After spending some time in the field with no contact, I am now back to the town of Marechal Thaumaturgo, which is about three hours by boat from the Ashaninka village, and ready to tell the latest news about the Ashaninka monitoring project.
After the first training that the Ashaninka received (reported in my last blogpost), another three followed. The classes consisted in testing the adaptations of the application and in training them on the use of the smartphone by doing practical exercises in the village area. I adapted the application according to Ashaninka demands, incorporating new icons and suppressing the ones that were not needed. At the same time, on each training I evaluated with them the difficulties they were having. As a result of that, we also incorporated a pedagogic resource based on sound. So, we voice recorded in Ashaninka the meanings of the icons that were more difficult for them to understand intuitively, so that they could long-click on theicons to hear them. I am still assessing the effectiveness of this resource.
During this period of time I also started training a group of five Ashaninka to learn how to transfer the data from the smartphone to the computer and to visualise it. In the village, only two people have a computer, and none of them were part of the training. Having said that, I must say I am very impressed with the speed they are learning to do it. They already had two classes. During these classes, I am also noting down aspects that can be improved in the software user interface and reporting them to the team in London, who is adapting everything that is possible. The idea is to make this interface as user friendly as possible, so communities can manage the data by themselves.
Besides all that, we did an exciting practical exercise on another occasion. We went on a three-day expedition on Amonia River – which is the river that crosses their land -, up until the border with Peru, and we checked the protection of their territory along the way. We took that opportunity also to test the use of the Japanese pot to charge the smartphones and the Gorilla solar panel. We were all happy to verify that this area of their land is fully protected! The Japanese pot worked quite well, and the Ashaninka used a fire technique that ensures the cable charger will not be damaged. On the other hand, the solar panel did not bear the expected results. Even though the panel was exposed to very strong light, it was not capable of charging a phone.
As life is not only made of work, I also had plenty of fun moments with the Ashaninka, especially during the celebration of the demarcation of their land. Every year they hold a big party on June 24 to remember the day when they had the traditional rights over their land recognised. They invite their friends, partners and Ashaninka relatives from Brazil and Peru to celebrate with them. This was the 23rd anniversary. The days that preceded the party very also marked by events in the village, such as bow and arrow competition and spiritual rituals. It was really great to share this moment with them.
I am now heading to Peru with a group of Ashaninka leaders from Apiwtxa where they will meet their relatives from Saweto (Alto Tamaya) and discuss strategies to strengthen the protection of their territory after the outrageous murder of four Ashaninka leaders in September last year. Their land is finally being demarcated and the Ashaninka from Apiwtxa are together in their struggle to secure their rights over it.