Text & Photos by Sophie Pinchetti
A unique urban garden was recently inaugurated on the grounds of indigenous student organization OEPIAP on the outskirts of Iquitos city in the Peruvian Amazon. With the likes of lemongrass, ginger and papaya now in the ground, this new urban garden located alongside the students’ kitchen and main maloca (traditional Amazonian community house) is the fruit of our first ever Permaculture workshop with the indigenous students, as part of our Intercultural Education program called Sui Sui.
Representing over 120 indigenous students from over 15 Amazonian peoples, OEPIAP, with whom we partner, has long been fighting to secure land to build a permanent student centre for indigenous students who come to Iquitos to pursue higher education. The process of land titling is still under negotiation with the regional government, and in the meantime the students continue to reside in temporary housing at the location in Pampa Chica, known as “Bungalows”, under difficult conditions. Up until now, there has never been any form of garden or cultivation on these lands. With the aim to improve students’ current living condition and wellness in the short and medium term, Chaikuni is now offering its expertise in Permaculture. The setup of two small urban kitchen gardens, which will be maintained by the students themselves, is a first start. A composting and simple wastewater treatment system are intended to follow.
Led by Chaikuni’s Permaculture Coordinator & Agroforestry Engineer Silvia, a core group of five indigenous students of OEPIAP participated in this workshop alongside members of Chaikuni’s staff. After having prepared the earth following Silvia’s instructions, the students sowed plants that can be used as ingredients for cooking in order to improve their diet (such as sage, basil, ginger, pine nuts, coriander, and sweet pepper) and medicinal plants traditionally used to to help cure different ailments, such as lemongrass.
Along with the students, we are excited to see how these urban kitchen gardens develop over the course of our next workshops – the next Permaculture workshop will be focused on composting as a means to improving soil quality.
Want to help improve the studying and living conditions of Amazonian indigenous students in Iquitos? We are currently running our crowdfunding campaign to Build An Indigenous Student Centre on the Global Giving platform. To donate & find out more, visit our project page.