Aili Pyhälä (GESA 2015; Finland) is still based in Helsinki, Finland and is working full-time at the University of Helsinki as a Lecturer in Development Studies. She also works with the ICCA Consortium as a Member of the Council and Chair of the Membership Committee of the consortium. This has opened up many doors for her and she passionately believes the mission of the consortium (which is to support and promote territories and areas conserved by local communities and indigenous peoples) is really what lies closest to her heart. She is also collaborating closely with the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, helping them scope out new projects around community-based conservation throughout the world.
She recently spent 6 weeks in South America, carrying out her own research/fieldwork as well as connecting with numerous organisations, individuals and communities that are trying very hard to conserve their natural territories, rights, resources, culture and identity – in the face of ever more pressures from extractive industries (logging, mining, oil companies, etc). She spent the first 2 weeks in the Peruvian Amazonia (near Iquitos), revisiting the protected areas where she carried out her PhD research some 17 years ago, whilst updating herself on current affairs regarding indigenous rights and conservation at the national and regional level. With a boat ride along the Amazon river, crossing the border into Colombia, and with a stop-over in Bogota (with more very inspiring meetings!), she came up to Northern Colombia, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, where she is currently connecting with the indigenous peoples (particularly the Kogui) of this area and seeing what she can do to help support their struggle in holding on to existing – but also recuperating their lost – ancestral territories and culture.