Fundación Sobrevivencia Cofán

Sustained Partnership: Our Ongoing Grant Journey to Preserve the Cofán's Territorial Sovereignty

Photo by Kiliii Yuyan
  1. Context
  2. Projects
    • 1st Grant: Control, Management, and Protection of the Cofán-Bermejo Ecological Reserve (2022)
    • 2nd Grant: Recovery of Cofán Territories in the Bermejo Region of Ecuador (2023)

  3. Support


The Cofán Survival Fund


Cofán Survival Fund

Founded in 1999, FSC is an NGO with Cofán leadership dedicated to the survival of the Cofán Indigenous culture and its Amazonian rain forest environment. The Cofán Survival Fund (CSF) is an independent U.S.-based supporting organization for the Fundación Sobrevivencia Cofán (FSC).
Traditional Cofán Song  - by elder Etalvina Queta (recorded by Michael Cepek)
Traditional Cofán Song - by elder Mercedes Quenamá (recorded by Michael Cepek)

Support the Cofán and the work of the Cofán Survival Fund

Update #1 - November 2022

Just last month, we received a promising email update from Felipe Borman, Randy Borman's oldest son and Cofán leader. Felipe shared how his people's effort to remove hundreds of illegal gold miners from the Cofán-Bermejo Ecological Reserve is proceeding.

After communicating the project logic and structure to Chandia Na'e and Avié, the two communities most affected by mining-related violence and contamination, 17 members were trained (4-day intensive training that includes logistical, legal and first-aid courses). 

Then, prepared with this knowledge and adequately equipped, they headed to the field and cleared boundary trails. Now, these trails adamantly say to the illegal miners that Cofán people are there, watching, and committed to stopping the violence and contamination.

These images speak volumes of the courage and determination of the Cofán and the majesty of what they're trying to protect.

In this Voices From the Ground, founder and director Randy Borman and Project Manager Felipe Borman guide us through the FSC's long history of fighting for the survival of the Cofán. Watch the video interview, or click the link below to read the full version:

Second Grant (2023)

Recovery of Cofán Territories in the Bermejo Region of Ecuador

USD 25.000 grant
restore Indigenous management rights
to a highly biodiverse terrestrial ecosystem 
and protect the health and well-being
of the Cofan Nation and neighboring communities 

Despite having acquired legal rights to their ancestral territories in 2001, the Cofan Nation has faced challenges implementing the agreement due to a parallel administrative system established by the Ministry of the Environment. This system excludes Cofan participation and fails to control the influx of miners and other groups exploiting the region for gold, timber, oil, and wildlife, resulting in contamination from mercury and other chemicals.

Cofan park guards successfully protected the region for over a decade, and now the objective is to collaborate with the ME, regain on-the-ground management of the region, halt mining and other extractives, prevent the use of harmful chemicals, and present a working solution to the ME that elicits their investment.

Efforts include conducting patrols, engaging with the ME and other stakeholders, providing training, and developing a comprehensive management plan for the Reserve that incorporates Cofan participation and secures funding.

With this project, Fundación Sobrevivencia Cofan aims to
 regain full Cofan control over the Cofan Bermejo Ecological Reserve and establish a new model for reserves in Ecuador, where Indigenous communities manage the administration with long-term government funding. The organization aims to demonstrate to the Ministry of Environment that the traditional management format is ineffective in controlling the reserve. By highlighting the need for Indigenous custodianship, the project seeks to showcase the potential for Indigenous sovereignty and government collaboration to preserve culturally and environmentally significant regions.

The project will also establish strong protection for critical headwaters regions that contribute to the Aguarico-Napo and San Miguel-Putumayo water systems. Currently, illegal mining activities are introducing toxic chemicals like mercury into the water systems, posing risks not only within the Reserve but also extending beyond Ecuador's borders. Petroleum activities also pose threats to local communities and those along the rivers. To safeguard these vital water sources, a well-managed administration controlled by the Cofan community is necessary.

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About the author

Michael L. Cepek

Michael L. Cepek, PhD, is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas at San Antonio and President of the Cofan Survival Fund. He has collaborated with the Cofán Nation for nearly 30 years on academic and activist projects.