Winning Project

Peruvian journalists receive first InquireFirst grant for environmental investigative reporting in the Amazon

A team of journalists in Peru has been awarded the first Montañas y Selva reporting grant for a project that will take the reporters deep into the Amazon to report on the impact of oil drilling on indigenous communities.

For the first time, InquireFirst – in partnership with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation — will be supporting a team of journalists comprised of indigenous reporters as well as a reporter working from her base in the Peruvian capital of Lima.

Leonardo Tello Imaina and Marilez Tello Imaina of the community radio station Radio Ucamara in Nauta, Peru, will be teaming with Barbara Fraser, a freelance journalist who has been based in Peru for 33 years, to report on the profound impact that oil exploration has had on Peru’s indigenous communities.

We congratulate these journalists on becoming the first recipients of a Montañas y Selva reporting grant:

Leonardo Tello Imaina has been a journalist for 19 years.  For the past 12 years he has served as director of Radio Ucamara on the banks of Peru’s Marañón River.  His father is Kukama, a culture that thrived in the Amazon rainforest for hundreds of years before Spanish explorers arrived. His mother is Achuar, a group of indigenous people who live in the Amazon rainforest near the border of northern Peru and Ecuador.  Leonardo is experienced in radio and video production and has been a member of the communication team of the Foro Social Panamazónico (FOSPA).

Marilez Tello Imaina began her radio career with UNICEF, producing early-learning programming for children.  She has worked at Radio Ucamara for 16 years as a reporter and anchor of a news program.

Barbara Fraser is a U.S. journalist who has worked in Peru since 1989. She worked on several communication and journalism projects until 2003.  Since then, Barbara has worked as a freelance journalist, specializing in environmental coverage as well as reporting on public health and indigenous communities.  She has collaborated regularly with Radio Ucamara on the coverage of oil spills in the Marañón basin.

In response to our call for proposals, Montañas y Selva received numerous outstanding proposals from journalists throughout the Andes-Amazon region.

Our international panel of judges said the Radio Ucamara project stood out because it focuses on the impact of the oil boom that began in the Peruvian Amazon in the 1970s and brought millions of dollars in income to the country, then left communities within the oil fields with contaminated land and rivers.

As two of Peru’s oldest Amazonian oilfields near the end of their productive lives, there is a risk that they will be abandoned without any commitment to cleanup or new sources of income for the people living there.

In making their decision, the judges wrote that the winning proposal is “a project with a very clear history, which is linked to an event that will happen and that needs to be communicated so that the authorities assume their responsibility.”

The judges said that they also were impressed that the project “is linked to community radio, which increases the impact that the story can have.”

The project will be published in May 2022.

Eduardo Franco Berton, a Bolivia-based environmental investigation journalist, photographer and documentary filmmaker, will serve as project editor. In 2016, Eduardo founded www.raibolivia.org, a platform for news on the environment, conservation and environmental science in Bolivia and Latin America, a project of the Blue Foresta Foundation, an NGO he directs. As a freelance journalist he has written for international media such as National GeographicMongabayO Eco, as well as several newspapers and magazines in Bolivia.

By supporting this initiative, InquireFirst and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation aim to tell the stories of communities in the Amazon and the impact that large-scale infrastructure has on the biodiversity of the rainforest, the environment and the unique way of life.