The Ceibo Alliance

Land Defense Training School for Indigenous Land Patrols in the Upper Amazon, Ecuador

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Photo Credit: Alianza Ceibo/Amazon Frontlines

USD 25.000 grant
to scale Indigenous-led territorial monitoring
to protect 1,000,000 hectares
of biodiverse rainforest territories

The Community

The Cofán

Also known as "A'i-Kofán," the Cofán are an Indigenous people who live on both sides of the Ecuadorian-Colombian border. Ecuador's approximately 1,500 Cofán citizens reside in 13 communities, which range in size from more than 500 to less than 20 inhabitants. The communities are located along the Aguarico and San Miguel Rivers and their tributaries in the province of Sucumbíos. The everyday language of almost all Cofán individuals is A'ingae, an isolate with no known linguistic affinities. Cofán people practice a way of life based on hunting, fishing, gathering, and horticulture; the periodic sale of garden produce, forest products, handicrafts, and wage labor; and participation in culturally and environmentally focused tourism ventures. Oil extraction has contaminated much of this People's lands and rivers, and oil-related health problems are prevalent in Cofán communities.

The Siekopai

The Siekopai are a small Upper Amazonian nation numbering less than 1500 in population. They once had an immense territory stretching around 7,000,000 acres from Ecuador into Colombia and Peru but have now been confined to 50,000 acres over 100 miles away from that ancestral territory. They speak Pai'koka, a Tucanoan language. Despite the distressing impacts of colonization, missionary activity, palm oil production, land invasion and extractive industries on their territory and way of life, they still endeavor to practice the rich shamanic culture for which they're renowned, along with their knowledge of medicinal plants.

The Waorani

This Indigenous people from the Amazonian Region of Ecuador (Napo, Orellana, and Pastaza Provinces) once maintained one of the most extensive territories of all the Indigenous Peoples of Amazonian Ecuador. The almost 2,000 Waoranis of the Amazon reside in their ancestral lands between the Curaray and Napo rivers and speak Waorani, a linguistic isolate not known to be related to any other language. In the last four decades, they have shifted from a hunter-gatherer way of life to mainly living in permanent forest settlements due to the impacts of logging, oil extraction, and colonist settlement.

The Siona

This ancestral Indigenous people live in the Ecuadorian Amazon and Putumayo in Colombia and number less than 500 in population. The rubber boom and slave trade in the late 19th century have driven the Siona's massive displacement, and they are now sparsely settled in several communities. The Siona people used to sustain their families through hunting, fishing, small-plot farming and gathering. Today, the relentless pressure from colonialism and extractive industries has meant a loss of their rich culture and a loss of language, a Tucanoan language, among the younger generations. Today, many work in tourism ventures owned by outsiders. 

The Problem

Initiated with the colonization process, the exploitation of the Amazon forest has persisted and worsened over the last five decades. The impacts on its many Indigenous peoples have been dramatic. The effects on global climate patterns are yet to be fully understood. Extractive industries like mining, logging, oil drilling, hydro-electric damming, and agribusinesses such as rubber and palm oil plantations and cattle ranching have caused mass deforestation, loss of wildlife and biodiversity and contamination of water, soil and air.

We've heard it countless times before: the destruction of the Amazon rainforest would mean even warmer temperatures, more frequent floods and even longer droughts, and consequently, an increase in zoonotic diseases and infections and intolerable scarcity of the resources of sowing and maintaining crops.

For the Indigenous peoples that have inhabited these lands for millennia, it has already meant a loss of identity, culture and resources to preserve ways of life that have had no negative impact on this ecosystem. Indigenous peoples have been remarkably resisting the colonialist attack that began over 500 years ago. But escaping the insatiable Western economies can only be accomplished with ongoing courageous work like Indigenous land patrolling.

Numerous studies prove what Indigenous peoples have been saying for years: they are the best guardians of the natural territories—they have been doing so for generations. The evidence speaks for itself. Collectively, Indigenous peoples protect 80% of the world's biodiversity and half of all standing forests left in the Amazon basin.

...

Amazonia 80 X 2025

A REGIONAL ASSESSMENT ON WHERE AND HOW TO PROTECT 80% BY 2025

The Grantee

The Ceibo Alliance

The Ceibo Alliance is an alliance of 4 Indigenous nations from the Upper Amazon – Cofán, Waorani, Siona and Siekopai – forged through a project for securing access to clean water against decades of contamination from oil companies back in 2014. The four nations came together to confront the myriad and complex threats faced by Indigenous peoples and to protect the remaining standing rainforest in the Upper Amazon through a holistic model that includes:

  1. advancing and upholding Indigenous rights;
  2. providing capacity training and equipment for community-led territorial monitoring and mapping, to protect lands from deforestation in real time and demarcate territorial boundaries while supporting land titling processes:
  3. revitalizing millenary cultures and practices and investing in new models of intercultural education, community-based alternative economies and Indigenous-led multimedia storytelling. 
...

Alianza Ceibo

Luchando por la defensa de nuestra cultura, territorio y vida.

The Project 

Land Defense Training School for Indigenous Land Patrols in the Upper Amazon, Ecuador

Building off the last seven years of grassroots movement strengthening, Ceibo Alliance supports 15 land patrols across the Upper Amazon to continue their ongoing efforts to protect vast and biodiverse territories from mounting extraction and other illegal activities. With a consistent presence in the field, land patrols can detect activities that harm the forest and Indigenous way of life, document the evidence necessary to denounce these activities, and establish the most appropriate territorial defense strategies, including using legal channels to prevent future encroachments. In addition, the Ceibo Alliance strengthens community autonomy through capacity building for Indigenous monitors. Finally, it facilitates knowledge-sharing between Indigenous nationalities to build solidarity among those actively monitoring and defending their territories.

To scale their territorial defense training model regionally, they will launch a Land Defense School that strengthens the capacity of land patrols across the region and provides a space for knowledge exchange that spurs collective action across stakeholder communities. With the funds from Azimuth's grant, the Ceibo Alliance will implement a project to:

1. Help build capacity for 20 Indigenous monitors and mappers across four Indigenous nations in the Upper Amazon to defend 1,000,000 hectares of highly biodiverse forests from increasing resource extraction, industrial agriculture, illegal poaching, and other threats. It will do so through 8 training modules, all combining theoretical and practical learning, ranging from using GPS and satellite images to track biodiversity loss to data systematization and developing territorial defense and rights strategies to instigate community action.

2. Focus on building greater biodiversity-loss tracking, rights, and communications knowledge with the 20 participants of the Land Defense School.

3. Leverage the experience of expert land patrols with robust knowledge that can inspire participants and strengthen similar territorial defense processes across the region.


In this episode of our "Voices from the Ground" series, we hear from Executive Director Gladys Vargas and Secretary Alicia Salazar about the establishment the new Land Defense School, but also about the Alianza's intergenerational commitment, the growing diversity of their endeavors, and the aspiration to unite more Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon:

Azimuth World Foundation is a proud supporter of the land defenders of the Ceibo Alliance and we urge you to support their work. To make a donation, contact Alianza Ceibo directly through their social media accounts.

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