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.
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 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.
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.
ders of the group planning actions to protect indigenous territory present their plan back to the group for approval.
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.
And most of all – THANK YOU to all of our donors – without you none of this would have been possible!