First Indigenous-Led Conservation Area in Ecuador Announced
The Shuar nationality will be in charge of the management of Ecuador’s newest protected area, “Tiwi Nunka”.
In a ceremony, which took place on July 20th at the Shuar Kiim Center, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition (MAATE) officially announced that Tiwi Nunka will be the first protected area managed by an Indigenous nationality to enter the National System of Protected Areas (SNAP).
Located at the southeastern end of the Amazon basin, the province of Zamora Chinchipe is the 69th area in Ecuador’s SNAP. Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment, Gustavo Manrique said, Thursday, “Nature and Culture International is an important accelerator in realizing achievements like todays.”
The Tiwi Nunka Community Protected Area spans 13,585.48 acres and is located at the junction of the Yacuambi and Kiim rivers, in Zamora Chinchipe. The Shuar Kiim Center, part of this conservation area, is home to 200 people, including 35 families who will protect this territory.
This noteworthy achievement is the result of the collective effort and perseverance of the inhabitants of the Shuar Kiim Center, with the support of Nature and Culture International, the Provincial Federation of the Shuar Nationality of Zamora Chinchipe, MAATE and the financing of Andes Amazon Fund.
Nature lends us many elements for human life, that is why we want to conserve this protected area. Our elders left us a legacy to care for nature and all species. We want to conserve water, plants, and all that contains life,” says Milton Asamat, president of the Shuar Kiim Center.
The name of this protected area means “Territory of Tiwi” and pays homage to the first Shuar to settle in this area. Until the 1960s, members of this nationality had a semi-nomadic lifestyle. This changed, as the most productive parts of its territory were occupied by settlers. Thus, Shuar families began to form settlements, later known as Centros. Around 1958, Tiwi settled with his partner Shama at the site of this protected area.
In order to ultimately protect this territory from threats such as mining, the community, with the support of Nature and Culture International, asked MAATE to incorporate this territory into the National System of Protected Areas. This would ensure the highest level of protection. “We carried out a process of community consultation, everyone participating at their own level. Then, in a participatory way, the necessary documents were built for the recognition of the Protected Area. And finally, with the help of the MAATE technicians, the respective procedures were carried out to achieve approval,” explains Trotsky Riera-Vite, Nature and Culture’s Zamora Chinchipe Coordinator. This is how 13,585 acres were gained in the National System.
This declaration is important to preserve both nature and culture.
“At the regional level, this area is very important because a micro-corridor is being created with the Podocarpus National Park, the Tres Picachos Parish Reserve and the Yacuambi Decentralized Protected Area,” explains Riera-Vite. This area protects vital ecosystems such as páramo and the Amazon Rainforest.
The protection of the region also provides ecosystem services to the entire population of Zamora Chinchipe and the nearby province of Loja. “At a more local level it is fundamental for the people of the parish of La Paz and specifically for the Shuar Kiim Center because that is the head of the Kiim River, which provides the main source of protein [from fishing] for these communities,” adds Riera-Vite.
This area is also of great cultural importance for the Shuar. There are many waterfalls within this area, which are fundamental to the nationality’s culture. Water is the space through which the life force that they know as Arutam moves. In addition, it is essential for the survival of this Indigenous nationality since it is closely linked to their territories.
Furthermore, this declaration will help protect biodiversity. In this area there are records of the Andean bear, tapir and puma. These species use the territory of the Shuar Kiim Center, as they move between the Podocarpus National Park and the Yacuambi Decentralized Autonomous Protected Area.
With Nature and Culture’s support, and the determined will of MAATE, Tiwi Nunka is now the 69th protected area incorporated into the National System and the first to be managed by an Indigenous nationality in Ecuador, in this case the Shuar nationality. Now, Nature and Culture International Ecuador, in coordination with the MAATE, and with the financing of Andes Amazon Fund will accompany the community in the management of its territory.