UCAYALI, Peru — Mennonites, an ultra-conservative religious group, are illegally converting pristine forests in the Peruvian Amazon into agricultural land. They are not only threatening biodiversity but also encroaching on Indigenous territory. Satellite data show that Mennonite colonies are now the leading cause of large-scale deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon — exceeding deforestation caused by agribusiness and oil palm plantations. In this episode of Chasing Deforestation, host Romi Castagnino travels to the central Peruvian Amazon to learn how deforestation is affecting Native communities and visit the Mennonite colony responsible for the destruction in search of answers. After an eight-hour boat ride down the Ucayali River, Romi arrives at Lake Imiría. Its shores are home to many Shipibo-Konibo Indigenous communities that rely on its waters for fishing, cooking, bathing and drinking. For centuries, the communities have lived in relative peace, protecting their forests and relying on their biodiversity to harvest medicinal plants, timber and bushmeat. But that changed in 2016. Lake Imiría is an eight-hour boat ride from Pucallpa, the nearest city and capital of the Ucayali region. Photo by Romi Castagnino/Mongabay. Mennonites who emigrated from Bolivia in 2016 settled near two Native communities: Buenos Aires and Caimito. Within months, they rapidly began to clear forests to make way for agriculture. Masisea, Ucayali. Low German Mennonites have been settling across Latin America for the past 100 years. They shy away from modern lifestyles and are known to be efficient farmers. Photo: Cristina Hara for Mongabay. Between 2017 and 2021, Mennonite colonies deforested…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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