You need about 20 permits to mount an international scientific expedition in Venezuela. You need permits to collect samples; permits to enter indigenous areas, etc. The AquaRAP was originally scheduled to leave November 20th, but the team spent nearly a week in Caracas waiting for the permits to come through.
Part of the problem was an international scandal based on a book just published that suggested that anthropologists in Venezuela performed unethical research on an indigenous group many years ago. Another part of the problem is the growing mistrust of international expeditions. "I'm concerned about the future of international conservation," says team co-leader Barry Chernoff. "Every year it is harder to get permits."
"One of the problems," comments John Sparks, who works on cichlids in Madagascar, "is that a few people practice sloppy science and that makes it harder for the rest of us." The AquaRAP team is held to the high ethical standards of its collaborating institutions, and takes its commitment both to the Venezuelan government and Kuyujani very seriously.
In addition, there are concerns about how to interpret the broad intellectual property rights granted to indigenous in the new Venezuelan constitution. This was a step forward for indigenous human rights, but the finer implications are still not clear.
Since the AquaRAP expedition, the Venezuelan government has placed a moratorium on scientific expeditions to indigenous territories until this issue is resolved.
|Participants in a health and environment workshop.|
CI's Healthy Community's Initiative (HCI), Andes Program, along with RAP hosted a workshop on health and the environment in February 2000 as one of the first step in creating intercultural understanding with the Ye'kwana and Sanema people of the Caura basin.
AquaRAP was presented at this workshop as a diagnostic tool for the environment, the same way a thermometer can diagnos the health of a person. This workshop resulted in an agreement from the indigenous groups to support the AquaRAP.
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