The rivers and creeks upon which the indigenous inhabitants of Ecuador’s northern Amazon rely for drinking on a daily basis have been unrelentingly contaminated over decades by massive oil operations, large-scale African Palm plantations, sediment run-off from roads carved through the jungle, and untreated wastewaters from nearby urban settlements. Since 2011, ClearWater and Ceibo have installed more than 800 rainwater harvesting systems alongside family homes across the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon, providing a sustainable source of clean water for over 5,500 people. The Water Project is a hallmark of the Ceibo Alliance and ClearWater’s collaborative work in the Amazon. It was, in fact, the fundamental contributor to the establishment of the Ceibo Alliance, founded by representatives of the four indigenous nationalities involved in ClearWater's project. The Water Project has been the most impactful program that the organizations have undertaken both in terms of tangible benefits and visibility, helping Ceibo and ClearWater explain who we are, what we are doing and how we are doing it.
The Solar Energy Project is satisfying a basic need for families living deep in the jungle while supporting their self-sufficiency, reducing gasoline-consumption significantly, increasing their energy independence and at the same time reducing the sale of bush meat. Ceibo and ClearWater have already constructed 42 family-size solar energy installations and in 2017 will construct more than 100 in ten Cofan, Secoya, Siona and Waorani communities. The concrete and participatory nature of this project helps indigenous communities better understand our work in the Amazon and earns the Ceibo Alliance and ClearWater the continued trust of the communities. We believe that autonomy and independence from the external world through renewable energy is crucial to territorial conservation.
The Territorial Mapping Program is a direct response to the prevailing and recurring reality that indigenous peoples find themselves in when confronted by external actors, such as oil companies, mining companies, or government ministries, who use “official maps” backed by legal and community relations discourse to manipulate or deceive them into a host of disadvantaged situations, including unchecked exploitation of their natural resources. The territorial mapping process brings together elders, women and youth to document collective experience in their rainforest territories while at the same time providing the opportunity to collectively reflect on the importance of their territory, understand the nature of the threats facing it, re-assess their position on destructive industrial projects in their territory, and most importantly, decide collectively the future of their rainforest homelands. This program is creating a new model for territorial mapping for indigenous peoples across the Amazon, and the world, by combining an indigenous-led methodology with the empowering use of “modern” technologies -- such as GPS, ARCGIS, aerial drones, motion sensor camera traps, photo and video cameras, customized geographic-information-system software, and other cutting-edge digital web tools.
The Indigenous Rights Defenders Program is creating spaces for Cofán, Siona, Seocya and Waorani advocates to construct together a shared understanding of the threats facing their communities, the causes of these threats, and to build collective knowledge around how to create legal and advocacy strategies that directly address the unique challenges faced by each community. For decades, without recourse to first-hand legal knowledge and in the absence of viable legal representation, these four nations have seen detrimental environmental violations go unchecked, illegal settlements on their ancestral lands proliferate, negotiations with the government result in superficial or illusory concessions, and their indigenous representatives sign misleading and exploitative industry contracts without free, prior, and informed consent. The Indigenous Rights Defenders Program’s aim is to foster and support action in the defense of these indigenous territories in line with the core belief that sustainable empowerment through knowledge and capacity-building programs is contingent on the adoption of long-term strategies as well as continuous and nurturing accompaniment.
The Environmental Quality Monitoring Program is a direct community-based response to fifty years of environmental contamination, where indigenous peoples were forced to suffer the consequences of the poisoning of their rivers, wetlands, and forests without access to information related to the causes and consequences of that contamination. This program will continue to provide communities with tools and allies that permit them to monitor the quality of their environment and generate data from before, during and after extractive operations near or within their territories. Whether through analyzing fish tissue to determine whether the fish they consume is contaminated from heavy metals or pesticides; to utilizing camera traps to monitor illegal mining, logging and poaching on their territories; to taking water and soil samples in communities near oil operations to free themselves from the untrustworthy information monopoly of the oil companies and government; to forming monitoring groups to protect and maintain their boundaries from colonist invasion, the Environmental Quality Monitoring Program will give indigenous communities power over vital information and generate a body of evidence that each nationality can use to advocate for their rights for greater territorial protection.
The Cultural Revival Program is rooted in the reality that the ancient wisdom and traditional knowledge of these millenary cultures is disappearing at an alarming rate, and that bridging the gap between elders and youth through community-designed projects in cultural restoration will help to connect youth to their history, their culture, and their identity in ways that will strengthen the collective resolve of each indigenous nation to protect their cultures and rainforest territories. The program focuses on bringing indigenous elders and youth together through projects in the following areas: traditional medicines and healing, traditional food and drink, and the conservation of traditional practices, crafts and arts.
An important strategy of the dominant resource-extraction paradigm is to ensure that the ancestral stewards of vast expanses of resource-rich wilderness are locked in a cycle of marginalization and economic dependency on the very actors that seek to exploit resources from within their lands. Through a focus on building concrete, community-based economic alternatives to destructive industry, the Ceibo Alliance and ClearWater seek to challenge the dominant capitalist paradigm by creating sustainable and autonomous indigenous societies in control of their own destinies in a globalized world. The Women's Empowerment Program is prioritizing the creation of spaces for indigenous women to collectively design and build projects in their communities that directly support the health, well-being and economic security of women and their families. We are supporting the economic initiatives of female leaders across dozens of indigenous communities in the formation of community-based micro-enterprises (for example, the commercialization of forest products), the development of food-security initiatives, and in the recovery and usage of traditional plant medicines.
The Ceibo Alliance, along with ClearWater, plans to tell the world who we are in our own voice. We plan on producing and sharing dozens of short films, multi-media storytelling maps, and blogs that document the realities of indigenous lives, the challenges that they face, and the positive work that we are carrying-out in the communities. The hope is that through the honest telling of our story, using cutting-edge digital tools, Ceibo and ClearWater will be able to, here in the Amazon, produce deeper community awareness and clarity about the collective challenges that each nation faces and engender opportunities for more creative and effective community responses and, around the globe, broaden our network of allies – media, funders, academic institutions, civil society groups – who, together, will contribute to the sustainability of our organizations, and ultimately the achievement of our vision.