This story excerpt was translated from Spanish. To read the original story in full, visit Revista Nómadas. You may also view the original story on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website. Our website is available in English, Spanish, bahasa Indonesia, French, and Portuguese.
Ruth Alipaz has led the resistance against destructive projects such as hydroelectric dams and mining, fighting for the preservation of the Bolivian Amazon and its diverse bird species, while advocating for the rights of indigenous peoples and the protection of the environment. Her voice highlights the dangerous process of extermination faced by indigenous peoples and how they are being left without water and food.
Q: How many years have you been fighting for nature?
-Since I was 12 years old, because we, the Indigenous peoples, were always condemned, since we did not have a complete education with high school. At that time there was only up to fifth grade, and I had to go out to find a place to finish school. That meant breaking many paradigms, social structures, rules, that were not well seen, to leave your village, even more so as a girl and a woman.
I remember that we were about to approve a concession of 31,000 hectares of forest in my territory. This led me to face-to-face with the interests of the big timber exploitation capitals that always convince the authorities of our villages that it is a good idea to destroy your forest.
As I have a more personal training process, I worked with Indigenous communities in the north of La Paz, in the Apolo sector and also in the southern part, border with Cochabamba, implementing community ecotourism products, and in this way I made a venture, an agency that specializes in bird watching.
This has allowed me to support young people who were doing comparative studies of the foothills in Bolivia. This study defined that the Sadiri mountain range, in the Madidi, was the most biodiverse foothills in birds. That helped me to make a proposal, an alternative to my people: I told them that we cannot destroy this area, and I came up with the idea of a bird watching project.
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