Photo - Mike Goldwater
A cooperative of indigenous cocoa producers based in a remote part of the Peruvian rainforest was awarded the biennial UN Development Programme’s Equator Prize in recognition of its "outstanding community effort to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity” at a ceremony in New York yesterday (Tuesday, 24th September).
Kemito Ene (which means “Cocoa from the Ene River") was formed in 2010, with support from the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) and its partner, Asháninka indigenous association Central Asháninka del Río Ene, to help improve the livelihoods of indigenous Asháninka families, who largely depend on the rainforest for survival and were commonly tricked by middle-men when selling their cacao. RFUK has worked with the Asháninka since 1998, as Peru was emerging from an era of violent conflict with the Shining Path terrorist group, during which thousands of Asháninka perished or were forced to flee their homes.
In the prestigious ceremony yesterday at the UN Climate Action Summit, Felixto Cabanillas, president of the association, was chosen to speak on behalf of all the winners. In his emotive speech he urged investors to invest in indigenous and local enterprises to protect the planet, and asked governments to recognise the value and opportunities that indigenous peoples and local communities offer: "We are not a barrier to development; we are its agents… Environmentally unsustainable business models can and must change. Only then we will reach our climate goals".
Aldo Soto, RFUK's Senior Coordinator for the Amazon has been working with Kemito Ene since 2012: "The Amazon is reaching an irreversible tipping point, that will put all the planet in danger. Kemito Ene is a model of sustainable development for rainforest communities creating positive impact for both people and planet. We need impact investors to invest in these kinds of initiatives, and we need them to do so now- we don't have any more time to spare to stop the climate crisis".