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 & 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, 49 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 49 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
“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.”
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