For a long time we’ve understood development as modernisation and this is a real barrier to the sustainable development of communities in areas like the Amazon rainforest.
For a long time these communities in the Amazon basin have perceived poverty as lack of commodities, modernities and cash and have chased a way out turning to quick fixes that threaten their way of life, traditions and most importantly food security.
A large majority of the indigenous communities we visited in the region of Tena owned land but were either renting it out to gold diggers, who after deforesting the area and mining for gold will leave the soil depleted and barren, or had renounced to growing their own food because cash crops promised money they could use to buy anything they want, including the food they had been producing before.
While it’s true we need to support initiatives that promote economic growth that will ultimately improve the livelihoods of those communities, it’s also important to fight against the colonial mentality that still impoverishes so many people.
Poverty is also a mindset.
People’s first step towards modernisation in indigenous communities is buying a TV, but this has had a devastating impact in their livelihoods. They see themselves as missing out on commodities city people have, and realise their life in the rainforest is seen as one of poverty in front of everyone else’s eyes.
In the last decade a wave of indigenous people have sold their land and migrated to big cities chasing the modern life they’ve seen on TV, only to find they lack skills to find jobs, are discriminated because of it and their living conditions worsen.
Education is key.
The resource intensive, high consumption lifestyle and idea of development of the west will not improve the future of indigenous communities, education will.
Understanding the important role they play in strengthening their communities will enable this and the next generation to take ownership of their resources and look after them, bringing a sustainable social and economic development.
We visited Alfonso’s 2 hectare farm (a very small holding for the area).
Alfonso realised food security needed to be a priority for his family and decided to use his fertile land to grow all kinds of fruits and vegetables. Raising pigs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, he even has a fish pond!
Although Alfonso’s humble home lacks modern commodities he understood that in order to improve his quality of life, his views on progress and approach to economic development needed to change.
He decided food was priority number one, everything else could be built from there.