The groundbreaking documentary PASTAZA puts the spotlight on the reality of Amazonian indigenous peoples who are uniting to defend water, the land and life itself against Big Oil. This film chronicles the severe impact of over 40 years of oil contamination in Peru’s biggest oil lot, 192 (ex-1AB) in the Amazon, and the state’s unfulfilled promises to find solutions to the immense damage it has caused. A bold call for justice as indigenous peoples mobilize to raise the voices for the well-being of all.
Join the movement: pastazafilm.com
A film for indigenous federation FEDIQUEP
Direction & Postproduction: Veronique Cabois
Direction & Videography: Deborah-Lynne Rivett
Graphics, Animations & Statistics: Silviu Dimatrache
Additional Footage: Marc Silver, Veronique Cabois, Tom Askew
Photographic Images: Stefan Kistler
Music: Adham Shaikh, Sonia Emilia Rainbow Woman, Felix Maria Woschek, Jose Campos, Diogenes Garcia Sanchez, Cameron Gaut
Translation: Johanna Azorin-Albinana, Amanda Garratt, Lily Hollister
Photography Adam Andros
We were recently honoured with a fructiferous visit from our friends of “Association Civil Puente de la Amistad” (ACELPA), a Peruvian non-profit organization focused on helping the residents of Tamshiyacu, Loreto district, to protect and diversify their income opportunities.
Guided by our Forest Engineer Silvia and our Permaculture Coordinator Michal, the participants had a lovely time sampling the fruits of our chacras, learning from our experience and sharing their own knowledge with us. ACELPA is beginning to implement their own permaculture/chacras integrales project, with the assessment, support and empowerment provided by Silvia and all the Chaikuni team.
We wish our friends in Tamshiyacu the best of luck in their endeavours, and we look forward to more collaborative efforts with like minded organizations.
Valuing and using local resources is one of the key steps to sustainability. Through this practice ‒ applicable to plants, animals, building materials and even human beings ‒ we can save a lot of money and energy, and ensure that our systems are resilient and can easily withstand necessary changes. It was in the name of this principle that we spent years looking for local permaculture enthusiasts who could take on responsibility for coordinating our permaculture project. To that end, we are now delighted to announce that from the beginning of April we officially welcomed on board Silvia del Aguila Reyna.
Silvia was born and raised in Iquitos, but her parents are native to the upper Huallaga river, a region of the Amazon whose people are known for their sophisticated agricultural practices. She spent her childhood in La Independencia, a small rural community just outside of Iquitos, helping her mother to cultivate their land. It was her mother who planted the seeds of environmental awareness and the connection between human activity and the health of the land in a young Silvia’s consciousness.
Moving to the city, she enrolled with the National University of the Amazon (UNAP) to pursue a forestry engineer career. Later, she completed her master’s degree in Aquatic Resources with a major in Aquaculture at the Universidad Mayor de San Marcos. Over the years of her professional life, Silvia has contributed to many different projects, both with NGOs and state-owned organizations. Silvia says she gained some of her most influencial experiences while working in the production and organizational arm of the Rural and Indigenous Agroforestry Coordination office, in which she became a director, as well as while collaborating with the well-respected Peruvian Amazon Research Institute on its Management and Conservation of the Biodiversity of the Nanay River Basin project.
For the two-plus years before joining Chaikuni, Silvia coordinated the Reforestation and Comprehensive Gardens project for the French-Peruvian NGO, Latitude Sur.
Although the word “permaculture” is a new one for Silvia, her understanding of the relationship between people and the Earth completely resonates with Chaikuni’s vision. In her first few months of work, Silvia dedicated herself to learning about our land and comprehensive master-plan, and contributing her ideas to how we could improve Chaikuni’s existing projects. With her academic approach, Silvia has already been an immense help in systemizing the data and incorporating proper evaluation techniques into our work.
With many years in her field of expertise, Silvia has many professional connections and she is very happy to act as a bridge between the Chaikuni Institute and other organizations of a similar focus. We also forsee that her experience working with many rural comunities will allow her to make a major contribution to the partnership with the local village, Tres Unidos.
Tres Unidos village is the closest neighbor to the land shared by the Chaikuni Institute. We have already made significant contributions in the many years of our partnership with Tres Unidos, including but not limited to:
• Implementing a water system and recycling center
• Training of 7 local farmers in sustainable agriculture practices
• Paying school teachers’ salaries
• Employing a significant amount of villagers to stimulate the local economy
Silvia is very keen to further support Tres Unidos with her experience. So far we have had a meeting with local authorities and a general meeting with neighboring farmers to identify major areas of common interest so we know where to focus our energy. We learned that the majority of people who attended have an interest in producing fish and nine of them have already established fish farms that require some conservation work. We are currently in a process of visiting those fish farms to obtain more information and advise owners on the best strategies for their development.
You will be able to read more about our work with Tres Unidos in an upcoming blog. In the meantime, Silivia is bringing her wealth of experience to our work at Chaikuni. We are blessed to have her as part of the team.
Last year was one of evolution and growth for the Chaikuni Institute’s permaculture project. It was filled with diverse challenges requiring innovative solutions that have led to many beneficial lessons and positive changes being carried forward to the new season of early 2016.
The Chaikuni Permaculture Team
May 2015 marked the conclusion of Project Coordinator and dear friend Nick Boyce’s contribution to the permaculture project. For the past two years, the project was fortunate to benefit from Nick’s immense passion for plants, global sustainable community development, and holistic permaculture design. Fueled by Nick’s contagious enthusiasm and bold vision, the project team built a strong foundation for the ‘chakra’ garden that now serves as a unique alternative model to the highly popular slash-and-burn technique used in tropical rainforest environments.
The team also successfully incorporated the first ayahuasca vines into our agroforestry systems and planted many additional trees. The team extends their deep gratitude to Nick for his significant contributions to the project and remains inspired by the deep heart and dedication he poured into his work.
We have also been blessed with the presence of Michal Chochol as a founding member of the Chaikuni Institute since we first took root in January 2013. Michal has also been part of the team at the traditional Amazonian healing center and our sister organization, the Temple of the Way of Light since 2011. And for the last four years, Michal has combined his great passion for tropical rainforest ecosystems and sustainable design with a spirit of vibrant courage and determination. Michal has led the revision, refinement and improved functionality of many existing projects over the years. He has been working closely with our team of seven ‘biologos’ – local plant experts and farmers who we are both learning from and who are also receiving training in permaculture through the implementation and maintenance of a wide variety of projects across our grounds.
This season the team also incorporated our first-ever foreign interns into the permaculture project. It proved to be a challenging initiative and led the team to question the true sustainability of our program. While working through this challenge, we found ourselves motivated to redirect our focus into using local resources, and dedicated a large portion of our time to establishing contacts with Iquitos-based organizations including: IIAP (the Peruvian Amazon Research Institute) and the Agricultural Department of UNAP (Peruvian Amazon National University).
We also began recruiting local engineers. At the beginning of 2016, we welcomed Silvia del Aguila Reyna in the role of Forestry Engineer. Silvia brings a wealth of past experience implementing social projects. She derives her interest in sustainable development from the ancient agricultural wisdom of her ancestors that was passed on to her at a young age by her mother. You can read more about Silvia in our official welcome blog here, or on the biography page.
In January 2016, the team was also fortunate to welcome Colombian civil engineer Daniel Londoño, who stayed with us as part of a work exchange for several months. Daniel’s life passion is working with one of the most highly functional plants available in the tropics, vetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides). Daniel helped us incorporate vetiver into our ecosystems and established a nursery for its future propagation. It was an extremely inspiring opportunity to host Daniel and witness his work. He’s provided significant motivation and encouragement to our team to honor the magic and versatility of this significant and fascinating plant.
Learning from Nature
During the 2015 season, we became aware that we needed to transition from the method we had been using to work with our land. In 2016, we implemented a new system, scheduling our working activities in relation to the moon cycle calendar. The relationship between the moon, water and nutrient flow within plants was initially discovered by indigenous people from all over the world and used as agricultural knowledge for millennia. Although this knowledge is not as commonly recognized in today’s society, this ancient wisdom maintains its own enthusiasts amongst local Peruvian farmers. The permaculture team remains deeply grateful to all those who have continued to pass down and share this knowledge through numerous generations and also through our projects.
A fundamental principle of permaculture is to “observe and interact”. Working in accordance with this, our projects are constantly evolving and responding to the feedback nature provides on a daily basis. One of the biggest changes we faced last year was to incorporate chickens onto our land. Apart from providing a nourishing source of protein (meat and eggs), chickens are also incredibly hard workers. By continually digging through dirt in search of any edible creatures and by eliminating weeds and pests, they lighten the soil and contribute copious amounts of extremely fertile manure.
With the addition of chickens on site, we were further inspired to review and improve our strategy related to staple crop production. Crops are now planted on a monthly basis in plots of land previously prepared by the chickens, utilizing the method commonly known as ‘chicken tractor’. We were able to incorporate this strategy with support from our nitrogen-fixing plants and a generous layer of mulch (a type of material spread over the surface of soil as a covering to help retain moisture, suppress weeds and improve the soil’s fertility). Thus, we are preventing nutrient loss from the soil and creating an alternative to the commonly used, although non-sustainable, slash-and-burn technique. We look forward to these improvements producing a monthly stable harvest beginning this October.
The chickens also play a role in contributing to our agroforestry systems. In addition to the food they provide, they also help to fertilize the forest floor and clean it from weeds, while simultaneously preparing it for planting perennial peanut (Arachis pintoi). This nitrogen-fixing ground cover creates a dense carpet underneath our fruit trees, supporting them with nutrients and suppressing all unnecessary weeds. This plant doesn’t grow very high and so requires almost no maintenance, thus enhancing the efficiency and exemplary nature of our agroforestry model.
The end of the year marked the purchase of our first beehive. While cleaning the forest for their yuca (manihot esculenta), locals and farmers often find wild beehives in the trunks of the trees that they cut. In the past, they would have most commonly harvested the honey, causing irreversible damage to the hive. As a team, our goal is to inspire our neighboring farmers to switch to employing a more sustainable beekeeping practice that would not only save the life of this insect, which is integral to the functionality of the ecosystem, but also provide a regular source of income to the beekeepers.
As we continue to incorporate the use of animals into our projects, we are happy to announce the expansion of our churro (Pomacea maculata) breeding areas with two new ponds. This large aquatic snail provides a great source of protein and is relatively easy to produce. It propagates in broad quantities and the only food it requires are the leaves taken from a few particular plant species, which are easily and readily available in abundant quantities. The breading of churro showcases an accessible and creative example for dynamic use of aquatic areas, commonly found as part of local farmland property.
Sustainable Ayahuasca Production
Due to increasing consumption of the ayahuasca brew, the use of its two main ingredients –the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) and chacruna leaf (Psychotria viridis) – has grown significantly over the past few years. One of the core projects of the Chaikuni Institute is to identify and implement a sustainable method to produce these two plants locally as part of our agroforestry ecosystem. During last season in 2015, we planted 80 new chacruna plants and improved conditions for our ayahuasca plants so they could grow in a more supportive environment. Since 2014, we have planted over 1 000 ayahuasca vines. Our mission is to continue to invest time and energy to develop a model of sustainable ayahuasca and chacruna production with the belief that it could significantly contribute to reforestation of degraded areas while also acting as a source of revenue for local farmers.
Since the inception of the permaculture team and our projects, and after four years of much trial and error, we feel more and more confident to mindfully share our experiences and lessons with a wider and diverse audience. For example, as part of our medicinal plants mini-pilot project, we encouraged a few farmers from three villages bordering our land to grow the plants required for floral bath rituals to be purchased from the Temple by the Way of Light. We invited them to our nursery to share plant propagation techniques, provided a few plant samplings to facilitate and initiate growing their own plant crops, and visited the participants’ crops to share our experiences in the cultivation of medicinal plants.
This project successfully resulted in two participants, Don Marcelo and Doña Inez, establishing themselves as permanent floral-bath plant suppliers to the Temple, providing them the opportunity to increase their monthly income and become active contributors to their community. It is truly inspiring to offer and exchange experiences and sustainable farming techniques and best practices with locals from the surrounding communities. Our continual focus, as we move forward, is to build, strengthen, enrich and grow these relationships through the work of our projects.
Our Executive Director, Sarah Kerremans, interviews Vice-President of indigenous student organization OEPIAP, Ruben Chino Dahua
Ali puncha (good morning in Quechua). Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Rubenson Chino Dahua. I am Quechua, from the Andoas district on the Pastaza river, near the Peruvian border with Ecuador. For the past five years I have been living in the city of Iquitos to study. Like myself, there are more and more indigenous youth who come to the city to study, with a tremendous desire to overcome. Do you wonder why? Because in our communities we have seen the needs of our people. We have seen the abuses of strangers who come to our communities, and who take advantage of the ignorance and trust of our parents. We, the younger generation, are now studying to gain a better understanding of how Western society works so that we can then go back to our communities. Not all of us might return, that is true, but the intention is always to keep supporting our people.
Do you live far away from your people?
I live really far away from my village: from Iquitos, it is more than eight days by boat. Here, I have no family. I do know people, I do have friends, but that is not the same as having your family close by. I suffered a lot when I first arrived. We slept on the floor, we had nowhere to go. We had nothing to eat and sometimes we would drink hot water to ward off the hunger. We managed to stay alive, though, and thanks to our leader (indigenous leader Aurelio Chino of FEDIQUEP), we got some food provisions and other support from local authorities. Now things have improved significantly. After organizing ourselves as students, we now have a place where we sleep and eat. When I first arrived, I felt constantly ashamed. I was afraid to speak, I was afraid of people, afraid of the motorcars. Everything was so new. Once I got lost and I couldn’t find the way back to where I was staying. Now I feel more comfortable, but still, it is not easy for me to feel at home and to really participate here.
How are you welcomed at university?
When you present yourself, you say you are originally from an indigenous community upriver. You say you went to this rural primary and secondary school. The university teachers will immediately look weirdly at you, as if they were looking down at you like an inferior person, as it is generally known that the education level at our rural schools is very low.
Have you received any support during your years in the city?
The leader of our indigenous organization, Aurelio Chino, has always supported us whenever and however he could. He managed to engage local authorities, namely the mayor, and the regional government. So at least we had something in our pockets to pay for food, photocopies, research work. But the authorities don’t always fulfill their promises. Once you grow older and you get to know the city better, you look for a job. I sometimes work over the weekends, gardening or cleaning. For the last two years, I have been in the Sui Sui Program, which supports me by covering basic costs. When there is something leftover, I help other students. Morally, we can only help each other.
What is the difference with people who live in the city?
To me, the biggest difference is that we in the communities live in a cool and quiet place. The food we eat is natural, the air we breathe is clean and fresh. And here in the city you hear a lot of noise, you breathe polluted air, you eat junk food. You don’t feel free.
Why is it difficult for indigenous parents to support their children education-wise?
Traditionally, our parents were not used to educating their children. They had up to 12 children and no need to think of sending them to university. But the globalized world has come to our communities. Children see other things, want other things. Most of our parents have good knowledge of their way of life, but they have only finished primary school. They fish, hunt, and work in their fields – not to make big money, but just to be able to live. My mom, for example, sells her chickens and then sends me something to support me, but that of course is not enough to cover all the expenses a student has in the city. Our parents do support us the whole time – they think of us, care for us, and miss us.
Can you tell us more about the organization of indigenous students, OEPIAP?
Around 13 years ago, a group of indigenous students formed OEPIAP as an organization to defend our collective interests and needs. The first concern has always been to ensure food and housing. They lived together in a small room and would sometimes eat the leaves of the mamey trees to survive. OEPIAP has had different kinds of leadership. Some have used the organization for political objectives. Some have spent the funds on things other than collective needs. Now our organization is stronger, more consolidated. I am the Vice-President and we work to unite students of all ethnic groups. We are currently representing over 120 students. That is a lot. I engage in this organization because I feel sorry for the youngest ones. Sometimes they come to me for advice, as I am older. They tell me that they cannot pay for their photocopies, their books… I always tell them not to feel let down, to move on. I promise them everything will get better and that a lot depends on oneself.
What has OEPIAP achieved so far?
Over the past 13 years, we have lived everywhere and nowhere. We have been dialoguing with every elected regional president over the previous years. First we lived in hotels, and in small rooms all over the city. Last year, we managed to sign an agreement with the actual regional president, and we now have food for 120 students, and we live in prefabricated houses on a sandy terrain in the city. It is temporary because the real promise is to build an intercultural student house at the beginning of next year. For now, we have housing and food, but it is still not a secure, quiet, and stable place. This really hinders us in our studies.
How do you envision this intercultural student house?
We have told the government that we do not want a building made of noble (fine wood) material. We want to build according to our customs with natural materials. Something ecological and durable, where we can live and show off our culture and crafts as well. It should reflect our reality.
How is the relationship with the university?
We need to improve their sense of interculturality. The UNAP (National University of the Peruvian Amazon) is the largest university in the Amazon, but it seems that every rector forgets about his own Amazonian reality or just decides to ignore it. That is a waste. They don’t worry about the indigenous students knocking on their doors. The UNAP also receives money from the canon petrolero, which is a monthly percentage of the profits made from petroleum extracted from indigenous territories. All faculties should take FORMABIAP, the national indigenous organization’s training program for intercultural bilingual teachers, as an example. This should be the model, and not only to train teachers, but also for the legal, medical and engineering faculties.
In your law studies here at the UNAP, do they mention the rights of indigenous peoples?
Not at all. They could at least mention the important ILO Convention 169 (International Labor Organization), the most fundamental treaty on the rights of indigenous peoples.
What is the contribution of the Chaikuni Institute?
Chaikuni is very important for us. Through Chaikuni, we are connected to a global community, and we want all of them to know us. Maybe people from other countries are not aware of our situation here: there is a lot of poverty and a lot of corruption. In other countries, the state works more hand-in-hand with indigenous peoples but that is not the case here in Peru. We want to further consolidate our partnership with Chaikuni, so that we can continue our dream to become indigenous professionals and to lead our people.