Bringing a Competitive Spirit to Rainforest Protection

share this story
facebook twitter email stumble upon
Get RAN Alerts
Beach below Para Falls, Caura River. Photo by Kike Arnal

Beach below Para Falls, Caura River. Photo by Kike Arnal

Through our Protect-an-Acre program, RAN recently provided a small grant to Caura Futures. This lean, innovative organization supports the conservation of the 45,300 km² Caura River Basin in Venezuela, one of the few pristine tropical watersheds on Earth, by working with local Indigenous communities and providing training and tools to improve human health and promote good ecosystem stewardship.

Caura Futures understands that it is industrial society, not Indigenous peoples, that threatens tropical rainforests. However, through consultation with elders from Indigenous communities throughout the Caura River Basin, the problem of accelerated erosion of Indigenous culture caused, in part, by sharply diminished knowledge transfer between generations, was identified as an important issue to address. Collectively, they found that by collaborating on projects to fortify people’s health, strengthen cultural traditions, and create low impact ways of improving economic well-being, the long-term potential for conservation of the Caura River ecosystem would be greatly enhanced.

Emilio Rodríguez documenting Ye'kwana bird names with an older member of the community. Photo by Tarek Milleron.

Emilio Rodríguez documenting Ye'kwana bird names with an older member of the community. Photo by Tarek Milleron.

So how does this look on the ground? Caura Futures is helping to improve malaria prevention, detection and treatment by training Indigenous microscopists (light microscopy is still the gold-standard of malaria detection) who also treat the disease, and by distributing mosquito nets designed for use around hammocks. They are also helping to establish the Ye’kwana Cultural Library: an extensive effort to build a bridge to the past by facilitating still image, audio and video recording of all cultural knowledge that Ye’kwana participants decide they want to conserve.

The competitive spirit comes into play because in some communities Ye’kwana youths today are more likely to fell, rather than climb, a palm tree for its fruit. Unlike industrial palm oil plantations that cause widespread deforestation, extracting oil for local markets from naturally occurring wild palm fruit is a sustainable practice when traditional harvesting methods are followed. To address the tree-felling issue, Caura Futures has created new enthusiasm for wild palm tree-climbing by turning it into a competition. Caura Futures provides tree climbing gear and holds competitions to promote a return to sustainable fruit harvests.

Practice on Oenocarpus palms with Caura Futures' custom gear. Photo by Kike Arnal.

Practice on Oenocarpus palms with Caura Futures' custom gear. Photo by Kike Arnal.

Local Ye’kwana and Sanema people make all decisions regarding activities to be realized in their communities. They curate and control all Indigenous knowledge archives, and they review and approve all introduced technologies. Tree climbing competitions and workshops have been held four times in the Caura Basin. By starting small, gear design has been optimized. The initial races were won by older people, but after being engaged, youth are now winning the competition and changing their harvest methods. Here’s what happened last time.

Our grant will help the palm climbing project expand to Iquitos, Peru, where wild palm fruit markets are highly developed and the problem of felling palms is widespread. Please consider supporting Caura Futures’ work directly, or supporting RAN’s Protect-an-Acre program to help us fund great work protecting forests around the world.

Trackbacks For This Post

  1. How Will YOU Celebrate World Rainforest Week? » Rainforest Action Network Blog

Leave a Comment Here's Your Chance to Be Heard!

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.