companies have done so much harm. We, indigenous peoples, united for this struggle in Saramurillo. We will see how things move forward now.”
CÉSAR LLERENA RIOJA
Kukama leader & President of ACONAKU
“For the first time in history, the government and the state representatives arrived to our community to see our reality. We ask all the peoples to be united. Whether there is sunshine or rain, whether we have eaten or not, we are fighting to defend the rights of our lands, our rivers and our forests.”
DANIEL SABOYA MAYANCHI
Achuar Leader & President of FEPIAURC
“We cannot accept anymore abuse, anymore destruction. All that we want and ask now is respect from the companies and the state. We, as indigenous peoples, have always respected. But what we have never received is respect. The concrete and positive result that we are hoping for will be seen in the long term. The communities have lost trust in the state because of all the prior agreements which have not been implemented. But now we are building together, once again familiarizing ourselves with each other and trusting – today more than ever, because things can’t be postponed.”
MIGUEL MANIHUARI TAMANI
Kukama leader & President of AIDECOS
“The state has appropriated the territories in which we live, our ancestral indigenous territories which belongs to us and which are our home. We don’t want to have to be asking things to to the state that we shouldn’t have to be asking. We demand our just right that was taken from us by oil. If there is no solution and acceptance of these demands that we are making, we will not allow a single barrel or gallon of oil to leave our territories.”
MIGUEL ZUÑIGA CAREAJANO
Achuar leader, ORIAP (pictured right)
“We want the state to understand us. That is the demand. Why? People died because of the contamination of water, food, what people drink and eat. Now plants – we plant them but they do not grow. That’s why we want remediation, so that our soil gets cleaned. What has begun here in Saramurillo is not finished – it will continue.”
Text & Photos by Sophie Pinchetti
A unique urban garden was recently inaugurated on the grounds of indigenous student organization OEPIAP on the outskirts of Iquitos city in the Peruvian Amazon. With the likes of lemongrass, ginger and papaya now in the ground, this new urban garden located alongside the students’ kitchen and main maloca (traditional Amazonian community house) is the fruit of our first ever Permaculture workshop with the indigenous students, as part of our Intercultural Education program called Sui Sui.
Representing over 120 indigenous students from over 15 Amazonian peoples, OEPIAP, with whom we partner, has long been fighting to secure land to build a permanent student centre for indigenous students who come to Iquitos to pursue higher education. The process of land titling is still under negotiation with the regional government, and in the meantime the students continue to reside in temporary housing at the location in Pampa Chica, known as “Bungalows”, under difficult conditions. Up until now, there has never been any form of garden or cultivation on these lands. With the aim to improve students’ current living condition and wellness in the short and medium term, Chaikuni is now offering its expertise in Permaculture. The setup of two small urban kitchen gardens, which will be maintained by the students themselves, is a first start. A composting and simple wastewater treatment system are intended to follow.
Led by Chaikuni’s Permaculture Coordinator & Agroforestry Engineer Silvia, a core group of five indigenous students of OEPIAP participated in this workshop alongside members of Chaikuni’s staff. After having prepared the earth following Silvia’s instructions, the students sowed plants that can be used as ingredients for cooking in order to improve their diet (such as sage, basil, ginger, pine nuts, coriander, and sweet pepper) and medicinal plants traditionally used to to help cure different ailments, such as lemongrass.
Along with the students, we are excited to see how these urban kitchen gardens develop over the course of our next workshops – the next Permaculture workshop will be focused on composting as a means to improving soil quality.
Want to help improve the studying and living conditions of Amazonian indigenous students in Iquitos? We are currently running our crowdfunding campaign to Build An Indigenous Student Centre on the Global Giving platform. To donate & find out more, visit our project page.
With our fundraiser to build an indigenous student centre in the Amazon now in full swing, we speak to Chaikuni’s Intercultural Education Coordinator Stefan Kistler and Student Monitor Sandra Soto to get the inside story on this important campaign. Working hand in hand with indigenous student organization OEPIAP which represents over 120 indigenous students from 15 Amazonian peoples in the Peruvian Amazon, they speak about the plans for the road ahead and the challenges indigenous youth face to make their dream of an indigenous student centre a reality.
How and why will this new student centre be different from the current temporary base?
Sandra Soto: The idea is that the new student centre will be created with the participation from the students from the beginning to end. As such it will integrate their culture, their traditional way of living and their vision of “buen vivir”. The current base is as you say; temporary. Students have no security for how long they can stay there. Living and study conditions are totally inadequate. A few examples? Up to five students share small and hot emergency “bungalows” designed for a different climate. When it rains, many of the houses are flooded. Over 100 students share 1 shower, 4 toilets, 6 lavatories, and 1 tap of drinking water. There is also no study space for the students.
In what ways will this centre benefit indigenous youth, in the short and long term?
Stefan Kistler: Once the centre is built, it will provide the indigenous students in Iquitos with a safe living space and an adequate environment for pursuing higher education. They will be able to leave behind worries such as “where do I sleep when I get to Iquitos?” or “Where do I get my daily meals?”. Instead, they will be able to focus on their studies. In the long term, the hope is that the centre will encourage more and more indigenous students to take the long trip to Iquitos and attempt pursuing higher education, bringing along the positive effects of an educated indigenous youth.
Where will the student centre be built?
Sandra: For many years, the student organization has lobbied and pressured the regional government for a permanent piece of land. There are several indications right now that this struggle finally bears some fruits. The regional government has indicated a piece of land on the outskirts of Iquitos, which hopefully very soon will be legally recognized as theirs.
What are the main challenges to build this centre?
Stefan: First, perhaps, it is important to mention the “invisibility” of the students. By this I mean to say that the general public in Iquitos doesn’t care much about a group of indigenous students, or they simply don’t know. As such, the students were standing quite alone in their struggle. They would obviously neither have the funding it would require to buy a piece of land and build on their own. Thus, the student organization had to interact with changing local governments over the years to place their demand. Current government typically wouldn’t recognize agreements signed by the previous one and negotiations started anew. In general, there is a lot of bureaucracy in a project like this, and government agencies tend to be very slow to respond.
Is there any other support for the building of this centre?
Sandra: It is important to point out that this fund-raiser goes towards the construction of a study centre. But the dream and vision of the students, for a student centre, is much larger and includes adequate housing facilities. OEPIAP has been pressuring and demanding the regional government to support the construction of housing facilities, and has obtained concrete promises from them that they will do so once the piece of land has been assigned. By raising funds to build the study centre, the Chaikuni Institute and the students intend to be proactive and pave the way for government funding to come after and complete the student’s dream of their own study and living space.
How will the funds from the crowdfunding campaign be used?
Stefan: For a while now, the students have been discussing with us their urgent needs and visions for building an adequate study space. This funding will first go directly to the building of a study centre, a traditional style Maloca (traditional Amazonian house structure) fully equipped with computers, internet, printing facilities, and adequate studying space. The aim is also to turn the centre into a site with permaculture projects. Finally, the intention is to provide alternative, ecological and cheap transport in the form of an innovative bicycle project. Obviously, much depends on how much funds the campaign is able to raise. Necessities are plenty, and if we exceed our expectations, the funds will contribute to housing and other infrastructure to complete the students’ vision.
Donate now on the campaign page and help us with this exciting effort! We have 10 more days to raise $5,000 from 40 donors and with your help we know we can succeed!
We are deeply excited to share with you the launch of our new fundraising campaign to build an indigenous student centre in the Peruvian Amazon. In partnership with local indigenous student organization OEPIAP, we are working to make a long-time dream of over 120 youth from 13 Amazonian peoples come true.
Having left their far away communities to study in Iquitos, indigenous students face multiple challenges and hardships. Building an indigenous student centre will guarantee their basic necessities and living conditions, and provide tools to adequately pursue higher education in the Iquitos city.
To make the students’ dream come true, we need your help. We have been selected by the GlobalGiving Foundation to participate in its Accelerator, a fundraising opportunity for nonprofits around the world. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity but in order to succeed, we must raise $5,000 from 40 donors by 31st March 2017. If we meet this threshold, we will be permanently featured on GlobalGiving’s website, where we have the potential to benefit from corporate relationships, connect with new donors, and access online fundraising tools. Additionally, we could earn bonus prizes from GlobalGiving for raising the most money.
Please help us reach the threshold of $5,000 from 40 donors! Be one of the first people to make a donation! We’re also going to need your help spreading the word! Please share this opportunity with your friends and family!
Access to higher education is very difficult in Peru’s Loreto region: 43% of Loreto’s youth finishing high school and only 11% of those students being able to begin higher education. As an indigenous student, the hardships are all the greater due to their lack of financial resources, lower educational entry level, and the lack of intercultural sensitivity from the university. Basic services such as accommodation and study spaces are inadequately provided for by the university.
The construction of a dedicated and permanent indigenous student centre will serve as a base for indigenous students in the city, providing adequate studying and living conditions. These headquarters will also empower OEPIAP to strengthen its management and strategic development as an organization, thus leading to more opportunities and therefore more success for indigenous youth who are the future of the Amazon.
Individually, students will reach their potential as professionals, and be empowered to work in the city or to return home and support their communities. Collectively, the empowerment of OEPIAP will pave the way for future generations of indigenous youth to progress on to higher education. This cultivates a vital community supporting the next generation of indigenous professionals and leaders who will become key advocates for their rights and culture throughout the Amazon and beyond.
- Donate to the campaign – whether it’s a small or large contribution, everything helps! You’ll receive a lovely thank you letter and special updates as the project progresses
- Help us to get the word out! Share the campaign to your networks, friends and family