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Indigenous Shuar Gain Title to 14,000 Acres of Ancestral Territory


Strategic Area: People - Wild Places -
Content Type: News
Country: Ecuador -

The indigenous Shuar have lived in and cared for Ecuador’s rainforest for centuries. Thanks to your support, the Shuar Kiim Center community finally gained title to their land.

Protecting land in collaboration with local cultures is at the heart of Nature and Culture International’s mission. With your support, we conserve our planet’s wild places so that nature and culture can thrive.

In a remarkable victory for conservation and the Shuar people, Nature and Culture is thrilled to announce the titling of 14,021 acres of Tiwi Nunka forest to the Shuar Kiim Center in southern Ecuador. The titling follows 21 years of effort and secures ancestral territory and resources for 33 families within the community.
Tiwi Nunka spans paramo grasslands, tropical mountain forest, and the Amazon rainforest in Zamora, Ecuador. Its diverse habitat is home to an abundance of plant and animal species including the threatened mountain tapir (Tapirus pinchaque), the vulnerable spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), and trees belonging to the Podocarpus genus. Its paramos and forests capture, retain, and store water from mist and rain, ensuring the provision of water resources for the Shuar people.
The Shuar Kiim Center, located within Tiwi Nunka, plays an integral role in protecting the area and managing its resources. Tiwi Nunka is not only an important source of water, food, medicine, and material for the Shuar but also culturally significant as their ancestral homeland. The community lives according to their ancestral customs, relating their vision of life to the natural environment.
“We want to protect the forests of Tiwi Nunka because they hold our last resources,” says Marta Kayuk, President of the Shuar Kiim Center.
Tiwi Nunka is an important source of water, food, medicine, and material for the Shuar. Photo by Cesar Aguirre.
Tiwi Nunka was declared in 2008 by the Ministry of Environment and Water of Ecuador as a Protective Forest and Vegetation Area. However, the Shuar Kiim Center did not legally own the land. Without ownership, the land was vulnerable to invaders and unsustainable activities.
Recognizing land rights and partnering with indigenous people are important in and of themselves, but also are crucial for conservation efforts. Research consistently shows that forests where indigenous peoples have secure land rights have significantly lower deforestation rates and release less carbon dioxide than adjacent lands.
Families within the Shuar Kiim Center began the process to secure title to their land 21 years ago. According to Kirup Washington Tiwi, President of the Provincial Federation of the Shuar Nationality of Zamora Chinchipe, “it has been a long process with struggles, but when we work in unity, everything is possible.”
Nature and Culture began supporting the Shuar Kiim Center in gaining title to their land in 2019. Thanks to support from donors like you, land title resolutions were just enacted by the Ministry of Environment and Water of Ecuador on May 19, 2021. The resolutions officially secure 14,021 acres within Tiwi Nunka for protection and management by the Shuar Kiim Center.
Shuar man in forest
Working in collaboration with indigenous leaders and the Ministry of Environment and Water, Nature and Culture provided community, technical, and legal support. Our work was carried out with funding from the Andes Amazon Fund and generous donors like you!
With your help, Nature and Culture will support the Shuar in upgrading their protective forest to Ecuador’s National System of Protected Areas. This national status will provide the reserve with the highest level of legal protection in the country and permanently prevent mining in the area.
Trotsky Riera Vite, a local conservationist at Nature and Culture, recalls his stay in the Shuar Kiim Center ten years ago. “One of the first phrases [the community] taught me in Shuar Chicham was’ iruntrarik kakarmaitji ‘, or ‘united we are stronger.”
“[Nature and Culture] will move forward together [with the Shuar] until we obtain the declaration as a Community Protected Area within the National System of Protected Areas,” says Trotsky.
Land title resolutions were enacted by the Ministry of Environment and Water of Ecuador on May 19, 2021. Photo by Claudia Roman.
Thank you for making this achievement possible! Your support has defended the Shuar’s way of life for generations to come and ensured wildlife and resources within Tiwi Nunka are protected in perpetuity.
Nature and Culture recently supported the Kichwas of Napo in gaining title to their land in Peru. Learn more here.