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The Indigenous Maijuna

We worked alongside the indigenous Maijuna and Kichwa people for eight years on the creation of the Maijuna-Kichwa Regional Conservation Area in Peru’s northern Amazon, and played an integral role in its approval at the national level in 2015. Bigger than California’s Yosemite National Park, this vast reserve protects nearly one million acres of rainforest and its extraordinary biodiversity, as well as the Maijuna’s ancestral homeland.

The Maijuna are one of Peru’s most vulnerable ethic groups, numbering fewer than 500 people. The story of the Maijuna-Kichwa RCA began in 2008 when Romero Rios, a Maijuna chief, walked into our office in Iquitos, Peru with a remarkable request – to establish a conservation area that would protect the four remaining villages in their ancestral homeland of the Amazon rainforest.

“The loggers demolished everything; the woods, the animals, the fish, they even hunted frogs. We were left with nothing but our hunger and out poverty,” said Sebastian Rios, another Maijuna leader. In concert with local governments and communities, NCI helped conserve the land surrounding the four remaining Maijuna villages, located deep in the Peruvian Amazon, and implement a sustainable development plan so future generations can thrive.

This collaborative approach to conservation resulted in the approval of 977,600 acres of Amazon rainforest – the Maijuna-Kichwa Regional Conservation Area (RCA) – by the regional government of Loreto, Peru. This conservation success happened because of the vision of the government, our assistance and support over many years, and because these indigenous communities held firmly to the unbreakable bond between their ancient culture and their natural environment – and acted to preserve both. This reserve now protects a vast area of Amazon rainforest for the benefit of local people and all of its extraordinary biological diversity, including tapirs, jaguars and giant river otters.

The Maijuna-Kichwa RCA is among a growing catalog of South American reserves that aim to conserve the environment as well as cultural identity, and for many of these native groups the stakes are extremely high. While in more industrialized parts of the globe, people are able for better or worse to live “apart” from nature, native dwellers of the Amazon Basin make no such distinction. A healthy ecosystem is essential to indigenous groups and their livelihoods.

“Nature and Culture International provides us with support on productive projects such as the management of aguaje palms, chambira reforestation, fish repopulation, and turtle breeding, by bringing our lakes back to life. With Nature and Culture International, we are working on improving our handicrafts, such as the mask-carving project with the Sucussari community, the chambira baskets in Puerto Huaman and Nueva Vida villages, and the jungle-seed-based bijouterie in San Pablo de Totolla. The NCI field staff works in a coordinated fashion with our people. In this way we continue to progress.”

– Romero Rios Ushiñahua, President of the Maijuna Indigenous Federation