From the Amazon to Bonn – on mission to safeguard Yaguas
Liz Chicaje and Benjamin Rodríguez have traveled all the way from an area called Yaguas in the north of Peru, where they live in remote communities in the Amazon rainforest. They came to join the world for the climate conference COP 23 in Bonn, Germany.
“This was an exciting experience,” says Liz Chicaje, who appreciates that she was given the chance to be part of the delegation of the Peruvian minister for the environment, Elsa Galarza. Liz Chicaje is the president of the Federation of Indigenous Communities of the Ampiyacu River (FECONA) – one of the oldest and best-organized federations of the Peruvian Amazon.
Peru is a country with low total emissions, it has vast rainforests and plays an important role as a carbon storage. At the same time the country is classified by the UNFCCC as “particularly vulnerable”, due to its low-lying coastal area, arid and semi-arid lands, areas liable to flood, drought and desertification, and fragile mountain ecosystems.
At the COP in Bonn, Germany, minister Galarza reported on the Peruvian government’s climate action plans, in which indigenous peoples are key allies in the Peruvian response to climate change.
Liz and Benjamin want to see their home in the Amazon forest protected for the long term, to provide a safe environment for their communities, with healthy forests and clean rivers, which are reservoirs for food security, that allow them to live their traditional lives but also thrive and develop for a good future.
“Our mission is, that we want to see the Yaguas Reserved Zone under the best protection possible, as it is the refuge for plants and wildlife that have supported our ancestors for generations,” says Benjamin Rodríguez, the president of the Federation of Indigenous Communities of the Putumayo (FECONAFROPU). 23 out of 29 indigenous communities therefore support the current process of the Peruvian government to develop Yaguas into a national park.
“We, the indigenous peoples, are the guardians of Yaguas,” adds Liz Chicaje. “But we need the formal status of a national park to help us really safeguard the vast rainforests and river systems and protect them from illegal gold miners, loggers and others who want to take advantage of our natural resources.”
The Peruvian Amazon also harbors vast carbon stocks. For the Yaguas Reserved Zone experts estimate that its peat swamps could potentially avoid a loss of 1.5 million tons of carbon over the next 20 years, equivalent to 2.5 million US-dollars.