Indigenous community radio at the forefront of protecting Ecuador’s ancestral lands

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Indigenous community radio at the forefront of protecting Ecuador’s ancestral lands

In response to growing resource extraction activities in the Ecuadorian Amazon, WACC Global is supporting a project that will help four local Indigenous community radio stations produce innovative content that promotes the protection of ancestral lands from a human rights and gender justice perspective.  

Mining, oil exploration, industrial logging and agriculture have been taking a toll on the traditional territories of Ecuador’s Indigenous population. “This situation has been made worse by the reluctance of the state to fully implement its international obligations in relation to Indigenous communities’ right to free, prior and informed consent,” said Lorenzo Vargas, program manager for Communication for Social Change.  

In this context, community communication, including community radio initiatives, have the potential to enhance community organizing, consensus building, capacity building, and knowledge sharing processes among Indigenous communities affected by extractive industries,” said Vargas. 

The project is being implemented by the Confederación de organizaciones indígenas de la Amazonía Ecuatoriana (CONFENIAE), an umbrella civil society organization that brings together several Indigenous rights organizations operating in the Amazon regions of Ecuador. Legally established in 2017, the organization represents about 1,500 Indigenous communities from the Kichwa, Shuar, Achuar, Waorani, Sapara, AndwaShiwiarCofan, Siona, Siekopai  and KijunationsCONFENIAE works to promote Indigenous welfare, the implementation of legal frameworks protecting Indigenous peoples and their territories. 

The projectco-funded by the U.S.-based NGO Cultural Survival, seeks to improve the skills, knowledge, tools, equipment, and other resources of the organization’s community station, Radio La Voz de la CONFENIAE, and three other well-established stations — Radio Kimsacocha, Radio Jatari Kichwa, and Radio Kipa 

Julio Lima, a communicator belonging to the Saraguro people, cited the role played by community media in helping “to prevent the advance of Covid-19 in our communities,” and in “forging ties of solidarity” between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Ecuador.  

The project will train 30 community reporters to produce content from a rights-based perspective as a way to lead community organizing efforts, develop new partnerships with other community media outlets, and enable stations to make full of use of the possibilities brought about by digital platforms. The project seeks to reach some 300,000 people from 11 Indigenous nations. 

In line with CONFENAIE’s internal policies, women will play a central role in the project as leaders and participants. “We all have a story to tell. The presence of Indigenous women in community media is important not only because it allows us to share knowledge, but also to position our demands, and fight for our right to live in territories free of violence,” said participant Indira Vargas.  

The organization will also embark on an awarenessraising campaign to support of environmental defenders under threat. 

A publication detailing project results will be made available to interested parties at the end of the project. A national-level gathering of Indigenous community media outlets is also being planned.