It is with huge sadness that we announce the death of Dilwyn Jenkins.
Here is his obituary written by John Fisher and published in The Guardian on Monday 8th December 2014
Dilwyn Jenkins with a member of the Ashaninka tribe in the Ene valley, Peru. Photograph: Alicia Fox
Dilwyn Jenkins was a champion of Peru’s indigenous peoples, and particularly of the Ashaninka tribe of the western Amazon, whom he worked to support for nearly 40 years. Indeed, it is partly thanks to Dilwyn’s efforts that the traditional lifestyle of the Ashaninka has survived, despite successive threats from loggers, drug traffickers and an occupation by the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerilla group.
Dilwyn, who has died unexpectedly at the age of 57, began his long association with Peru as a teenager, when, on leaving Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham school, south-east London, he taught himself Spanish and worked as a milkman to fund a solo trip to the country. Later, as a student of anthropology at Cambridge University (1976-1979) and inspired by the tribal peoples he had met in the Amazon, he and fellow student Pete Wade (now professor of anthropology at Manchester University) won a BBC/Royal Geographic Society award to make a documentary. The film that they and three fellow students made, observing the Ashaninka way of life and warning of the threats that contact with outsiders brought, was screened in 1978 as part of the World About Us series, with the student film-makers participating in a panel discussion on their experiences hosted by David Attenborough. It was the first time that the Ashaninka community had been filmed.
Peru itself was, at the time, remarkably uncharted. There was no travel guide to the country, beyond a chapter in the South American Handbook (first published in 1924), so Dilywn, with his characteristic vision, set out to write one and persuaded the then-embryonic Rough Guide series to publish it. It was one of their first titles, taking its place in 1985 alongside rather more mainstream travel destinations. Dilwyn was perhaps the only person at the time who could have written the book, having spent the years since Cambridge teaching in Lima with his wife, Claire. The couple played host to a motley crew of gringo adventurers, and to Amachenka, a parrot acquired on the Ashaninka’s Ene river (and later taken back there).
After writing the Rough Guide, Dilwyn and Claire settled in Bristol, where he worked for the Urban Centre for Appropriate Technology before returning to his Welsh roots at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth. Alternative energy was in its infancy and Dilwyn became a pioneering proponent for it and for sustainable living (when the children were young, he and Claire spent their summers living in a tipi in the Forest of Dean). At CAT he organised the first-ever ethical share issue, raising over £1m, and started Clean Slate magazine. He later wrote several Earthscan guides on renewables, and from 2000–2006 served as executive director for the European Commission-funded Mid Wales Energy Agency (2000-2006).
As author of the Rough Guide to Peru (now in its eighth edition), and the Amazon sections of the Rough Guide to Brazil, Dilwyn was able to maintain his links with South America and the Ashaninka. In the late 1980s and 90s, these visits often required extraordinary bravery, as the Ashaninka lands were threatened by an alliance of Sendero Luminoso guerillas and drug traffickers. Dilwyn did much to bring the Ashaninka’s plight to national attention, on one occasion transporting two Ashaninka archers – their skills honed by hunting – to Lima, where he entered them for the national competition. They sensationally took the top places using hand-carved bows – a Hollywood-like story that allowed Dilwyn to highlight the community’s plight on Peruvian national television.
After the Peruvian government took military action against the guerrilla insurgency and occupation of Ashaninka lands in 1992, Dilwyn continued to lend the tribe his support, raising funds by leading small group tours and sponsoring low-impact commercial activities through Ecotribal, an organisation that he created to sell fairly traded Ashaninka coffee and other goods. Then, in 2008, a serendipitous encounter with a Rough Guide associate led Dilwyn to start working alongside Cool Earth, an NGO set up to combat climate change by helping to protect rainforest. The relationship re-energised Dilwyn’s work with the Ashaninka, to whom he had made a commitment to help block a logging concession. His unflappable style and natural authority made him a perfect choice as Cool Earth’s Peru projects manager, successfully launching partnerships with indigenous groups throughout the western Amazon. Dilwyn’s passion for his work was infectious, as demonstrated by the enthusiasm of the fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, who he escorted on a gruelling trip to the Ashaninka homelands.
Dilwyn was a charismatic and inspiring figure, who had a strong sense of direction in life, a great hunger for adventure, and a powerful commitment to the things he believed in. Brought up in Bromley, south-east London, by conservative, Welsh-speaking parents – his father, William, was a policeman and later a judge’s clerk; his mother, Olive (nee Jenkins) was a teacher – he remained an enigmatic amalgam of down-to-earth son of south London and spiritually awakened man. He had an extraordinary empathy for the peoples of the Peruvian rainforest and a shamanic aura, aided perhaps by a lifelong experience with the hallucinogen ayahuasca.
He is survived by Claire, their children, Tess, Bethan, Max, Teilo and Danny; grandchildren, Tigerlilly and Tala Luna; his mother, Olive, and his sister, Gaynor.
• Dilwyn Jenkins, campaigner and writer, born 22 May 1957; died 12 November 2014