Blog: Nurturing Cultural Resilience: The Asháninka Communities and CARE Federation in Peru’s Ene Region
August 31, 2023
The CARE Federation is a testament to the strength, resilience and unity of the Asháninka Indigenous People of Peru's Ene region. In this blog, RFUK explores the Asháninka way of life and how CARE’s support brings about positive change for the 19 communities it represents.
Rising from Troubled Times
Founded in 1993, CARE was born at a time of hardship and despair. Plagued by terrorist violence, the Ene region suffered countless casualties, disappearances and displacements of its people. Confronted by these challenges, the Asháninka recognised the urgency of coming together to protect themselves, secure their territories, restore peace and ensure their voices were heard.
Adapting to New Realities
In the years that followed, particularly from 2005 onwards, CARE took on the responsibility of guiding and accompanying its communities through different challenges, ranging from age-old issues, such as land encroachments and violence, to hydroelectric dams that would have destroyed their ancestral forests. As such changes swept in at an increasingly rapid pace, the Asháninka people adapted, combining both traditional and contemporary approaches to meet their changing needs.
A Vision for Sustainable Development
CARE adopted a comprehensive planning agenda known as Kametsa Asaike (‘the wellbeing of the Asháninka people of the Ene River’). Developed through a highly participatory process that included dozens of consultations and surveys with the community, this agenda steers the organisation's course and guides its leadership, ensuring their actions align with the best interests of grassroots communities.
Principles Guiding Well-being
The culmination of this process resulted in eight fundamental principles that now govern the Asháninka communities' well-being and guide their interactions with the government, NGOs and other external actors:
- Living as Ashaninkasanori, adhering to the unwritten yet lived codes of conduct that turned their grandparents' lives into a peaceful existence.
- Feeding themselves with what they know, as many generations have done before them, drawing from food sources found in the forests, rivers and streams.
- Ensuring safety and tranquillity on their ancestral land.
- Living in peace, living free from terrorism.
- Enhancing their lives by becoming self-sufficient.
- Keeping in good health thanks to their ancestral knowledge and receiving care from clinics and brigades.
- Getting an education to empower themselves as Asháninka people.
- Thriving with an organization that listens and safeguards their rights.
A United Path Forward
Today, CARE and the Asháninka are putting these principles into practice. RFUK supports them to implement a land-use strategy for the territory including through the development and implementation of participatory land use plans which establish zoning for various activities, and assign responsibility and rules for each. The plans – which are so far unified across five communities, covering about 130,000 hectares – mark a historic moment where community members, leaders and CARE representatives jointly endorse and formalise a collective land use governance.
Other activities include training community forest custodians on using a real-time tracking system known as CIPTA (Centre for Information and Territorial Planning), an instrument created by the national Indigenous organisation AIDESEP to safeguard the territorial rights of Indigenous groups across the Peruvian Amazon. CIPTA empowers communities to oversee and uphold their land use blueprints, as well as the regulations governing the use of their forest resources. The early warning and action system also enables them to monitor and report on illegal deforestation and wildlife trade or health issues in the territory.
As an additional measure to CIPTA, communities have received training in the use of RFUK's ForestLink tool to monitor and enhance their productive activities, such as the cultivation of sustainable cocoa. This resource also operates as a means for the local cooperative Kemito Ene to consistently gather real-time data, thereby enabling more efficient assistance to agricultural households.
In the heart of Peru's Ene region, the Asháninka communities and CARE Federation are proof of their enduring power of unity, adaptation and cultural resilience. Through their shared efforts, they carve out a brighter future, one that honours their heritage while navigating the challenges of the present.