There is a lack of reliable and up to date information about many of the issues and problems faced by indigenous people in the Amazon, many reports using second or third hand report information, or old data, due to the difficulties involved in carrying out new research (resources, time, contacts in communities).
Our research is based upon extended periods of fieldwork in indigenous communities and thorough investigation of background issues. This supplies accurate information from which to take action in cases of rights violations and provides a solid base from which to support claims to the services and resources that the people we work with are entitled to as Peruvian citizens and as indigenous peoples. We use a participatory approach that focuses on including and involving all community members and facilitating their own analysis of their situation. This avoids reliance upon our own interpretation of problems and needs and actively engages local people in the research process. We are constantly developing our techniques to promote the effective participation of indigenous peoples and develop methods that cross conceptual boundaries developments that we hope will set examples for similar work in this field.
Research topics include territory and resource use and management (specialising in indigenous territorial mapping), impacts of extractive industries (oil, gas and timber extraction), and issues and threats facing peoples living in voluntary isolation.
It is very hard for communities who have not had direct exposure or experience of the impacts hydrocarbon projects, loggers, titles, etc. to understand or predict what their long-term implications might be on their way of life, well-being, land and resources. An understanding and ability to manage concepts of rights in national and international law is also often limited or absent from communities with limited relations with national society. Communities may thus be unable to make truly informed decisions on matters that will affect the lives of all their future generations, or defend themselves effectively if their rights are abused.
Many indigenous communities and local federations are also dependent upon individuals or institutions with an economic interest in them or their territory for resources or help in communication, increasing their vulnerability to manipulation or exploitation.
We work with communities and indigenous federations to reduce their dependency on external individuals and institutions and enable them to make free and informed decisions about their future. Our participatory approach encourages community members to reflect upon the changes affecting their ways of life and to form their own opinions about these changes and how they want to engage with different aspects of national society.
We promote reflection and give training in: communication channels and use of communication technologies; indigenous rights; community mapping; computing. We also use exchange trips to encourage communities facing different challenges to share their experiences and learn from each other.
Good communication between indigenous peoples and state authorities, as well as with local, national and international organizations that defend indigenous rights is one of the keys to ensuring that their rights are respected and that any problems are tackled and resolved as early as possible. However due to geographical isolation, lack of resources and language barriers many communities lack the means for effective communication with their federations and government departments. There are also problems within State departments who do not understand indigenous issues, lack reliable information from the field, and coordinate poorly with one another.
We coordinating with the local indigenous federations to help the people we work with to communicate their problems, needs and concerns to the appropriate authorities and advocacy groups. Our use of diverse media makes these issues accessible to a wide audience, with audio and visual recordings transporting an indigenous voice from the rainforest to the offices of decision makers.
We also facilitate trips to Lima by community or federation members so that they can meet decision makers face to face if possible.
We aim to ensure the rights and concerns of those we work with are considered in policy decisions that affect their lives and we participate in a number of working groups for indigenous issues in Lima to increase public and state awareness of these issues and ensure action is taken where necessary.