Edwin Chota at a meeting discussing the practices of sustainable timber harvesting. Chota was murdered on 8 September 2014 by illegal loggers. Photo: Emory Richey

By Diego Leal and David Salisbury
9 Septemer 2014

(Forest Trends) – Always carrying a sheaf of legal documents and maps, Peruvian indigenous leader Edwin Chota tirelessly traveled from his native community of Alto Tamaya - Saweto to the city of Pucallpa, Ucayali, using the seven-day boat trip as an opportunity to plan his next steps.

"Saweto will host an event on indigenous sustainable development at the border, and we want as many people as possible there," said Chota, a 52-year-old chief of the Ashéninka people shortly before he was murdered last week by loggers intent on harvesting timber in the forest he fought so hard to protect. "Everyone from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the president of Ucayali needs to attend."

Chota dreamed of a borderland Amazonian forest with indigenous people thriving alongside the region's biodiversity. He envisioned a new generation of indigenous families living in peace while teaching others at the border how to protect and use the forest. In Chota's dream, Saweto would become a model indigenous community leading the way towards a more sustainable Amazon.

Both of us had the honor of working beside Chota as advisors and in our capacity with the Upper Amazon Conservancy and ProPurús - two of many NGOs Chota had engaged to help him save the forest he loved so dearly. We spent last night going through our notebooks, sharing bits of wisdom scribbled on the trail.

"All the leaders who are active today will one day be gone," he said presciently. "But our dream will stay alive as long as we set the ground for the children walking behind us."

Yet, as we write these words, his widow and his orphaned children have fled the ground he set for them. So, too, have the widows and orphans of the other three leaders murdered by loggers intent on harvesting every last valuable tree in the rainforest. […]

Chota didn't merely hope for a land title, an end to illegal logging, or financial prosperity for Saweto. He desired a peaceful future for his family, his community, and anyone else who shared his dream of a better Amazonia:

"You have to work for a goal larger than what you can see for the coming years. We walk and travel through the forest because we want this place to exist without danger or violence in fifty, one hundred, or even five hundred years." [more]

Edwin Chota's Dream via Cusco Running Club



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