“Here” is in Tena.
Apart from being the tranquil capital of the Amazonian province of Napo, Tena is also the seat of FONAKIN’s main office. FONAKIN (Federación de Organizaciones de la Nacionalidad Kichwa del Napo) is one of the longest-standing indigenous federations in the Ecuadorian Amazon (they exist since the 1970s), and hence they were appointed as my “partner organisation” over here.
In 2004 I received 4 years worth of funding to investigate “indigenous peoples’ perspectives on the commercialization of their ancestral knowledge and related biological resources”, and write up the findings in the form of a PhD thesis. Despite serious misgivings about academic work, this is more or less exactly what I find myself doing right now, probably to some degree for want of anything better to do, but also because it struck me as a potentially useful project (as opposed to so many others generated by the academy).
At bottom this means that I am hanging out in and around Tena, talking to people in a variety of places, organisations, communities, projects about a variety of issues to do with collective rights, medicinal plants, cash needs, market access, aspirations, community values, ancestral knowledge, deforestation, etc.
At the same time I am witnessing and evaluating a project that FONAKIN is running in collaboration with a German NGO and pharmaceutical company – it is called ProBenefit and is a rather hot potato, politically.
Most importantly, however, I am trying to put my energy into planning a collaborative research and “capacity building” project from below – a project about how to defend ancestral knowledge and wisdom from what is at bottom the “primitive accumulation” of capitalism. Many people here realize the importance of such a project, but of course the required financial resources are not available and so a small group of people is now starting to explore the potential for animating the necessary collective initiative in order to begin articulating a proposal for such a project.
Also, find more information on ProBenefit.
My darling partner in crime and love, here known as colono, is accompanying me in my exploration out of the goodness of his heart and lack of access to any funds other than mine.