For Peru’s Indians, Lawsuit Against Big Oil Reflects a New Era

By Kelly Hearn
Special to The Washington Post Thursday, January 31, 2008;

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpMkMEfurts]

NUEVO JERUSALEM, Peru — Tomás Maynas Carijano strolled through his tiny jungle farm, pinching leaves, shaking his head. The rain forest spread lushly in all directions — covering what oil maps call Block 1AB.

“Like the trunk of that papaya, the cassava and bananas are also dying,” said the spiritual leader of this remote Achuar Indian settlement in Peru‘s northern Amazon region. “Before Oxy came, the fruits and the plants grew well.”
Oxy is Occidental Petroleum, the California-based company that pulled a fortune from this rain forest from 1972 to 2000. It is also the company that Maynas and other Achuar leaders now blame for wreaking environmental havoc — and leaving many of the people here ill. Last spring, U.S. lawyers representing Maynas and 24 other indigenous Peruvians sued Occidental in a Los Angeles court, alleging that, among other offenses, the firm violated industry standards and Peruvian law by dumping toxic wastewater directly into rivers and streams.
The company denies liability in the case.
For indigenous groups, the Occidental lawsuit is emblematic of a new era. The Amazon region was once even more isolated than it is today, its people largely cut off from environmental defenders in Washington and other world capitals who might have protected their interests. Now, Indians have gained access to tools that level the playing field — from multinational lawsuits to mapping technologies such as Google Earth.
Oil companies that once traded money and development for Indians’ blessings are increasingly finding outsiders getting involved. “History has shown that oil companies will cut corners if someone isn’t watching,” said Gregor MacLennan of Shinai, an internationally funded civic group in Peru. “We try to get to local communities first to help them make informed decisions about oil companies and the changes they bring.”
Lured by global energy prices, Peru is placing record bets on Amazon energy lodes: Last year the country’s concessions agency, PeruPetro, signed a record 24 hydrocarbon contracts with international oil companies. EarthRights International, a nonprofit group that is helping represent the plaintiffs in the Achuar case, says half of Peru’s biologically diverse Amazon region has been added to oil maps in the last three years.
Occidental pumped 26 percent of Peru’s historic oil production from Block 1AB before selling the declining field to Argentina‘s Pluspetrol in 2000. “We are aware of no credible data of negative community health impacts resulting from Occidental’s operations in Peru,” Richard Kline, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail statement.
Kline said that Occidental has not had operations in Block 1AB in nearly a decade and that Pluspetrol has assumed responsibility for it. Occidental made “extensive efforts” to work with community groups and has a “long-standing commitment and policy to protect the environment and the health and safety of people,” he said.
The California-based group Amazon Watch has joined the suit as a plaintiff, and the case is now inching through U.S. courts. In a federal hearing scheduled for Feb. 11, company lawyers will ask a judge to send the case to Peru, where Indians say corruption and a case backlog will hurt their chance of winning.
Learning Their Rights
The primitive trumpet — a hollowed cow’s horn — brayed over this gritty river community at sundown. Residents of Nuevo Jerusalem, the Achuar settlement on the Macusari River, trudged up a path, toting shotguns and fishing nets. Some stepped down from palm huts, walking to the meeting in twos and threes. Soon, Lily La Torre was on stage.
“I’ve come to give you news of the Oxy suit,” said La Torre, a Peruvian lawyer and activist working with Maynas’s legal team. Barefoot women in dirty skirts circled the room, serving bowls of homemade cassava beer.

Indigenous Movement’s Protest of Oil Development


The Peruvian government, recently, has been involved in an intense campaign to exploit oil and gas resources in the Peruvian Amazon: as of 2007, more than 70% of the Amazon region has been marked for oil and gas development. This number has increased drastically, given that in 2004 only 13% of the area was in the hands of oil and gas companies. Given the ugly history of oil development in the region, indigenous people who make their home in the Amazon are extremely worried about the potential environmental, social, economic, and cultural consequences of such a massive influx of oil and gas exploitation. Moreover, the imposition of oil and gas development in the region without indigenous consent represents a violation of indigenous rights (national and international) to determine their own development path (e.g. International Labour Organization 169). 

Given the power of the Peruvian state and transnational oil companies to control and manipulate the process of oil development, AIDESEP (the Interethnic Development Association for the Peruvian Jungle) and FECONAU (Federation of Native Communities from the Ucayali Region of the Amazon) have asked for our assistance in making indigenous voices (protest) heard at the highest levels. On February 8th, 2008, in Houston, TX, Perupetro is sponsoring an event that is primarily designed to convince potential investors of the benefits of oil development in Peru. Contrary to Peruvian State’s pro-development discourse, leaders of AIDESEP and FECONAU want to manifest their opposition to oil and gas development in Peru and to firmly reject the entrance of petroleum companies on their communal territories. This decision was made on the 22nd of January in a FECONAU conference, with the presence of 120 indigenous leaders, where three (3) delegates were elected unanimously to send a message of protest at the Houston meeting.

What they are asking for:

One plane ticket from Lima to Houston.
Logistical support for food and hotel for a contingency of 4 people.
Transportation (car rental).

WE NEED YOUR HELP!
(You can make a donation with your credit card by clicking PayPal on the upper right corner of this blog or by phone 970-491-5754.)

All donations are 100% tax-deductible and any amount is greatly appreciated!

As you know, Village Earth has been in alliance with Shipibo leaders and indigenous organizations in the Amazon working for their rights to self-determination for over three years now. They are relying on us and our network of supporters to let their voice be heard. This is a seminal moment in protecting both the Amazon rainforest and indigenous livelihoods – WE HAVE TO ACT FAST and WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT!

US Congress Passes Free Trade Agreement with Peru

Reposted from: Upside Down World

Written by Jennifer Gunderman and April Howard
Wednesday, 14 November 2007
ImageA new trade deal with Peru that passed in the US Congress last week boasts non-binding concessions in terms of labor and environmental concessions, and promises more of the same damages to both countries.

President Bush seems to have scored another gain in his trade agenda as Congress approved a free trade agreement with Peru by a comfortable 285 to 132 margin. Still basking in his victory from the recent Costa Rica-CAFTA ratification vote in October, Bush and his supporters hope these recent victories will lead to the approval of pending free trade agreements involving Colombia and Panama.

Concessions That Don’t Concede

This apparent bipartisan free trade approval with Peru became a reality only after Democrats won concessions from the Bush administration regarding labor and environmental issues. These concessions stem from concerns over several NAFTA impact studies that criticized the trade agreement’s lack of protection against trade abuses as well as poor procedures and lack of program funding that could threaten the environment.

A statement released by Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee called “for the inclusion of labor standards [such as the right to go on strike] and environmental protections including access to medicines and logging controls that will create a landmark in free trade agreements.” However, actual environmental concessions in the deal only “require the US and Peru to enforce their domestic environmental laws and conform to international environmental standards.” According to Joshua Holland of Alternet, Tom Donohue, head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said that his members were “encouraged” by assurances that the deal’s labor provisions “cannot be read to require compliance.”

Despite these concessions, according to Amazon Watch, the agreement “grants new rights for oil companies to drill in the Peruvian Amazon, potentially causing massive deforestation and environmental destruction; [which] will therefore lead to more road construction, literally paving the way for colonists, illegal loggers and poachers, fails to explicitly prohibit trade in endangered species, instead merely re-asserting the U.S.’s existing right to reject timber imports from species listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES); Includes in Chapter 10, investor rights provisions that would allow foreign companies to skirt Peruvian law and regulatory authorities [, which] . . . goes further than controversial equivalent clauses in NAFTA and CAFTA; [and] Will benefit U.S. corporations such as Hunt Oil, ConocoPhillips, Occidental Petroleum and Newmont Mining over Peruvian and U.S. citizens.” US copyright and trademark protection in agreement also means Peru’s poor could be hit as the price of medicine rises by 30%, according to the BBC.

Losses to Workers in Both Countries

Opponents to the Peru free trade agreement, most notably strong labor unions both in Peru and the United states, caution that this trade agreement does little to either benefit or protect workers in either country.

Jiron Cusco, president of the General Workers Confederation of Peru (CGTP) takes his opposition a step further stating that the Peru FTA will benefit only a small population of Peru’s wealthiest citizens and that the treaty would “seriously affect Peru’s economy.”

While textiles and agro-export industries, which already export to the US, could benefit, the real benefits are for US businesses. In an interview with Alternet
e=”font-family:georgia,times new roman,times,serif;font-size:100%;”>, research director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, Todd Tucker, named dozens of multinational businesses and corporations including Citigroup, Occidental Petroleum and Wal-Mart, who have “put their full might into getting the Peru deal passed, including showering millions in congressional campaign donations since January alone . . . [Hoping for] privatized social security systems for Citi, rainforest-destroying oil extraction for Occidental, and a push to Wal-Mart’s efforts to buy out Peru’s retail sector, just as they did in Central America just days after Bush signed [the Central American Free Trade Agreement].” Holland also names General Mills and the Grocery Manufacturers Association PAC as interested parties because they grow vegetables in Peru and plans to move processing facilities to the country as well. Financial service firms including Citibank also stand to gain from the deal’s provisions to allow the company to “sue the Peruvian government for damages if progressive activists succeed in reversing a disastrous social security privatization scheme” that has had disastrous consequences for millions of Peruvian retirees.

Duties will be immediately eliminated “on 80% of industrial and consumer product exports to Peru, and more than two-thirds of farm exports.” Many worry that the disastrous effects of NAFTA in Mexico will be repeated in Peru as subsidized US agricultural produce, including wheat, maize and cotton, will rob Peruvian farmers if business and drive up food prices within the country. In fact, Peru’s government reports that it has put aside about $77 million in order to compensate farmers who suffer losses during the first five years of the agreement.

“We will have an absolutely unjust competition between Peruvian agricultural products and North American agricultural products, because the US subsidizes its agricultural products and we don’t”, says Javier Diez Canseco, head of the Peruvian Socialist Party and a former presidential candidate. “So there is a very strong difference between the conditions of production and the subsidies that the US farmers receive and those that Peru has to deal with.” Nearly half of Peru’s population still lives on less than $2 a day.

According to the Third World Network, though Peru’s economy could increase by $417 million increase in the first year of the agreement, “these gains will be directed almost exclusively at the [mainly coastal] urban sector, which could benefit by $575 million.” Lima-based public policy research institute, GRADE, predicts that the poorest of the rural sector, Quechua and Aymara subsistence farmers in the rural highlands, and in the Amazon interior will suffer losses to the tune of $158 million. TWN says that “The findings of this report echo impact analyses conducted in Colombia and Ecuador, who are negotiating similar FTAs with the US.”

On the other end of the spectrum, a study by the Economic Policy Institute’s Josh Bivens found that US neoliberal trade policies have depressed the wages of 70 percent of the U.S. population. In a statement released by the Teamsters Union, president Jim Hoffa cites the “slim margin” of victory in the Congressional approval of the Peru FTA as evidence of its lack of protection for American workers affected by “off shoring of American jobs.” Hoffa is calling on Congress to focus on trade policies rather than ratification of free trade agreements.

Democratic Support and Dissent

One of the most surprising parts of the agreement was the Democratic Party support it received: 109 Democrats voted yes and 116 voted no. Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi commented on the paradoxical nature of her for the agreement. “Frankly, I have largely been on the other side of it than I am tonight,” she said. During the debate, many Democrats accused Pelosi of betraying the party’s base.

Journalist Steven R. Weisman of The New York Times Media Group points to two factors that led to democratic support. First, the concessions won in terms of “protections for workers and for the environment in Peru, and by extension in trading-partner countries in future trade deals.” And second, “sizable campaign contributions from the sectors that are benefiting the most from the global economy. These include financial services firms, computer chip makers and other high-tech manufacturers, the entertainment industry and farmers dependent on selling to markets overseas.”

Presidential candidates, “who receive support from unions but also from export-oriented industries,” demonstrate the conflict generated by the issue. O
pposed to the deal were John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, Christopher Dodd and Joe Biden. Sen. Hillary Clinton, surrounded by pro-free trade Clinton administration officials, sent mixed messages, including asking for a review of NAFTA negotiated by President Bill Clinton, but then decided to
support the agreement. According to Alternet, Sen. Barack Obama, “said that he’d vote for the Peru deal because “it contained the labor and environmental standards sought by groups like the AFL-CIO,” but the AFL-CIO released a statement saying that, because of “several issues of concern to working families,” the AFL-CIO “is not in a position to support the Peru FTA.”

However, Lori Wallach, director of Global Trade Watch at the advocacy group Public Citizen said that “Despite all the pressure, most Democrats, most committee chairmen and three-fourths of the freshmen in the House said no to Speaker Pelosi. The Democrats must now abandon the Bush trade agenda and work on an agenda they can agree on.”

NO Free Trade Agreement/Tratado de Libre Comercio US (EEUU)-Peru

Take Action: Tell Congress that expanding NAFTA and CAFTA to Peru is a bad idea

Reposted from Upside Down World

Watch this video (Mira este video): No al TLC – No to the FTA with Peru

Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (http://www.pcasc.net/) activist and Radio Libre Negro Primero volunteer Megan Hise interviewed Peruvian labor and campesino leaders for a short documentary, looking at the damage the Peru FTA will cause on both sides of the border. Two months ago, four million Peruvian campesinos went on strike against the agreement, which will allow highly-subsidized and artificially cheap U.S. agricultural products to be dumped on the Peruvian market . Tens of thousands, if not millions, of campesinos will be driven off their land if they are undercut by US agribusiness.

Reposted from Trade Matters at the American Friends Service Committee….
The Bush administration has begun moving the Peru Free Trade Agreement (FTA) through Congress. A final vote in the House of Representatives is expected in October, with the Senate to follow shortly thereafter.

Please call your Representatives and Senators immediately to urge them to vote against the Peru Free Trade Agreement.

Peru is engaged in a delicate reconciliation process after decades of armed conflict and the country remains burdened by high levels of poverty. In a desperate attempt to gain support for the U.S.-Peru FTA, the U.S. Trade Representative is claiming the trade pact will lead to increased democratic stability in the region and curbed cultivation of coca and trafficking of cocaine. Based on the results of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), we think the opposite is true.

While the Peru FTA includes some significant improvements regarding labor and environmental protections and access to medicines, it still contains many of the NAFTA/CAFTA problems. These fixes do not address the structural and systemic flaws the current framework generates, including growing inequities, the destruction of livelihoods, increasing deterioration in the health and well-being of people living in poverty and environmental devastation both in the U.S. and abroad. The US-Peru FTA will not bring stability or development to the region!
Tell Congress that expanding the NAFTA and CAFTA model to Peru is a bad idea.

CALL-IN INSTRUCTIONS
Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Ask to be connected to your House or Senate member (give your state and zip code if you’re not sure of your Representative’s name)
When you are connected, ask to speak with the staffer working on trade issues. Tell him or her that you oppose expanding NAFTA and CAFTA to Peru.
Ask for your representative’s position on the US-Peru FTA in writing to be sent to you by email or regular mail.
Use a local or personal story of damage from bad trade deals to illustrate your case or use the call script provided below.
Stop the US-Peru FTA vote call script:
Hello, my name is _________, and I am a constituent. May I speak with the staffer that deals with trade issues?
I am calling to find out Representative/Senator ______________ position on the upcoming U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement. Can you tell me how he/she plans to vote?
It is very important that Representative/Senator _____________ come out publicly to oppose this FTA. Despite changes to the Peru FTA it will still (select one or two of the below talking points):
THREATEN SMALL FARMERS. The agreement will favor only a small sector of Peruvian farmers who export to the US. By lowering Peru’s tariffs on agricultural products, the vast majority of farmers would be vulnerable to cheap subsidized imports from the U.S. This would wipe out local farmers—as happened to the 1.3 million who have been displaced in Mexico since NAFTA passed 12 years ago.
THREATEN ACCESS TO LIFE-SAVING MEDICINES. While the amended text of the Peru FTA removes the most egregious, CAFTA-based, provisions limiting the access to affordable medicines, it still includes NAFTA provisions that undermine the right to affordable medicines for poorer countries.
THREATEN WORKERS AND ENVIRONMENT. Changes to the labor and environment provisions are insufficient. The Peru FTA allows discretion for FTA dispute settlement panels to interpret and apply the terms of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work differently than the Declaration has been interpreted and applied by the ILO itself. Enforcement of the new changes will be dependent on Peruvian President Garcia who has a consistent record of undermining domestic labor and environmental law enforcement.
THREATEN WOMEN, CHILDREN, AND THE POOR. Provisions promoting the privatization and deregulation of essential services such as water, healthcare and education are written into this trade agreement. As these services become less accessible, women and the poor would have to make up for increases in prices of these services.
THREATEN U.S. AND PERUVIAN SOVEREIGNTY. The Peru FTA contains a NAFTA-style foreign investor chapter that allows corporations to bring actions against governments that pass environmental and public health laws that might reduce corporate profits.
THREATEN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES by opening the way for large pharmaceutical and agribusiness corporations to patent traditional knowledge, seeds, and life forms. This opens the door to bio-piracy of the Andean-Amazon region and threatens the ecological, medicinal and cultural heritage of indigenous peoples.
Would you be willing to send me an email with Representative ________________ position on the trade pact to ___________________ [email address].

KRFC Radio Program – Shipibo, The River of Life

To listen to the recent radio program on KRFC FM, independent community-based radio in Fort Collins, Colorado, click on the file link below:

Track01.cda

Limber Gomez, a Shipibo leader, was invited to do an interview on KRFC. He speaks about the hopes and challenges facing the Shipibo people, as well as about the community-based indigenous radio project they hope to do. For more information about this radio project, check out the below blog posting titled: Shipibo Radio Project

Below: Limber Gomez on his recent visit to Fort Collins.

Shipibo Leader Visits Fort Collins


Above: Limber with Village Earth founders Ed and Mimi Shinn as he receives his certificate of completion for the Participatory Practices for Sustainable Development (PPSD) course.

Limber Gomez, a Shipibo leader and activist, recently visited Fort Collins, Colorado to attend the two-week PPSD training course at Colorado State University. This course was an extraordinary experience for Limber and all participants to share their experiences working with communities on all continents. This course helped to reaffirm Limber in the value of Shipibo culture as a guide for future development efforts. He realized that many people around the world are facing the same challenges and has decided to arrange for a delegation of Shipibo leaders to connect with parallel indigenous movements throughout Latin America because of the strength in unity across diverse cultures.

Limber also participated in a number of speaking events to both the Fort Collins community and also at Colorado State University. He also spoke on the radio and made connections with the KRFC-FM radio community to support the Shipibo’s radio project initiative (see posting below).

Limber returned home to the Ucayali to energize the newly formed Organization for the Defense and Development of the Indigenous Communities of the Peruvian Amazon (ODDPIAP) by offering workshops to ODDPIAP officials, community leaders, and university students in how to best engage communities in their struggles for self-determination.

We would like to thank Limber for his courage to join Village Earth here in the US and to all the donors that made his fruitful visit possible!

Shipibo Radio Project

As one of the eight parts of the Shipibo peoples’ plans for their self-determination and the “development” of their region, radio as a means of communication was of utmost importance. The Village Earth-Shipibo team has been in contact with Project Tupa, based out of Free Radio Berkeley. Project Tupa has a lot of experience in setting up easy to build and maintain low power transmitters for indigenous peoples throughout the Americas. Using locally-available materials, Project Tupa offers a 3-day workshop which teaches the communities how to maintain and repair the equipment themselves.

During Limber Gomez’, a Shipibo leader, recent visit to the Fort Collins community, we had the good fortune to meet with the Fort Collins’ community’s local community-based radio station, KRFC 88.9 FM. The KRFC team is ready and excited to help out with this interesting project in any way they can.

The Shipibo people see that being in control of their own media is an important step in their struggle for self-determination. Right now, corporate media rules in the cities and extort exorbitant prices from indigenous peoples who want to make radio announcements or have their own radio programs, such as the long-running Indigenous Voice program that had to be cancelled due to lack of funding.This 3-day workshop, materials included, will leave the Shipibo people with 4 of their very own hand-built radio transmitters to be placed strategically throughout the region.

Village Earth, Project Tupa, KRFC, and the Shipibo people can undertake this project with a mere $6000. Unfortunately, radio projects are difficult to fund. However, radio can be an important tool in cultural revival (through the diffusion of indigenous language and music programs), for defense of indigenous and territorial rights (indigenous leaders can communicate issues of concerns with greater ease in this remote region), and for educational programs.

If you are interested in supporting this team and the Shipibo’s efforts at determining their own rights and methods of communication, then you can make a 100% tax-deductible contribution through Village Earth. You can donate online using Pay Pal (clearly indicate your support for the Shipibo radio project), by using your credit card over the phone 970-491-5754, or by check sent to:
Village Earth
P.O. Box 797
Fort Collins, CO 80522

For more information, please contact the project coordinator: kristina@villageearth.org

86% of all Deforestation in Shipibo Heartland



Although the below reposted article suggests there is a decline in overall logging in the Peruvian Amazon it highlights a major threat to the Shipibo people – the fact that

 

86 percent of all forest damage was concentrated in only two regions: the area around the Ucayali logging centre of Pucallpa, and along the associated road network.”


That means that 86% of the
127,700 hectares lost per year of the Peruvian Amazon forest cover is in the Shipibo’s and their indigenous neighbors’ territories. Although maybe not technically within the legally allotted territories of the indigenous people according to the government – these remote forest lands serve as indigenous hunting grounds or other areas of important resource or spiritual significance. With global warming on much of the world’s minds right now, protecting these forests is going to play a more critical role in the future of the planet. Right now these forests act as huge carbon sinks, and when cut down, are one of the number one emitters of greenhouse gases because of all the carbon and such that is released from these old forests as they are destroyed.

Below: This aerial photo from Google Earth shows the immense deforestation surrounding Pucallpa and its road network, some legally-titled Shipibo communities are seen in yellow.

Article Reposted from: InterPress Service News

ENVIRONMENT: Satellites Show Logging Decline in Peru’s Amazon Region
By Stephen Leahy

TORONTO, Aug 18 (Tierramérica) – Rainforest conservation policies are reducing the rate of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon, but roads are unquestionably the drivers of change, new satellite data reveal.

Although Brazil’s Amazon forests draw the most international attention, Peru’s 661,000 square kilometres of rainforests are recognised as a unique and important ecosystem.

However, the impacts of human activities throughout the region were poorly understood, until a study published Aug. 10 in the journal Science.

“Peru’s forest reserves and conservation areas appear to be working well,” said Greg Asner, director of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, at Stanford University in California.

Deforestation and other disturbances of forested areas — selective logging, oil exploration and mining — increased about 127,700 hectares per year on average from 1999 to 2005, with just two percent occurring in protected areas, according to the study by Asner and colleagues.

By contrast, Brazil’s four million-square-kilometre Amazon forest region loses 2.0 million to 2.4 million hectares annually, with about 10 percent occurring in protected areas.

Better land use policies and the remoteness of the forest in Peru are likely reasons why there has been much less forest loss there, Asner told Tierramérica. Peru has also long had a national forest policy that granted logging concessions, whereas Brazil has only recently implemented a similar system, he said.

Using a satellite-based forest disturbance detection system originally designed and used to measure forest loss in Brazil, along with on-the-ground fieldwork, the study found that 86 percent of all forest damage was concentrated in only two regions: the area around the Ucayali logging centre of Pucallpa, and along the associated road network.

The satellite data reveals a great deal of logging “leakage” outside the concession areas into nearby forests, he said. Although it is difficult to know precisely what is occurring, Asner suspects that once an area has been opened up to logging, concession-holders or others simply move into nearby areas.

The study clearly shows that deforestation follows the construction of the Inter-Oceanic Highway, which ultimately is directly connected with 23 percent of the total damage. “Roads are absolutely connected to deforestation,” Asner said.

Loggers are chasing “red gold”, the valuable wood of mahogany trees, which are still found in commercial quantities in the Peruvian Amazon, says David Hill, a campaigner for Survival International, a Britain-based non-governmental organisation supporting tribal peoples worldwide.

“‘Tree laundering’ is going on, with mahogany supposedly coming from legal concessions being brought in from outside,” Hill told Tierramérica. It is very difficult to monitor or trace the origin of logs in such remote regions, he said.

“Legal logging concessions are facilitating illegal extraction,” he explained.

The activist is dubious of Asner’s findings that indigenous territories contained only 11 percent of the “forest disturbances”.

“There is illegal logging in four of the five indigenous reserves set aside for uncontacted peoples” in Peru, he said.

These indigenous tribes by choice have not been in regular contact with the outside world. The common cold or flu is often fatal to them because they have not had previous exposure to the d
iseases and have not developed the appropriate immune defences.

Illegal loggers brought such diseases to the Nahua tribe in the 1980s and more than half of them died, Hill said.

While logging is the most urgent threat to these isolated indigenous communities, oil and gas exploration has also become a significant problem. Last month the Inter-Ethnic Association for Peruvian Jungle Development, AIDESEP, applied to the courts for a ban on oil exploration and drilling in parts of the Peruvian Amazon inhabited by uncontacted tribes.

Enforceable land rights would go a long way to helping indigenous people in Peru, Hill says.

But keeping extractive industries like loggers out is an enormous challenge for any country. Brazil has struggled with this, largely unsuccessfully, for decades.

“Logging is a multi-billion dollar industry in Brazil — 80 percent of which is illegal, according to the government,” says Bill Laurance, a tropical forest ecologist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution, in Balboa, Panama.

Deforestation rates have slowed in the past couple of years due to lower prices for soy and beef, and because of a crackdown on illegal logging, Laurance told Tierramérica.

That crackdown came after the 2005 murder of U.S.-born nun Dorothy Stang, who had been helping local people oppose illegal logging in the northern Brazilian state of Pará.

More than 100 people were arrested in a multi-million-dollar illegal logging network, including 40 people working for IBAMA, Brazil’s federal environmental law enforcement agency, he said.

“Even Canada and the U.S. have trouble enforcing their logging rules in remote areas,” he pointed out.

Slowing deforestation in the Amazon is an enormous challenge. The rise of so-called “carbon markets” offers some real hopes, if a country like Brazil can obtain credits for “avoided deforestation” and the corresponding reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, according to Laurance.

Brazil is the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases resulting from deforestation. The World Bank recently announced a 250-million-dollar pilot fund to pay tropical countries like Brazil for preserving their forests.

Avoided deforestation is an inexpensive and simple way to slow climate change and brings additional benefits, including preservation of ecosystem services and biodiversity.

Accurate and ongoing measurements of standing forests and deforestation are absolutely crucial to making such as compensation system work, and Asner’s group has the technology, says Laurance.

Previous satellite data and analysis by the group revealed higher rates of deforestation in Brazil than previous estimates. And although Peru’s forest regions are frequently obscured by clouds, the new technology involving use of supercomputers can work around that problem.

By this time next year, thanks to a training plan and a compressed version of the study team’s program, government officials, academics and non-governmental groups in Peru will able to update the forest change analysis on personal computers, he said.

Asner believes the program can be adapted to any tropical country and he plans to present it at the next stage of the negotiations of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, to take place in December in Bali, Indonesia.

“What the Peru study shows is that we have a definitive tool for detecting deforestation and change,” says Asner.

(*Originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme.) (END/2007)

Nuevo Sitio Web de la Nacion Shipiba

La presente pagina es dedicada a los pueblos amozonicos del ucayali, se construyo despues del I Tribunal de Jefes de comunidades indigenas del Ucayali, la cual, fue uno de nuestros acuerdos, con la finalidad de que los pueblos se comunique y den a conocer sus puntos de vistas,problematicas y sus posibles soluciones.
Sitio web de la Nacion Shipiba www.shipibonation.org/index.php
Gracias por entrar a nuestra pagina
ah y disculpenos hay algunos errores de articulacion, dentro de poco mejoraremos.
SINAMETSA-FILOSOFOLIBRE777

Community-based Geographic Tech Workshops

Land rights is a constantly recurring theme in our work with indigenous peoples throughout the world. And the Shipibo people have asked for our assistance in their struggles over territory. In June, the Village Earth Peru Project Coordinator held a community-based geographic technology workshop in the lower Ucayali. Leaders from two communities in the Calleria district joined forces to protect their land. Both communities were given legal titles to their land years ago, however, in the dynamic Amazonian environment their lands have changed dramatically since the initial titling. Half of what was once part of the community is now overtaken by the mighty Ucayali River with more and more of the community being washed away daily into the river as it changes course. Originally, indigenous communities changed location as the river moved, but now communities are forced to remain within government-imposed boundaries. 

Forcing indigenous peoples to be subjugated within externally-imposed borders does not work in the dynamic environment of the Amazon. However, protecting indigenous land through titling and demarcation is a necessary evil right now in order to protect communities’ rights to land and resources. Much of the strategy of the Peruvian government has been to conquer and divide indigenous territories. However, many indigenous leaders and activists are calling for a new way to think about indigenous territory – and to remind the world they have sustainably managed their forests for thousands of years. “The demand for territorial clarity and non-overlapping negotiations on land issues is predicated on an acceptance of the EuroAmerican way of viewing land, demarking and dividing the land and environment and relationships between people on the basis of European-derived notions of property, ownership, and jurisdiction.”* 

Therefore, these communities are looking to expand their legally allotted territories, in order to maintain a sufficient land base that can provide for their self-sustainability. Workshop participants learned how to mark and find way points, use the compass, and many other useful features of Geographic Positioning System (GPS) in order to accurately locate boundaries. Each community was given a GPS unit and they are currently marking the points to which they wish to expand their territories and then will send them to Village Earth, where using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology, we can help them to create maps that they can use in their negotiations with the government.

 

Both communities expressed worry about the current land grab in the Amazon by non-indigenous colonists. Roads are slowly creeping into their remote district bringing more and more settlers taking forest resources from the indigenous inhabitants.

 

These communities still have an expensive and arduous process ahead of them in order to expand their allotted territories. And their are many more communities interested in Village Earth mapping and geographic technology workshops. If you would like to make a contribution to these important efforts, please contact: kristina@villageearth.org


Thank you to the community that provided lunch to the workshop participants!

*Alfred, Taiaiake. 2005. Wasase: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom. Broadview Press, Canada.

Geographic Technology as a Tool for Indigenous Empowerment

There is only one month left before the monumental Indigenous Tribunal in the Ucayali region of the Amazon!

As part of the Tribunal, Village Earth was asked to facilitate community mapping workshops for Shipibo Communities but we need your support to get the necessary resources to indigenous leaders.

We’ve bundled these resources into a low-cost and easy to use “Mapping Kit” that we would like to give to community representatives participating in our free mapping workshop.


You can help by purchasing one of these kits for a Shipibo community today!

Support Village Earth and the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon with your sponsorship of a Mapping Kit!
(Contributions of any amount are welcome, greatly appreciated, and 100% tax-deductible.)

Each Mapping Kit will include a hand-held GPS unit and Map Book of their territory to be given to community leaders. Village Earth will then provide the instruction in how to use this technology to their advantage.


Mapping Kits will enable communities to:

  • Identify their boundaries to determine if outside interests are illegally taking their resources or colonizing their lands.
  • Identify illegal logging using the satellite imagery available in the map books.
  • Map existing resources to establish a baseline for future comparisons of resource depletion/restoration
  • Better manage and plan for the use of their limited resources.

Village Earth has been using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to create maps of indigenous territory combined with satellite images of the region. Some Shipibo leaders have already used these maps to dispute government and colonist land claims and build their case in support of indigenous land rights in the region.




Your contribution not only provides the mapping resources, but will help further the greater collective vision for the alternative development of the region based on indigenous knowledge and values. By supporting the Shipibo’s efforts at mobilizing the region and these community-based mapping endeavors, together we can:

  • Organize indigenous communities in the Ucayali region to increase their economic and political clout to determine their own futures
  • Teach GPS technology to indigenous leaders so they no longer have to rely on expensive and biased government GPS technicians
  • Support Shipibo efforts to reclaim and restore indigenous land stewardship practices.

 


Update from the Field

Thank you to Nerio Reategui, our Shipibo project partner and friend, for sending these photos. He works as a translator between Shipibo, Ashaninka, and Spanish languages for an indigenous organization in the Ucayali region and spends a lot of time traveling to different communities some so remote it takes 3 weeks to reach by boat. Nerio has been involved in past Village Earth workshops and project activities.






Above: They are planting beds of Camu camu, a medicinal plant whose fruit they sell in regional, national and international markets. These photos were taken in Tahuania, a district in the Ucayali department of Peru.

Protecting Shipibo Territory

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.
 

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.
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.
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.

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.

First Indigenous Tribunal of the Ucayali

As a follow-up and outcome to the Village Earth Regional Organizational workshop in January 2007, a group of Shipibo leaders have decided to hold the first ever ‘Indigenous Tribunal’ as they call it. This Tribunal will be a gathering of leaders from all 120 Shipibo communities throughout the region. They are also inviting local NGOs and leaders from other regional indigenous groups such as the Ashaninka. This is an event of historic importance because the Shipibo have not had a regional meeting of this magnitude for over 30 years, and even then never did it have the possibility for such far-reaching impacts as the Indigenous Tribunal being organized at present.

Below: Participants in the January workshop who were elected to the Transitory Committee responsible for organizing the Indigenous Tribunal.
 

The organizers of this event have asked Village Earth to be a co-facilitator – to continue with a regional visioning process with the participation of all delegates present at the Tribunal. This will be the largest strategic planning that the Village Earth team has done to-date and could possibly have the most far-reaching impacts as well. 480 leaders are estimated to attend this event representing around 40,000 indigenous peoples throughout the Ucayali region. All parties involved hope that this will be the key event in mobilizing and organizing the region to begin the process of a truly community-based, sustainable form of alternative “development” – to empower the region toward active self-determination.

The Shipibo people realized that only by working together at the regional level will they ever really be able to implement their own vision for the future based on the values and wisdom of the majority indigenous population of the region. Some of the specific objectives as written in their project plan are as follows:
  • To bring together leaders, authorities, students, technicians, and indigenous professionals of the region to search together the true development of the indigenous population with a united organization with strategic allies both national and international
  •  

  • To inform and motivate the jefes (chiefs) of the communities about the importance of cultural revival and the care of our lands
  •  

  • To achieve the participation and commitment of the jefes and leaders of the indigenous communities to form a work group for environmental conservation and sustainable development
  •  

  • To strengthen the communication channel between indigenous and foreign organizations for the development of our communities.

Art and cultural performances will also play a big part in the three-day Tribunal with cultural and artistic presentations planned each evening and also for the opening and closing ceremonies.

Above: This group of orphaned children will be performing traditional Shipibo song and dance at the June event.

The organizing committee of the Tribunal is building off of the transnational legal framework that is currently so popular in the discourse about indigenous rights. For example:

The organizing committee writes, “In the last 50 years, the Amazonian cultures have been suffering from an aggressive Western acculturation. The [Peruvian] government underwent a neoliberal political shift without considering the consequences upon the indigenous peoples. Many indigenous peoples were forced to leave their cultures as they migrated to the big cities in search of a better opportunity.” The objective of the Tribunal is so “that the communities be the protagonists of their own development, and the local, national, and foreign authorities take care of and support us in our own program of development.”

Five themed expositions will be presented during the Tribunal:

  1. The Role of the Jefes
  2. Indigenous Reality
  3. The Political Situation
  4. National Political and Economic Reality
  5. United Communities

At the end of the event, there will be an election of leaders to form the new grassroots regional organization of indigenous peoples.

This is such an important event for the future of indigenous self-determination throughout the Peruvian Amazon. Please help us to support the Shipibo by making a financial contribution today. The estimated budget for the Tribunal is approximately $9000 USD in order to provide food and transportation for even the most remote community leaders to be able to attend. As well, the organizing committee is undertaking an extensive media campaign and hopes to print posters, invitations to regional leaders, and hold press conferences.

Please help us support the future generations of Shipibo leaders and the ecological integrity of the Amazon Basin.

If you interested in supporting the Shipibo’s efforts at organizing the region, you can contribute directly through Pay Pal on the website. Or you can send a check or money order to:

Village Earth
P.O. Box 797
Fort Collins, CO 80522 USA
or call the Village Earth office at: +1-970-491-5754 to make a contribution using your credit card.
If you would like more information about the Indigenous Tribunal in June, please contact: Kristina Pearson

 

Shipibo Regional Organizational Workshop


Above: Enjoying a relaxing evening after the workshop. 

Village Earth was asked by some prominent Shipibo leaders a few months back to facilitate another regional workshop this time with more of an emphasis on intercommunity cooperation. So the Village Earth team returned for a 7-day workshop in early January. Twenty-four Shipibo leaders participated representing six communities in four different districts throughout the Ucayali. The workshop began with a review of past Village Earth-Shipibo collaborations and a viewing of the Village Earth/Shipibo documentary film, “The Children of the Anaconda“. Then we began a district-wide mapping session so community members would be begin to think beyond their own borders. This brought up an array of environmental issues as participants discussed sharing forest and river resources with neighboring communities, but also the destruction being wrought by logging and oil companies in the region.

Below: Shipibo children participated by drawing their own map of their community and then presented it to the group. For community initiatives to be truly sustainable, children, too, must always be involved in the process. 

Village Earth would like to facilitate collaboration between our project partners, and both the Lakota and Shipibo have expressed much interest in working together in the future as they face many of the same issues being the indigenous inhabitants of the Americas. We decided to do a viewing of the Village Earth-produced documentary film “Rezonomics” which highlights the economic situation on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Although they inhabit vastly different environments, the Shipibo found many similarities in their struggles and learned from the Lakota new ways to think about many of their issues.

This was followed by a discussion on the roles and activities of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in Shipibo country. This led to a very interesting discussion about NGOs and top-down funding models which many times inhibits NGOs from being responsive to community needs and truly participatory community-based development. The Shipibo have dealt with NGO after NGO letting them down with failed promises. However, this is not purely the fault of the NGO. The Shipibo, too, recognize that they need to be proactive and organized when soliciting the assistance of NGOs. Only when both parties are in consensus and work through the Shipibo model of community organization is there the potential to have successful collaborations. 

This led us to the discussion of ‘So, what has been successful?’ What has worked before and how did they organize to make it happen? This is an important part of the Village Earth process because we want to encourage communities to build off of past successes instead of reinventing the wheel each time. Many community projects had been successful before – from communal construction projects to fish farms. Then we questioned, “How did the communities organize themselves in order to make these projects happen?”

 

 

Above: One influential Shipibo leader, Limber Gomez, draws out the model of intra and inter-community governance that the Shipibo people use to organize themselves. This highlighted the disconnect between the way NGOs were entering the communities and beginning their work and the way in which Shipibo communities build consensus and participation for projects.

Shipibo communities already have their own consensus-building processes in which the community authorities hold assemblies where everybody is welcomed and encouraged to attend. From this point, committees are democratically-elected to take on different project aspects which then report back to the authorities and the community during the assemblies. They have their own treasurers and methods for financial accountability. Although this seems like such common sense, it is surprising how many outsiders come in thinking they have the answers or that the Shipibo don’t know how to manage their own finances or run their own projects. Yet, the Shipibo are actually running their community affairs with incredible organizational capacity which is only disrupted when outsiders try to impose top-down funding and project management.

We then began the strategic planning session with a five-year vision emphasizing regional unity. This was really a question from the heart – what do they really feel for their community and their people, as opposed to just thinking about what material goods they would like to have. This really forced them to look deep inside themselves to come up with their comprehensive vision collectively. Their vision consisted of four main emphasis areas: Community Development, Formation of Shipibo Professionals (business leaders, doctors, engineers, lawyers), Cultural Revival, and the creation of Micro-enterprises.

 

This led to the question, “What obstacles are holding you back from achieving your vision?” The participants really focused on obstacles they could change themselves instead of focusing on larger global systemic issues that might seem more daunting to overcome. We then moved onto Strategic Directions where participants looked at what they can do in the next year to overcome their obstacles and begin to move toward their vision. The Strategic Directions really got the participants involved and thinking about what they can actually do to achieve their own vision for the future.
Below: All participants were involved in putting their ideas onto the board throughout the visioning process. These young men were rearranging the group’s ideas into coherent groupings for the Strategic Directions phase of the workshop.

 

 

Finally, the workshop reached its pinnacle in the Action Planning phase. Participants mapped out their plans for the next three months – practical actions that they can actually take to move toward their vision and be active agents in their own “development” process. Eight aspects were deemed the most important areas for action. They are:

 

  • First and foremost — protect and defend Shipibo territory
  •  

  • Broader regional unity
  •  

  • Cultural revival
  •  

  • University scholarships for their children
  •  

  • Small business development
  •  

  • An Indigenous Bank to facilitate economic development
  •  

  • Promoting indigenous foods for better nutrition
  •  

  • Shipibo-run radio stations broadcasting throughout the region

A committee was formed for each of these eight areas, tasks were assigned, timelines and budgets were drawn up, and finally they were presented back to the group.

Above: Lea
ders of the group planning actions to protect indigenous territory present their plan back to the group for approval.

 

These eight areas will be further discussed in forthcoming Blog postings. A Transitory Committee was democratically-elected amongst the participants (with at least one representative of each community present in the workshop) to hold an Indigenous Tribunal in June. This June event will be the follow-up to this workshop and it is Village Earth’s great honor that the Shipibo have asked Village Earth to return and co-facilitate this historic event. The Tribunal will be a gathering of Indigenous leaders from all 120 Shipibo communities, as well as other regional indigenous groups, to discuss their own alternative plan for “A Better Ucayali”.
All in all, this Regional Organizational Workshop was an incredibly empowering event and a great learning experience for all involved. The Shipibo have expressed to the Village Earth team how happy and grateful they are for our support for their self-determination. Yet, when we asked “Who came up with this plan?”, the participants realized that it was completely decided and directed by them with Village Earth only providing the framework from which to begin to question and think about some of these important issues.

 

Village Earth is honored to work with these amazing individuals that participated in this workshop and the Shipibo people as a whole. And we feel privileged to be invited to co-facilitate their landmark Indigenous Tribunal in June 2007. 

 

Above: Village Earth facilitators Kristina Pearson and David Bartecchi dance with the group as the Shipibo band plays in the background. The community organized a farewell party on the last evening of the workshop to celebrate the achievements of the group.

Below: A special thank you to Mayer Kirkpatrick, Mateo Arevalo, and Freddy Arevalo for their hardwork and dedication to this project.


Above: Thank you to Ralf (Village Earth’s media specialist), and Chloe (Village Earth’s Poet Laureate) for their hardwork and help throughout the workshop.

 

Below: A very special thank you to Flora – an amazing volunteer who gave so much of her time to help with translations and facilitating the workshop. 

And most of all – THANK YOU to all of our donors – without you none of this would have been possible!

Tourism Opens New Doors, Creates New Challenges, for Traditional Healers in Peru

By Proctor, Rachel

January 31, 2001 Cultural Survival Quarterly Issue 24.4

Mateo Arevalo, 43, was born into a family of traditional healers, or curanderos, in the Shipibo community of San Francisco de Yarinacocha in Peru. When he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and learn curandismo, he was taught to prepare a ceremonial drink from a woody vine scientists call Banisteriopsis caapi and curanderos call “ayahuasca,” a Quechua word meaning “vine of the soul.” He drank the brew regularly during his two-year training period to induce physical purging and intense visions of the spirit world. It was the spirits that provided his real training and that allow him and other curanderos to diagnose and treat patients.

While Arevalo’s forefathers put such knowledge to local use, generally treating their neighbors on a pro bono basis, Arevalo is proud to apply it to a wider audience. When foreigners started showing up in San Francisco about 10 years ago seeking the hallucinogen for healing, enlightenment, or a good trip, he took advantage of the opportunity to earn extra income. He now leads posh ayahuasca retreats in jungle lodges for foreigners, and hosts shamanism students in his home for three- or six-month courses.

“I am an innovator, adding to my ancestral knowledge,” he explains. “We, the Shipibos, are like any other human community — we need to grow and change. We can’t just stay the same so that the tourists can stare at the naked Indians in feathers and the anthropologists can treat us like a living museum.” Arevalo’s innovations let him earn $200 per month from shamanism students and $30 per person for one-time ceremonies while most of his neighbors hawk handicrafts for pennies. And he is not the only shaman to bring in such sums. Ayahuasca has shown itself capable of summoning more than visions and spirits — it also calls an ever-growing number of new-agers and thrillseekers willing to pay $30-$50 for a night’s work. Ayahuasca ceremonies can be purchased in most major tourist destinations in Peru, and numerous jungle lodges now offer ceremonies or retreats, the latter costing in the neighborhood of $700-$1,500 a week.

But ayahuasca’s new marketability has brought traditional healing to a dangerous crossroads. Tourist dollars could allow shamans to support themselves while continuing to treat their neighbors for little or nothing, but it could just as easily allow a privileged few to abandon their communities for a more affluent life in tourist towns or jungle lodges.

It is ironic that even a decade ago the main threat to traditional healing was lack of interest. Traditional shamanism promised little in the way of material rewards to young Shipibos all too aware of the need for jobs that pay cash. Leslie Taylor, an American specialist in rainforest plants, says that only a minority of shamans she met in her trips to the Amazon had apprentices. “A lot of the shamans didn’t have apprentices because [traditional healing] was considered old knowledge, and the kids wanted what was new,” she says. “They wanted what the outsiders had, what was in the city: the radios, the colored flip-flops. They didn’t want to stay in the jungle and learn traditional medicine when Western pharmaceuticals seemed to work much faster.”

Arevalo agrees that the young were never interested in his work — until now. These days, he receives many requests for training from young Shipibos who see the possibilities in a bottle of ayahuasca. Interest in healing, on the other hand, is still on the wane. “The young who ask me to teach them do not want to be curanderos,” said Arevalo, who insists that his work with tourists does not interfere with his commitment to the health of the community. “They are only interested in giving ayahuasca to the tourists.”

The problem is not innovation per se. It is that once a shaman has innovated, a whole new world opens to him, one that often separates him from his community. Antonio Muñoz hopes to carry tradition into modernity. The 40-year-old shaman learned traditional healing from his father, but never practiced because, as he says, “to be a traditional doctor in the village is to live in the worst possible poverty.” He moved to Lima, where he met psychotherapist Pio Vucetich. The two now offer therapy in which patients take ayahuasca as a tool for analysis and as a way to confront their fears and traumas. “My work is much more sophisticated than that of other curanderos,” he says. “In traditional healing, the shaman took the ayahuasca to acquire the powers of the plants: to diagnose the illness and discover a cure. But how much more effective will it be if the patient takes the medicine himself? I give ayahuasca like any other doctor gives a prescription.” Muñoz, like Arevalo, considers his work an innovation that combines the best of the old with the best of the new. He thinks those who don’t incorporate outside elements into their healing are hopelessly stuck in the past. “Other curanderos need to learn from the science of psychotherapy to better treat their patients,” he says. “We need to advance, to offer our alternative healing to the whole world.” Even so, he himself does not work with members of his community because he finds there is no demand for his “sophisticated” technique in San Francisco. He spends most of his time treating his regular patients in Lima, or wealthy Peruvians or foreigners on special week-long sessions (cost, $500) in San Francisco. Why should he stay in the village, argues Muñoz, when there are so many who appreciate his technique in the cities? The question arises: what will happen to the sick in the communities if the shamans are all at international ayahuasca conventions?

Even if practitioners of traditional medicine do move away from healing and into tourism, it would seem at first glance that ayahuasca tourism can, at the very least, help to preserve a tradition that might otherwise be forgotten. But because foreign consumers of ayahuasca often come with romanticized images of what a South American shaman should be, shamans have an incentive to alter their discourse to fit expectations. Federica LeClerc, a French anthropologist studying the use of medicinal plants by Shipibo women, says that this is already a common phenomenon, and one that she considers to bring some positive results. “The Shipibos are very assimilated,” says LeClerc. “The healers use the Bible, which isn’t `really’ part of their culture, but for them, it’s as traditional as anything else. Then foreigners come, only looking for the natural, and the shamans change what they’re saying to please them. So in some ways, tourism is bringing about a recovery of the past.” At the same time, new foreign elements are becoming a part of the practice of some shamans. The Lima-based organization Ayahuasca-Wasi, for example, offers week-long experimental seminars in “Amazonian Shamanism” which also include meditation and “Tibetan Philosophy centered on Impermanence.” Arevalo has found the need to incorporate such ideas to please his customers. He feels, however, that this syncretism is part of his human right to increase his knowledge and that it is a positive exchange of information between cultures.

One foreign element that no one appreciates, however, is outsides’ desire to capitalize on interest in ayahuasca without providing any benefits to the community. The most egregious example is the 1986 U.S. patent on ayahuasca by an American pharmacology student. Under pressure from indigenous groups, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1999 rejected the patent, but the Committee for International Environmental Law, which represented the indigenous groups, argues that the patent was overturned on a narrow technicality that does not provide sufficient protection of indigenous groups’ biolog
ical knowledge.

In addition to concerns over compensation for their intellectual property, the patent’s challengers warned that removing the plant from its traditional role could have devastating results, citing the existing gulf between the traditional use of the coca leaf in the Andes and the abuse of cocaine in the North. Just which adaptations and innovations are appropriate is a matter of considerable debate. The older generation of shamans in San Francisco, those who continue to heal their neighbors (or at least learned to do so, even if it no longer fits easily into their schedules), unanimously found ayahuasca-selling by those who do not heal inappropriate. Muñoz, who does not give ayahuasca recreationally, considers any ayahuasca tourism without a healing element to be a misuse. “If you go to the doctor, it’s because you’re sick,” he said. “But sadly, in our country curanderos give ayahuasca to any tourist who asks for it. Ayahuasca should not be used as a recreational drug.”

Taylor argues that as more and more people from the North seek out natural remedies to physical ailments, some profit-seeking shamans may sham “medical” treatments, which she considers not only inappropriate, but dangerous. “I met a woman who had all kinds of health problems — she was a year out of a kidney transplant and could barely walk,” she says. “Ayahuasca is incredibly hard on the body, especially the liver and kidneys, and this is why in traditional healing it is the shaman who takes ayahuasca, not the patient. But this woman was in contact with a shaman who wanted to give her ayahuasca in a healing ceremony. To give ayahuasca to someone that sick would have been criminal.”

Straddling the past and the future is Rodolfo Valles, one of the rare young Shipibos learning curandismo in San Francisco. Throughout his life he has seen his father curing members of his community free of charge. Now, at 19, he has begun the fasting and ayahuasca-induced training sessions that will culminate in his first healing, which he hopes he will achieve within a year. He plans to earn the money he needs to buy that which the jungle does not provide by teaching languages in a nearby mestizo town, and thinks any shaman who charges for his services is a fraud. Yet when asked if he would do ceremonies for tourists if the opportunity arose, he demonstrates conflicted feelings. “It makes me ashamed when shamans charge the tourists for their ceremonies,” Valles says. “But if people want to know about our reality and about Shipibo culture, I want to show them.” He plans to get around his moral qualms by adopting the technique of many shamans: requesting a voluntary donation rather than charging a set fee. Furthermore, he insists that his primary concern will always be the sick in his community. “I want to be a shaman because I want to help people,” he says. “I see so many needs in my community, so many sick people who can’t afford medicine at the pharmacy.”

The question remains as to what Valles will do once the opportunity to work with foreigners does arrive. It is a poignant question, for as Arevalo said, why shouldn’t a shaman innovate? Why shouldn’t he profit materially from his knowledge? If Valles is like the rest of the shamans of San Francisco, he will say yes to the foreigners. And hopefully he will fulfill his dream of continuing to say yes to his neighbors. If shamans are too busy entertaining tourists to help their communities, one can’t say that a tradition has been preserved. It will have mutated into an empty commercial endeavor that does little to preserve Shipibo heritage or help the community as a whole.

References & further reading

Interviews (all interviews took place in the year 2000):
Mateo Arevalo, shaman, Pucallpa, April 2; Yarinacocha, April 12
Federica LeClerc, anthropologist, Yarinacocha, April 1
Antonio Muñoz, shaman, San Francisco de Yarinacocha, April 7
Lucio Muñoz, shaman, San Francisco de Yarinacocha, April 6
Martin Muñoz Pacalla, shaman, San Francisco de Yarinacocha, April 6
Gilber Reategui Sangama, son of mestizo shaman, Nueva Luz de Fatima, Ap. 4
Alberto Reategui Silvano, mestizo shaman, Nueva Luz de Fatima, April 5
Leslie Taylor, owner, Raintree Nutrition, Inc., Lima, April 27
Rodolfo Valles Vallera, shaman trainee, San Francisco de Yarinacocha, Ap. 11
Other resources:
Ayahuasca-Wasi Transpersonal Shamanism Research Project. www.ayahuasca-wasi.com
The Center for International Environmental Law. www.ciel.org/ptorejection.html
SpiritQuest. www.biopark.org/sprtqu3.html
Trimble, Diane (2000, March 22). Taking Psychedelics Seriously. San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc.

Santa Teresita, Ucayali, Peru

The indigenous community of Santa Teresita lies on the shores of Cashibococha, a pristine lake near to Pucallpa. Jaime Flores Diaz invited Village Earth to their community for an afternoon of cultural performances. Jaime began this performance group a few years ago after taking in several orphaned children. He began to teach them traditional Shipibo song and dance. Jaime learned many Shipibo songs from his father who was a traditional healer of his community. Jaime was worried that this knowledge would be lost, so he decided to impart his wisdom onto his adopted children.
Below: Jaime Flores Diaz, a cultural visionary for his people
Jaime is interested to teach more Shipibo youth traditional Shipibo song, dance, and even theater. He is currently looking for funding to construct a cultural center in Santa Teresita that will be open to all Shipibo interested in regaining their knowledge of the traditional performing arts. They will also be available for performances for tourists. Not only will youth be regaining an important cultural aspect in the performing arts, but they are also learning so much more about other aspects of Shipibo culture such as traditional clothing and jewelry design. They are also gaining more confindence in themselves – young people are once again proud to be Shipibo.
This project fits into the larger regional plan for the alternative development of the Shipibo nation. One of the eight key aspects of the Shipibo regional plan is to rescue their culture and bring it back from the brink of extinction to once again be a vibrant, flourishing way of life that distinguishes them from the Western world. Cultural exchange was an important component of each communities’ plans – cultural exchange from the elders to the youth and also between Shipibo communities and the tourists who come to visit them.
If you are interested in helping to support Jaime’s dream of a Shipibo cultural center in Santa Teresita, please contact Village Earth’s Peru project coordinator, Kristina Pearson: kristina@villageearth.org
or call the Village Earth main office: 1-970-491-5754

Half the Peruvian Amazon Leased for Petroleum Development

Source: Environment News Service


Half the Peruvian Amazon Leased for Petroleum Development

WASHINGTON, DC, December 4, 2006 (ENS) – Conservation groups based in Washington warned today that the Peruvian government is signing so many contracts with multinational oil companies that half the rainforest of the Peruvian Amazon is now covered with oil leases.

The Peruvian Amazon contains some of the most pristine and biodiverse rainforests on Earth, says said Dr. Matt Finer of Save America’s Forests, who has spent years working as an ecologist in the rainforests of Peru and Ecuador.

“Over 97 million acres of the Peruvian Amazon, roughly the size of California, is now zoned for oil and gas exploration and exploitation,” he said. “That represents well over one-half of the remaining intact Peruvian rainforest.”

gas

PlusPetrol gas well in Peru’s Camisea region (Photo courtesy PlusPetrol)

There are now 39 active oil concessions in the Peruvian Amazon, all but eight leased in the last three years. In 2003, Peru lowered royalties on exploration, intensifying interest from foreign oil companies.

“Eighteen different multinational companies currently operate concessions in the Peruvian Amazon,” said Ellie Happel of Environmental Defense. “These include American companies Occidental, ConocoPhillips, Barrett, Harken, Hunt, and Amareda Hess.”

In addition, Pluspetrol of Argentina, Petrobras of Brazil, Repsol of Spain, Petrolifera of Canada, and Sipet of China are all operating multiple concessions.

Most new oil concession contracts establish a seven year exploration phase consisting of seismic studies and the drilling of several exploratory wells in remote jungle areas. The total term for most contracts is 30 years for oil exploitation and 40 for gas.

“Amazonian diversity for plants, birds, amphibians, and mammals all peak at its upper reaches in Peru and Ecuador,” said Dr. Clinton Jenkins of Duke University.

jaguar

Endangered jaguar in a Peruvian animal orphanage (Photo courtesy Amazon Animal Orphanage)

“The Peruvian oil concessions overlap with some of the most biodiverse areas of rainforest on Earth.”

More than 20 oil concessions now occupy most of the northern Peruvian Amazon. This region is the ancestral territory of the Achuar, Quechua, Urarina, and Secoya indigenous peoples.

“Virtually all of the concessions overlap indigenous territories,” said Trevor Stevenson of Amazon Alliance. “Most troubling, some of the concessions overlap areas that are home to uncontacted tribes living in voluntary isolation.”

The two most active hydrocarbon fronts are in the north near Peru’s border with Ecuador, and further south in the Camisea region.

In the north, there were two new oil discoveries during 2005. These new fields complement another recent discovery in the area, fueling speculation that much of the region is oil rich.

AIDESEP, Peru’s national indigenous Amazonian federation, says that people living traditionally in voluntary isolation inhabit the same general region where the new oil reserves have been discovered.

Achuar

Achuar men engage in a tribal ritual (Photo courtesy Eric Schniter)

Many of the indigenous communities in the north and their representative organizations oppose new oil development, citing the widespread contamination of the two producing oil blocks in the region.

Frustration among the Achuar people over the dumping of contaminated wastewater grew until in October a federation of Achuar communities shut down operations of these two oil blocks for 14 days, blocking 50 percent of national production.

For 35 years, the Achuar said, contamination from current drilling by PlusPetrol Norte and previous drilling by Occidental Petroleum Corp. and Petrolifera Petroleum Ltd. had been affecting the health and territory of native people.

Up to a million barrels a day of contaminated wastewater was dumped by the oil companies directly into local rivers, not re-injected back into the ground as is done in the United States and more modern operations in the Amazon.

The blockade was lifted after the Peruvian government and PlusPetrol accepted the demands of the Achuar, which included accelerated plans to re-inject wastewater.

Achuar

Achuar woman and children prepare a meal of fruit. (Photo courtesy Amazon Watch)

Achuar traditional authorities had demanded re-injection of up to 100 percent of the toxic waters back into the ground within 12 months, a new hospital and health services, a one year emergency food supply for communities affected by pollution, five percent of the state oil royalties for community development and acknowledgement of the Achuar’s opposition to further oil exploration in the region.

The Achuar did not win a promise that no new oil activities would be permitted on Achuar territory, a likely indicator of serious problems to come, the U.S. environmental groups warn.

Members of the Achuar communities are now facing a government investigation and possible jail terms for their occupation.

Charges against them, filed by Pluspetrol, allege “coertion, criminal trespassing, aggravated kidnapping, and assault against public security.”

Amazon Watch, an Amazon defense organization based in San Francisco says, “These charges are disconcerting given the peaceful nature of the protest and the abundant evidence on the vulnerable health status of the Achuar people in Corrientes and the profound oil contamination of their territories. If the charges are allowed to stand, they would set a disturbing precedent against the right to peaceful protest in Peru.”

The 11,000 Achuar who live in the remote northern Peruvian rainforest are some of the most traditional indigenous people of the Amazon basin. Their ancestral lands are one of the last refuges for plants and animals found no where else on Earth.

In neighboring areas, ConocoPhillips, Occidental Petroleum, and Petrolifera own drilling rights to a vast, intact area of tropical rainforest also inhabited by the Achuar. Unless both oil companies make a commitment to respect the environment and Achuar health, there are likely to be more confrontations.

Achuar leaders have been touring the United States since November 16. They are in Los Angeles this week and travel to Houston next week, raising public awareness of their cause.

Saba

Industrial engineer Dr. Daniel Saba de Andrea is chairman of the Board of PeruPetro. (Photo courtesy PeruPetro)

The Peruvian national oil company, PeruPetro, recently announced that 18 new concessions will b
e ready for tender in the first half of 2007. There will be a road show in Houston in January to promote the 18 areas. Dr. Finer warns that the last of the unspoiled Peruvian Amazon is about to disappear, saying, “We’re looking at a critical situation where every inch of the megadiverse Peruvian Amazon not currently within a National Park is fair game for oil companies.”