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Climate change in Peru: indigenous impacts and solutions

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Peru

The climate negotiations currently taking place Lima will have an impact on the future of many Peruvian citizens. Indigenous communities and those living in voluntary isolation are already facing the burden of increasing climate variability.

Climate change is affecting the most basic and critical stuff of life for indigenous people: food, water, health; women are also directly impacted.

Food

Climate change affects the distribution of the animals and fish indigenous people rely on for food. Bush meat and fish and their migratory cycles they have been using for several hundred years to provide food to their communities are endangered. The regular cycles of migration and the animal movements in the forest have changed.

Of even greater concern are effects on small farming practices along the river banks from unexpected flooding, long droughts and problems related to insects and plagues impacting the crops. Many indigenous communities are facing food shortages due to climate change in a very critical way.

Water

Clean, life-sustaining rivers also are endangered and don’t even exist in some places. to the cause: human activities up stream and oil and gas exploration. Climate change is creating more and more intense rains that are affecting the dumping fields close to main settlements in the Amazon.

No single body of water is treated in the Peruvian Amazon. All sewage and all industrial elements drain into rivers, and people don’t have access to other sources of clean water, requiring them to take their water from polluted rivers despite the risks. As a result, people, especially children, face problems with parasites and disease.

Health

Disease is spreading across the Amazon. Diseases that once were restricted to certain areas now have taken a foothold, including yellow fever, malaria, dengue and some other parasite-based diseases, which are spreading rapidly from exploding insect populations that act as carriers. It’s not yet entirely clear how this is going to impact the livelihoods of the people.

Although long-term impacts on people remain unclear, we know from research-based evidence that conditions in communities are worsening. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that many these diseases receive limited attention. Some diseases are not conventional or recognized by the pharmaceutical system, which results in lack of available treatment and quick response systems. Safe food, clean water, and proper conditions for healthy livelihoods then become even more critical.

Women

A discussion of how climate change is affecting would be incomplete without highlighting the situation of women. Indigenous communities carry the highest burdens of climate change as water and food become scarce and people (especially women) often carry the bulk of the burden. In recent times, as supply of bush meat and fish dwindle, many young males and heads of family leave forested areas for cities in search of ways to earn a living and provide for their families.

But women stay home and have to deal with raising cattle and poultry, caring for children, providing shelter, and securing other resources to live. Women are under increasing stress because climate change is demanding them to walk longer distances for food and water and preventing them from being able to live full lives.

This is the real situation in some areas of the Peruvian Amazon, and it is fairly common in some other areas where indigenous people are fighting against climate change. It is not only about fighting against the change in the environment. The fight extends to confronting corporations who are increasing the consumption of their resources and affecting their livelihoods. Indigenous people have called their communities home for many generations. They should be empowered and are certainly entitled to happiness and to prosperity and to co-exist as a part of society and nature.

Juan Carlos Riveros is the director of conservation for WWF Peru. He is based in Lima. jc.riveros@wwfperu.org. This article first appeared in Univision.com on 4 December 2014.

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