Una Amazonía Action-Research Project

Strengthening community health responses to future epidemics

The COVID-19 pandemic that hit the world between 2020 and 2021 had severe impacts on Amazonian indigenous peoples and peasants, causing major impacts on their health, including the deaths of many young people and the elderly, and affecting their living conditions. However, these peoples demonstrated an admirable capacity for resilience and adaptation that allowed them to respond and recover from this blow through the adoption of different strategies of organization and care. This community response to the pandemic inspires the action research project Una Amazonía, which seeks to reduce the risk and vulnerability of Amazonian indigenous peoples and peasants to future epidemics, as well as strengthen the prevention, preparedness and resilience of these peoples to the risk of emerging zoonotic (animal-transmitted) epidemics.

A multidisciplinary team from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil led by the Instituto del Bien Común – IBCwill implement the project between November 2021 and October 2024, including fieldwork in indigenous and peasant communities in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The research proposes an ecosystem vision to understand epidemics based on a multisectoral and multicultural approach. It applies the participatory action research methodology. For this reason, it actively involves wise men and women to generate a dialogue of knowledge, as well as indigenous co-researchers from the communities in all the dimensions that make up the project (training, research, monitoring and advocacy). In Una Amazonía we assess the vulnerability of Amazonian indigenous peoples to emerging epidemic threats, as well as their resilience or ability to recover from disorders such as COVID-19. We aim to gain a better understanding of the multidimensional factors underlying communities' responses to impacts such as COVID-19. Likewise, we seek that advocacy processes are supported not only in the participation of communities, but also informed from dialogue and joint learning.

In each of the three countries involved in the research a key component of the work is generating and strengthening platforms for dialogue between indigenous peoples and government officials, thus seeking an improvement in health-relevant policies, lower risk of emerging epidemics and greater resilience of indigenous peoples and peasants.

Participating organizations

  • Brazil: Universidade de Brasilia
  • Colombia: Universidad del Valle, Universidad Nacional and Gaia Amazonas
  • Ecuador: Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar and FUNSAD
  • Peru: Instituto del Bien Común (IBC) and ECOSAD
  • The Pan American Health Organization accompanies the research.

Amazonian indigenous organizations at national and Pan-Amazonian level participate in the Steering Committee of the project: COICA, AIDESEP (Peru), CONIAP (Colombia, CONFENAIE and PSHA (Ecuador)

Central hypothesis

According to the central hypothesis of the research, economic autonomy, cultural integrity, security and territorial integrity, gender equality, food sovereignty and public policies significantly influence health status, risk and resilience to epidemic threats among Amazonian indigenous peoples.

During the research, the following activities will be developed:

  • Gathering testimonies of the COVID-19 pandemic, monitoring and participatory evaluation of health conditioning factors, at the level of communities and organizations.
  • Training of indigenous community co-researchers.
  • Registration of cultural concepts and local health practices.
  • Integration to PAHO databases.
  • Training of community health promoters and establishment of community health surveillance programs.
  • Pedagogical program for the training of community promoters.
  • Platforms for dialogue between State officials and indigenous peoples for the improvement of health policies aimed at these peoples.
  • Diagnosis of national health systems.