Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon

by Center for Amazon Community Ecology
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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 | Sep 15, 2014
The art of weaving chambira palm fiber in the Peruvian Amazon and CACE's approach to innovation

By Campbell Plowden | Executive Director & Project Leader

Bora artisan drying chambira (1) Plowden/CACE
Bora artisan drying chambira (1) Plowden/CACE

Tourists visiting Iquitos, the gateway city to the northern Peruvian Amazon, buy a fair amount of bags and hammocks woven from the fiber of the chambira palm tree.  The women artisans who harvest its long spear-like leaves covered with long sharp spines to weave these items get paid relatively little for their painstaking labor because there are so many others in remote villages doing the same thing.

CACE’s basic goal in working with native villages along the Ampiyacu and other forest-based communities in the region is to help its people improve their livelihoods by creating and selling value-added forest products including innovative handicrafts and essential oils.  We need to advance this work along three paths in step-wise fashion.   1. Support artisans to make interesting and quality crafts, 2. Help artisans market these crafts, 3. Support artisans to harvest the plants used to make the crafts in a sustainable way.  As craft sales grow, we need to help train more artisans and increase the supply of plants to meet anticipated demand.

The new kinds of crafts that our partner artisans have made from chambira fiber and other local plants in past years has included: belts, guitar straps, hat bands, bracelets, hair barrettes, bags, coin purses, cell phone carriers, holiday tree ornaments, and hot pads.  We have been selling most of these crafts at presentations, craft fairs, conferences with a growing amount also being sold online and through retail shops.  As opportunities to sell more crafts increases, we have facilitated skill-sharing between artisans and worked with them to assess the abundance of chambira in their fields.

This summer, our Peruvian interns Cindy and Jill accompanied several artisans including Dolores, Lucila, and Casilda through every stage of the craft-making process so we could document and better understand how much time and materials were involved in harvesting the plants and making different types of finished handicrafts.  An artisan (or sometimes her husband) begins this process by walking from her home to one of her “purmas” (fallow farm-field) where chambira palms have either grown through natural regeneration or were intentionally planted.  She first cuts a medium age “cogollo” (a spiny medium age leaf that looks like a spear) with a machete or pruning saw (provided by CACE to reduce damage to non-target leaves).  The artisan vigorously shakes the spear to unfurl the dozens of leaflets and then pulls them off of the central stem.  She will tie these in a bundle and then harvest more cogollos from other trees if she has a big project.

In the village, I marveled at the foot dexterity of Dolores as she secured the base of one leaflet at a time between two toes and then used her fingers to snap the top of the leaflet and then peel the fibers away from it.  The remainder includes the stiff core and the “bagassa” (waste part).  It can easily take several hours to remove the fibers from a big batch.  Dolores next boiled the fibers in her house and then cleaned and washed it from her dugout canoe in the river and finally draped the strands of over a clothes line to dry for two days.  She came by a couple of times during this time to comb out the stray fluffy pieces.  When the chambira is sun dry, artisans collect other plants to dye the fiber into as many colors as needed for the craft they plan to make.  These parts may include the leaves, fruits, roots, seeds, or bark of a dozen plants that may be available during different times of the year.  The dye plant parts are usually mashed or grinded and then put into a pot with a batch of chambira to boil for five to ten minutes.  The colored chambira is then hung in her house in the shade to dry.  Sometimes the chambira is then soaked again in river mud to deepen and perhaps fix the color (acting like a natural mordant).   Twining comes next.  There are no spinning wheels here so the artisans take one or more fine strands of chambira fiber and rub them up and down their thigh to twist them into long strong threads of the proper thickness.   (Warning to curious researchers and tourists – this is painful for people who have hair on their legs to attempt).  The final stage is to weave the fibers into whatever craft the artisan wishes to make.  It can take anywhere from half a day to a full week to complete one item.

When we compared the weights and prices of a wide variety of crafts, we made some important discoveries.  The artisans were making about $5.18 per cogollo of chambira harvested and processed for making and selling a typical bag and only $1.48 per cogollo for an average hammock sold to a tourist shop in Iquitos (not including their cost of travel to and from the city).  In contrast, they were making $11.85 per cogollo for making a hot pad and $13.33 per cogollo for making a guitar strap they sold to CACE in their village.  The implications of these data for the forest and the artisans were already becoming clear.  Since it takes 5 to 10 cogollos to make one hammock, artisans have spent lots of time making a product that offers little compensation and making lots of hammocks leads to harvesting chambira at a faster rate than it takes to grow back.  These results also make our mission equally clear.  Training more artisans to make the higher-value products will generate more income for the artisans and use the chambira resource much more sparingly.

Dolores summed up her feelings about this situation in simpler terms – “I like making hot pads for CACE because it’s more profitable than making a hammock and uses a lot less chambira.  It’s a much easier way for me to help take care of my family.”

Thank you very much for your support for our project.  We would particularly welcome contributions on the upcoming GlobalGiving Bonus Day on October 15 when donations made early in the day will receive a 30% match.  Visit our GlobalGiving page at: www.AmazonAlive.net.

Artisan stripping chambira leaflets. Plowden/CACE
Artisan stripping chambira leaflets. Plowden/CACE
Artisan removing chambira fiber. Plowden/CACE
Artisan removing chambira fiber. Plowden/CACE
Artisan washing chambira fiber. Plowden/CACE
Artisan washing chambira fiber. Plowden/CACE
Artisan drying chambira fiber. Plowden/CACE
Artisan drying chambira fiber. Plowden/CACE
Artisan grating fruit pod dye. Plowden/CACE
Artisan grating fruit pod dye. Plowden/CACE
Artisan weaving guitar strap. Plowden/CACE
Artisan weaving guitar strap. Plowden/CACE
Bora Artisan weaving hammock. Plowden/CACE
Bora Artisan weaving hammock. Plowden/CACE
Artisan with woven chambira hot pad. Plowden/CACE
Artisan with woven chambira hot pad. Plowden/CACE

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Jun 13, 2014
A vision for rosewood oil & rare tree recovery

By Campbell Plowden | Executive Director & Project Leader

Mar 26, 2014
Strengthening artisan skills and cooperation with Ampiyacu native communities (Report #6)

By Campbell Plowden | Executive Director and Project Leader

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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
$169,240 raised of $200,000 goal
 
1,287 donations
$30,760 to go
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