Jatun Sacha once again – or how to volunteer for the greater good, not for profit.

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WordPress offers statistics about who visits your blog – and I just checked an incoming link which someone followed from that anti-social networking commerce site called Fakebook. The latest two postings in the Fakebook group featuring the link to the colonos blog suggest that our commentary on Jatun Sacha’s involvement with Big Pharma (which is no big secret, just google for a while and you will see for yourself) is “interesting read at any rate“, although, “I’m not saying you have to believe it but i recommend having a look” – good job that criticism is taken, sort of, seriously:

Nick wrote at 11:11pm on May 31st, 2008
I found that too after I googled Jatun Sacha.. quite a few previous volunteers have come across it… interesting read at any rate.
Alistair wrote at 9:27am on April 5th, 2008
I found this website which makes some pretty dire claims against Jatun Sacha, to do with biopiracy and corporations. I’m not saying you have to believe it but i recommend having a look.


So should you find yourself in the lucky position that you can make it to Ecuador (or Peru) for the purpose of volunteering, then do yourself and the world a favour: do your research well: who is who – and what do they (really!) do?

Can you not find the right kind of thing – that fits your social, cultural and political principles, then get in touch.

Colonos has worked and continues to work with people in the Napo-Ucayali corridor on a grassroots level. For instance we have sown the seeds for a network of community based botanical gardens in the region – and idea that emerged in the Napo (Ecuador) and Pucallpa (Peru) regions independently (thousands of kilometers apart) and the practitioners of which we are merely bringing together and helping them do what they want to do.

The work includes working with Kichwa and Shipibo people and offers great opportunities to get soil under your nails, doing research and analytical work (ecological, political, cultural etc.), talking to plants and animals, drinking ayahuasca and work with shamans and other traditional healers, such as midwives. Whatever tickles your fancy! The work is coordinated from England and by the “Grupo Sabio”, which meets regularly in Tena, Napo, Ecuador.

One of the people we work with used to work for Jatun Sacha (who consistently “forgot” to pay him) until he realised what was going on and what the Peace Corps, whose army of volunteers occupy large parts of the socalled developing world, has become (that is: a Pentagon outfit; see below for more) and what it always was: a forefront of capitalism and Euro-American developmentalism, culturally imposing itself through the manual labour of unwitting volunteers in good faith that they are making a difference for the better, not worse.

Make up your own mind – but do your home work!

More on Pentagon Peace Corps (..talk about an oxymoron..):








January 9, 2008
Op-Ed Contributor
Too Many Innocents Abroad

7 thoughts on “Jatun Sacha once again – or how to volunteer for the greater good, not for profit.

    Alistair said:
    Monday, August 25, 2008 at 07:08 (339)


    Once again what you wirte is very interesting and disturbing. I’d just like to say I did take it seriously and because of that I let other people know about your article including the company I went there through. I was just saying the same as you that poeple need to make their own minds up and trying to do it in a way that wouldn’t be too upsetting by saying “by the way you just wasted your time volunteering”. Anyway keep up the good work and just be aware that people may find it hard to accept what people will see as “conspiracies” even though it is well known these things do go on.


    colono responded:
    Monday, August 25, 2008 at 14:39 (652)

    I think you are right – had a conversation with a friend of a friend who used to volunteer at JS and he was quite surprised, but no one is perfect and life is one long learning process.

    That is why we offer this information here – so that those searching for volunteer options can find it and so that those who used to volunteer at JS might be more careful recommending it to others. Also, none of this is to say that there isn’t good work done at JS, there most likely is and many people have had some great, life-changing experiences during their time in Ecuador under the auspices of JS — if it was obvious that JS was in cahoots with Big Pharma there would be no need bang this drum.

    From the WordPress stats we also know that the post has been circulated on JS webmail – and their silence on the matter I shall leave for someone else to interpretate.

    sandra said:
    Monday, January 5, 2009 at 21:47 (949)

    I used to work for Jatun Sacha for more than 10 years and I can assure what you said is totally incorrect. Pfizer wants to work with Jatun Sacha, but JSF never accepted it. They eventually moved to Brazil to conduct their project. Did you forgot you check that out?
    I found very disturbing what you guys irresponsibly post in your blog.
    7,000 ha of primary forest depend on volunteer work and support. Not even mentioning the locals who works at Jatun Sacha’s reserve and whose families and well being depend on their jobs.
    So, let’s say you succeed and convince people not to support Jatun Sacha anymore. I assume you have plan B? What is going to happen with the reserves and communities that Jatun Sacha helps to protect? Please stop your dirty campaign against Jatun Sacha. In the end we all are going to lose.

    colona said:
    Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 16:55 (746)

    Hi Sandra – I posted a response to your comment here: https://colonos.wordpress.com/2007/05/03/jatun-sacha-the-long-sneaky-arm-of-pfizer-et-al/#comment-7492

    I disagree that we are spearheading a dirty campaign by the way. I am doing research for my PhD about the dynamics of international biogenetic resource politics and came across the stories of local people and then the reports we link to in the original post https://colonos.wordpress.com/2007/05/03/jatun-sacha-the-long-sneaky-arm-of-pfizer-et-al

    Derek said:
    Saturday, June 20, 2009 at 20:05 (878)

    Author : Derek (IP: , 67-60-61-19.cpe.cableone.net)
    E-mail : derekwhitworth@yahoo.com

    You have it out for Jatun Sacha. You obviously are a highly intelligent computer revolutionary. Changing the world from behind a keyboard. Basically anyone can blab all they want about whatever they want, and you get these do- gooders from UK that think solving environmental issues consists of their volunteering in a third world country. That i believe is called stroking the ego. Go live in the jungle for the rest of your life, tie yourself to a tree. But dont get all high and mighty when you leave your cushy lives for a couple a months to go save the world.

      colono responded:
      Sunday, June 21, 2009 at 14:44 (655)

      Thank you for your constructive comment, there is nothing quite as reassuring as an affirmation that you have hit a nerve. Viciousness, rhetorical and personal, as a response, is the best confirmation that you are onto something.

      Thankfully, you know nothing about us and what we do, who we are and what we think, apart from a few blog entries. Your accusations are amusing and reveal a lot about you – rather than give cause for any self-reflection. Too far off the mark. Poor attempt.

      Anyone who is actually interested in Jatun Sacha’s engagement with Big Pharma might want to read the original entry and particularly the discussion thread below it.

      An old friend, ally and colleague of Jatun Sacha engaged us in constructive, friendly debate about the issue (not just a pathetic mud thrower), but, strangely, disengaged entirely upon this suggestion:

      “Also, let us see some transparency – let us move beyond anecdotes and see an honest history of JSF’s involvement with Pfizer, even if it wasn’t completed. Let us get the documents on the table – the accounts, the books, the whole works. Who makes what – what incomes and what outcomes.

      We shall happily publish in this forum such material, if JSF wants to provide it, then prospective volunteers can make up their own minds about the scenario. So far we have only anecdotes, personal accounts and the documentation of an otherwise well respected NGO that does some very good work for the environment.”

      So, for what it is worth, the ball is in JSF’s court – and always has been, since ETC Group (then RAFI) first documented these matters Sep 30, 1995:

      In other words, Jatun Sacha has had 14 years to provide documentation to counter the accusations – 14 years in silence – that pretty much “speaks” for itself, as does the disengagement referred to above. If pathetic, personal accusations in the style of Derek Whitworth is Jatun Sacha’s best defense, then we rest our case.

      colono responded:
      Sunday, June 21, 2009 at 15:01 (667)

      PS: It is also somewhat amusing that your comment should include an attack on “do-gooders” who go “volunteering in a third world country”, when, in fact, for those who can read (to the end of the article and add two and two together), it is obvious that colonos is very critical of exactly these practices, particularly as they are practiced in Jatun Sacha: through payment and on private, foreign owned land.

      The question then poses itself: are you having a problem with our critique of Jatun Sacha or a problem with Jatun Sacha, — for Jatun Sacha are the ones running a business on precisely the misled agencies of “do-gooders” who go “volunteering in a third world country” to “save the world”.

      The contradiction is perfect.

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