Defending Indigenous Lands and Enhancing Sustainable Livelihoods in Western Brazil | One Earth
Defending Indigenous Lands and Enhancing Sustainable Livelihoods in Western Brazil

Image credit: Courtesy of the Ashaninka Association of the Amônia River Apiwtxa

Defending Indigenous Lands and Enhancing Sustainable Livelihoods in Western Brazil

Organization Ashaninka Association of the Amônia River Apiwtxa
Category Nature Conservation

There are five main project categories: Energy Transition focuses on renewable energy access and energy efficiency. Nature Conservation includes wildlife habitat protection and ecosystem restoration, as well as Indigenous land rights. Regenerative Agriculture supports farmers, ranchers and community agriculture. Climate Change covers global science efforts, climate adaptation, and social justice work.

Realm Southern America

The Project Marketplace is organized by the major terrestrial realms divided into 14 biogeographical regions – N. America, Subarctic America, C. America, S. America, Afrotropics, Indomalaya, Australasia, Oceania, Antarctica, and the Palearctic realm, which coincides with Eurasia and is divided into Subarctic, Western, Central, Eastern, and Southern regions.

Status ongoing

Seed indicates an early stage project that needs some level of support to develop into a larger funding proposal. Ongoing indicates any project that needs core programmatic funding. Urgent indicates a short-term project initiated in response to a natural disaster or other impending risk.

Funding Level $$$

$$$ indicates a project between $250,000-$1 million.

Timeframe 36 Months
Partner Buckminster Fuller Institute

The Ashaninka Association of the Amônia River Apiwtxa was founded in 1993 with the goal of fighting for the environmental protection of their lands and the defense of their rights and culture. Since the 2000s, Apiwtxa has played a vital role in strengthening the Ashaninka communities along the Brazil-Peru border due to its extensive experience developing and managing sustainable projects. While facing unbridled developmental pressure, which has worsened during the Bolsonaro administration through lack of government support, disrespect for their rights guaranteed by the Brazilian constitution, wildfires, and the deforestation of protected areas, the Ashaninka of the Amônia River have developed strategies to defend their territory and culture through the recovery of degraded areas, the protection of the region's biodiversity, the dissemination of sustainable agroforestry practices, and by supporting cultural exchange and strengthening neighboring communities.

Image credit: Courtesy of Alice Fortes 

The Ashaninka people of the Amônia River have a long history of working together with surrounding Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. For example, in 2007 the Apiwtxa founded the Yorenka Ãtame ("Wisdom of the Forest") Training Center with the goal of promoting knowledge exchange among the groups in the region, proposing ecologically sustainable economic alternatives to the Indigenous and non-Indigenous inhabitants of the region. The Alto Juruá project, funded by the BNDES/Amazon Fund from 2015 to 2017, consolidated this cooperation work with other communities by organizing workshops on agroforestry management and territorial monitoring. More than 1300 people from Alto Juruá have benefited from the Alto Juruá project. The Apiwtxa coordinated the project and brought together indigenous and non-indigenous people to protect the forest and promote sustainable regional development. In addition, Apiwtxa has produced an environmental management plan for their territory since the 1990s, planted more than three million trees to restore degraded areas on their land, and developed the "Ayonpare" Cooperative to create a source of income for the community.

The project will contribute to the protection of the Kampa Indigenous Territory of the Amônia River and the Ashaninka people directly, while also strengthening the surrounding Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Around 500 families will benefit from this project, which will contribute to protecting natural resources and ecologically sustainable development in the entire municipality and transboundary area.

  • Governance: all projects are led and implemented by the community. Every year a general assembly is held to define the strategy and activities for the next year.
  • List of partners: Instituto Yorenka Tasorentsi, Pro-Indian Commission of Acre, Upper Amazon Conservancy, FUNAI Coordenação Regionaldo Juruá, Municipality of Marechal Thaumaturgo, Aconadiysh, Orau.
  • Examples of cooperation between Indigenous communities: a formalized agreement was signed with the Peruvian association Aconadiysh in January 2017 on sharing forest management practices. There is also cooperation with the Peruvian communities of Sawawo, Nueva Shawaya, Soweto, Dulce Gloria. Apiwtxa has helped strengthen the Puyanama community in Acre and collaborates with the Kuntanawa, Huni Kui communities of the Breu River and Apolima-Arara communities of the Amônia River.
  • The Ashaninkas have recognition and legitimacy in the municipality of Marechal Thaumaturgo where the Ashaninka leader, Isaac Piyãko, was re-elected mayor in 2020, while Indigenous people make up only 20% of the entire municipality. He was the first Indigenous mayor of the state of Acre.
  • Gender component: women are particularly involved in all projects and in the cooperative (of which Dora Piyãko is the executive director). In the Alto Juruá project, priority was given to the participation of women in agroforestry activities and the empowerment of communities.

Image credit: Courtesy of Alice Fortes 

Those who will benefit directly through the protection of their lands, improved agricultural practices, and more are the members of the Ashaninka community of the AmôniaRiver and several other communities surrounding the Ashaninka Indigenous Land. Those involved with the project will also benefit from the broad exchange of environmental and local knowledge.

The work of the Ashaninka people is a model of life for all the surrounding peoples, aiming at the common good and the protection of the natural resources that everyone depends on for living and surviving. The conscious use of natural resources is the basis for a balanced, healthy, and sustainable life. Supporting the projects of the Ashaninka people means supporting life, ensuring a better future for the entire planet.

Cultural exchanges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people about forest conservation foster social inclusion, supporting the promotion of tolerance and peace between communities amidst increasing tensions between Indigenous peoples and the rest of society.

The defense of rights and forest management are promoted through workshops on ethnomapping and map production using satellite images and local observations, identifying historical, hydrographic, and vegetation features, fauna flows, hunting, fishing, resource use, and illegal invasion/wood extraction. Environmental protocols list climate change impacts and action plans.

Image credit: Courtesy of the Ashaninka Association of the Amônia River Apiwtxa 

Protection of the culture is promoted through didactic materials on environmental management in Ashaninka and Portuguese, while books for children and young people help them to learn the Ashaninka language and culture and the importance of protecting the environment.

Environmental actions include agroforestry projects, the protection of rivers, lakes, and springs, management, and protection of natural resources, sustainable production as a means of subsistence, and environmental recovery activities in degraded areas. The Ashaninka projects that focus on environmental and cultural education, such as agroforestry training, the forest center, and partnerships with schools and young people from Marechal Thaumaturgo, have great potential for replicability in other regions of Brazil and the world.

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