Indigenous Voices

Peru

‘All of this space is Achuarti Nungkári, the territory of the Achuar. From these lands, forests and waters we obtain the food we need to live and the materials we need to construct, weave and make our houses, products and crafts, In the remote areas the animals that we hunt live and grow. We depend on them and respect their spaces. We get every kind of forest resource that allows us to feed our children and grandchildren. From the waters we get fish to eat and with the crystal clear water from the springs and waterfalls we wash and clean ourselves. Here is where our ancestors lived and relied on the same resources and the same land. They looked after it and they left it for us as a reserve which we use today. Because of this we can live, and because of this we have life.’ – Achuar leader, Huitoyacu river, Loreto region.

‘Many agribusiness, logging and oil concessions overlap with indigenous communities’ lands. Loggers are meant to reforest after cutting timber, but they do not. Nobody supervises. How will the forest recover? Loggers not only cut wood but take fish and hunt birds and mammals, our traditional community food sources.’ – Alfonso López, ACODECOSPAT.

‘There are now more than 500 km of oil pipelines and many roads in areas where our people have traditionally hunted for food. This has changed the way of life of our communities, who have to go further to hunt. The government has acknowledged that our territories are contaminated, but little action has been taken.’ – Aurelio Chino Dagua, FEDIQUEP.

‘In the Setapo sector the area that has been exposed is all rocks. Nothing can grow except lianas and small bushes. Even in the communities where there is no mining, there are extremely high levels of mercury poisoning, which shows how deeply it has got into the food chain.’ – Indigenous leader, Madre de Dios.

‘The massive dams are a direct threat to our way of life. The flooding of the territories near the river will mean death for indigenous peoples. We are totally opposed to the construction of these dams.’ – H. Kinin, Awajun leader, ORPIAN.

‘We indigenous leaders find ourselves defenceless and faced with repeated death threats from groups of land traffickers, organised mafia and corporate entities opposed to the recognition and titling of our communities.’ – Declaration by FERISHAM, April 2014.

‘The river Puquiri was a place where we used to fish, but it’s no longer a river – it’s mud due to all the tailings and sediment. There were four streams in the community where we used to fish. Now the miners work there, and there are no fish any more. It’s all mud.’ – Indigenous leader, Madre de Dios

Colombia

‘In the Putumayo there is much fumigation with herbicides to control illegal coca plantations. This damages the forest and biodiversity. The herbicides are so strong and resistant that there is a lot of forest food that we cannot consume any longer.’ – Indigenous leader and workshop delegate Carmenza Tez Juogibioy, Resguardo Indígena Camentsá del Putumayo.

‘Land rights are not only about having land title, but also about having the guarantee that the community can continue to live in the same place.’ – Workshop delegate Mayra Johanna Tenjo Hurtado, Instituto Latinoamericano para una Sociedad y un Derecho Alternativos.

‘For us our territory is our mother that gives us life. Our territory gives us traditional medicine that enables the spiritual guidance of the people.’ – Indigenous leader and workshop delegate Carmenza Tez Juogibioy, Resguardo Indígena Camentsá del Putumayo.

‘Whenever a forest is destroyed, a way of life, a language and a culture are lost. It is a form of genocide that is committed.’ – Yudy Jacanamejoy, young person from the Camentsá community.

‘Other people do not know about indigenous peoples. They say we do not exist. There is no monetary recompense for environmental destruction. We are already suffering from the consequences of road building in our territories. They clear-cut forest, increasing the number of landslides. The water that we receive via the river is only 10% of what it used to be.’ – Indigenous leader and workshop delegate Carmenza Tez Juogibioy, Resguardo Indígena Camentsá del Putumayo.

‘Our lands are now like small islands of forest surrounded by deforested land. The soybean farmers spray pesticides and herbicides from aircraft. The poison falls on our lands and fields and damages our crops. We sometimes suffer hunger. We suffer a lot from the pesticides! It pains us to see our land and water sources inside the private properties of Brazilians. These places are sacred to us, yet we have no access. Our forests are being destroyed and our waters are being polluted.’ – Celina Arce, Organización Pai Reko Pave.

Paraguay

‘In Paraguay the government is run by companies, and that is seen as normal. Companies have a lot of money and can do what they want with impunity. We need international agreements that force our government to be held accountable for its actions.’ – Workshop delegate Alberto Vázquez Ayala, Federación por la Autodeterminación de los Pueblos Indígenas (FAPI).

‘The cattle ranchers are clearing forests without even letting the communities know about it. SEAM issues licences to the ranchers to deforest without giving us any say. We have never experienced any participation in the environmental licensing process.’ – Leader of indigenous Northern Enlhet people.

Guyana

‘The international companies and governments seem to be in collaboration to destroy our forests. Major logging companies in Guyana are from India, Malaysia and China. Is it because Malaysia is so deforested that they are now moving to Latin America? Why are agencies such as the World Bank and the international community not supporting us to stop this destruction of the forests, our way of life and the ecosystems? Is this “blood timber”? Our communities benefit very little from this mining and logging, but the long-term effects are huge and permanent.’ – Workshop delegate Sharon Atkinson, Amerindian Peoples Association.

‘We do not understand how the government says it wants to save the forests, while it allows massive forest destruction by big Chinese and Malaysian companies, yet it punishes small people like us under the LCDS. Why do the authorities pick on us Amerindian people?’ – Villager, Kwebana, Region 1, north-west Guyana.

‘Villagers only find out about concessions when they go out hunting or fishing and see the companies’ activities. The communities are not informed by the government. The government does not respect or recognise us as people living there from time immemorial.’ – Workshop delegate David Wilson, Amerindian Peoples Association.

Indonesia

‘Communities have proven ability to manage the forests for many generations. They have innovative knowledge to protect the forest and develop food and economic livelihoods as well as spiritual life within the forest. They also contribute to local and national development and participate in the restoration of damaged forest. Governments should empower and develop these communities’ skills and knowledge.’ – Edy Subahani, POKKER SHK.

‘In Papua land is like our mother, giving life and continuity to the generations. We women care for the land. Yet now we have to walk a long way to feed our families because of companies taking over the land.’ – Workshop delegate from Papua.

‘Twelve villages in Merauke are now starving due to company and government actions. Yet these communities are charged government taxes.’ – Workshop delegate from Papua.

‘In this last ten years especially there has been a huge influx of miners. The people are being torn apart. Carib women live in fear and there are savage rapes and terrible violations. A lot of people are dying from HIV/AIDS. Carib people are killing themselves in despair as well. Just the last two months there have been four suicides.’ – Villager, Baramita, northern Guyana.

Malaysia

‘Orang Asli rights to the lands are deemed to be in designated aboriginal reserves and can be abolished at any time because they have no legal title to the land and are not recognised by the government, unlike Malay reservations.’ – Tijah Yok Chopil, Orang Asli activist.

‘Forests are our lifeline to ensure a sustainable balance between nature and ourselves, and from one generation to the next. We have the responsibility to ensure our forests are well taken care of … The forests are the basis for our existence, our spiritual beliefs and our identity.’ – Orang Asli community forest warden.

‘Companies operating on our customary lands have robbed us of our clean water. Our trees have been cut down. What we asked for – schools, transport – we did not get. There is nowhere left for us to find food. We do not have our traditional medicine any longer.’ –Workshop delegate.

‘The logging companies will often use bribes and offers, for example, a generator and fuel in exchange for no protests against logging.’ – Village headman T.K. Balan.

Cameroon

‘Baka lands are bought by outsiders for agribusiness and taken over for other large-scale developments. This reduces the forest available to us and is destroying our knowledge and our language. The Baka have less and less deep forest to practise our hunting and gathering and to maintain and educate our young people.’ – Indigenous activist and municipal councillor Venant Messe.

‘The forest feeds and takes care of us. Our people know how to protect the forest. But the state is taking away the forest by force. We no longer have access to forest land, and without our forest livelihoods, it is far harder to educate our children.’ – Workshop delegate Marceline Louanga.

‘We were promised 3 million CFA francs as compensation for our land but so far we have received nothing … They told us this is development, yet we have no schools, no hospital and no transportation … The government did not respect its promise.’ – Bagyéli man.

‘At the present rate of destruction, our children will not enjoy the forest … In the days of our parents and grandparents the forest was very intact and had everything we needed from it. But now there is nothing.’ – Woman village chief.

Democratic Republic of Congo

‘We rely on the rainforest for our food and other means of subsistence. Companies urge our communities to sign agreements with promises of benefits, but then they cut the trees and leave us nothing – not enough clean water, no electricity, no schools. There are many instances of women being raped.’ – Workshop delegate Marie-Dorothée Lisenga Bafalikike, Réseau des Populations Autochtones et Locales pour la Gestion Durable des Ecosystèmes Forestiers (REPALEF).

‘Kilo Goldmines [a Canadian company] and the Chinese have forbidden us to enter our forests, where their helicopters land to collect minerals. They cut down our medicinal plants. We no longer have honey or mushrooms. Our traditional fishponds are ruined. We can no longer access our hunting grounds, which mining companies now occupy, or our sacred sites. We are forced to work for the Bantu in order to have food, salt and clothes. The Chinese have work camps everywhere. Four families in our village were tortured by loggers for refusing to carry hundreds of sawn planks on their backs. We gain nothing from these activities. The companies won’t negotiate, and the local authorities are complicit. Our culture is disintegrating, and we may be forced off our lands forever.’ – Members of Ngazula family, Mambasa region, Orientale province.

Liberia

‘The Bomi communities are suffering. They have lost their forests. Everything is planted with oil palm. The end result is migration, out of hardship. People move to other counties in search of land so that they can survive.’ – Boimah Coleman, Gbarpolu County resident.

‘In theory Liberia has a land policy that gives the people of Gbarpolu our customary rights. But our fear is that our land has already gone. How can it be that we own the land yet somebody has given out the land?’ – Boimah Coleman, Gbarpolu County resident.

‘Because I stood up to the company, people accused me of being a man, but I carry the spirit of a thousand women. For those of us under struggle with a palm company, we must remain strong. My land is my land. Your land is your land. Your forest and bushes are your bank. Don’t get tired. We cannot agree to leave our land.’ – Deyeatee Kardor, Jogbahn Clan Chairwoman.

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