Peru: Securing the Wampís territory

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The Challenge

The Peruvian rainforest is home to many indigenous communities including the Wampís. They have developed a way of life and traditional knowledge finely attuned to their forest environment. The rainforest defines their identity and culture and they depend on it for their wellbeing.

The Wampís’ territory, which spans nearly 1.4 million hectares, is under threat by the expansion of extractive industries including illegal colonisation, gold mining and oil and gas exploitation as well as plans for the construction of a mega dam and a highway through their lands. 

Considering the detrimental effects of tropical deforestation on climate change, and given the growing recognition of the role that legally demarcated indigenous territories are playing in forest conservation, this project aims to secure Wampís territory with strong governance and implementation of sustainable livelihoods through efficient and sustainable agricultural techniques. The project will also monitor land use change and forest loss.

Project Aims

The overall aim of this project is to support the efforts of the Wampís indigenous people to protect and control their traditional lands.

Specific objectives are as follows: 

  • Assisting the Wampís through their own autonomous territorial government (GTA Wampís) to:
    – protect and secure their territory and promote improved governance that prioritise the protection of Wampis forest lands both for future generations and the world at large and
    – restrict and prohibit any activities which threaten the ecological integrity of their territory, or involves the permanent destruction of forest and operates without their Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
    – revision and update bylaws of all 27 legally titled Wampís communities, each committing to protect their water and forest scapes. 
  • Promoting sustainable income generating methods such as sustainable fishing management systems and shade grown organic cocoa production. The Wampís are aware of the need to address their own growing integration into the market economy and the methods mentioned above will help to counter growing pressure on the Wampís communities to harvest timber.
  • Promoting intercultural education such that reinforcing the values and customs of the Wampís community, a united and engaged community will achieve their mission and maintain engagement. 

How it Works

This is a community led and community driven project. The Wampís livelihoods and rights directly depend on the effective protection of this forest and thus the project responds to the needs of the Wampís community. 

For example, in order to enable communities to connect and bring Wampís members together from across their vast and remote territory for meetings to discuss and agree their plans and activities, a boat was purchased for transport. 

To date, much of the focus of this project has been on the territorial protection working closely with the GTA Wampís. Members of the Wampís community have been trained in GPS monitoring to allow them to collate and monitor land-use change and forest loss. This data will help them in protecting their territory. In fact, they have already prevented the expansion of an illegal gold mine, and are currently resisting the building of a highway, a mega dam and a proposed oil and gas programme near the River Morona on their land.

In terms of promoting sustainable livelihoods among and within the Wampís territory, the village of Shinguito has been chosen to pilot the timber reforestation and fish management programme which was initiated in late 2017. 

Place & People

The Wampís Nation have a population of around 15,000 spanning 27 villages across a territory of nearly 1.4 million hectares. Their territory sits in the Tropical Andes area of Northern Peru, bordering Equador, in the Marañón river basin and consists of tropical lowland and swamp forest as well as two river catchments separated by the biologically rich Kampankis Mountains (1435m).

The forests support at least 23 species on the IUCN Red List, of which 15 mammals including the Endangered White-bellied Spider Monkey and Giant Otter. Additionally, 25 species new to science were discovered by the Rapid Inventory, several of which may be endemic to the Kampankis Range.

The Wampís believe all living things have guardians who live in sacred parts of the forest. Only by acting respectfully and pleasing the spiritual guardians will hunters be able to successfully hunt animals. Equally, farmers will only be able to harvest crops if they have pleased the guardians of the land. These guardians or deitys, it is believed, control the abundance of all Wampís resources. It is this belief system that instils respect and connection to the land making the Wampís the best people to conserve the vast forests. They live their life by the mantra Tarimat Pujut which means a life of harmony. 

The vast majority of Wampís make a living from practising subsistence agriculture for their own consumption; however, a significant portion of families cultivate organic cacao in fallows (secondary forest), operate household fish farms, grow bananas – these are the three principle economic activities which generate a basic family income.

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Partner Profile

 

Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) are based in the UK but work with forest-dwelling communities across the globe, supporting them to promote an alternative vision of how forests should be managed and controlled, based on respect for the rights of the peoples who know them best.