The second part of our series about Telma and her life as a rainforest rescuer dates back to her childhood when her family were forced off their land by terrorists.
Telma was born in the late 1980’s when daily life in her village was idyllic. The forest and rivers provided them with ample food and their gardens were small and easy to manage but very productive. Telma’s Asháninka ancestors had been living off the land here much longer than anyone could remember, perhaps for thousands of years.
Yet when Telma was a small baby her mother and father were forced out of their village and away from their forest gardens by terrorists. Along with all their family and friends, many hundreds of Asháninka fled from the violent invaders and made camp in the higher rainforest where they were relatively safe but had to survive by collecting fruits, grubs or hunting game like birds, deer or wild pigs with bow and arrows. The children were taught to play quietly by day and not make any noise at night, ensuring that the terrorists would never find them.
After nearly two years, the Asháninka regained village sites and all their rainforest territory. Telma and her family were able to return to Cutivireni where they have lived happily ever since. This experience with the terrorists was the first time that the Asháninka here had ever been pushed off their land, something they are determined will not happen again.
When a logging company arrived at Cutivireni at the start of 2008 offering the Asháninka leaders a lot of money for access to the best trees in their 33,000 hectare forest, the community were reluctant to grant access to the loggers. Not only did they fear that the logging machinery – chain saws, tractors and diggers – would frighten away all the game animals but remembering the time of terrorism, they were also worried about letting these outsiders into their territory.
One of the community leaders Telma’s father, Cesar decided to see if there was a better way for the community to make a living in fast changing times. He knew that the community needs money to survive these days. Their forests have less game than it did when Telma was a baby and the main river is polluted and now overfished. The Asháninka also need money to buy school books, pencils, cooking pots, fish hooks, machetes, salt and other useful things which help them live more comfortably.
After several community meetings at Cutivireni, Cesar contacted Cool Earth via the community’s solar powered satellite telephone.