The Ashaninka are one of the largest indigenous groups in South America. Since colonial times, their existence has been difficult — they have been enslaved, had their lands taken away or destroyed. This community on the River Ene in Peru have only recently returned to the area after massacres by the Shining Path in the 1990’s.
Today, a large communal reserve set aside for the Ashaninka is under threat by the proposed Pakitzapango dam, which would displace some 10,000 Ashaninka.
Ruth Buendia, leader of Central Ashaninka del Rio Ene (CARE), has taken on both the Peruvian government and Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht to help derail plans to build the Pakitzapango dam which would flood 70,000 hectares of forest. The dam is now on hold and In April 2014, Buendia was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in recognition of her work.
Many Ashaninka make an income by harvesting cocoa that grows next to the forest. With help of Bettys and Taylors, and the Rainforest Foundation UK, the Ashaninka have set up their own cocoa cooperative called Kemito Ene, to improve the quality of their cocoa and generate additional income for the community.