Leading her people to a better future

December 21, 2013

Marisabel Dumas RamosMeet Marisabel Dumas Ramos, the first female leader of the indigenous Matsigenka-Wachiperi community of Santa Rosa de Huacaria in southern Peru.

Since the start of her term in 2011, Marisabel has worked alongside the Amazon Conservation Association (ACA) to protect her community’s land. Huacaria borders Manu National Park, where many indigenous people still live in voluntary isolation.

Huacaria’s location on the Piñi-Piñi and Palotoa rivers makes it a major point of illegal entry into the park, and both Marisabel and ACA were concerned about squatters invading Manu through their land. 

In 2012, ACA and the Huacaria community thwarted an attempted invasion of the Park and then went on built a guard post and began funding community members to patrol the Huacaria side of the park’s border. 

Now, ACA is going a step further by helping the 130-person community officially expand its indigenous territory by 22,211 acres—forest that would have been otherwise lost to logging or agriculture. 

Marisabel explains: “We want to preserve this area for our brothers and sisters living in voluntary isolation. They need space for hunting and fishing. This area used to all belong to the indigenous people.” 

ACA is also helping the Huacaria residents develop sustainable economic opportunities, such as ecotourism and farming native fish, that allow them to earn the funds they need to access better healthcare and education while protecting their natural resources. 

Fish is a major source of protein for the area surrounding Huacaria, but concerns about overfishing and mercury levels (in both the river’s fish as well as its water) make aquaculture a great solution. In 2014, ACA plans to help the Huacaria community build four aquaculture ponds and a production lab for fish hatchlings, which currently must be shipped in from the coast.