This short documentary gives an inside look into the challenges faced by indigenous student organization OEPIAP, which represents over 120 indigenous youth from 15 peoples of the Peruvian Amazon. Filmed in early 2016.
Direction, Videography & Postproduction: Johannes Vanneste
Sound: Johannes Vanneste
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.
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