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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 259-270

Conservation and Care among the Cofán in the Ecuadorian Amazon

1 High Meadows Environmental Institute, Princeton University, New Jersey; School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Florida, Florida, USA
2 Department of Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz, California, USA
3 Cofán Zábalo, Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Correspondence Address:
Michael S Esbach
High Meadows Environmental Institute, Princeton University, New Jersey; School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Florida, Florida
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Source of Support: MSE was supported by the University of Floridaís Tropical Conservation and Development (TCD) programme and the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE). FLís longitudinal research in the Ecuadorian Amazon has been supported by the National Science Foundation (BCS-0822967, BCS-1258852) and the National Institutes of Health (R01-HD38777-01). Any errors or misinterpretations are solely the responsibility of the authors., Conflict of Interest: The authors declare no competing interests in the conduct of this research.

DOI: 10.4103/cs.cs_20_137

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Accelerating deforestation and ecological degradation, linked to political and economic policies and agendas that endanger the health, well-being, and cultural survival of Indigenous people, present dire threats to the Amazonian biome and its inhabitants. Confronting these challenges necessitates a unified response by local and global partners. However, some conservationists, predominantly from the Global North, have perpetuated problematic, essentialised framings of Indigenous communities, which have even led them to advocate for punitive protectionist policies that we argue are morally and conceptually flawed. Western scientific and popular discourse often presents nature conservation via protected areas as a universal good. In this article, we argue for a more pluralistic approach; one that calls for an equitable footing between Indigenous knowledge and sustainability science. We examine a case study of the Cofán community of Zábalo in the Ecuadorian Amazon, where collective efforts to tsampima coiraye (care for the forest) have resulted in dynamic institutions adapted to diverse challenges and opportunities. Tsampima coiraye exemplifies a form of caretaking that is distinct from and complementary to Western conservation, one that provides important insights into understanding the context and meanings through which community governance fosters stewardship. We draw upon longitudinal ethnographic fieldwork and the Cofán concept of puifama atesuye (Two-World Knowledge) to describe collective action, community governance, and caretaking.

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