Research Projects with Shipibo Communities

Research projects with Shipibo communities form an important part of the educational work that Alianza Arkana is doing in the Ucayali region. This research then informs work in the three broad areas in which we are engaged: intercultural education; community-based solutions; and environmental justice and human rights.

Currently, we have four key research projects:

1. A study of the Shipibo diet.

Mariana Orta, the nutritionist employed by Alianza Arkana, is conducting an analysis of the Shipibo diet in three different communities (up-river, down-river and in the city). She visited each community for ten days and lived with five different families to record everything they ate over a two-day period. Additionally, she conducted surveys with at least thirty other families to determine the kind and quantity of food they are consuming and where it comes from.

Once she has reviewed and analyzed all the data she has collected, she will be able to:
• Compare the diets both between the three communities.
• Identify any important nutritional deficiencies in the current diets.
• Make recommendations about what kind of food crops should be grown and consumed to help remedy these nutritional deficiencies.
• Organize workshops in the three communities to share the results of her research with the participants and teach them – through cooking classes based on traditional recipes – how they can eat more healthily.
• Make some tentative connections between diet and the kinds of illnesses we are observing in many of the Shipibo communities we are working with.
• Publish this study and present the information to the Regional Department of Health and other interested groups.

2. A study of the indigenous economy.

We are supporting a Shipibo student to do a research project for his thesis to obtain a degree in agroforestry from the National Indigenous University in Pucallpa. His study will investigate the different sources of income and means of earning livelihoods in three different communities that are geographically distant from each other. One of these communities is one of the only two Shipibo communities that has had oil production in its territory – now for forty years – and the study will investigate the extent of the economic benefits that the community has been able to accrue through this activity.

The study will:
• Compare the ways people in each of the three communities with differing natural and social resources available are able to earn their livelihoods
• The extent to which the communities have become involved in the money economy.

3. An overview of oil company activity in the Ucayali region and Shipibo communities in the Loreto region.

We are now witnessing a new wave of oil activity in the Ucayali region of the Peruvian Amazon. International companies, awarded concessions by the Peruvian government, are now at different stages of consulting with communities, exploration, and oil production. Many of these concessions are located deep in the jungle and difficult to access and monitor. As a result, much of the information about what is happening is anecdotal and piece-meal.

An intern for Alianza Arkana is therefore working with ORAU (the Regional Indigenous political organization for this area) and a number of district-based local Federations to investigate and collate together more precise information about what is happening with respect to oil company activity.

This information will provide ORAU, local Federations, and other partners an overall panorama and important information on which to base strategies of community outreach in regard to oil company activity

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4. A study of traditional midwife practices.

Alianza Arkana is working with community-based groups of Shipibo midwives to help recognize, validate and preserve their traditional practices. A Shipibo trained nurse conducted the first part of this research. She interviewed 12 Shipibo community midwives about their traditional practices, the medicinal plants they use pre-, during and post-birth, and asked them what further training they required. She compiled her results in a report available here.This report is available in English and Spanish from the email address at the end of this blog.

This study has been used to organize training workshops for midwives where they can share their practice and further develop their knowledge and practical techniques. In addition, we are now talking with the Regional Department of Health to create a training program that will provide formal recognition for the work of these women.

We would be very interested to hear from organizations and individuals who want to conduct research projects in collaboration with us. We can offer access to indigenous communities and help ensure that research is carried out in an ethical way, which will ultimately benefit the communities we are working with.

Deborah Rivett, Saturday, 08 June 2013

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