Over the last two days, we have been spending time with communities in the Beni region of Bolivia, small communities living sustainably in some of the most remote parts of the Amazon.
When I first got here I mistakenly assumed that Christian Aid and it’s partner CIPCA were here to make life “better” for the people in these communities, but I was wrong.
They are here to help protect and preserve a unique way of life, a way of coexisting with the earth that we can learn so much from.
Eye-opening does not begin to describe the last two days.
They gather cocoa beans, banana, papaya and yucca, but part of their work is to ensure that the necessary diversity is maintained. They grow crops to feed the village but do not destroy large areas of rain-forests, and they raise animals, but hunt and fish as well to keep the balance.
CIPCA have helped start projects that allow these communities to get a fair price for the resources they harvest and the goods they produce. In both Burmeo and Santa Rosa, they have cocoa trees and in Santa Rosa, there is a fish farm and the women have a cooperative that makes handicrafts.
CIPCA and Christian Aid have helped establish a chocolate factory, where the indigenous communities can sell their beans at a fair price. It is their factory and the people we spoke to are proud of what they have accomplished. They live in harmony with the land they love. And they are struggling to keep large corporations and those who want to introduce mono-crops and large scale farming from taking over.
they are struggling to keep large corporations and those who want to introduce mono-crops and large scale farming from taking over
Over the last several years, indigenous people have won the land rights to 367,000 hectares, but that right is being constantly put under pressure. Part of what Christian Aid and CIPCA are doing is empowering communities to stand up for this hard-won right.
We have the privilege of standing with them and offering our support. At the end of one of our days in the Amazon, we were taken to “the sleeping place of cranes”, a beautiful hidden spot where every night hundreds of cranes sleep in the canopy.
It was indescribably beautiful.
Not seeing these places is what’s at stake. Not helping our brothers and sisters to live a life in harmony with the rainforest we all depend on is what’s at stake. There’s a lot to lose.