Maria Ushigua is vice president of the Sápara community, Llanchamacocha, a small and isolated community deep in the rainforests of Ecuador. She emphasizes the connection of the people with their surrounding forest because without the spiritual, medicinal and nutritional wealth of the jungle, the Sápara would lose crucial elements of their identity. 

Maria has dedicated her life to preserving the Sápara people, culture and territory. She has served as a prominent leader among Sápara women, men and youth, representing indigenous Amazonian women all over the country throughout the last two decades. 

Maria helps run the NAKU initiative alongside other community members and defines NAKU by the rainforest. The NAKU initiative’s integrated cultural approach to defending Sápara territory is strengthen by the equal participation of Sápara women in the business and in community decision-making. She is a gifted healer and community leader, practicing and teaching traditional plant-based healing techniques. 

Her involvement with Naku is driven by her desire to preserve the natural environment that is so crucial to the Sápara identity. Her hope is to share the values and joys of the Sápara people and of NAKU with the international community.