Stefan took on the challenging opportunity to run the Chaikuni Institute in the northern Peruvian Amazon in mid-2018 and brings a breadth of experience in project management, indigenous peoples’ rights, intercultural education, environmental management, advocacy and civil society activism.
Stefan is a political ecologist, holding a Bachelor degree in Development Studies from the University of Oslo and a Master of Science in International Environmental Studies from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Ås. Since 2008, and throughout his professional career, Stefan has worked at the interface of indigenous peoples’ rights and forest conservation. He worked for almost five years as Program Coordinator at the Rainforest Foundation Norway, first in the Congo Basin and afterwards in Peru, and previously also led the environmental justice program of Alianza Arkana. He thus has varied experiences with project management, indigenous peoples’ rights, intercultural education, environmental management, advocacy and civil society activism. Stefan is originally from Switzerland, but has been living most of his adult live abroad (Norway in particular). Since 2012, he has been living in Iquitos and first joined Chaikuni in early 2017 as Coordinator of the Intercultural Education Program.
Paula brings a solid experience in administrative support to Chaikuni and joined the organization in mid-2018. Iquitos-born and raised, Paula feels strongly about working to preserve the Amazonian environment.
Paula graduated from the Scientific University of Peru in 2013 with Bachelors degree in Business Administration. Since the start of her professional career, Paula has focused her efforts in supporting projects related to conservation and indigenous communities. She previously worked with the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law (SPDA) as an Administrative Assistant and in 2016 joined the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) working in projects for the protection of the Amazonian environment in coordination with indigenous communities.
Alienor de Sas
Alienor joined the team in October 2018 with the aim to learn and know more about the indigenous cosmology and struggle. She believes that audiovisual and social media communication are essential tools for social global change.
She was born and raised in Spain but strongly influenced by the Belgian culture. Photographer since 2008 and graduated in Audiovisual Communication by the University Complutense of Madrid, Alienor decided to reorient her professional career into the social sector after joining a non-profit organization during its field trip in South Asia. She studied a master degree in International Solidarity Action and Social Inclusión and a specialization in Human and Indigenous Peoples Rights in the University Carlos III of Madrid. She has a wide experience creating digital content through different tools (photography, video, design, webpages and social media) and she is an active volunteer who has worked as Communications Specialist for different NGO’s as Medicos del Mundo, Children Are the Future, Save the Children or Survival International. She moved to Iquitos in 2018 within the frame of a cooperation program with the Belgian partner organization CATAPA and finally started as Communications Coordinator for Chaikuni Institute in April 2019.
Intercultural Education Coordinator
Daniel joined Chaikuni in mid-2018 and brings over a decade of experience working in the Loreto region in project management, conservation, natural resource management, and participatory development projects with Amazonian indigenous communities.
Daniel was born in Spain and became a resident in Iquitos in 2006. He has a degree in Environmental Sciences and has spent most of his professional career in the Peruvian Amazon working with the Civil Association Green Life, designing and coordinating development projects with indigenous Kukama and Shawi Amazonian communities in the Loreto and Amazonas regions focused on issues related to the sustainable management of natural resources, conservation, ecotourism and small productive activities that contribute to improving the quality of life of river-dwelling communities. Daniel has extensive experience advising community organizations, awareness raising and strengthening capacity for environmental, productive, organizational issues and in participatory planning of local development.
Lisseth Lavajos Cárdenas
Intercultural Education Students Monitor
Lisseth joined Chaikuni in August 2018. She has field experience working with local and indigenous communities, which is needed to motivate and provide accompaniment to indigenous students.
Lisseth is from Loreto, graduated by the National University of the Peruvian Amazon, qualified as a biologist with an extensive experience working with indigenous and peasant communities. She trains them in conservation and management of their natural resources; motivating them to develop their activities thinking about their future, and helping them to identify the potentials that they possess. Also, she has experience in wildlife assessment and monitoring with the aim to create new conservation areas.
Silvia Del Aguila Reyna
General Permaculture Coordinator
Silvia joined our team in April 2016. She took on the challenging mission to further develop our permaculture site and share our experiences with nearby communities.
Born in Iquitos, Silvia spent much of her childhood at La Independencia, a small rural community just outside of Iquitos, helping her mother to cultivate their land. Silvia’s parents are native to the upper Huallaga river, a region of the Amazon whose people are known for their sophisticated agricultural practices. With a growing interest for the connection between human activity and the health of the land, Silvia attended the National University of the Amazon (UNAP) to pursue a forestry engineer career. She completed her master’s degree in Aquatic Resources with a major in Aquaculture at the Universidad Mayor de San Marcos. Silvia has contributed to many different projects with both NGOs and state-owned organizations, such as working in the production and organizational arm of the Rural and Indigenous Agroforestry Coordination office, in which she became a director; collaborating with the well-respected Peruvian Amazon Research Institute on its Management and Conservation of the Biodiversity of the Nanay River Basin project; and coordinating the Reforestation and Comprehensive Gardens project for the French-Peruvian NGO, Latitude Sur.
Permaculture Research Coordinator
Born and raised in the city of Iquitos, Alan Chumbe joined Chaikuni in 2017 bringing his research expertise to our Permaculture program’s pilot project.
Alan graduated in 2013 as Engineer in Ecology of Tropical Forests from the University of the Peruvian Amazon’s Faculty of Forestry Science. With a strong commitment for the care of the environment and the conservation of the Amazonian ecosystem, Alan studied a professional specialization course in environmental management and industrial safety in a mining and hydrocarbons company, working as a QHES supervisor and for different companies in the construction sector. He then decided to participate in different productive and research projects, working for the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation’s Special Project for Comprehensive Development of the Putumayo River Basin and as part of the research team on systematic ecology of Amazonian peatlands applying the methodology RAINFOR, led by the National University of the Peruvian Amazon (UNAP) and Arizona State University (ASU). Convinced that the development of the Amazon region can only be achieved through the generation of knowledge, Alan agreed to be part of our team as Research Coordinator for our pilot project located in the Nanay River.
Carlos Maytahuari Arimuya
Local Permaculture Staff
Before joining Chaikuni in February 2014, Carlos was primarily a fisherman. He was forced to change his profession when the fish stock in the river started to drop drastically due to unsustainable fishing practices.
Throughout his adult life, Carlos has worked on his own farm to support the needs of his family. He comes from Lupuna village, and like most of people living there, Carlos is a from the indigenous group known as the Cocama. In the spirit of the equality of all human beings, he loves to work and exchange knowledge with foreign people. As a manager of our nursery, Carlos gives great love and care to our baby plants. He is also responsible for harvesting.
Ayni Project Coordinator
Sophia coordinates the Ayni Ayahuasca program, developing and overseeing the regenerative and ethical cultivation of ayahuasca and other medicinal plants. She envisions a culture of authentic, long-term reciprocity between traditional communities and their visitors.
Sophia holds a BA in anthropology and a MSc in ecological economics from the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (ICTA-UAB). She has worked at the intersection of indigenous rights, environmental care and remediation through academic research and with nonprofit organizations like the Rainforest Foundation-US and Alianza Arkana. She brings to The Chaikuni Institute expertise in the political ecology of palm oil and the industry’s impacts on rural communities, with a focus on community-led solutions through the creation of cooperative business and unions. She is the co-author of When Plants Dream (Watkins, 2019) on the globalization of ayahausca.
Temple Outreach Representative
Adam is a psychologist, cognitive scientist and medical anthropologist currently based at Chaikuni’s sister organization Temple Of The Way of Light where he supports Chaikuni in outreach to guests and conducts research for The Temple.
Born in the urban jungles of Mexico City, raised mostly in Israel and having lived in seven different countries, Adam naturally embodies interculturalism. Adam has studied traditional systems of medicine in Mexico, India and Peru, adopting a dialectical approach that integrates and unites evidence-based science and traditional worldviews. He has worked extensively in western psychiatric institutions and has spent time learning from a variety of indigenous and traditional healers around the world. Besides participating in a wide array of projects in the fields of permaculture, eco-building and community-based health in countries as varied as India, Belize or Peru, he is an active member of the “Medical Anthropology Research Center” (MARC), and the “Interdisciplinary Psychedelic Studies” (IPS) group, both in Catalunya, while sharing his experience facilitating transformational processes in a variety of psychedelic support and harm-reduction projects around the world, such as the Kosmicare Project in Portugal or the Zendo Project in the United States.
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.
Zimbabwean-born and Africa-raised Debbie has found the seemingly improbable: a fit for all of her passions to be satisfied in one place. Before arriving in Peru, these passions had flowed through her many professional incarnations which included studies in Psychology and Drama, designing HIV/AIDs and life-skills education programs, fundraising for large and small International Development agencies, investigative broadcast journalism and documentary-making to mention a few. A passion for communicating with and about indigenous people and their issues has been a strong thread running through these pursuits. 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 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.
Matthew Watherston traveled to the Amazon at the beginning of 2007 and saw how the impact of westernization and industrial development was destroying the traditions of the indigenous people and the environment across the Amazon at large.
He founded Alianza Arkana in 2011 partnering with indigenous people to help them preserve their environment, rights and traditions. Then in 2013, he founded the Chaikuni Institute to focus more on permaculture, regenerative development and community based eco-social enterprises in the Loreto region. Before coming to the Amazon, Matthew worked as operations director for a large property developer and real estate company in Spain. After a profound experience in the Amazon his life changed dramatically and his heart called him to leave behind his successful career in business.
Matthew has spent almost a decade in the Amazon and has a deep understanding of social and environmental issues in Peru as well as the complexities of Western culture blending with traditional indigenous ways of life in the rainforest.