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Sumakta Kawsana:  What is meant by "improving the quality of life"? 

 

Key to the Amazonian ideal of wellbeing, sumakta kawsana, is a convivial environment where relatives can live and work together, speaking their own language, respecting their elders and land.  It often refers retrospectively to remembered place and time when people lived in a social relation to nature resulting in plentiful fish, game, and gardens; when all ages worked together with children learning from elders;  when relatives gathered in the late afternoon to bathe and wash clothes in a clean river.  Together they celebrated life events and took care of their own widows, orphans and elders.  Although threatened, this convivial way of life is, in many ways, still vibrant and serves as a guiding light for the present and the future. 

 

The Iyarina resilient forest project seeks to preserve this way of life by adapting it to the conditions of Amazonian modernity.  We do this with our eyes open to the reality that the purely subsistence agriculture, hunting, fishing, and gathering that supported this way of life is no longer sustainable without modification. 

 

Internet, a cell phone, tablet or laptop for school; a pickup or some other form of transportation, are no longer luxuries but necessary to function in a globalized world.  Meeting these needs requires income.  Too often the jobs Amazonian young people can actually get (if they are lucky) are in oil, mining, or timber  extraction while the jobs they aspire to require migration to the cities where they lose the language and convivial way of life central to the ideal of sumakta kawsana.  

 

What then?  Although returning to the past is not possible we seek to create a hybrid work place in which sumakta kawsana is adapted to a modern forest economy which includes the provision of services. The proposed solution is for an expanded family network to increase The productivity of the forest. so that it yields not only food, medicine, and lumber but also jobs in birding, guiding, recreation, or managing tropical ecology research projects carried out in the forest, providing wild animal rehabilitation services, etc.  

Increased quality of life is measured in terms of:

1.  The degree to which relatives can continue to work together convivially, productively engaging the forest, young people along side their elders, each learning from the other. 

2.  The degree to which the traditional social relation to nature can continue to be practiced and passed on in this work even as it is combined with new scientific learning and technology. 

3. The ability to generate income including access to education, internet, connectivity, healthcare, adequate food and housing while living in relation to this forest.

5.  The degree to which food and life necessities continue to come from the local forest.

6. The degree to which families continue to have access to forest, river, and communal buildings for family life events, dances and recreation.  

7. The degree to which relatives are able to care for their elderly,  orphaned, homeless, or disabled within this convivial environment. 

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Sumakta Kawsana:  The Amazonian Ideal of Living Well

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