Ashaninka communities join forces to investigate illegal logging activites in Brazil

Ashaninka communities join forces to investigate illegal logging activites in Brazil

Ashaninka inspecting the border. Photo: CPI / AC
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September 19, 2011

Two Ashaninka communities have denounced the ongoing invasion of “clandestine Peruvian loggers” in Terra Indigena Kampa do Rio Amônea, an indigenous territory in the state of Acre, Brazil.

The denunciation immediately follows a four-day inspection of the territory by 15 Ashaninka men from the Soweto community of Alto Rio Tamaya in Peru, and the Apiwtxa community in Brazil.

Armed with spears and GPS trackers, the inspection team set out on August 29 to confirm the presence of Peruvian loggers in the Brazilian territory, which is a well-known home of Indigenous Peoples who live in voluntary isolation.

The invasion made headlines last month when members of FUNAI reported that they were surrounded by a group of heavily armed men, most likely drug traffickers, from Peru. FUNAI also expressed grave concerns that Isolated Peoples in the region were being hunted by the same men.

The Ashaninka did not encounter any Isolated Peoples during their inspection mission, however, they were able to confirm that loggers are actively harvesting mahogany and cedar, two endangered hardwoods that are protected by law. According to statements from the Apiwtxa community, the inspection team found:

1) A clearing and a camp approximately 200 meters from the border, between the Markers 43 and 44, where “cut timber was found and several cedar, mahogany, copaiba copal and cumaru marked for felling and removal.”

2) A second camp, between markers 42 and 43, where loggers are using a motorized winch, “a system of exploitation that causes very high environmental impact.”

3) A group of eight Peruvian and Brazilian youth in the middle of the forest. One of the men from the expedition later said that “The adult in the group was not there, only his son. They sat and listened like children to our appeal to not go to the Brazilian side.”

Following the inspection mission (which fortunately ended without incident), the Ashaninka presented their findings at a meeting on September 2 with the coordinator of the Pro-Indian Commission of Acre (CPI-AC), and agents of the Federal Police and the local office of the IBAMA.

During the meeting it was agreed that a second investigation would be carried out. According the Apiwtxa community, it will include “flights over the marked locations and for verifying other clearings in addition to what was seen on the ground. This new inspection mission is due to occur in the next few days, and also will serve for making photographic and filmed records.”

The issue of long-term monitoring was also discussed at the meeting, with the Ashaninka offering to carry out monthly expeditions along to the border “[as long as] we have the logistical support of the FUNAI and IBAMA” said Issac Piyãko, leader of the Apiwtxa community. “This action would be reinforced with an over-flight in the region conducted by the FUNAI or IBAMA every two, three months”, Piyãko added.

Putting the invasion in context, the Ashaninka explain that, back in 2002, the government of Peru “granted immense areas of forest [through a new forest law] to large scale logging companies. Without due inspection, the policy [has facilitated] the illegal activities, which invade the native community areas.”

Malu Ochoa, the Executive Coordinator of CPI/AC, examines this fact in “Sustainability without Borders”, an in-depth analysis of the Ashaninka’s efforts to conserve biodiversity in the border region. Ochoa explains that,

In Peru, as of 2000, the new Forest Law [Lei Florestal] and Wildlife [Fauna Silvestre] (Law 2738) permitted the creation of the “Bosques de produccion permanent”, domain areas of the State dedicated exclusively to forest management. Within these, are defined Units of Exploitation, large areas of forest for the removal of wood, by contract bidding, were delivered to businesses and legal entities/persons in the form of 40 year concessions. According to the Instituto Del Bien Comum – IBC, there are concessions that amount to 50,000 hectares. It so happens however, that this legality contributes largely to the illegal logging in the region, becoming a true chaos for the indigenous populations.

The great problem with this “shredding/retailing” of the Peruvian Amazon in the form of forest concessions was generated by the common practice of governments of the Amazon countries, to create policies for the region with purely economic goals. The intention is to remove the non-renewable natural resources and to construct large scale infrastructure projects (IIRSA), without considering the negative impacts and, worse, without knowing the local demands and/or realities. In the Peruvian case, without the “knowledge” of the existence of native communities and of populations of isolated indigenous peoples.

“In Peru, the Ashaninka people have no title to land and have been in the struggle for demarcation for 10 years. “Our relatives are constantly threatened, and some already murdered. They remain in the gun sights of the invaders and because of this we are requesting help for the people,” said Piyãko.

“What most concerns us is that the authorities until now have not assumed their responsibilities. If we do not solve the problem, our territory will continue to be invaded, and we will continue to suffer the death threats,” added a Peruvian Ashaninka leader, whose name was held back to avoid retaliation.

The Soweto community says they have already attended several meetings in the city of Pucallpa; however, the government asserts that it just doesn’t have the budget to carry out any of their own inspections.

The Apiwtxa community has faced similar inaction. Most recently, in 2008, FUNAI agreed to set up a monitoring post on the Brazil side of the border, “but as of today, this has not been done”, said Piyãko.

At least Brazil has started to pay a little more attention to the situation. However, the Ashaninka hope that both governments will take a more proactive role to stop the invasion altogether. To that end, the leader of the Apiwtxa community suggests a new preservation policy to prevent future invasions and a joint effort aimed at removing the existing invaders.

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