Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon

by Center for Amazon Community Ecology
Play Video
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon

Project Report | Aug 21, 2017
Did you make all of these crafts?

By Campbell Plowden | Executive Director & Project Leader

Marvelous spatule tail hummingbird ornament
Marvelous spatule tail hummingbird ornament

While all of our previous reports about our project focused on our work with our native community partners in Peru which is supported by donations received through GlobalGiving, our sale of their handicrafts in the U.S. is our direct means of supporting artisan families and improving health, education and conservation in their communities. 

When we first started buying crafts from artisans who visited the research station at Jenaro Herrera in 2006, we had no formal channels for selling them.  Like many people who connected with foreign places that were full of poor people with rich artisan traditions – I came home with random crafts stuffed in my duffel bag and did my best to sell them at my church (Friends Meeting for me) and to friends at special dinners.  As our work in Peru focused more on trying to help artisans, I started selling crafts at small holiday craft fairs in central Pennsylvania.  This was sometimes a lonely affair – one time I sat behind a table at a church fair and sold $50 worth of crafts in 6 hours.  As our number of partner communities expanded, the pressure to sell more crafts increased even more.  We bought our first exhibition tent in the summer of 2015 and tried our luck being a vendor at the Green Festival in New York City and Washington, D.C., street fairs in New Jersey and several music festivals.  It was clear that events in the convention centers were too expensive, and it took too much work to set up in the morning, sell during the day and break-down that that evening at street fairs.  While the music festivals varied a lot in size and character, most provided opportunities to set-up at a site for several days and interact with more people who appreciated hand-made crafts.

Last summer I packed my Subaru station wagon and Thule roof carrier to the max with our tent, display materials and boxes of crafts and drove to eight festivals in four states.  The results varied a lot according to the age and demographics of the festival goers, the amount of rain (or hail in one case) and other factors, but I noticed that the larger booths (bigger than the standard 10 x 10 foot size) got more traffic because people could browse their wares more comfortably.  I had tried to help people connect to our crafts by displaying photos of the artisans, hanging garlands of plastic plants, and playing rainforest sounds on cassettes on a tape player I picked up at Goodwill, but my dream was to create an environment where booth visitors could see our full variety of incredible crafts attractively displayed and engage with the Amazon rainforest and its people more intensively.

That dream has largely come true this summer.  My wife agreed to trade in our Subaru with 250,000 miles on it and sold some mutual funds to buy a used Toyota Highlander in very good condition.  I now use this to haul a small trailer that contains our two 10 x 20 foot tents that gives us a full 400 square feet to work with at some festivals.  We adorn our ample space with tropical style plants, rainforest birds and masks, and we have a corner called the Amazon Discovery Zone.  This area has a TV playing a rotation of videos showing how our artisan partners make their crafts.  One wall features the Rainforest Puzzle which is a 3 x 3 foot mosaic of photo pieces of Amazon people, plants animals.  Groups are challenged to assemble it as fast as they can and challenge their friends to beat their time.  We have the Pin the Eye on the Tree Frog game for younger kids.  We have a small table just outside the tent inviting people to draw a picture of a toucan or their favorite animal. They can refer to a larger plush toucan perched above or a pile of pictures of Amazon animals nearby for inspiration.  Their creations are posted on a giant whiteboard called the Rainforest Art Gallery.  I write other quiz-type questions on little whiteboards such as: “what is the longest river in the world?” (spoiler alert – it’s the Amazon) and “what is the largest rodent in the world?” Finally, I offer musicians a 30% discount on our guitar straps if they are willing to play a song or two on my or their guitar with one of our guitar straps and let me post it on our YouTube channel.

Below are some the most common questions/comments visitors to the booth have asked me `and a few of my typical responses that vary according to how much information it seems like someone wants to hear.  Sometimes I wonder why I bother making signs at all, but any question creates an opportunity to engage with someone.

Customer 1: Wow, these crafts are beautiful, did you make them all?

CP: Thank you, they are beautiful, aren’t they?  I took the photos, but I did not make any of the crafts.  They were all made by artisans who live in the Peruvian Amazon.  My organization now works with fifteen native and campesino communities in the region.  We help them develop and market the crafts so the artisans can help support their families without cutting the rainforest down.  We are encouraging the artisans to make more ornaments based on actual Amazon species of birds, butterflies, insects, amphibians and other wildlife.  I was amazed that an artisan we have just started working with along the Maranon River rendered an incredible model of the spatule tail hummingbird on his first try.

Customer 2: How much are the earrings?

CP: All of the earrings are $12 (I usually don’t tell them that there is a big sign right above the earrings that says: Amazon Earrings $12).  They are made from some

Customer 3: Your signs say you are Fair Trade.  How much money do the artisans get from your sales?

CP: CACE is a member of the Fair Trade Federation which means that we respect all nine fair trade principles.  We pay the artisans up front for their work at a price that is agreed to ahead of time with them or their association if they work in a group.  On average, our retail price is three to four times the price we pay the artisans so we can buy the crafts, send them to the US, sell them here and support a small portion of the program costs of our work in Peru that include hosting skill-sharing and leadership workshops for the artisans.  We return 20% of our net sales of the crafts made by artisans from our partner communities to support improve health, education and conservation projects chosen by them.  These social rebates are additions to the other benefits generated by work sponsored by foundation grants and donations from individuals (like gifts through GlobalGiving). 

Customer 4: Do you get to go to Peru?

CP: Yes, that’s one of the best parts of my job.  I usually go to Peru twice a year for five or six weeks to meet with our small staff in Iquitos, visit our artisan partners and their communities, and check on our research and reforestation projects (copal and rosewood).  I first fly to Lima then get a domestic flight to Iquitos – the largest city in the northern Peruvian Amazon.  I stay in a small house in Iquitos and then take one or more boats of various sizes to visit our partner communities.  It takes about five hours to get to the closest ones and 24 hours to get the remote ones.  I’ve gotten to know many artisans and their families well since I have visited their homes at least once a year for the past two to eleven years.  It’s also great to meet new artisans every visit as some veteran artisans encourage their friends to get involved with us.  Some new artisans began learning to weave from their moms when they were in primary school and they are now accomplished enough to make export quality crafts with us.  Over the years, it’s also been sad to lose a few artisan partners who have died in freak accidents in the forest or succumbed to a disease that could have been treated with access to better health care.  Other artisans have dropped out of our pool because old age has left them with very poor eyesight or bad arthritis in their hands.  Their grand-daughters can sometimes help them for a while, but eventually they need to retire.  Other artisans have left their villages to live in towns or Iquitos to get regular work or so their children can attend better schools. 

Customer 5: I’ve been to Machu Picchu.

CP: That’s great.  It’s an incredible place.  I hope that next time you go to Peru, you’ll make it to the Amazon because it’s very different and special as well.

Customer 6: How did you get involved with all of this?

CP: I got involved with rainforest conservation in the mid-1980’s when there was a lot of attention about the massive loss of tropical forests.  I worked with Greenpeace to try to convince the World Bank and other large institutions to stop funding projects that were damaging forests and harming indigenous people.  I left this work after several years, though, when it became apparent that I was not well suited to do this lobbying and advocacy work on this issue at the global level.  I went back to school to get some skills to help rainforest people at the local level.  I lived in a Tembe Indian village in the eastern Brazilian Amazon for almost two years doing field work for a PhD in Ecology where I studied the ecology, management and marketing of non-timber forest products.  After I graduated, I did some consulting work with a few groups campaigns for indigenous rights and curbing illegal logging.  I then founded CACE because it was the only way I could see to do what I knew I really wanted to do – help create positive alternatives to deforestation for small communities in the Amazon.

Customer 7: (Picking up and shaking a rattle ornament) Is this a gourd?

CP:   These rattles are made from the pod of the calabash tree.  Many Amazon families plant this tree in their back yards because they can harvest a fruit that’s as small as an egg or as large as a watermelon for any size of bowl or container.  They clean the seeds out of the pod, dry it and then put seeds from the achira plant inside to give it a nice sound.  They cap it with a balsa wood plug and attach a chambira palm fiber chord to hang it from a Christmas tree.  Every craft in our booth has a rich story behind it.  All of our crafts come with a card with the name of the artisan who made it, the name of their community and all of the plants they used to make it.  We want to help people who visit our booth understand that buying a craft from us is not buying a commodity, it is making an investment in the future of the Amazon.

Customer 8: Do you sell your crafts anywhere else besides festivals?

CP: Yes, please check out our Amazon Forest Store online.  We are also starting to sell some crafts wholesale to fair trade and other stores around the US.  We’d welcome any ideas you have about good places that might like to carry crafts made by our partners.  If you’d like to host a craft sale/party in your home, please let us know.

Customer 9: Do you need help?  Can people volunteer with you in Peru?

CP:  We need a lot of help. Volunteers help us at festivals to set-up and take down our booth, sell crafts and talk with our customers.  We also work with students and professionals in the US with tasks like writing, photo and video editing, research data analysis, and book keeping. Other people host presentations and craft sales in their home.  Our Amazon Field Volunteers spend one week to two months with us in Peru using one of their skills to support our work or our community partners.  Past volunteers have included a photographer, videographer, journalist, artist, and a woman doing service projects around the world after her 34th birthday.  My daughter spent two summers with me in Peru near the end of her time in high school, and she focused on volunteering at a local health clinic.  These experiences helped inspire her to go to nursing school.  Please visit our website or contact me if you want to discuss an idea for volunteering in the US or Peru.  We can also connect you with our sister organization Camino Verde which runs a special reforestation center in the southern Peruvian Amazon.

Customer 10:  How do you support your work?

CP:  The main sources for funding our work in Peru are grants from foundations and donations from individuals.  If you’d like to learn more about or contribute to our work, please visit our website or our page on GlobalGiving at www.AmazonAlive.net.

 

Next report, I’ll share highlights from our last two artisan leadership workshops.

Thanks very much for your support.

Native Peruvian crafts for sale at CACE booth
Native Peruvian crafts for sale at CACE booth
Friends and family that did the Rainforest Puzzle
Friends and family that did the Rainforest Puzzle
Drawing a toucan at CACE booth at festival
Drawing a toucan at CACE booth at festival
Amazon Forest Store trailer at Romp music festival
Amazon Forest Store trailer at Romp music festival
Musician playing with Amazon guitar strap on guita
Musician playing with Amazon guitar strap on guita
Practicing quality control at artisan workshop
Practicing quality control at artisan workshop
Bora family in peque peque
Bora family in peque peque
Bora artisan family from Brillo Nuevo
Bora artisan family from Brillo Nuevo
Campbell studying copal resin in Brazil
Campbell studying copal resin in Brazil
Bora artisan with calabash rattle ornaments
Bora artisan with calabash rattle ornaments
Videographer Greg H. - Amazon Field Volunteer
Videographer Greg H. - Amazon Field Volunteer
Watering seedlings at Camino Verde nursery
Watering seedlings at Camino Verde nursery

Links:

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

May 23, 2017
Navigating choppy community waters to make smooth bottle carriers

By Campbell Plowden | Executive Director and Project Leader

Feb 22, 2017
Second chance to become a great artisan

By Campbell Plowden | Project Leader

About Project Reports

Project reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you can recieve an email when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports without donating.

Sign up for updates

Organization Information

Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Location: Lemoyne, Pennsylvania - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Amazon Ecology
Project Leader:
Campbell Plowden
Dr.
Lemoyne , Pennsylvania United States
$169,520 raised of $200,000 goal
 
1,291 donations
$30,480 to go
Donate Now
lock
Donating through GlobalGiving is safe, secure, and easy with many payment options to choose from. View other ways to donate

Center for Amazon Community Ecology has earned this recognition on GlobalGiving:

Help raise money!

Support this important cause by creating a personalized fundraising page.

Start a Fundraiser

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence

Snorkeler
Our
Impact

Woman Holding a Gift Card
Give
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle
GlobalGiving
Guarantee

Get incredible stories, promotions, and matching offers in your inbox

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.