Noa Tsinkitabo Akinai

What We Did

Across the Peruvian Amazon, Indigenous Peoples are facing an array of threats to their territories and diverse ways of life, particularly from extractive companies and infrastructural megaprojects, which all too often proceed without local communities’ free, prior and informed consent. In response to these external pressures, for the past five years we have been working both at the grassroots and in close conjunction with local, regional and national Indigenous Federations in Ucayali and Loreto to strengthen indigenous communities as they defend their territorial and cultural rights.

Previously, we worked in Loreto with indigenous communities in the Marañon, Corrientes, Tigre and Pastaza river-basins, affected by forty years of severe oil contamination in Lot 192 (formerly Lot 1AB). With a special focus on empowering their representative organisations, such as FECONAT, we provided technical and legal support as they pushed for their human rights to be respected and the remediation of their devastated territories - this work now continues under the umbrella of our partner organisation, Instituto Chaikuni. Since early 2016, we have been developing a program, which responds to the specific needs of the predominantly Shipibo-Konibo communities that we work with.

A key component of our eco-social justice work throughout 2016 involved putting communication tools at the disposal of the communities we support (such as cameras to document rights violations and environmental crimes), opening up channels of communication and enhancing the flow of critical information, particularly through the facilitation of community video screenings.

In collaboration with a Shipibo documentary-maker, Ronald Suárez, and in coordination with the Federation of Native Communities of the Ucayali (FECONAU), we supported the community of Santa Clara de Uchunya to produce a short, entirely crowd-funded video, which gathers community testimonies about the human impacts of lack of secure land tenure, massive deforestation and the clearance of the community’s forests to make way for an oil palm plantation. This video has proven to be a powerful advocacy tool here in Peru, where it has been widely viewed through social networks and in public screenings in Pucallpa, Iquitos, Lima and Cusco, as well as in more than 30 meetings across Europe and in the United States, with various governments, non-governmental agencies and industry bodies, such as the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Furthermore, we have organized and facilitated a series of trainings to build up the communications capacities of both local indigenous organisations, such as FECONAU, AIDI, REDCIP, IDEARA and OJIRO, as well as local communities. In these trainings, we have explored how the media works, how indigenous peoples worldwide are harnessing mainstream, alternative and digital media to make their voices heard about the issues affecting them and critically analysed the local mainstream media landscape. Participants have learnt how to use a variety of communication tools for themselves, so that they can communicate about the situations they face to ever-widening networks. The task of supporting and strengthening indigenous communication is an integral step towards these communities transforming their world for the better.

In addition to this, we have been working with FECONAU to produce a short, educational video about self-demarcation, a community-led, participative land-titling process, based on the example of the community of Korin Bari. This educational video will be screened in other communities, whose lands are as yet untitled, with the goal of enabling them to learn from and adapt Korin Bari’s experiences with this innovative practice.

From 2017 onwards, Alianza Arkana will be developing a youth leadership training program in order to raise critical awareness of the drivers and impacts of large-scale extractive activities (oil & gas, oil palm cultivation and logging) on their territories and empower youth with the tools to be agents of change within their own communities.

Why are Indigenous Federations important?

The oil and gas coveted by foreign companies lies mostly beneath indigenous territories in the Peruvian Amazon. Peru’s government has leased the rights to these subsurface resources to private companies, inviting the inevitable and destructive conflict between companies and communities that has occurred in other regions in recent years. Up until relatively recently, Canaan and Nuevo Sucre were the only Shipibo communities that had suffered from oil and gas production on their territories. This has resulted in many well-documented health, social and environmental problems in these communities such as contamination resulting in no longer having free drinking water from their local creeks, infectious and other diseases, sudden unexplained deaths, and dislocated families.

Following a recent round of the government selling more concessions to oil companies in the Ucayali region of the Peruvian Amazon, many more Shipibo communities are now experiencing the early stages of oil and gas company activity on their territories. This consists of exploration, seismic testing, digging exploratory wells and starting production.

Lizardo Cauper, current President of ORAU and a Shipibo leader from the oil-effected community of Canaan advises that "there has to be a regional plan for indigenous people… We can’t just stand back while [the companies] come in." He warns, "Every one of our communities has or will be affected by the oil concessions."

For more information, see an open letter from the Council of the Shipibo Nation (Consejo Shipibo Konibo Xetebo) on the Shibibo Joi website here.