I am finally back to London, after spending two months in South America. In December, I went to the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties, in Lima, Peru, where I had the opportunity to meet a number of project partners who were around to discuss climate-related issues. In this COP, there was a specific Pavilion dedicated to indigenous peoples, where they could run their own programme. There were also a number of side events. I managed to attend a few. One of them was promoted by the Global Canopy Programme and it was about community-based monitoring. At the event, they launched the Forest Compass: an interesting website with information on different CBM initiatives around the world. The discussions at the official space were mostly concerned with the question: how can we find sustainable sources of energy to continue to “grow” at the same pace? On the other side of the street, the indigenous discussions were questioning this model of development, and searching for alternative ways of sustaining their ways of life.
Just after Christmas and the New Year, I happened to see this same debate on the ground, when I arrived at the Ashaninka village “Apiwtxa”, in the border between Brazil and Peru, where the 9th Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples from the Acre (Brazil) – Ucayali (Peru) Frontier was taking place. The meeting happened at the village’s school during one week, and had the support of Comissão Pró-Índio do Acre (CPI-AC) – a Brazilian NGO. It gathered indigenous representatives from the Ashaninka, Amahuaca and Kaxinawa peoples who live close to the border. The discussions were mainly about the threats their territories are suffering from illegal hunting and fishing, logging, and gas and oil exploration, and how they can build collective strategies in order to be heard and to resist. One of the Peruvian Ashaninka leaders said: “When there is a big development initiative in our territory, we know we are going to suffer a big impact. We should think about our own development, that it is inside our community and in our spirituality. We need to defend our territory. We need to regain our values. We should start working as they are here (referring to the Ashaninka from Apiwtxa, in Brazil)”.
The Ashaninka from Apiwtxa are seen as an example for other indigenous peoples in the region, given their strong community organisation and their strategies in seeking their autonomy. The Ashaninka from Apiwtxa have been fighting invasions in their territory since the 1980s and have also been developing initiatives to allow them to be the less dependent on external resources. For instance, most of the food they eat is produced by them, they also make their own clothes from the cotton planted in the area, and they have indigenous teachers at the village’s school. Most of the forest is still standing, but they feel that the pressure is becoming bigger and bigger in the surroundings. They want to work with ExCiteS to strengthen their territorial monitoring strategies, so that they can give more visibility to what is happening in that corner of the world.
Off we go!