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Assisting the Indigenous Shuar People

Preserving a rich culture while conserving thousands of acres of tropical forests

NCI is working with the indigenous Shuar people to conserve thousands of acres of tropical humid and cloud forests in their ancestral territories while at the same time assisting in the preservation of their rich culture and history. With our support, the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment recently declared three Protected Forest and Vegetation Areas with a total surface of 37,500 acres in the Yacuambi area of Zamora Chinchipe province.

The Shuar, historically known as Yaguarzongos and Bracamoros, are the only indigenous people in the region, and are now subject to strong pressures of assimilation. They are characterized by strong cultural traditions and a unique vision of the universe, manifested through their language, food, myths, music and dance. Their ancestral land rights are guaranteed by the Constitution of Ecuador, but validating those rights and securing their legitimacy requires the support and action of public and private institutions.

NCI is working with the Shuar centers of the Kiim, Kurints and Washikiat to protect their areas known as Tiwi Nunka, Tukupi Nunke and Michi Nunka. Working through a cooperative agreement, NCI is helping to legalize their ancestral lands and establish and obtain official recognition of these areas as community reserves. NCI also works with these centers on productive projects and improving access to healthcare, education and nutrition. Special emphasis has been placed on initiatives focused on the protection and strengthening of Shuar culture. We are currently exploring the socio-economic conditions and the methods of production used by the indigenous Shuar group in the Kiim community to develop potential alternatives that reduce social pressures on the forest while simultaneously maintaining traditional resource management methods.

Recently, with NCI’s support, the Council for Development of the Nationalities and Peoples of Ecuador (Codenpe), has officially recognized 9 additional Shuar indigenous communities in the watershed of the Nangaritza River. This measure legally accredits the existence of these communities and guarantees them a series of rights, benefits, and protection on the part of the State. The territories of these communities total nearly 40,000 acres for the survival of the Shuar and ecosystems rich in biological diversity.

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