In Pictures: Indigenous women guard against illegal mining in Ecuador

by Adri Salido from The Christian Science Monitor, Serena, Ecuador

155088Elsa Cerda (with spear) leads Yuturi Warmi, a group of Indigenous women who guard against illegal mining in the community of Serene in the Ecuadorian Amazon.Adri Salido

| SERENA, ECUADOR - The Indigenous peoples who live around the Napo and Jatunyacu rivers in the Ecuadorian Amazon have served as stewards of one of the planet’s most diverse ecosystems for thousands of years. So it was with dismay that they watched both legal and illegal gold mines spring up, polluting waterways and destroying critical habitat. 

Taking the protection of their land into their own hands, a group of Indigenous women in Serena formed Yuturi Warmi to guard against illegal mining operations. In the Kichwa language, Yuturi Warmi refers to a type of ant (Paraponera clavata) that will attack when an enemy enters its territory.

The group, which formed in 2020, joined with other Ecuadorian and international organizations to urge the government to enforce laws against illegal extraction and to restore habitat.

But officials have not acted, according to Yuturi Warmi. Since then, the group has worked to ensure that no illegal mining takes place in its community. It patrols the riverbank, conducts canoe inspections, and maintains constant surveillance.

So far, it has kept intruders out of Serena. 

The situation is far different upstream, in Yutzupino, where illegal extraction has destroyed the basin of the Jatunyacu River, a tributary of the Amazon River.

155088Adri SalidoMembers of Yuturi Warmi enjoy a relaxed moment together. They meet daily to discuss issues that affect the community. The women also maintain their ancestral culture through workshops in which grandmothers, mothers, and daughters meet.155088Adri SalidoTraditional accessories made by Yuturi Warmi help finance the fight against illegal mining.155088Adri SalidoMs. Cerda talks to another member of Yuturi Warmi via walkie-talkie as part of the group’s surveillance.155088Adri SalidoA man holds a mobile phone with a photo of the Yutzupino River as it once was, juxtaposed with how it looks today. Mining companies have destroyed the ecosystem of the Yutzupino, which is one of the tributaries of the Amazon River.155088Adri SalidoA man mines gold illegally on the river bank, near Serena. The precarious financial situation in which many people live has driven them to extract gold illegally to bring in money to help their families.Related stories

Page created on 3/6/2024 12:38:59 PM

Last edited 3/6/2024 2:24:38 PM

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