There are approximately 36 native communities, of the Arahuaca linguistic family, Asháninka ethnicity, living in the Tambo and Ene River Basins. Total population is approximately 10,000. Communities adjacent to the reserve have the most access to it. In Tambo’s Valley, adjacent communities include Tsoroja, Anapate, Otica, Coriteni Tarso, Oviri, and Cheni. Tambo River’s population is approximately 3,000 people, with a tendency to increase since population growth in the zone continues. Poyeni is the most populated native community in the Tambo Basin with 1,200 people (200 families). They are distributed in the main town of Poyeni and its annexes: Savareni, Selva Verde and Corinti. None of the other native communities in Tambo Valley have developed annex communities (25).
The next most populated community is Cheni, with 300 inhabitants from 70 families. The least populated communities include Coriteni Tarso and Otica. Coriteni has 85 inhabitants (16 families). There are new residents in the communities of Anapate, Oviri, and Otica; they originate from Satipo and Pangoa. In general, most people live in centralized towns, except from Anapate and Oviri where inhabitants are dispersed in their small farms along the Tambo River.
In the Ene Valley, communities bordering the communal reserve are: Samaniato, Caparucia, Meteni, Quiteni, Cutivireni, Camantavishi, Quempiri, Quimaropitari, Pitirinquine, Comitamincari, Tsegontini, Timpiñari, Tipashari, and Alto Picha. San José de Cutivireni is the most populated community in the Ene Valley, with approximately 1,000 people (280 families) living in 6 annexes. The main community of Cutivireni has 69 familias, Tinkareni annex has 64 families, Selva Verde (also known as Seboroshiari) annex has 52 families, Shipipo has 23 families, Cobeja has 15 families, Tiboreni has 18 families, Shibokiroato has 20 families, Mario Zumaeta has 11 families and Alto Pamoreni has 10 families (26). The next most populated town is Quempiri, which has 500 inhabitants living in 6 annexes. The other communities have between 100 and 200 inhabitants; Quimaropitari is the least populated community in the Ene Valley with 110 inhabitants. Pichiquía annexes include Meteni, Pichiquería and Chiquireni. Quiteni has two annexes: Sarita Colonia and Sor María, these two are inhabited exclusively by colonists who live just meters away from the native Asháninkas. In general, people live in the main towns and annexes, although it is common to see homes dispersed all along the river.
In the Apurímac River Valley, the communities bordering the reserve include: Gran Shinongari, Otari, Onkirensti, Ankirosi and Catongo Quempiri. Gran Shinongari is the most populated with 900 inhabitants and 12 annexes. There are 181 heads of families. The other communities have much less populations, no more than 100 in any single town. Otari, which is a small town in area, only has 82 inhabitants (12 families). Like in the other two valleys, most people live in centralized communities or villages or they are dispersed along the river (27).
The arrival of Andean colonists and terrorists from the Sendero Luminoso group generated structural changes in both density and distribution of the Asháninka living in the Ene River Valley. There used to be more than 20,000 Asháninkas spread throughout the region. Many of them left their traditional homes and retreated further into the forest to escape the Quechau colonists’ invasion; they were moving in from the north, west and south. A census revealed that the area around the Cutivireni Mission used to Asháninka population center (28).
ACPC has evidence that there are indigenous communities in initial contact and groups of semi nomadic indigenous people that move throughout the upper part, within the communal reserve (29). It is assumed that these are natives who sought refuge in the forest during the Sendero Luminoso period and that they live traditionally, away from outside civilization’s influence.
However, aside from the possibility of the above-mentioned groups, there are no permanently settled communities living within Asháninka Communal Reserve. Members of nearby communities constantly travel into the reserve, to obtain forest products and also because of religious/magical beliefs, which means that the reserve has important cultural value as well. The reserve is extremely important for the Asháninka culture because it includes the mountains that are part of their ancestors’ traditional territories (30). It is also socially-economically important for them since they traditionally use the zone to obtain flora and fauna products for their nutrition, health, and home (31).
When it comes to the communal reserve, there are basically two types of grassroots organizations. In the Tambo River, the directors of the grassroots organizations, such as the presidents or the representatives belonging to CART (Central Asháninka del Río Tambo), know about Asháninka Communal Reserve and they know about the benefits and interests. In the Ene River, on the other hand, leaders of the organizations also know about the reserve and they seem to understand its importance, but the general population associates the reserve more with territorial defense. This is noted in a comment made by Cutivireni President Jaime Velásquez Salas. He said, “Talking with my people, they think that we are going to have our animals and that there will not be any invasions. This is the guarantee, that there won’t be invasions and that there will be animals.”
IBC mentioned that when they conducted the most recent consultation, in which INRENA, indigenous institutions, and NGOs participated; there was a good level of understanding when it came to the communal reserve. CEDIA and ACPC worked hard in that respect. There has been a lot of consulting and participation in the communities. However, the general population still does not fully understand the concept and more information is needed at the community level, but the leaders definitely understand (32).
Traditional trails used by communities for hunting and collecting purposes provide access to Asháninka Communal Reserve. There are several different ways to access the region and then continue onto the reserve on foot.
Terrestrial infrastructure: There is no terrestrial infrastructure immediately surrounding the reserve. There is a dirt road that goes from Satipo to Puerto Ocopa. There is another road from Quimbiri to the native community of Quimaropitari.
Fluvial: River travel is much more important and widespread for transport of passengers and cargo. The Ene, Tambo and Apurímac Rivers are navigable year-round. The main fluvial routes are: Puerto Ocopa – Atalaya, Puerto Ocopa – Valle Esmeralda and San Francisco – Valle Esmeralda. Using river travel is somewhat dangerous and costly because there are some difficult passes along the Ene and Tambo Rivers.
Photo © Miguel Morán, ParksWatch – Peru
Aerial: There are two airports and six landing strips in the zone. The airports are in Atalaya and Mazamari and the landing strips are located in Satipo, San Francisco, Puerto Ocopa, Cutivireni, Cheni and Betania. The landing strips’ infrastructure is precarious at best. They lack minimum equipment (like radio communication) or any installations. The landing strip itself is clay soil and grass, which means that landing during the rainy season is difficult, if not impossible. The community residents provide occasional maintenance and attention to the strips (33).
Foot trails: In addition to air and river travel, there are several important intra and intercommunity foot trails (34). The intracommunity foot trails are the most important ways for people to reach other people from their same community and to reach their farming plots, hunting and collecting zones. Permanent users are native people. Transit along these paths depends on physical-geographic conditions, time of year, and also maintenance (35).
There are no tourists or visitors to Asháninka Communal Reserve because it is extremely far away and access is difficult and expensive. One must walk for hours to reach the protected area; in reality, an expedition is needed to reach it. There are some occasional visitors along the Ene River, but not in any organized fashion. There are not tourism operators offering services in the zone.
Asháninka Communal Reserve is a prime site for tourism and recreation development within the Cutivireni River Basin, a tributary of the Ene. Close to Cutivireni Basin, there are at least 55 waterfalls; notable ones include Tres Saltos at 80 m, Tsiriapo at 60 m, Hectariato that reaches more than 300 m, Parijaro at 273 m and Tres Hermanas at 130 m in Cubeja River Basin. Rapid moving waters form awesome veils and waterfalls that can reach 300 m (36).
In addition to Cutivireni Basin’s importance, the entire reserve is an adventure tourism and recreation attraction because of its esthetic beauty and variety of ecosystems found at close proximity, from dry forest to very moist rainforest, as well as grasslands and salt licks, which mean a great diversity of plants and animals. The protected area also has potential as an aerial tourism destination, since many of its waterfalls and landscapes can be observed by air, and as an ecotourism destination.