Project #12229

Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon

by Center for Amazon Community Ecology
Mar 26, 2014

Strengthening artisan skills and cooperation with Ampiyacu native communities (Report #6)

Artisan teambuilding exercise at Pucaurquillo
Artisan teambuilding exercise at Pucaurquillo

Dear GlobalGiving donor,

Thank you very much for your support of the Center for Amazon Community Ecology project to create sustainable livelihoods and conserve rainforests in the northern Peruvian Amazon.  We have our special ways of helping native artisans develop innovative handicrafts and produce fragrant oils from aromatic rainforest trees, but our success also depends on forming partnerships with other groups who share our overall goals of promoting forest conservation and creating sustainable livelihoods in native and campesino communities.

CACE began working early this year with the Science and Education department of The Field Museum of Chicago to implement “Quality of Life Plans” with native communities in the Ampiyacu River region.  The core of this collaboration is co-leading a three-part series of workshops with artisans in Brillo Nuevo and Puca Urquillo.  These experiential sessions will help them develop their personal skills and ability to work together to improve their natural resource management, craft-making and craft selling.  TFM and CACE will also co-produce resource materials for the artisans and lead follow-up activities to implement goals that emerge from the workshops. 

These workshops are off to a good start.  CACE Project Manager Yully Rojas and TFM staff have completed the first and second modules in Brillo Nuevo and Puca Urquillo and will finish module 3 by the end of next month.  Below are the main topics in each workshop.

Module 1: Leadership, Organization and Planning.  This workshop includes team play, identifying how artisans plant and process chambira palm for making handicrafts, and drafting plans for small groups to work together to meet craft production goals. 

Module 2:  Trust, Communication and Control. The workshop goal is to build trust among artisans in the group to promote clear communication so they can improve the management and supply of natural resources used in making crafts, create their own mechanisms to control the quality of crafts, and establish transparency in financial management.

Module 3: Decision Making and Sustainability. The goal of this workshop is to encourage artisans to consider trade-offs and consequences of decisions they make regarding the harvest of chambira and dye plants.  They will elaborate different strategies to create a sustainable supply of these raw materials needed to make and sell handicrafts.

The topics are serious, but the mood of the 15 to 20 women who have participated in each session has been focused and lively.  We’ve often seen our Bora and Murui friends like Camila and Alejandrina engaged in daily chores like weeding their gardens, cooking fish, and weaving bags.  During the workshops, it was great to see them having fun and engaged with each other doing a trust lift, coloring distinct patterns on paper cut-outs of fish, and translating their intimate knowledge of chambira harvesting and weaving into a collective plan to meet an order for handicrafts.

Milda from Puca Urquillo summed up her experience of the workshops.  “I didn’t realize how much I already know about many of these things.  My mother and I have sold candies, meals and crafts from our home for a few years now.  I think our group can get better organized to make better and sell more crafts.

The workshop prompted another artisan, Rosa, to comment, “I’ve been buying most of the chambira fiber I use to weave bags from other villages since we don’t have many of these trees left in my family’s “purma” (fallow farm field). It’s expensive, and the “cogollos” sometimes have little dark blotches on them.   I now think we should replant these here so we can harvest and prepare the “cogollos” (unopened leaf spears) carefully ourselves when we need them.”  

When the workshops are over, CACE and our partner will continue to work with our artisan partners and communities to help them implement the chambira management and cooperative craft production plans they have drawn up in the modules.  One big lesson from these workshops for us has been realizing that our earlier attempt to work with all of the artisans from a large community together was going against the cultural grain.  We hope that mutual trust will grow within the whole group over time, but it’s important for us to recognize that most artisans are most comfortable planting, harvesting, and weaving within their extended family groups.  They are more likely to accept help and feedback from a relative and confidant than someone they may still view as a competitor.       

Please check out our newest video Supporting native artisans of the Peruvian Amazon and photo essays about two important craft plants: Achiote – a dye plant for fiber, food and faces and Sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) plants and chambira fiber dyeing. 

Coming up in next report
New essential oil distiller arrives in Peru

Thank you for your past and continued support.  A few more donations to our project will help us graduate from Leader to Superstar status in the GlobalGiving network.  This will give us more opportunities for strategic partnerships and matching funds to assist our partners in Peru.

Campbell Plowden
Executive Director and Project Leader
Center for Amazon Community Ecology 
Craft design exercise at Puca Urquillo workshop
Craft design exercise at Puca Urquillo workshop
Perfecting skill for twisting chambira palm fiber
Perfecting skill for twisting chambira palm fiber
Trust lift exercise at Puca Urquillo
Trust lift exercise at Puca Urquillo
Identifying stages of craft making and marketing
Identifying stages of craft making and marketing
Cooperative craft making exercise
Cooperative craft making exercise



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Organization Information

Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Location: State College, Pennsylvania - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.amazonecology.org
Project Leader:
Campbell Plowden
State College, PA United States
$62,991 raised of $70,000 goal
508 donations
$7,009 to go
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