Alfredo Asipali is a family man. Born in the city of Iquitos in 1963, when he arrived to the community of Tres Unidos, he decided to make it his permanent home. Twenty-three years later, with a wife, two daughters, one son and four grandchildren, Alfredo knows this is the right place for him. But the journey here has many corners to unfold.
After finishing high school Alfredo wanted to become an engineer. Unfortunately, neither his parents nor him could afford paying for college. He migrated to the Amazonian province of San Martín, where he planned to work and save money for his studies. Things didn’t work out like he thought they would. Saving money did not seem as easy as he imagined being a young man hungry for adventures. Three years later, Alfredo decided his time in San Martín had come to an end. Experienced in agriculture and feeling it was his calling, he packed his bag and made the trip back to Iquitos and then up to Tres Unidos.
Growing up, Alfredo's family always worked the land, as is common in the Amazon, by slashing and burning the forest to prepare their chacra. That is also what he applied to his own fields during his first 4 years back in Tres Unidos. He spent his time between farming, fishing, and hunting; everything he needed was here. Or so he thought. It was around this time when Alfredo was invited to work at Chaikuni*. This was an “aha!” moment for him. Until then, he had not realized there were better alternatives for growing food. He learned about working with medicinal plants, reforestation, and agroforestry. For many years Alfredo worked alongside Silvia, our Permaculture and Community Outreach Coordinator, who carries with her an ancestral baggage of traditional agroforestry knowledge. Alfredo learned about permaculture and became certain that the chacra integral was an agroforestry system that worked for the people and for the Amazon. His conviction led him to go around the local communities to share his somewhat recently found knowledge, in the hope that it would lead people to stop their slash and burn practices, which caused deforestation to advance in Tres Unidos and other neighboring communities close to Iquitos. Many Chaikuni workshops, trainings, and meetings later, it did. Now several families of the surrounding communities are applying these farming methods and have seen their lives change for the better.
Alfredo is the first and oldest member of the Chaikuni field staff and has seen many colleagues come and go. His son, Juan, also recently joined the team and his wife Elita is always willing to help out with anything we might need. Alfredo also happens to be the community deputy. This involves assisting the police representative in keeping law and order in Tres Unidos. At one point he himself wanted to be in charge, but it is a position that requires time and Alfredo acknowledges that he does not have much of that. So, he helps in any way he can, training the younger ones on how a community must be run. Alfredo says this might be his last year as deputy, for he feels he has shared all his knowledge and believes others are ready to take over.
While working at Chaikuni, a new dream has begun to grow in Alfredo’s mind and heart. He sees himself as owning a lodge where he can host people who come in search of a natural world, a place in which to spend a quiet and relaxing time, somewhere to simply rest and soak in the amazing Amazonian rainforest. “The good living, the good drinking, the good place”, as he puts it. And he is not alone with his vision. His family, as always, supports him, transforming this aspiration into reality. All Alfredo wants is to leave something for his children, so they have more opportunities than he had as a young man.
Alfredo’s life experience has shown him that it is possible to lead a self-sufficient life in harmony with nature. Everything he and his family need to eat; they grow or raise. The Amazon also provides materials for building and fresh water to drink. He’s got love, friends, a job, and fun. There is nothing missing. As he says: “There are a few things that we need to get from the city […] Everything else is here in our hands, and that is enough.”
* At this time, Chaikuni activities were still carried out under our sister organization Alianza Arkana