Arley: A 10-year-old Siekopai hero that dares to change the world.
Arley Payaguaje is only 24. So far, he has researched, seeded, planted, cultivated, and distributed over 10,000 Amazonian fruit-bearing trees to his Siekopai community around the Aguarico River territory. All grown on the fertile land surrounding his family's modest stilts wooden house. Encouraged, he plans on seeding and planting 15,000 more while researching ways to improve harvest production and even bring back native trees and heirloom seeds from other communities and Peru, their ancestral land.
Arley is teaching those bullied and tempted by the big oil companies, palm oil industry, illegal logging, gold miners, and the evangelist church to give up their traditional way of life. To leave fishing, hunting, drinking chicha, and raising crops of banana, plantain, cassava, yuka, and chunta fruits, in favor of Western packaged goods, Coca-Cola, alcohol and TV. To congregate in a small crowded tin roof western style slams deprived of trees. To become a daily laborer for hire who can never be able to pay back their loans.
Proudly, he let us know that 40 new families had already signed up to turn their land into productive agricultural plots. Rejecting the Palm Oil companies' pressure to lease them their land and become enslaved people for meager pay and money dependency. Instead, they chose a better future outcome. They were becoming self-sufficient growers and sellers of their fruits and their byproducts. Thus not only preserving the forest, ethnic and cultural integrity, and pride but also continuing to provide birds and animals a place to thrive and, most importantly, for their children to grow intimately connected to nature, free and in their traditional way.
Remarkably, already at ten years old, Arley had a vision and passion for planting fruit trees in his childhood community, far from where we were. A community that gave away their land to oil and Palm oil companies. With his parent's support and encouragement, he started digging holes in the ground, planting, and learning about different fruit and medicinal trees. Word spread around. The authorities sent bulldozers and flattened their land. Seeing how devastated Arley was, his parents left this community to resettle across the Aguarico River opposite his grandfather Don Basilio, a traditional Yaje drinker (Shaman), so he could continue with his planting trees passion.
I met Arley on my first trip to the Siekopai in 2017. As he is still today, he was very kind, soft-spoken, and shy, always standing in the background and listening with great concentration. His penetrating dark eyes weighed every word said. His beautiful smiles are rare. He is an observer and rarely speaks. He prefers hugging, as he appreciates that human gesture of closeness.
On our visit this year, I insisted we visit the Yakum Foundation, which he is part of, so my group will have a chance to see and learn about his vital work. The night before, in the kitchen, he spoke. I was surprised and delighted by how much he allowed himself to share. Words came out of his mouth like a waterfall. I looked at Don Basilio. I could see the pride he had in his grandson.
Afterward, I laughed. He confided to me later that he had to speak at a big meeting attended by many organizations in a different city. "I spoke to about a thousand people… I am healing my shyness." he cutely said, looking me directly in the eyes. We laughed.
He was so proud when we arrived on a short canoe ride to visit his foundation's at his parents' house. He took us first to his trees nursery, then to meet each tree, get to know its fruit, how to use it, and how to increase its economic value. We were gladly planting more trees, knowing they would be distributed to the community later. His father, Don Basilio's son, mother, and sisters served us deliciously traditional dishes as we sat on the floor. You could see in their smiles and eyes how proud they were of their son.
Many of us are breaking our heads trying to figure out how we can support and protect the rainforest, jungle, the indigenous people, their territories, and their vast knowledge of medicinal properties and worldly wisdom.
What Arley, one shy ten years old visionary kid, has done and continues to do, is profoundly inspiring. No matter how old, even one person can profoundly impact the entire world. So, I have decided to support him. I am making a monthly payment contribution to Arley and his Yakum organization. So they could plan, buy supplies, bags, plants, and soil, travel to educate their people, and feed themselves. A monthly budget that gives the security to go on. I met Nick, who founded this foundation a few years ago, and I know his heart is good. Visit their website, and become an active supporter.
Support Arley in his sacred life mission. He has dug himself on the front line, fighting for all of us to preserve our planet. He cannot save the forests and their traditional ways of life alone.
Please make an ongoing financial commitment. This is the least we can do to keep the Siekopai and many other tribes fighting our fight. Keeping our water and air clean, fighting climate changes, preserving the balance on Earth, and an ancient societal model of what it means to be human. This is what the Condor and the Eagle prophecy is all about.
Please visit: Fundacion Yakum - https://yakum.org/
Enabling Indigenous Food Sovereignty, Reforestation and Territorial Defense
WhatsApp +593 96 795 5942