FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY

         THE HONORS COLLEGE AMAZON PROGRAM

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PROGRAM MISSION

The Program: The current mission of our program is to reduce loss of biodiversity and natural habitat, and to decrease vulnerability to future ecosystem degradation in the Orosa River watershed in Peru. We work with indigenous Yagua and campesino (mixed heritage) communities located along the Orosa River to help them develop and implement long-term community-based "Life Plans" for the management, protection, and monitoring of their territories. The Orosa is located in an area that is threatened by rapidly expanding logging and hydrocarbon extraction activities. Our goal is to enable communities along the Orosa River to secure territorial rights and to help them manage their environment sustainably.

Significance: The issues addressed by the Amazon Program have broad ecological and humanitarian significance. The Orosa watershed lies within the western Amazon Basin, known as a "global epicenter of biodiversity". The forests of this region help mitigate global climate change and regulate regional hydrology. However, exponential increases in industrial extractive activities and logging in this area over the last 20 years now threaten the ecological integrity of the region. Much of this activity is occurring in areas that overlap indigenous and campesino community lands whose residents are worried about the impacts that such activities could have on their health and well-being. In addition to impacts from industrial extractive activities, the Peruvian Amazon is also expected to experience some of the earliest and most severe impacts related to global climate change. Within the last five years, the region has suffered the impacts of a series of devastating extreme weather events including two severe droughts, record-breaking floods, and prolonged cold spells, all of which may be related to larger climate change patterns. For these reasons, it is important to devise strategies to effectively manage existing forests to protect them against present and future environmental stressors related to land use activities, and climate change. But more importantly, to do so in manner that addresses the concerns of the peoples living there.

The Orosa and its Communities: The Orosa watershed is a medium-sized tributary emptying into the upper Amazon River, approximately 30 miles in length. Six Yagua, and 4 campesino communities are located along the middle stretches of the river. Communities range in size from 50 to 320 members, with scattered households located between communities. The total population of the Yagua communities is approximately 1000 people, with an additional 550 campesino residents.