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Apr 15, 2013

Gifts for Good

Dear friends of the Amazon,

In the past you've helped us to protect more rainforest and plant more trees. Now and until Mother's Day, we've found a special way to thank you for your contributions. Through GlobalGiving's Gifts for Good program, starting today, Monday, April 15th, for each donation of $40 or more we're pleased to offer you a beautiful palm-fiber handicraft created by our native friends and partners in the Peruvian Amazon.  (See photos below.)  

These hotpads can go on your table or be hung on your wall as a work of art. They're made with nothing but rainforest ingredients, including the all-natural dyes.  And in honor of Mother's Day, each of these crafts was made by a mother, and a part of your donation will go to these indigenous master craftswomen and their communities.

(Click to visit our Gifts for Good donation page:

Thank you once more for supporting Camino Verde and our work reforesting the Amazon.  And enjoy the beauty of the Amazon's wise, skilled artisans while helping to plant more trees.

Warm greetings to you and an early salute to all the mothers in your life.

Mar 18, 2013

The Biochar Revolution

Dear friends,

In past project reports I've laid out the basics of why charcoal added to soils (known as bio-char or terra preta) is a win-win-win.  Charcoal sequesters atmospheric CO2 for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  At the same time it creates healthy soil structure and benefits beneficial micro-organisms in soils.  And, on top of all that, in our last report I described how bio-char is an Amazonian tradition, invented by the indigenous people of the region where our organization, Camino Verde, now works to plant trees and improve lives.  

What I want to describe now is the integration of all these elements, the bringing together of the parts to form a whole: a vision of a more sustainable, humane future created in part by something so simple it's right under our nose.

Nothing short of a revolution.  With apologies to the author of one well-titled book, this "Bio-Char Revolution" is starting to sweep the planet.  And not a moment too soon.  In Africa and the United States, in Australia and Latin America, people are adding charcoal to their soils and spreading the word about this powerful technology.

We at Camino Verde are excited to be a part of it.  In 2012 we started by adding charcoal to our compost piles-- helping provide habitat for important micro-organisms and lock in nutrients that would otherwise be leached out-- and in our vegetable gardens.  In 2013 we'll be stepping up our game: we are currently exploring options for technologies and systems to produce our own bio-char.  

Our plan is to utilize bamboo-- incredibly fast-growing and pulling in more CO2 than trees-- as a renewable source of charcoal.  The bamboo grows, sequestering CO2 in its woody fibers.  Charring the bamboo keeps that carbon tied up in a stable form.  Even composting organic matter re-releases much plant carbon as CO2 and the even more harmful methane.  With charcoal the carbon stays in, for centuries or even millenia.

At the same time, we're talking with our region's largest sawmill about turning scrapwood and even sawdust into biochar.  With tons of wood debris at our disposal, we hope to develop a partnership with this least likely of allies that can be repeated anywhere that wood is milled around the globe.

We've already introduced bio-char to our region and set our sights on improving the world we live in.  But we can't do any of this without your help.  We're grateful for your support and your interest.

With warm regards,

Mar 18, 2013

Saving Rosewood, Part 2

Dear friends of Camino Verde,

It's my pleasure to bring you the latest news and stories from the Peruvian Amazon, our adventures in reforestation.  2013 has been a season of celebration and gratitude for Camino Verde, and we're especially appreciative of your interest and support. 

Let me explain what all our commotion is about...

Saving Rosewood, Part 2

Remember the appeal for support at the end of the last Missive you received in October?  Well, 2013 began with an auspicious start.  Camino Verde's funding proposal to purchase distillation equipment was met with applause from our perennial amigos at the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law.  They revealed that ScotiaBank, a major Peruvian bank, will be making a substantial contribution next month.  But we couldn't have hit our goal without the support of all of you who responded so quickly to our appeal for contributions.  Thank you!

With funding secured, we got to the fun part: planting the rosewood trees.  We planted 360 of them last week at our main reforestation center in Tambopata, Peru. 

And while the CV team was working hard at that, I was far away in northern Peru in the Bora native community of Brillo Nuevo, just off the Amazon River proper.  What was I doing?  Planting rosewood trees of course.  Members of the community and I planted 900 trees in just 3 days.  The community was excited about the trees, and so was I.  (See a photo here.)

One highlight was when we talked about just how quickly the rosewood trees will start to provide tangible benefits for the community: in 2 years.  That's faster than some pineapple plants produce their first fruit, faster than a cashew or a brazil nut or a starfruit or an ice cream bean or an umarí or a charichuelo produce their first fruits.  (A full report on this inspiring trip to Brillo Nuevo will be coming soon to and our Facebook page.)

To all of you who contributed to the rosewood project-- Thank you! Your donations have already sprouted tangible benefits for the Amazon and its human communities.  Please help us plant more rosewood trees next year, when I'll be back in Brillo Nuevo to visit with the community and check on the trees' growth.  I´ll be back again in two years to help with the first harvest of leaves and side branches to begin producing essential oil.  In the meantime, we're actively pursuing seed sources to expand rosewood reforestation in the community with our allies at the Center for Amazon Community Ecology, so that each time I return to Brillo Nuevo I will do so with more tree seedlings in hand. 

But rosewood work isn't the only thing we've been up to.

CV Behind the Scenes

If rosewood is our star story right now, there's also a lot worth talking about going on behind the scenes.  In fact, January 2013 was such a big month for Camino Verde that it felt like we had crammed a whole year's worth of program work into one month.  What was the big deal?

1.  First, the trees.  Since new year's we've already planted over 2800 trees.  The rainy season is underway (although it's been a very dry year so far), and we took advantage of the weather by rolling out the seedlings.  Most are coming from our very own on site plant nursery that you might remember hearing about last year.

2.  Our friends at the Hitchcock Bowart Daterra Family Foundation have done it again.  Making an overnight angel investment in the future of our forests, the Foundation single-handedly funded our acquisition of another 70 acres of rainforest, much of it untouched.  In fact, the new land abuts the Tambopata National Reserve.  This brings the total of Camino Verde-owned land to 250 acres (not counting our conservation partnerships). 

3.  Government bona fides.  The first land ever acquired by Camino Verde's founders (7 years ago!) is now certified as a Private Conservation Area by Peru's Ministry of the Environment.  The news brought a tither of attention: I appeared in local and national Peruvian newspapers as well as on a few websites.

4.  New infrastructure!  Our visitors' and volunteers' lodgings have just officially been upgraded.  Thanks to the support of, you guessed it, the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law plus donors like you, our new Visitor Center looks awesome.  Also, our new staff lodgings and mess hall are in the works this month!  We would love yoursupport to help finish this overhaul.

5. In other news, December's Sustainable Living and Ecological Design Course was a blast, and we've got the pictures to prove it.  Don't be surprised if we end up doing this again.

We are grateful for your support, and for caring enough to read about what we do.  Thank you!  And by the way, if you haven't already checked out the handsome new, what are you waiting for?

Warm greetings,

Robin Van Loon
Executive Director
Camino Verde

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