Our Team

The name of the Chaikuni Institute has its origin in the tradition of the Shipibo-Conibo indigenous peoples. We honor indigenous traditions and promote mechanisms to revitalize indigenous cultures, worldviews, and territories in the Peruvian Amazon.

Meet the team behind the daily work of the Chaikuni Institute.

  • Stefan Kistler

    Executive Director

    Stefan holds an MSc in International Environmental Studies from the University of Ås (Noragric), Norway, and has been working for more than a decade in civil society organizations both internationally (Rainforest Foundation Norway) and locally (Arkana Alliance, the Chaikuni Institute), coordinating programs related to topics such as indigenous peoples’ rights and conservation, intercultural education, and the use and sustainable management of tropical forests.

    Portrait of Stefan Kistler
  • Paula Cristina Layango Tuesta

    Administration Assistant

    "Giving a hand to nature is highly valuable and costs very little"

    Originally from Iquitos, Paula has a degree in Business Administration, graduated from the Scientific University of Peru (UCP). From the beginning of her career, she focused on supporting projects related to the conservation and protection of the Amazonian environment; also, to encourage indigenous communities to achieve the objectives set jointly, with the projects of institutions that strive to offer them a better quality of life and opportunities for themselves and their communities.

    Portrait of Paula Cristina Layango Tuesta
  • Milton López Tarabochia

    Communications Coordinator

    “Journalism, audiovisual production and communication strategies, in general, serve to make visible issues ignored by the traditional media agenda; also to empower invisible social protagonists, and as a bridge for democratic dialogue in times of socio-environmental conflicts”

    Journalist, editor, communicator, and producer with more than six years of professional experience in print newspapers, radio, television, and digital media. Nominated twice for the National Journalism Awards of IPYS Peru. As a journalist, he conducted research and published articles for La República, LaMula.pe, Convoca.pe and RPP (Radio Programs of Peru). He was a correspondent for Latin America for Mongabay Latam, an environmental news agency. Fellow for One Earth and Climate Tracker. He also worked for Nat Geo, Netflix, Global Witness, and Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting as a consultant and local producer (film fixer) on journalistic and audiovisual projects.

    Portrait of Milton López Tarabochia
  • Daniel López Pérez

    Intercultural Education Coordinator

    Born in Granada, Spain, and graduated with a degree in Environmental Science, he has lived in the Peruvian Amazon since 2006, working on various sustainable local development projects in indigenous communities. Since 2018 he has been coordinator of Chaikuni's Intercultural Education program, Sui Sui Program, promoting leadership and intercultural citizenship among young indigenous students.

    Portrait of Daniel López Pérez
  • Almendra Ivette Aguilar Aguirre

    Indigenous Students Monitor

    "Education is undoubtedly a powerful weapon for creating subjects, and as such, we have to use it to create intercultural people, respectful of diversity and difference and, above all, criticism and reflection in the face of the inequalities that govern us. In addition to the power of youth, they are the great pillars for change that each of our societies and, in general, our world needs."

    Anthropologist of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP in Spanish), Almendra was born in Lima but has lived in Iquitos since 2019 due to his interests and knowledge related to the Amazonian indigenous population, especially in the higher and intercultural educational field. This led her to the opportunity to join Chaikuni's team as Student Monitor of the Intercultural Education program "Sui Sui" in 2020. Currently, she is pursuing a diploma in "Interculturality and Amazonian Indigenous Peoples" from the Antonio Ruiz de Montoya University (UARM) that will allow her to continue to deepen her knowledge of the indigenous problems.

    Portrait of Almendra Ivette Aguilar Aguirre
  • Silvia del Aguila Reyna

    Permaculture and Community Outreach Coordinator

    Silvia is a forestry engineer trained at the National University of the Peruvian Amazon (UNAP) and holds a Master’s degree in aquatic resources with specialization in Aquaculture from the National University of San Marcos. She has worked on various projects with NGOs as well as state organizations (INRENA, IIAP, Latitud Sur), with a special focus on the management and conservation of biodiversity in the Nanay River basin, working with local communities on reforestation projects and chacras integrales.

    Portrait of Silvia  del Aguila Reyna
  • Alan Christian Chumbe

    Permaculture and Research Coordinator

    Born and raised in the city of Iquitos, Alan Chumbe joined Chaikuni in 2017, bringing his research experience to the pilot project of our Permaculture program. Alan is an Engineer in Tropical Forest Ecology, graduated from the National University of the Peruvian Amazon. He is currently pursuing a Master's in Environmental Management at UNAP. For 3 years, he took on the challenge of supporting the Permaculture team in the systematization of the planning, implementation and monitoring of the Permaculture site. Interested in knowing how nature works, he designs and executes composting projects, dry toilets, beekeeping, agroforestry systems, etc. Alan is one of those responsible for the implementation of the ReBos - Nanay project, in which comprehensive farm systems will be established in the Nanay river basin, near the city of Iquitos.

    Portrait of Alan Christian Chumbe
  • Alfredo Asipali Gutierrez

    Field Staff

    Born in Iquitos, Alfredo lives in the rural community of Tres Unidos. He joined the permaculture team in 2015, providing his prior knowledge as a farmer but also learning through the Institute's training and taking this knowledge to other neighbouring communities. Alfredo has his own farm and is applying the permaculture knowledge that he has been learning with Chaikuni. In addition to the edible and ornamental plants and timber trees that he grows on his farm, Alfredo is dedicated to raising sheep.

    Portrait of Alfredo Asipali Gutierrez
  • Carlos Mayatahuari Arimuya

    Field Staff

    "I like working with plants and I wish the Chaikuni Institute to continue expanding its projects to other communities and thus learn and bring knowledge to the rest of the community members. I feel very happy working with the team, we are like brothers."

    Carlos was born in the rural community of San José de Lupuna, where he has lived his entire life working on his farm. He joined the Chaikuni permaculture team in 2012, at the beginning of the Program. Carlos feels very happy and motivated doing his work for the Chaikuni Institute and considers that every day he learns new things that he uses on his own farm and benefits his family and his community.

    Portrait of Carlos Mayatahuari Arimuya
  • Eder Baneo Pérez

    Field Staff

    "We must not destroy the forest because it is the lung of the world"

    Eder was born in Iquitos and lives in the rural community of Tres Unidos. Eder has worked in different companies until joining the Chaikuni Institute in 2018. Eder learned agriculture through the experience and knowledge of her father and mother and combines this knowledge with what he has learned with Chaikuni. Eder grows medicinal plants such as ayahuasca and chacruna on his chacra, and one day he would like to be a mechanic.

    Portrait of Eder Baneo Pérez
  • Elbis Heinz Maytahuari Aquituari

    Field Staff

    Elbis was born in San José de Lupuna, where he has always lived. Elbis has its own farm where he produces yucca among other edible and medicinal plants. Elbis joined the Chaikuni permaculture team in 2018, bringing with him his knowledge and concern for the environment. Elbis is teaching his family what he learns through the Permaculture Program and his aspiration is to help regenerate the forest by planting new trees on his farm.

    Portrait of Elbis Heinz Maytahuari Aquituari
  • Santiago Aparicio Cahuachi

    Field Staff

    Santiago was born in the district of San Pablo, province of Ramón Castilla. Before joining the Chaikuni Institute in 2017, Santiago was a fisherman. Santiago wants to continue learning about permaculture to transmit this knowledge to his children and to be able to apply it on his farm, which he shares with his wife Eliana. Santiago's wish is to continue working and growing with Chaikuni.

    Portrait of Santiago Aparicio Cahuachi
  • Eliana Melendez Sangama

    Field Staff

    Eliana was born in San Pablo, in the low Amazon. She started working at the Chaikuni Institute in 2017, where she is happy to be part of the team. Eliana brings her knowledge of agriculture, which she learned through her mother. Together with her husband, Santiago, Eliana would like to expand her farm and be able to grow some of the plants she has learned about through the Permaculture Program.

    Portrait of Eliana Melendez Sangama
  • Matthew Watherston

    Founder

    In February 2007, following a life-changing vision, Matthew established the Temple of the Way of Light - a pioneering Amazonian healing center with a key focus on respecting indigenous healing traditions and reciprocity with the Amazonian people and their environment. He founded Alianza Arkana in 2011, a non-profit partnering with indigenous people to support the preservation of their environment, rights, and traditions. In 2012, he founded the Chaikuni Institute, a non-profit focusing on permaculture, regenerative agriculture, and community based eco-social enterprise. Matthew has spent the last thirteen years in the Amazon and has a deep understanding of social and environmental issues in Peru as well as the complexities present in the blending of Western culture with traditional indigenous ways of life in the rainforest.

    Portrait of Matthew Watherston
  • Debbie Rivett

    Senior Communications Advisor

    With a passion for communicating with and about indigenous people and their issues, Zimbabwean-born and Africa-raised Debbie has been contributing her expertise to Chaikuni since its foundation. She initially worked for a number of years as the videographer for Alianza Arkana travelling extensively in Peru to document their work with indigenous people involving land and people rights, waste management, youth empowerment and education projects. She then transitioned into her current role as General Manager at Chaikuni’s sister organization The Temple of the Way of Light. Since then, she produced the feature documentary “Pastaza” for Chaikuni. Debbie brings great value through her experience in communications, fundraising and project design.

    Portrait of Debbie Rivett
  • Sophia Rokhlin

    Public Relations and Communications

    Sophia is a public speaker, researcher, and educator advocating for the integration of indigenous ecological knowledge and voices within the modern healthcare paradigm and environmental policy. She is the co-author of When Plants Dream (Watkins, 2019) and has worked with a number of indigenous communities in the Amazon Basin, including the Secoya in the Ecuadorian Amazon and the Shipibo in Peru. She holds a BA in anthropology with a minor in religious studies and an MSc in Ecological Economics. Sophia has worked with a number of environmental nonprofits including the Rainforest Foundation US and the Rights of Nature Europe campaign.

    Portrait of Sophia Rokhlin