Archives for April 2007

Protecting Indigenous Shipibo Territory Through Community-Based Mapping

During the past 40 years, close to 20 percent of the Amazon rain forest has been cut down – more than in all the previous 450 years since European colonization began.”*

Yet, the Shipibo have sustainably managed their forests for many generations. However, an aggressive program of Amazonian “development” has been promoted during the past 50 years, which has fragmented Shipibo territory by the incursion of non-indigenous colonists, government “development” projects, and foreign corporations exploiting the land by logging, hydrocarbon extraction, and industrial-scale agriculture. However, protecting indigenous land rights has come to the forefront in their struggles for self-determination as the Peruvian government continues to open up the farthest reaches of the Amazon basin for oil exploration and other extractive enterprises.
Below: This map, originally created by the Instituto del Bien Comun and given to a Village Earth representative by AIDESEP, shows indigenous communities, protected areas, and oil concessions in Peru.
Peru Shipibo Community Mapping

Protection and defense of indigenous territory was decided as the most important focus area out of their plan for self-determination of the region’s indigenous inhabitants from the last Village Earth-Shipibo regional workshop.

To aid the Shipibo in the protection and defense of their territory, Village Earth created map books of the region using GIS layers of the native titled communities (as provided by the Sistema de Informacion sobre Comunidades Nativas de la Amazonia Peruana [SICNA] of the Instituto del Bien Comun [IBC]) and colonist settlements overlaid onto satellite images. Satellite images are an interesting mapping medium because they show vegetation cover, as well as land degradation based on the light reflected from different vegetation or soil types.
Below: A Village Earth program coordinator conducting a mapping workshop in one Shipibo community in Masisea district.
Community Mapping Workshop
As well, Village Earth held a Geographic Positioning System (GPS) workshop and gave hand held GPS units to Shipibo leaders so they can continue to use the technology to protect their lands.

Peru Community Mapping Workshop
After the Village Earth mapping workshops, two Shipibo communities have begun the process of increasing their legally-titled land in order to protect more forest from outside exploitation, as well as remove illegally settled non-indigenous colonists using their new map books and GPS points. Shipibo jefes (chiefs) even asked a Village Earth representative to attend meetings with them at the local AIDESEP and Defensoria del Pueblo offices in Pucallpa – local NGOs that work to protect and defend indigenous rights in Peru. We, accompanied by reps from Defensoria del Pueblo, then attended meetings with the local Ministry of Agriculture in Pucallpa, the branch of government that deals with indigenous land titling.

As well, these Village Earth initiatives have increased intercommunity cooperation and participants in the workshops now have a greater consciousness of their geography.

Empowering indigenous peoples by providing the training and materials to use geographic technology, in turn, allows for self-determination of their way of life – since their land and resources are inextricably linked with their culture, economy, and physical health.
Issues of land and territory will be a hot topic throughout the Indigenous Tribunal being held in June of this year. This will be a seminal event in mobilizing and organizing their communities to better protect their land and resources. The outcome of this Indigenous Tribunal will be to form a grassroots, indigenous organization in the region to direct their own path to self-determination which includes forming an indigenous working group on environmental conservation.
Thousands of hectares of highly biodiverse forest and the accompanying watershed have the potential to be protected the indigenous inhabitants taking a stand against the market forces of globalization.
*Wallace, Scott. “Last of the Amazon” in National Geographic. January 2007.

View “THIS LAND IS OUR LAND” Online! VE’s Documentary Short About Land Recovery on the Pine Ridge Reservation

“THIS LAND IS OUR LAND” explores the complex issues which hinder the efforts of residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to utilize their land base and chronicals Village Earth’s efforts to support Lakota Tiyospayes to recover lands for self sufficiency and to restore the sacred bison.

Oil Companies to Begin Drilling in Masisea

Above: This map shows the different exploration and exploitation blocks leased out by the Peruvian government to the oil companies. 

Below: A view of the proposed drilling area as seen from satellite images.

The Shipibo expressed their grave concern about the exploitation of Block 114 which is home to dozens of Shipibo and other indigenous communities. Not only are the communities living within the confines of Block 114 worried, but also those downstream because of the expected water contamination from the oil sites.

PanAndean Resources has purchased the rights to Block 114 and is expected to begin drilling in 2008. 

Pan Andean Resources is headquartered in Dublin, Ireland. Here is an excerpt from their website: 

Block 114 located in Central Peru: 1.85 million acres;
At least 10 anticline structures identified in Block:
Estimated oil resources in block: 400 millions Barrels; API of oil: 30 – 35°;
Easy river access to refineries. Exploration commenced Q3 2006.
First phase involves reprocessing and interpretation of 500 kilometres of seismic followed by 150 kilometres of new seismic and one well.
Technical and environmental work in progress on Rio Caco structure.
Drilling up to 3 wells on Rio Caco to be completed by April 2008.
Block 114, located in the Ucayali Sub Andean Basin, north of the world-class Camisea gas-condensate field, with proven and probable reserves in the range of 15 TCF of natural gas and 600 million barrels of condensate. Block 114 is located to the south of important oil and gas fields such as Maquia, Aguas Calientes and Aguaytia. The immediate focus will be on confirmation and production drilling of the Rio Caco Structure. Potential recoverable reserves are in the range of 90 million barrels. Production would reach 30,000 barrels per day in 2012. The Work Plan will be to carry out the required Environmental Impact and Technical Evaluation work, in order to be drilling the Rio Caco confirmation well beginning in August-September 2007. Should that well be successful, three additional wells would be drilled as soon as practical and production would be flowing beginning in March-April 2008.”

There is no mention of the thousands of indigenous people that inhabit the region, nor the possible consequences to the health of the world’s largest remaining tropical forest, nor to the world’s largest watershed.
According to Peruvian Law: “The Organic Law for Hydrocarbons, Law N° 26221, was enacted on August 19, 1993, coming into effect on November 18, 1993. Such norm was modified by Law No. 26734 as of December 30 1996, No. 26817 as of June 23, 1997, and Law No. 27343 as of September 01, 2000, No. 27377 as of December 06, and Law No. 27391 as of December 29, 2000. This norm, which is intended to foster the investments in fuel resource exploration and exploitation activities, created PERUPETRO S.A. as a Private Law State Company of the Energy and Mining Sector. 

Considering such law, the Government promotes the development of Fuel Resource activities based on the free competition and access to the economic activity, guaranteeing the juridical stability of the contracts according to provisions set forth in article 62° of the Constitution of Peru.Likewise, it guarantees the Contractors the stability of the taxation and foreign exchange regimes in force to the date of the signing of the contract.

Law No. 26221 sets that Fuel Resources exploration and exploitation activities will be carried out under the form of License Contracts as well as Service Agreements or other contract modalities authorized by the Ministry of Energy and Mining, and governed by the Private Law, and which after being approved and signed, may only be modified according to a written agreement signed by both parties. Likewise, any modification must be approved by Supreme Decree.” (Source: PeruPetro.com) 

However, also according to Article 89 of the Peruvian Constitution:
“Rural and Native Communities are legally recognized and enjoy legal status. They are autonomous in terms of their organization, communal working, use and free disposal of their land, as well as economically and administratively within the framework established by law. Ownership of their land is imprescriptible except in the case of abandonment described in the preceding article. The government respects the cultural identity of the Rural and Native Communities.” 

Although indigenous communities are given the legal titles to their land, their is little protection afforded to these communities under Peruvian law against foreign companies contaminating their watersheds and destroying their forests. 

According to the International Labour Organization’s Convention (No. 169) concerning Indigenous and Tribal peoples in Independent Countries:

Article 15

1. The rights of the peoples concerned to the natural resources pertaining to their lands shall be specially safeguarded. These rights include the right of these peoples to participate in the use, management and conservation of these resources.

2. In cases in which the State retains the ownership of mineral or sub-surface resources or rights to other resources pertaining to lands, governments shall establish or maintain procedures through which they shall consult these peoples, with a view to ascertaining whether and to what degree their interests would be prejudiced, before undertaking or permitting any programmes for the exploration or exploitation of such resources pertaining to their lands. The peoples concerned shall wherever possible participate in the benefits of such activities, and shall receive fair compensation for any damages which they may sustain as a result of such activities.

For more information about the destruction caused to the environment and indigenous communities by oil companies, check out Amazon Watch and Oilwatch. There are hundreds of resources available on the internet documenting the destruction to the world’s indigenous and other marginalized communities and their environments around the world by oil companies.

 

No matter how environmentally-friendly these oil companies claim to be, it is impossible to extract oil in such a fragile environment without damaging the ecological integrity of the region. 

The Shipibo depend upon their rivers and forests for their subsistence and livelihoods. Their economy, culture, and health depend upon
their access to healthy ecosystems.Village Earth is working with communities to help them protect and defend their territories and environments.

What can you do to help?

  • You can donate to Village Earth’s efforts to help protect indigenous land in the Peruvian Amazon.
  • Lessen your dependence on oil and oil-based products. In the global market economy, only when demand for oil drops will drilling cease. Therefore, the future lies in YOUR hands.
  • Write to these companies and let them know that you disapprove of drilling for oil on or near indigenous lands in the ecologically-fragile Amazon region:Dr. John Teeling
    Pan Andean Resources
    162, Clontarf Road
    Dublin 3
    Ireland

    Below: The indigenous people of Masisea are learning to use GPS through a Village Earth initiative, so that they can monitor their lands and borders.

Village Earth/ EWB Partnership

Above: The people of Santa Rosa de Dinamarca and Village Earth representative, Kristina Pearson, dancing in the Umisha Festival. Kristina met with the community in February 2007 to begin project preparations.

The Engineers Without Borders (EWB) University of Colorado chapter made the original visit to the Ucayali Region with Village Earth in 2006. They participated in the January 2006 regional workshop and documentary film production. They also offered their services to the Shipibo. 

One Shipibo community, Santa Rosa de Dinamarca in Masisea District, took the initiative and submitted a project application for a clean water project in their community. The Fort Collins Professional Chapter of EWB agreed to take on this project. We are very excited to work together and it is great that we are both based in Fort Collins allowing us to meet periodically to discuss project planning.

Santa Rosa de Dinamarca like many Shipibo communities is suffering from lack of clean drinking water. Wells have been installed, however, half are not currently functioning. The present situation reflects the past disconnect between non-governmental organizations (NGOs), funding agencies, and Shipibo communities. The Shipibo complained to us that NGOs came and installed wells in their communities using a design from somewhere else. Therefore, the wells do not function properly in their tropical rainforest environment. This shows the importance of building off local, indigenous knowledge and how local environmental conditions are an essential consideration before taking on any project. As well, local people were not trained in how to install or maintain these wells themselves, so when they break down they remain dormant and unrepaired.

Before the wells, Shipibo communities obtained their water from the rivers and lakes surrounding their communities. However with the increase in pollution from upstream, these water sources became highly contaminated. Population centers upstream dump their waste, there is contamination from oil exploitation, and increased sedimentation from logging have all polluted the watershed making the water unsafe for consumption. However, since their wells are not very deep (10 meters at the most) it is most likely that the water in the wells is actually connected to the rest of the contaminated watershed. Therefore, EWB is going to look into the possibility of digging deeper to reach the pure, clean water aquifers.

Below: The community’s watershed

Parasites and other gastrointestinal illnesses are a problem especially for children in this community because of the lack of clean water. Clean water is an essential part of creating sustainable, healthy human communities. Only when people have the basic necessities of life covered (clean water, food security, clothing, shelter) can they begin to take their own self-determination seriously and work for a better future.

 

Below: Young Shipibo girl from Santa Rosa de Dinamarca

Village Earth and Engineers Without Borders are excited about our partnership and will be visiting the region for an assessment trip immediately following the Indigenous Tribunal event in late June. Village Earth will continue to empower communities to direct their own “development” processes. EWB will be assessing the local situation and doing topographic surveys in order to better understand the local environment, as well as assess community wants and needs. 

There is a lot of potential for future collaborations between Village Earth, EWB, and the Shipibo people to be working with all communities in need in such projects as sanitation, construction, fishfarming, and survey work to help out with land issues.

If you are interested in supporting this project, contributions can be made through Village Earth or you can attend EWB’s first fundraising event on April 27. For more information, check out the EWB Fort Collins Professional Chapter’s project website.

 

Above: The Umisha Festival in Santa Rosa de Dinamarca.