Our Jungle Mamas program has had incredible success with its birthing and community health training in indigenous Achuar communities of Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest, and requests for this work are increasing across Achuar territory.

Yet the ability of Jungle Mamas to respond to this demand is constrained by a small staff size and the time, energy, and money required to travel to Achuar communities, which are spread out across millions of square miles.

Recently, long-time Pachamama Alliance donor Laney Thornton saw a creative way around those constraints, using the Apple iPad.

iPads Offer a Link for Far-flung Communities

Laney’s idea was to train Achuar community members on how to use an iPad to film a Jungle Mamas training, edit it into a comprehensive film, and send it to the next community via flights that elders and other leaders are already making throughout the territory.

Joining Laney on this project were his daughter Annie, a recent Master of Environmental Science graduate of USC, and accomplished filmmaker Andrew Neel (whose films include “Darkon” and “Alice Neel”, documenting the life of his famous painter grandmother). Together, they researched and assembled the equipment and developed the teaching curriculum.

Because iPads can be used for every step of making and showing movies – video capture, editing, and presentation – the entire process can be done within Achuar communities without reliance on outside (often Quito-based) editing companies.

The relative affordability and simplicity of iPad-based moviemaking provides an unprecedented opportunity for coordinated communications throughout the logistically isolated, far-flung communities with films that are about Achuar, by Achuar and in the Achuar language.

Special solar chargers for the iPads also help keep the technology sustainable.

Achuar Embrace Possibilities of the iPad

On a trip earlier this year, Laney and the team met with Claudio and Eduardo, two enterprising young students selected by Achuar leadership to learn how to use the new technology.

Over five days of intensive training, both students accomplished far more than expected, leaving the team scrambling to find video editing software that was sophisticated enough to keep up with their capabilities.

With the new communications capacity provided by the iPads, Achuar leaders now have a vital link of communication with their constituents throughout the territory. Intended video topics include Jungle Mamas trainings and other public health messaging, information about oil excursions into the territory, opportunities for advancement, and, of course, sports and other community activities.

As the Ecuadorean government and energy industry interests continue their campaign to garner indigenous support for oil development, these iPads could be an effective tool to coordinate the entire Achuar nationality and realize their vision of a just, thriving, and sustainable future.

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