Manari Ushigua is a traditional healer and leader of the Sápara Nation in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Manari and his people have lived for thousands of years in the Amazon rainforest.They used to number over 200,000 and inhabited a large area stretching all the way down into modern day Peru.
Today, there are only 500 Sapara left and they increasingly face threats to their ancestral lands, knowledge, language and way of life. The Sápara have experienced loss on all sides, and now are fighting fiercely to protect the one million acres that are left under the care of the Sápara tribe. Concerned over the fate of his people, his culture and his forest, Manari decided to take action.
He and his community began a new initiative: NAKU, which means ‘forest’ in the Sápara language. The idea of NAKU was to bring people to experience the Sápara way of life and in doing that, preserve their ancestral knowledge and lands by sharing them with the world.
This vision is no easy task for an isolated community of 40 people living in the middle of the rainforest with no access to roads, phones or even electricity. Manari and his people needed some help to make their dreams a reality. The community worked hard to build their lodgings and the infrastructure of their business, and their inspiring story has brought them many allies. From these humble beginnings, NAKU is poised to take off.
Success for the Sápara would mean the preservation of their million acres of pristine forest and their millennia worth of ancestral knowledge. For the future it would mean not only that the Sápara could continue to live as one with the forest as their ancestors have done for centuries, but also that the world could begin to share in the bounty of their knowledge to heal some of modern medicine’s most troubling illnesses.