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)

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.

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!

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
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