Indigenous Livelihoods

Overview

We have worked in the Ene river valley in the central Peruvian Amazon since the 1990s, where we first supported indigenous Asháninka communities to title their ancestral lands. This programme helps Asháninka families to generate sustainable income through the production of environmentally-friendly cocoa.

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The issue

We have worked in the Ene river valley in the central Peruvian Amazon since the 1990s, where we supported the Asháninka to title and protect their ancestral lands. We then supported their efforts to define, in practical terms, what Kametsa Asaike ("the good life”) means for them. After thorough consultation, the Asháninka set an agenda that still guides their collective actions and that is the basis for our work with them. One of their main priorities is having livelihood activities that are compatible with their culture and the need to protect the forest for future generations.

Cocoa production provided such an opportunity for Asháninka families. After ten years of joint work, they founded an indigenous cooperative, Kemito Ene, which now has hundreds of members and sells their cocoa to international markets under Organic and Fair Trade labels, and which was awarded the UN Equator Prize in 2019. Ten years on, they have managed to transform their production and they now cater to premium international chocolatiers under organic standards. Kemito Ene evolved from a modest initiative to a producers association which has been recognised with the UN Equator Prize for its impact, indigenous identity and innovative approach.

In September 2019, Kemito Ene was awarded the prestigious biennial UN Development Programme’s Equator Prize in recognition of its "outstanding community effort to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity".

What we're doing

  • Through the programme, we are helping the Asháninka people to improve quality, productivity and expand agroforestry. We are also supporting Kemito Ene to strengthen as an organisation, renewing its business plan and value proposition, diversifying its commercial partners and reinforcing its rules as an indigenous cooperative.
  • Since 2021, we have been embedding this work into a broader land management effort. With representative indigenous organisation CARE, we are supporting Ashaninka communities to develop land use plans. With these, their aim is to make the most efficient and equitable use of their forests, preserving nature while improving their wellbeing. In addition, CARE and RFUK will support community observers to monitor and illegal activities over these forests using our ForestLink system.
  • Now, our focus is to continue progressing on cocoa quality following an agroforestry approach, which will protect and expand forest cover, diversify incomes and food sources, and increase carbon stocks. More broadly, alongside CARE, we are supporting the Ashaninka to embed this production into the broader plans they have for their forests, as well as to protect these lands from encroachment and illegal activity using our innovative forest monitoring system ForestLink.
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Our impacts

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Over 200 families supported

Improve cocoa production and 4,000 more people benefitting from better market access and peer to peer learning.

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over 8000% Increase in Cocoa production

Increased the overall production of cocoa from 1.4 tonnes in 2009 to more than 120 tonnes in 2021, improving the quality of cocoa beans and family incomes.

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300,000 hectares of Forest protected

Two land use plans developed covering 40,000 hectares and improved forest management over an area of nearly 300,000 hectares.

"We’re working to improve the productivity of our cocoa plots and to grow cocoa and coffee in harmony with the forest… I feel proud because I’m supporting the well-being of Kemito Ene members, their families and the Asháninka communities of the Ene river."

Claudio Vasquez, President, Kemito Ene Cocoa Cooperative

"RFUK has been a key and strategic ally for Kemito Ene, having supported the production of organic cocoa and coffee by Asháninka farmers and promoting the design and planning of the international market access strategy for the Asháninka cacao, something that was beyond the expectation of the Asháninka producers some years ago."

Pedro Antezana, Manager, Kemito Ene Cocoa Cooperative

"We growers like Kemito Ene because it is buying cocoa and is paying more than local intermediaries. Our local indigenous organisation has taught me to control the plant diseases. I have four children. Three are now in school thanks to the income from our cocoa. (Photo: Salomon's family)"

Salomon Perez, cocoa grower, Pamakiari

Featured publications

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Peru: RFUK’s programme in the Andean Amazon