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“DGM Saweto”: The Indigenous People’s battle for the leadership of their own destiny

  • More than 10 thousand indigenous families were benefited thanks to this initiative, which allowed them to assure more than 250 thousand hectares of forest under constant threat and today these are in their hands in a legitimate way.
  • Each indigenous land titling has a cost of 12 thousand dollars, this and other data was calculated thanks to the implementation of the DGM Saweto, information that the Peruvian Government is now expected to consider in its future investment budgets.

Tuesday August 17, 2021.- Imagine your life surrounded by the forest, where your most precious belongings come from it. Imagine that you have an extraordinary connection with nature, a bond that has passed from generation to generation. Now think, what would you do if you knew that all of this was seriously threatened?


This is the reality of indigenous peoples and their leaders, who have historically defended their territories, their homes and on behalf of their community, facing great threats alone. Just like Ashaninka leaders of the Saweto community did, Edwin Chota, Jorge Ríos Pérez, Leoncio Quintisima Meléndez and Francisco Pinedo Ramírez, looking for justice and recognition they unfortunately lost their lives in 2014, on the border of Peru and Brazil, after confronting illegal timber traders.


Despite the devastating consequences that this community experienced, they did not give up. Instead, they added their voice to other Indigenous Peoples. Together, with a defined agenda, they called the attention of institutions such as the World Bank, which, through its Forest Investment Program (FIP), responded by creating the funds called DGMs (Dedicated Grant Mechanism), an initiative for a period of 5 years specialized in every village. In Peru, it has been named by the same beneficiaries as “DGM Saweto”, to keep the memory of its defenders alive.




From beneficiaries to executors


Financed by the World Bank's FIP and with the technical support of  WWF-Peru as the national executing agency, the DGM Saweto - Peru was created in 2016 to support all of those initiatives from indigenous communities throughout 08 departments of forest in the Peruvian Amazon, focusing on issues such as the recognition of native communities, land titling, the improvement of indigenous forest management, as well as the strengthening of its institutional governance and the visibility of indigenous women.


Because of its extension, the DGM Saweto Peru is executed through the National Steering Committee (CDN), which brings together Amazonian indigenous organizations associated with AIDESEP (Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle) and CONAP (Confederation of Amazonian Nationalities of Peru). Together, after five years of work, the indigenous peoples can celebrate they secured the possession of more than 256 thousand hectares of forest that belong to 58 indigenous communities, where approximately 10,000 families live. In addition, their effort achieved the recognition of 253 communities and it was possible to support 119 indigenous communities in the implementation of community forest management projects.


According to Oseas Barbarán, President of the Confederation of Amazonian Nationalities of Peru (CONAP), throughout this time “indigenous governance has been respected. For the first time in history, the indigenous people, together with the brothers of AIDESEP, have led this great five-year project ”. On the other hand, Ruth Buendía, secretary of the Inter-ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle (AIDESEP), remarked that "it has been a strengthening opportunity to consider indigenous people so that they can title and secure their own lands."


A role model for processes at the national level


In Peru, the challenge for the recognition of communities and the titling of indigenous territories is still enormous, due to the existing bureaucracy and the diversity of government actors involved. However, the DGM Saweto Peru has demonstrated the value of actions led by regional and local indigenous organizations themselves, facilitating articulation with national and sub-national governments, creating closer ties.


60% of native communities where the project was developed achieved their recognition in one year, which means, they went from 10 recognitions of native communities per year to 10 recognitions per month between 2016 and 2018, leaving officially registered more than 250 indigenous communities that now own an identification.


Although WWF was the civil institution that, through a public tender, was chosen to provide technical and administrative assistance, strengthen capacities, and facilitate the processes of its implementation, indigenous organizations were the ones who led this great achievement at all times. . "Our work as an organization facilitated to improve practices in the processes developed, but above all to create a bond of trust," said Kurt Holle, Director of WWF-Peru.



Paddling against the tide


For CONAP and AIDESEP, indigenous communities can continue their work protecting the environment, but they cannot protect what is not formally theirs. For this reason, they continued to fight for their rights, facing the high rotation of officials and the absence of regulatory processes for their recognition and certification.


Together, we can say, it is possible to overcome bureaucratic challenges, since the governance scheme of the Saweto Peru DGM is evidence of a successful and replicable model in other social processes from the state, civil society and international cooperation. “The biggest lesson learned after these five years is that there is no one better than themselves to watch over their own destiny. The recognition of Indigenous Peoples, their culture and their knowledge gives them the possibilities to exercise their rights and that includes the sustainable conservation of the forest, ”said Cinthia Mongylardi, Director of the WWF-Peru Forest and Indigenous Peoples Program.


To learn more about the MDE Saweto, we invite you to DOWNLOAD its LIVING MEMORY HERE, to discover how challenging and enriching this process was for the benefit of the indigenous peoples of Peru.