The Self-Determination Initiative lays down a coherent strategy for the Shipibo group to mount an effective fight against deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon and move towards political and economic autonomy. It supports The Council of Self-Governance of the Shipibo-Konibo-Xetebo People in bringing together its 176 communities to reclaim its integral territory, creating the conditions to resist extractivism and pursue sustainable alternatives. By providing Coshikox with access to broad collaborative alliances, financial resources, and innovative technology, the Center lays forth a demonstrably effective method of capacity building rooted in the existing governance structures— a strategy which ensures that local communities remain at the center of decision-making and project-development.
Taking into consideration that the continued health of forests is inextricably linked to the wellbeing of forest people, it should come as no surprise that indigenous struggles for autonomy function in parallel to grassroots environmental activism. The Ucayali Region of the Amazon— one of eight deforestation hotspots in Peru— is an epicenter of these dynamics. Rainforest protection is one of the most effective technologies we have to absorb carbon emissions and reduce climate change. However, efforts in forest management have all too often overlooked the possibility of fortifying the indigenous communities with longtime stewardship over these territories.
Research demonstrates that indigenous lands have lower rates of deforestation than national parks, nature preserves, and private sanctuaries. Nevertheless, despite all of the proof, Indigenous Peoples are often left alone on the frontlines of the resistance against the mega-companies usurping their territories and on-going state encroachment for large infrastructure and carbon energy projects.
The Shipibo Self-Determination Initiative offers contribution to a powerful synergy of projects and partnerships that empower the Shipibo to defend their territories and move towards a viable future. Different program areas work as an integrated system, setting the bases for significant, long-term impacts.
Self-governance is the starting point for self-determination through support for autonomous, representative organizing structures that unify the Shipibo to act as a nation, mobilize a broad base of resistance and cultivate equitable, participatory and sustainable modes of governance. The initiative starts from the foundation of the Shipiboʼs existing governance structure, Coshikox, as a way to ensure that local communities remain at the center of all project-development. We facilitate the Ani Tsinkiti, the annual assembly that bring together leadership from throughout the region, motivating bottom-up organizing and participatory decision-making. We cover travel expenses for leaders from distant communities– with a focus on women's participation.
Participatory mapping rendered through digital cartographic technologies has been implemented in order to provide Coshikox with the tools for environmental and territorial management and push forward its political agenda. Combining indigenous and scientific spatial knowledge, the initiative aims to develop a hybridized form of spatial representation that recognize and respect the uniqueness and importance of indigenous spatial expressions. The participatory mapping project gives the Shipibo multiple, integrated instruments to gather data to define territorial borders, earn land titles, quantify natural resources, denounce land violations and enforce their right to free, prior, and informed consent. It is also the platform to create cultural maps that locate social, environmental, and historical information— such as the sites of ancestral stories or legendary events, representing a self-described digital presence with the potencial of instilling a spirit of renewed indigenous identity— one that can adapt, participate, and even advance novel ideas in todayʼs world.
The Legal Assistance Program has been collaboratively envisioned with Coshikox and Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL) among other collaborators,
to tackle the environmental protection of the Ucayali in parallel to indigenous territorial, political, and economic autonomy. Through the sustained financial support of emergency legal response and strategic litigation, as well as the education of future indigenous legal practitioners, the Legal Assistance Program is a long-term project toward social and environmental justice.
Plant-Based Economies to introduce entrepreneurial opportunities for the Shipibo to monetize their plant knowledge and gain local, culturally-specific employment. The Shipibo Agroforestry Cooperative Koshicoop is an initiative which fosters coordination among indigenous farming communities as opposed to competition. It has the potencial of reconciling sustainable development and conservation through a market solution, by creating a long-term employment opportunity to decrease out-migration from indigenous communities, while demonstrating that non-timber forest products are higher in value than the price of the logs the Amazon is destroyed for.
Radio Shipibo is an independent community radio program, an efficient and low-cost method to ensure coordinated communication across geographically dispersed communities. Through programs in the Shipibo language, it reinforces cultural pride and language-preservation, while informing and educating. The Shipibo live in 176 different communities along the Ucayali river, many of which are separated by vast distances— an obstacle to collective organizing that also makes remote communities isolated and weak to defend against territorial threats. Radio Shipibo offers a simple but effective technology to have streamlined communication, creating a unified base for coordinated action and administration.