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The Asháninka People Of The Amazon Are Saving The Forest, And Doing It Their Way

by Christin VanZant last modified Oct 03, 2016 09:34 PM
Contributors: Steve Zwick, Ciro Calderon
A quarter-century ago, the Asháninka people reclaimed a portion of their ancestral territory in the Amazon rainforest and embarked on a journey toward self-rule and sustainable development – sparking in the process the creation of an indigenous ecosystem services protocol that could have repercussions for indigenous people across the Amazon.

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Benki Pianko still remembers the day he and roughly 450 other members of the Asháninka do Amônia migrated down the Amoninha River, from the heart of their territory to its edge, where the Amoninha – or “Little Amônia” – empties into its big brother, the Amônia proper, from which they took their name. Indeed, to most they’re known just as the Rio Amônia People.

On this day in 1992, they began moving en masse in order to establish an outpost from which they could defend their territory, the Terra Indigena Kampa do Rio Amônia in Brazil.

By then, after more than a decade of invasions, illegal loggers had poached much of the “high-value” timber from across the 87,200-hectare territory; but the Asháninka do Amônia had fought them every step of the way, and the forest was mostly intact as a result – except for the patch that the invaders had cleared for farming.

That’s where the Rio Amônia moved, and they named it “Apiwtxa”, which means “Union” in their native language.

Over the next quarter-century, they would develop and then implement a sustainable land-use plan built on agroforestry and the harvesting of non-timber forest products, and they would spread their good stewardship well beyond their territory.

 

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