Since July 2020, the Ashaninka People of the Amônia River (Apiwtxa community), of the State of Acre, Brazil, have been carrying out a well-crafted and deeply needed campaign directly supporting Indigenous and local communities living in the Upper Juruá River region of the Amazon rainforest, in their battle against Covid-19.
This is both a story of inspired action, bringing hope and renewed energy for the challenges of this time, and an invitation to contribute, whether that be through spreading the message or offering financial support.
The Apiwtxa community has been able to isolate during the pandemic, living self-sufficiently on food produced by their community, as a result of decades of planning for autonomy, since their land rights were secured in 1992. But this is not true for many communities in their region, which is why they launched this campaign to support their fellow forest dwellers.
“We’re safe, but we never thought that the whole world could die and we’d be left. Nobody is so selfish to say that we are going to take care of ourselves and nobody else. We have responsibilities, we have a duty, and that is what we are doing with this campaign. We all feel this pain and we are trying to protect those inside the forest. This campaign focuses on the suffering that everyone has already undergone.” Campaign organiser and Ashaninka leader, Moisés Piyãko
So far, the campaign has raised US$103,000 (R$547,000), supporting 56 communities (29 non-indigenous, 27 indigenous). This equates to 1013 families, or approximately 3600 people, who have received special kits containing food, equipment, and essential products. The kits support the forest dwellers’ daily consumption needs as well as bringing supplies to strengthen local food production, such as planting equipment, and fishing materials, helping them become self-sufficient in both the short and long term.
Distributed along the six main rivers of Marechal Thaumaturgo, these kits have been crucial in reducing the need for communities living in remote locations to travel long distances to urban centres for food and other supplies. Such journeys put them at high risk of contracting Covid-19 and bringing it back to their community, the impact of which would be devastating. In remote communities, there is no access to medical support, and even if they were to travel extremely long distances to hospitals, the medical facilities in these Brazilian towns and cities are already overwhelmed.
“Historically susceptible to infectious diseases, forest peoples are considered high-risk groups,” says Maria Fernanda Ribeiro, in an article published on Mongabay.
As we are acutely aware, the global-wide impacts of Covid-19 are not over, and the Ashaninka’s campaign continues to offer a lifeline to Guardians of the Amazon Rainforest.
The 2021 goal of the Ashaninka for the Forest People’s Campaign is to raise an additional US$85,000 (R$453,000), to support 800 families (approximately 2,800 people).
You can find out more about the campaign, and offer your support by making a donation and/or sharing it with your community, here.
Ashaninka leaders Benki and Moises Piyako journeyed to London In September 2019 for the Flourishing Diversity Series, where they shared potent messages, moving hearts and minds.
Their stories of restoration, regeneration, and Indigenous wisdom in action demonstrated how human beings the world over must reconcile themselves within nature if we are to protect and restore the planet, take care of our companion species and ensure our survival. Discover more about the Ashaninka’s way of life, perspectives, and ecological successes, along with further details about this campaign, in this article published by Mongobay, and you can watch Benki’s powerful talk from Day 1 of the Flourishing Diversity Summit here.