Tell us about the community that you engage? eg. economic conditions, political structures, norms and values, demographic trends, history, and experience with engagement efforts.
There are approximately 6,500 Achuar people living in the Ecuadorian Amazon, whose ancestral lands spread across nearly 2 million acres of primary rainforest. Early in the 20th century, the Ecuadorian Government granted oil concessions in the rainforest, which also opened the door for other resource extractive activities. The Achuar territory had an advantage due to its proximity deep inside the jungle and lack of access via roads. Achuar leaders initiated a partnership creating The Pachamama Alliance and it's sister organization based in Ecuador, Fundación Pachamama. The Achuar people have a history of being warriors, meaning that contact with the western world did not officially take place until the 1960s upon arrival of Missionaries, who built airstrips within the territory, increasing the access from the outside. As there are currently no roads into the territory, the only way to access Achuar territory is via canoe or airplane.This means that access to cities and hospitals is significantly limited to the Achuar. In the past, the Achuar were nomads and moved around periodically within the territory. With the introduction of airstrips, people settled in communities and began heavily populating one area, thus putting pressure on the surrounding environment by contaminating water and soil resources. Traditionally, Achuar women gave birth by themselves in the forest without the assistance of a birth attendant or even their mothers. This change in community lifestyle has negatively impacted maternal, child, and overall community health of the Achuar people.
Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project
Jungle Mamas was established in 2007 and was recognized as an official program of Fundación Pachamama in 2008. The program started when Margaret Love, Jungle Mamas’ founder and director, traveled deep into the Ecuadorian Amazon to visit an Achuar community on a trip led by The Pachamama Alliance, Fundación Pachamama's sister organization. Once people in the community found out Margaret was a midwife, pregnant Achuar women throughout the community asked her to examine them and listen to their stories. Margaret realized she was being called to play a role in stopping all preventable maternal and infant deaths in the Achuar territory. After this first encounter, Margaret Love then met the current Jungle Mamas local coordinator, Narcisa Mashienta, an empowered and indigenous Shuar woman (the Shuar people are another indigenous group of the Amazon, sharing a history with the Achuar people) who had married into an Achuar family. Narcisa and Margaret shared the common dream of improving the health and well-being of the Achuar people by training people in safe birth and family health workshops. In 2009, Margaret met Robin Fink, who began working as the Ecuador-based Jungle Mamas program manager. It is the solidarity and vision shared by Margaret, Narcisa, and Robin that has enabled Jungle Mamas to slowly begin expanding its work within the Achuar territory.