OUR PARTNERSHIP

PARTNERSHIP

Introduction

In the early 1990s the Achuar, one of the indigenous nations of Ecuador, whose ancestral lands are located in the largest large tract of Rainforest in a remote region of the Amazon, started developing alternative sustainable activities, conservation and social impact enterprises, including ecotourism, to battle the extraction industries and threats to indigenous groups in the Amazon.

 

The Achuar’s objective was to generate a source of local income, preserve their ancient traditions and customs, and protect the Amazon Rainforest. This plan attracted the interest of an Ecuadorian tourism operator, Canodros. Canodros was working in the Galapagos Islands and was looking for opportunities in the Amazon region to connect two of the worlds most iconic conservation travel destinations. A perfect match was formed, and together, the Achuar nation and Canodros pioneered a community-based ecotourism enterprise in Ecuador.

The Kapawi Ecolodge and Preserve was created in the mid-1990s for the purpose of contributing to the sustainable development of the Achuar communities. Under a partnership that operated under high environmental, social, and cultural standards, Canodros managed the Kapawi Ecolodge and Preserve since 1996 until it was transferred entirely to the Achuar in 2008. Since then, the Achuar people have managed their own project, developing over the years other community enterprises in a region of more than 100,000 hectares where ecotourism has established as a key instrument supporting conservation and community development. 

 

Since it started operations in 1996, Kapawi Ecolodge has provided several benefits to the Achuar, but still faces several challenges and increasing threats from extractive industries. After 22 years the community owners decided it was necessary to carry out a renovation not only of the Ecolodge, but also one that would add new natural and cultural travel experiences and itineraries for future visitors.

 

Kapawi Ecolodge finished a renovation process in 2019 that lasted almost 2 years. During the renovation process, a new Achuar Management structure was created. Currently, the communities of Kapawi, Suwa, and Kusutkau manage the Ecolodge, and work closely with the neighboring communities of Wayusentsa, Tsekunts, Sharamentsa, Napurak, Wachirpas, Ishpingo, Tiinkias, and Chichirat to strengthen the ecotourism region in the lower Pastaza Basin, a region considered to be part of the Sacred Headwaters of the Amazon river. Several partnerships have been strengthened during this period as well.

The Achuar's first Ally: Pachamama Alliance

Pachamama Alliance, one of the first allies to work with the Achuar, played a key role in supporting Kapawi’s renovation process, together with Fundacion Pachamama, Trek Ecuador, the University of San Francisco Quito, and other individuals and friends of the Achuar.

 

The history of Pachamama Alliance and the Achuar's Partnership began with an introduction from Ecuadorian eco-tourism pioneer, Daniel Koupermann... 

 

A tale told by Pachamama Alliance co-founders Lynne Twist & John Perkins.

 

John Perkins: Kapawi eco-lodge was born out of a vision from Daniel Kouperman to build an eco-lodge in Ecuador that honored nature but at the same time, offering comfortable accommodation to people accustomed to modern life. Drawing on his father’s experience and reputation as a hotelier, Daniel obtained financing to build an eco-lodge in Achuar Territory. This territory was 2 million acres of pristine forest 30 miles north of the Peru Ecuador border.

He moved into a pristine and wild part of the Ecuadorian Amazon rain forest to design and build this facility. It would be built by the Achuar themselves, in the style of their homes, using only materials from the forests – no plastic or metal, not even nails. Nothing would be imported except for modern plumbing. It would consist of a communal dining room, a meeting lodge, and 18 cabins with modern bathrooms. All of it would be constructed at a place the Achuar called Kapawi. It was more than a hundred miles through the dense unexplored jungle from the nearest road and was next to a lake fed by the Capahuari River, one of the headwaters of the Amazon. When finished, the lodge would not be luxurious but would provide visitors with everything they needed. Daniel’s vision was that guests would take walks through the rainforest with Achuar guides, as well as having the opportunity to drift down the Capahuari and see the endangered freshwater pink dolphins. Part of the financing deal guaranteed that the Achuar would be trained to operate and manage the lodge; its ownership would be completely turned over to them. Building it was an arduous process; Daniel had spent three years living in the jungle and adapting to Achuar ways, in order to oversee the construction. The Achuar were calling the shots and it truly was their lodge. Daniel had been very careful not to impose our culture or economy on theirs.

Daniel called on me several months earlier, asking me to meet with the Achuar at Kapawi. I agreed to come and Daniel arranged a meeting with the Achuar's community Elders at the site in which Kapawi was being built.

 

One of their leaders stood before us. He held a spear in his hands. Although he spoke in Achuar, a teenage boy who had attended a missionary school translated into Spanish.

“We have heard,” the speaker said, addressing me, “that you lived in Shuar territory many years ago, before some of us were born. Back then, we knew little about the outside world. Now we are not so ignorant. The ice on the great mountains is melting. Your oil companies have poisoned the rivers of our neighbors, the Kichuas and the Huaranis. They murder women and children with their poisons and killed warriors who tried to defend their lands. They drop fire from their planes. Your people have no respect for the forests and the rivers and the animals. When they come to a place, it turns to ash. The trees and animals vanish, never to return.”

John Perkins: Kapawi eco-lodge was born out of a vision from Daniel Kouperman to build an eco-lodge in Ecuador that honored nature but at the same time, offering comfortable accommodation to people accustomed to modern life. 

​He moved into a pristine and wild part of the Ecuadorian Amazon rain forest to design and build this facility. It would be built by the Achuar themselves, in the style of their homes, using only materials from the forests – no plastic or metal, not even nails. Nothing would be imported except for modern plumbing. It would consist of a communal dining room, a meeting lodge, and 18 cabins with modern bathrooms. All of it would be constructed at a place the Achuar called Kapawi. It was more than a hundred miles through the dense unexplored jungle from the nearest road and was next to a lake fed by the Capahuari River, one of the headwaters of the Amazon. When finished, the lodge would not be luxurious but would provide visitors with everything they needed. Part of the financing deal guaranteed that the Achuar would be trained to operate and manage the lodge; its ownership would be completely turned over to them.  

Daniel called on me several months earlier, asking me to meet with the Achuar at Kapawi. I agreed to come and Daniel arranged a meeting with the Achuar's community Elders at the site in which Kapawi was being built.

 

They were asking me to form a partnership between them and people from the US who would help them fend off the oil companies, protect their forests and – as they put it – work with them to change the dream of the modern world, to shift a culture of overconsumption to one that honors and sustains life.

​I wanted to help the Achuar, but I knew I couldn't do it alone. Daniel understood my doubts, and asked me who I thought could help the Achuar, he knew there was a way even if I couldn't respond directly to the Achuars request. He was right, I did know one person who might be able to help the Achuar form this partnership, my old friend Lynne Twist.

Lynne Twist: [W]hen the invitation, or really the "call," came from the remote, indigenous people deep in the Amazon, it was a call I could not deny. So John and I helped organize a group of twelve travelers from the modern world to meet with the Achuar leaders. The group was composed of people of enormous quality and integrity – people with open hearts, each of whom had a global voice of some kind in their own issue, and some understanding of the importance of the rain forest to the sustainability of all life. These were people with the humility to be open to indigenous wisdom, who would respect the ways of the shaman and the way of life in the Achuar community.The Soul of Money (p 177).

John Perkins: That journey to Achuar territory in 1995 took us in our rented bus from Quito, over the top of the Andes, and down to Shell – a town centered around an airstrip built by the oil company of the same name and used by the Ecuadorian military as headquarters for its Amazonian operations. This group was the first group of "Westerners" to ever enter the Achuar Territory.

During our short 5 day trip with the Achuar. We learned that the Achuar had come to understand that the problems they confront in their corner of the world are symbolic of what they believe will happen everywhere, unless we humans change. They had invited us to their lands and into their homes to save their forests and also because they wanted to partner with us to help humans everywhere understand the need to transform our relationship with the natural world. They emphasized that the survival of their forests is tied to the survival of all global systems. The future of the world, they said, depends on a change in human attitudes, and such a change in turn depends on a new dream for humanity, a new perception of what it means to be a human being living on a fragile space station.

​Every member of our group, at one time or another, expressed amazement that Achuar people who had only recently been in contact with the outside world had such deep wisdom and knowledge.

I was thrilled about this, inspired by the group's passion to make a commitment to the Achuar, but also somewhat worried. We’d made promises to the Achuar. As a result of that trip, Bill twist ended up quitting his job as CEO of a highly successful financial services company and he, Lynne and I and a group of friends created a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization, the Pachamama Alliance – named for the Quechua word that means “Mother Earth, Mother Universe, Mother of all Space and Time.”

Since the founding of Pachamama Alliance, the ownership of Kapawi Eco-lodge has been given to the Achuar in honor of their original partnership. The lodge is 100% owned and operated by the Achuar with support, resources, and guidance from Pachamama Alliance and Trek Ecuador. The Achuar's management of Kapawi Ecolodge & sustainable development of tourism remains an important initiative for helping the Achuar in their mission to battle the encroachment of oil development in the Achuar Territory, conserve their lands, communities & culture, and "change the dream" of the modern world.

 

Learn more about Kapawi Eco-lodge's vision and mission

 
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OUR MISSION

Kapawi Ecolodge is an award-winning community ecotourism enterprise in the Amazon Rainforest of Ecuador that offers conscious and responsible travelers the opportunity to engage in unique and authentic cultural experiences in an unspoiled natural setting, while directly supporting the sustainable development of the Achuar indigenous nation.

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