Threats to the Payamino



When the project was initiated in 2001 the community of San José de Payamino had problems finding enough funding to pay for schoolbooks, buying cloths and other things from the town to which they had become accustomed. This led to more hunting and selling to the bush meat markets in Coca and Loreto. They had been selling a few trees to timber companies (to pay for wedding dowries) as well. Gold companies had tried to get into the area and were in operation in the Verde Sumaco area up to 10 years ago.

The biggest problem is the oil companies Perenco (French) and Petrobras (Brazilian). They have oil concessions in the area, (block 7 and block 18, see map). The Payamino territory is one out of only 3 communities in the whole of Ecuador which have managed to keep the oil companies out so far. Of the 83 communities in their political area, the Payaminos are the only to not give permission for the oil companies to enter. Those that have or are experiencing oil exploration in their territory have faced the following 3 major problems:

1. Pollution of nature and people
2. Destruction of nature
3. Destruction of culture and break down of “community”

Pollution with crude oil of the ground and in the waterways can lead to serious health problems such as cancer among people in the forest. A study in one jungle community found cancer rates to exceed standard cancer rates by 30 times, despite the fact that smoking, (normally the most common cancer agent), did not occur in this community. (Dr. Miguel Sebasrián, Dr. Juan Antonio Córdoba: Yana Curi Report: The impact of oil development on health of the people of the Ecuadorian Amazon).

Construction of pipelines and roads leads to opening of the forest and easy access for poachers, loggers and settlers which again leads to destruction of the forest and disappearance of animals. Poaching takes place in the National parks but not in Payamino as the community protects their land. With the construction of roads you also find an increased spreading of malaria. (Ref. Coimbra CEA. Humanfactors in the epidemiology of malariain the Brazilian Amazon. Human Organization. From the Yana Curi Report)

The culture is based on hunting and gathering. With a depleted forest and few animals this part of the culture will disappear. The indigenous people will become workers if there is work to get; they are likely to move out of the area, as the forest is cut down for cattle pastures. All this leading to the break down of communities and loss of traditional skills and culture. Prior even to this, the manor in which the oil companies work with indigenous communities to gain access, is based on creating mistrust, dividing the community and creating a dependency on money and a more materialistic way of life. This method of working has a severe and long lasting impact on community relations and culture.