The Andes Amazon Fund is proud to join in celebrations for the creation of Tiwi Nunka, the first nature reserve managed by an Indigenous community in Ecuador. Located at the junction of the Yacuambi and Kiim rivers in the province of Zamora Chinchipe, this reserve spans 13,585 acres (5,498 hectares) and forms part of Ecuador’s National System of Protected Areas. Tiwi Nunka is not just an achievement for nature— it is also a cultural achievement. The Protected Area will both maintain an important corridor for biodiversity, and support the preservation of traditional knowledge and sovereignty of the Shuar community.
A Brief History of Tiwi Nunka
Tiwi Nunka represents an important milestone in the history of protected areas in Ecuador and the Amazon as a whole, as it is the first nature reserve managed entirely by an Indigenous community. This victory is the result of 22 years of perseverance on behalf of the Shuar people, who began settling in the now protected area in 1958 (Tiwi Nunka means “Territory of Tiwi”, after the first Shuar to settle there). The Shuar community originally requested a protected status for Tiwi Nunka in 2000.
After years of work and discussions with the Ecuadorian government, and additional support from NGOs such as Nature and Culture International, the Shuar Kiim Center celebrated the official announcement of the Tiwi Nunka Community Protected Area on July 20th, 2022 with the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition (MAATE). Its inclusion into the National System of Protected Areas (SNAP) will provide important protections against mining and logging.
Preserving Biodiversity, Waterways, and Wisdom
The Tiwi Nunka Community Protected Area is part of a micro-corridor of approximately 500,000 acres, connecting with various other protected areas in the region. All of these areas contain important forests that support climate regulation and water quality. They are also home to large mammals such as the Andean bear, mountain tapir, and the puma.
“We are trying to create a puzzle that allows a corridor to connect these two large areas,” said Felipe Serrano, coordinator of Nature and Culture International, an Ecuadorian organization also active in the United States, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia and Mexico. They have worked on the development of the Shuar Kiim Center since 2005.
The creation of Tiwi Nunka additionally protects the headwaters of the Kiim River, which is home to sacred sites, and provides an important source of protein for the members of the Shuar Kiim Center. The preservation of fishing practices in the Kiim River aids in passing down traditional knowledge to the next generation.
The creation of the Tiwi Nunka Community Protected Area was made possible by years of hard work on behalf of the Shuar Kiim Center, in collaboration with AAF grantee Nature and Culture International (NCI) Ecuador, as well as the Federación Provincial de la Nacionalidad Shuar de Zamora Chinchipe (FEPNASHZCh), and the Ministry of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition (MAATE).