PSG Member News - Ecotribal: protecting tribal communities

Update 119. 31 January 2007

An indigenous Peruvian leader, Yorini, spent October 2006 in the UK visiting NGO's, old aquaintances, the Eden Project and pioneering low impact communities. During the late 1980's and early 1990's, as a very young man, Yorini was instrumental in connecting together many Ashaninka communities, at that time scattered throughout the upper forested slopes of the Ene and Tambo river valleys in the central Peruvian jungle. At this time, many thousands of the tribe were on the run from the encroaching and deadly hostile forces of the Shining Path terrorists and their colonist, cocaine producing allies.

In the last few years, Yorini's local knowledge has been used to map the Ashaninka territories in the Ene region on behalf of INRENA (the National Institute for Natural Resources) and the Ministry of Agriculture in Peru. The mapping brings together years of work in establishing the newest of Peru's national parks - Otishi - and a buffer zone of Ashaninka Communal Reserves plus freshly de-lineated boundaries between Ashaninka titled communities and their neighbours.

Whilst in the UK, Yorini wanted to meet with a range of organisations (including the Rainforest Foundation, Survival International, Café Direct and the Centre for Alternative Technology). He was also keen to research renewable energy (wind, solar and micro-hydro), alternative living communities (e.g. Tinker's Bubble in Somerset), the possibilities for auto-manufacture of wooden shingle roofing, and best practice at tree nurseries.

As well as learning himself, Yorini gave talks to Rainforest Foundation supporters in Camden and also to pupils at Kelmscott School in Walthamstow. Although very busy for the whole month, in between all the meetings and visits, Yorini developed an integrated set of project proposals carefully reflecting his Ashaninka community's views and requirements (even consulting his community and talking the ideas through with other Ashaninka leaders on a solar powered satellite phone link). The first proposal - to establish and build the capacity of an Ashaninka Producers Association - has been completed and submitted to the Rainforest Foundation UK for consideration. His other projects focused on: transferring to organic agro-forestry production, environmental education, carpentry and health.

Yorini's visit was hosted and co-ordinated by Ecotribal (see for details), a UK based organization established initially to work with remote Ashaninka communities on sustainable development. Ecotribal is essentially a mechanism for the Ashaninka (and other tribal communities with difficult access to markets) to assist their efforts in making a living and maintaining their culture, independence, territorial control and the environmental integrity of their stunning rainforest by developing fair, direct and sustainable trade.

Ecotribal's twin roles are helping where necessary with development and organization at community level whilst focusing on establishing outlets and markets for their sustainable products (craft bags, clothing, seed jewellery, coffee, chocolate, sesame seeds, rainforest medicines and eco-tourism opportunities). With Yorini's logistical help, Ecotribal already operate small group eco-tourism expeditions into Ashaninka territory offering the communities an immediate annual income. This came about to provide a direct alternative income to selling their valuable mahogany trees to illegal loggers, arguably the greatest threat to these forests in the early 21st century.

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    The Peru Support Group exists to promote social inclusion, sustainable development and the observance of human rights in Peru. To that end the PSG highlights shortcomings in observance of established norms, whether international or local in nature, in its research, advocacy and publications. In so doing, it underscores the relationships that exist within the political system, how institutions work, and the effectiveness of policies that aim to reduce poverty and inequality within the context of sustainable development.

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