Permaculture Design Course

Permaculture Design Course
Madeira Island - Portugal
Permaculture is to live in harmony with nature providing for human needs and the needs of everything around us

Ecosystem Restoration Camp - Amazon - Peru

First Development of Ecosystems Restoration Camps in Chirapa - Tarapoto, Peru

This story starts with the intention to support the development of a regenerative camp on the high amazon region at Tarapoto, Peru.

I was contacted by John D Liu with the idea of scouting a region and survey the possibility of having a tropical camp of the Ecossystem Restoration Foundation located on the cacao region of chirapa.

Peru is one of the countries that will be most affected by climate change, to design alternatives that can mitigate the impact of erratic weather patterns is becoming a big topic, for many now its the time to start to find practical solutions to the unbalance created by humanity.

 It is in people engaged in alternatives that we find the empowerment to move.

Going to Tarapoto and the amazon was a great way to look at the ecosocial impact of all this changes and consider how could we really make a difference.

My host was Margarita Checa a person inspired by being a member of positive change for peru and wanted to create a demonstration site about how it can be possible to restore ecosystems on the village that she lives...Chirapa...  mission was to talk with the land and the people and connect all this.  

 Tarapoto is located on a transitional region between the low hot wet  jungle forest and the mid mountain more fresh and with a view of a far horizon.

 Farmers commercial crops are coffee on higher slopes and cacao on the lower lands, in chirapa most of agriculture is by small scale farmers, there is also a domestic production of cassava sweet potatoes, banana, mango, yaccon, plantanes, and taro.

Closer to tarapoto it is possible to see the devastation of intensive agriculture, that cuts down old primary forest to then grow rice chemical monocultures.

 The diet of the people is changing, there is just a few people now that still eat taro, the most traditional food, now people want to eat rice and follow a western diet, it is on the small villages that we still find people that focus their diet mostly on what they can produce, plantanes are the most common domestic crop.

The access to chirapa is not the most easy since it is on a dirt road and we are on a wet tropical climate, it is very easy for the road to change its shape and for some parts to become a mud slide.One of the main requests of the people in the community was to have a repaired road...we hope that our project can have some positive influence on the local politicians.

On the first days after my arrival i had a meeting with the local non formal authorities of the community, the local leader also called Apu came to meet me with his secretary so that we could talk about the needs of the village and to know more about our project.

Apu is a title given by the community on an general assembly to the person that should be representing the community on a 2 year mandate.It was a non recognized title by the peruvian government but in other way a expression of localism self management and an expression of how people organize when there is not a close presence of the formal government.

On this meeting they told me that they were an agriculture community losing their ancestral crops and wisdom and that there was a big problem with water that was disappearing and not as available as it used to be since the rivers are getting more and more dry.

i made them the proposal that they would get support on doing things in a different way, working with nature and not against nature.
We were there to help them redesigning their farms, improve the quality of the soil and increase the amount of water available on the springs and rivers.
With the ecological regeneration i would also help them diversify their crops of cacao and coffee by adding 2 new high value crops, the sacha inchi nut and the macambo nut with the support of one old friend Bill Park of eco ola super foods.

By providing the farmers with contacts for them to sell this new crops and generate an extra income on top of what they were making with the conventional crops. At the same time we would implement a nursery at community house and at the children school.

That was my was a win win situation, we would get more diversity on the farmers land and they would get a place to sell this new sources of income.

The Apu was very happy about the idea and we decided to organize a bigger meeting with the main organizations that were acting at chirapa, so that we could promote this idea and see the feedback.
It was very nice to have margarita providing home base and a place that could work as a living laboratory with examples of things the farmers could use on developing their farms.
Our plan was to have 10 different farmers every week working at margaritas site and learning about contour lines swalles and building soil fertility.

 Margarita place where the camp will be developed is a 17ha piece of land with a inoperational stream that needs to be recovered, there are a couple of chicken houses with about 30 free range chickens, there are also 2 tree nurseries and a big house made of earthbag with a thatched roof.

On her nursery there was a big focus on fast growing wood trees and also medicinal superfoods like moringa, our vision was that the nursery would be the heart of the project since margarita had such a big enthusiasm on recovering the old disappearing trees of the amazon
Some of this trees take 100 years to produce the first was not going to be easy to find seeds of such few living population of this trees on the edge of extinction...we were gonna try anyway.
We spent many days talking about how we could prevent erosion on the land developing agroforestry systems, there was a big focus on a strategy based on accumulating organic material on contour lines, having also a very concentrated cultivation pattern on this lines.

To support this cultivation designs we also discussed how to make biofertilizers insecticides and fungicides and looked at natural pest control and insects species dynamics on site. Margarita has a special call for mushroom cultivation and with the help of local farmers we were able to develop a low tech system for substract pasteurization that would allow margarita to reproduce the mycelium of this mushroom species.
To increase water use on site we focused on identification of water springs and sources and how to connect them using off contour trenches feeding several lakes before ending on a stream. We found a extreme importance on the regeneration of this stream since lack of movement of water attracts mosquitoes. The potential for proper water management and design on tropical landscape is very big on this land because of landscape profile.

Margarita is very passionate about botanics and soil improvement and has 2 functional tree nurseries combined with worm composting system and microorganisms farms, her activity is also very centered on sourcing new tree varieties to her land and for future reproduction.

We did long walks on the land to survey microclimates and big trees, wet areas, dry slopes, always talking about how to prune trees, animal management, beekeeping, and a deep focus on reading the landscape.

The fact of having over 30 free range chickens is creating erosion challenges , many new strategies for the chicken management were considered and our decision was that in short term the best would be to reduce the population with the help of margaritas farmer.
At night we would drink tea and talk about how could we live in a society with a more horizontal decision making organics, how can we design our communities for a proper eco social development.

Education was very central in our exchange since we consider it to be the foundation for the creation of a new culture, the most interesting was that we were exactly using that approach to transmit information, it was no longer teacher and student, it was a sinergy of knowledge.

On a sunday morning we had a big meeting with several formal organizations of the village to present our proposals and know more about the needs of the habitants, and we had a very exiting cultural exchange about forest management and social design, the feedback was super positive and we got the support of 60 farmers that wanted to get was much better than we expected.

 We could start immediately trainning this farmers at margaritas place and start imagining how the nurseries at the social center and at the school would look like.

It was incredible to see how open this people were about our proposals and the deep need of regenerating the land and getting the water springs back to work.

Before leaving Peru we had the opportunity to be presenting the concept of the Ecosystem Restoration Camps at the University of La Molina

It was a life changing experience to work with this land and to imagine how it would be to regenerate the high amazon…

Peru gave so much to the world, maybe its time for the world to give something back to Peru


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