Meet Fabiola Edmundo: Inspiring the Protection of Forests and Awajún Women’s Rights

As part of our contribution to the deliberations at the UN Climate Change Convention discussions at COP-27 in November 2022, Ampliseed are promoting the voices of Indigenous and Traditional Leaders working at the frontlines of climate change and biodiversity conservation, helping every day to protect and restore our natural habitats in the field. The article that follows is adapted from an interview with Indigenous Awajún leader Fabiola Yuan Edmundo, vice-President of FERIAAM, Peru.

Fabiola Yuan Edmundo, vice-President of FERIAAM, Peru Image © CI/Daniela Amico

Amplissed Indigenous Peoples and Local Community Climate Leadership Series

Voice from the Frontline, 2022

With the arrival of migrants from the Andes in search of fertile land, the Indigenous Awajún communities of Peru thought renting their land would be an opportunity to generate income. However, with the income from rent also came monocultures, the degradation of their soils and the reduction of the biodiversity reserves that sustain their life and culture. For more than a decade, Conservation International has been working to reduce deforestation in the Alto Mayo landscape (deforestation is a key contributor to climate change, releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide when the forests are cut down), promoting sustainable agriculture and a revaluation of Awajún ancestral practices.

Indigenous Awajún leader, Fabiola Yuan Edmundo, working in Peru's protected Alto Mayo forest Image © BHP Foundation/Melinda Macleod

Fabiola, please tell us about your interest in protecting the Amazon forest, and what drew you to this role?

I am from the native Awajún community of Yarao, in the northern part of the San Martín region, also known as Alto Mayo. For almost two years I have been vice-president of FERIAAM, the Regional Awajún Federation of Alto Mayo, an organisation that represents the interests of the Awajún communities. 

I had always heard that FERIAAM represented the Awajún population and the decisions that affect our territory, but I also saw that women did not participate in the federation. I wondered whether women were not also an important part of the territory. I thought it over and decided to join FERIAAM, because I was determined to represent the rights of the Awajún women of my community and those of Alto Mayo.  

What are some of the opportunities and challenges you face, working to protect the forest?

It is difficult for mothers who work, look after their children, look after their husbands or work as teachers or in their own businesses, to work in politics because it is not paid, but it is not impossible. 

I want to be an example and encourage more women to participate in decision-making spaces. To this end, I dream of being able to hold an exchange for women so that they know their rights, understand that they are key actors within the territory, and encourage them to decide for themselves.  What have you learned through your work at the forefront of reducing deforestation in the Amazon?

In these almost two years I have learned a lot. I have visited the communities in the area and identified their needs and also their potential. 

The participation of organisations like Conservation International is helping to bring about change. We have realised that we made a mistake when we rented our land. That generated an abrupt change because the management we were giving to our forests was broken. But I see that many have also realised that leasing was not the solution.

I want to promote ventures that give value to our forests through ecotourism activities and diversification of crops such as coffee, cocoa and vanilla. Being self-sufficient and generating sustainable businesses within each community is what encourages me to continue working as vice-president of FERIAAM.   

Peru's Alto Mayo Protected Forest is a swath of Amazonian rainforest twice the size of New York City, Image © CI/Marlon Del Águila

Ampliseed is a global learning network connecting practitioners with a rights-based, human centered approach to building environmental resilience. Together we learn, share and amplify. It is supported by BHP Foundation, and facilitated by Pollination Foundation. In the Alto Mayo landscape, one of Peru’s most biodiverse regions, Conservation International is working with local communities to help improve their livelihoods and deter deforestation, through the conservation of critical natural capital and the increase of environmentally sustainable and inclusive production in this globally important landscape. This work is part of the Alto Mayo Awajun Communities Landscape project, Peru, part of the BHP Foundation's Environmental Resilience Program.