Cesar Bustamante is an Asháninkan tribal chief who has spent his life defending his people’s forest.
In the eighties and nineties he fought against the Maoist guerrillas, the Shining Path. The war’s frontline was battled out at Cesar’s village, Cutivireni. Cesar led his villagers into the highlands where they hid for over a decade. With the women and children safe, he returned to fight. Cesar and his Asháninka brothers won.
Next came the illegal loggers who were queuing up to get their hands on Cutivireni’s valuable hardwood trees. When his village were offered a logging contract, Cesar found allies and contacted Cool Earth. Cutivireni is now the heart of Cool Earth’s Asháninka project.
We’ve helped ensure Cesar’s village has not lost a single tree to loggers. What’s more, they’ve rallied together with their neighbours to form a living shield to make millions of acres of adjacent forest inaccessible to logging.
“If we’d let the loggers in, they’d have taken all the wood. It is something in my lifetime I would never permit because the forest is what we need for future generations. We need the forest. Without it we cannot exist.” Cesar Bustamante
However in this part of Peru, things are never quiet for long. Now the threat comes from the cocaine trade. The Ene Valley is part of the largest cocaine producing region in the world. The narcos have more guns and are just as intent on destroying the rainforest. Land colonists are arriving to the Ene, determined to turn pristine forest into coca plantations.
As for Cesar? His village have voted him out of ‘retirement’ (which for him is working as the community nurse) and back to President of Cutivireni. You can be sure that the forest will be safe on his watch.