September 24, 2018
Investigating and promoting sustainable and resilient living systems in the Peruvian Amazon has been at the core of The Chaikuni Institute’s Permaculture pilot project ever since its inception in 2013 on land shared with our sister organization, The Temple of The Way of Light.
In this short film, meet experts from Chaikuni’s Permaculture team and farmers from local communities, supported by our Program, sharing their experiences on permaculture agroforestry as a viable economic alternative, and the importance of biodiversity conservation for future generations in the world’s largest remaining tropical rainforest. Their inspiring stories highlight the regenerative movement in the Amazon in support of the revitalization of indigenous knowledge and the South American concept of “Buen Vivir” (“Good Living”) which lies at the very heart of our work at The Chaikuni Institute.
Video: Gavin Hoffman / The Chaikuni Institute / The Temple of The Way of Light
March 20, 2013
Chaikuni Institute’s mission of regenerating the degraded rainforest landscape and creating resilient local economies will be achieved through reforestation of abandoned land and ecosocial community outreach initiatives in mestizo and indigenous villages. Our aim is to create a multifunctional agroforestry landscape matrix that simultaneously provides ecological, social, climatological and economic resilience for the whole region.
In partnership with Eco-Ola Superfoods we have engaged with our local community of Tres Unidos to develop an ecosocial entrepreneurship initiative based on successional agroforestry. Ecosocial entrepreneurship is an innovative way to regenerate both ecological and social health through holisic design and community engagement. Through the creation of a system of planned, managed forests which are designed to mimic the ecological functions and structure of the preexisting climax vegetation for the area (i.e. terra firme Rainforest habitat), but using species which have economic benefit to the local community, both ecological and social regeneration is acheived. By integrating appropriate crops, in the right place at the right time we can mimic and even expedite the process of natural ecological succession.
We have always prioritised the purchase of crops produced by our neighbours: bananas, plantains, cassava, papayas and cacao are all sourced locally. We prefer to buy locally in order to support the local economy, obtain chemical-free produce and to limit the amount of food that must be transported in from Iquitos which is both costly and energy intensive.
This initiative, in addition to creating a landscape dominated by rich agroforestry matrix will provide sustainable livelihoods for local smallholders and crops at mutually beneficial prices for Chaikuni, the Temple and Eco-Ola. So, you may ask, how does this differ from other ‘sustainable development’ models that incentivise rural farmers to grow cash crops? First and foremost is the prioritization of the subsistence needs of the farmer. The cultivation of cash-crops should always be in addition to, never to the exclusion of subsistence crops. Through skillful sequencing of crop succession and guaranteed markets it is possible to develop a sustainable polyculture that simultaneously meets the farmer’s wellbeing whilst also allowing him to cultivate a variety of cash crops. The extra revenue provided can go to education, healthcare, infrastructure and for micro-investment initiatives using the raw materials such as artisanal enterprises including soap-making, handicrafts, cheese-making, oil and essential oil distillation and the manufacture of super-food snacks.
This phase will act as a pilot project which can then be expanded to other smallholders in our vicinity and to provide a model for the broader community outreach work that Chaikuni will be spearheading in the coming years throughout the Peruvian Amazon. Later in the year we are planning to run a similar program for indigenous Shipibo communities in the Ucayali. Through such initiatives we are helping to promote regenerative development for the region and a new form of business. One, which rather than focusing exclusively on ”the bottom line” (i.e. financial profitability), is dedicated to meeting a multi-bottom line that considers ecological, social, financial, cultural, spiritual, educational, nutritional and health requirements equally.
Co-Founded by Carla Noain and William Park, Eco-Ola was born in the Peruvian Amazon. Our Mission: Producing delectable nutritious foods for our customers while preserving the biodiversity of the surrounding rainforest and improving the lands and the lives of our farmers. A good farm is not a wilderness, but it does allow corridors for the movement of wildlife and prevents devastation from the fragmentation of habitats. Our farms are part of the eco-system, not something imposed upon it. Our agronomists lead the way in innovative methods of nurturing these tropical foods so as to maximize yields and nutritional content. We actually improve the land while we raise the standard of living of the farmers who are part of the Eco-Ola family. More and more studies show that crops grown without petro-chemical fertilizers and bio-cides have more nutrition than conventionally grown crops. They taste better too! Every aspect of our farming practices is viewable to the public. We’re proud to be a company that our customers can feel good about supporting.
August 26, 2013
For 17 days at the beginning of August our organisations came together to lead Chaikuni’s first Permaculture training course: an innovative initiative teaching hands-on ecosocial design for Shipibo youth in the Peruvian Amazon. The Shipibo Ecosocial Entrepreneurship Diploma (SEED) aims to revitalize degraded landscapes while improving economic and social well-being for families and communities. The project is set in the deforested and barren landscape surrounding Yarinacocha, a major hub for Shipibo culture and commerce.
These indigenous communities lost their forests due to industrial extraction of timber, oil development and cattle ranching which started pushing into the rainforest in the 1950s and 60s. What is left for families to survive on today is a tragic landscape dominated by thick grasslands and destructive fire regimes, causing many rural youth to abandon their traditional culture and migrate to urban centers in search of employment.
We know it doesn’t have to be this way.
The SEED project is focused on educating youth between the ages of 16 and 35 to overcome these pressures by creating thriving agro-ecosystems in their own back yards using Permaculture. Over the course of the training we taught classes on the ethics & principles of Permaculture, zones, sectors, and nutrient cycles. We also led experiential modules on successional agroforestry, nursery management, fire breaks, irrigation, companion planting, nutrition, food security and waste management. Most importantly we taught the Permaculture design process. We encountered many challenges teaching this: spatial awareness and scale representing particular cultural hurdles. We overcame these challenges by working within the Shipibo cultural context and thereby have provided a powerful tool of empowerment for these young Shipibo farmers – Permaculture design. This will enable these young people to collaboratively design and implement systems that are culturally and ecologically regenerative whilst simultaneously laying the foundation for a resilient local economy based on non-timber forest products such as superfoods, medicinals and oils.
By revitalizing the practice of minga (shared communal labor), we were able to implement demonstration plots in participating communities – we will be carrying forward this vibrant social technology in all aspects of the project. In line with our strong commitment to integrate traditional knowledge and skills into the training, we invited Shipibo elders to share their wisdom, perspectives and advice; to teach about plant medicines; and to hold traditional healing ceremonies for the participants. For many, it was their first time engaging with these elements of their culture which, ironically, are phenomena that have made the Shipibo famous at both national and international levels.
Of critical importance to the course was the co-teaching relationship we developed with two Shipibo permaculturalists who acted as the cultural and conceptual bridge. Without their translations and reformulations many of the teachings would have been misconstrued or simply lost. This proved vital in explaining complex concepts in a culturally appropriate manner that resonated with the lives and realities of the participants and effectively reconciled Permaculture with the indigenous worldview. Through this ongoing adaptive learning pathway we hope to create an integrated and holistic approach for education and action in this time of great change.
Everyone left the training inspired and motivated to return to their community land and begin working with it using their new Permaculture skills and perspective.
One of our participants said, “…before I came to this training my land seemed so big to me and I was lazy and hadn’t planted anything. Now that I have learned Permaculture, I can see that it is actually very small, and I need more land on which to implement my vision. I am going to start with cultivating all the land I have and create my perma-chakra (forest garden), then I’ll find more land and plant that, too.”
Another, looking out on the vast, deforested grassland in front of us said: “Come back in a few years and all of this will be Rainforest again.”
Over the next year we will be supporting the participants to implement the first phase of succession on land in their communities. By calling together our burgeoning Permaculture team to hold clearing and planting mingas and then implementing their own designs, we plan to bring 4 hectares (approximately 10 acres) into the production of polycultures in the initial phase.
Stay tuned for updates on how you can support the continuation of this ground-breaking work by donating to the crowd funding campaign coming soon!
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By Luke Smith & Lily Hollister
September 30, 2019
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