Ayni, Regenerative Food Forest in the Amazon

by Instituto Chaikuni
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Ayni, Regenerative Food Forest in the Amazon
Ayni, Regenerative Food Forest in the Amazon
Ayni, Regenerative Food Forest in the Amazon
Ayni, Regenerative Food Forest in the Amazon
Ayni, Regenerative Food Forest in the Amazon
Ayni, Regenerative Food Forest in the Amazon
Ayni, Regenerative Food Forest in the Amazon
Ayni, Regenerative Food Forest in the Amazon
Ayni, Regenerative Food Forest in the Amazon
Ayni, Regenerative Food Forest in the Amazon
Ayni, Regenerative Food Forest in the Amazon
Ayni, Regenerative Food Forest in the Amazon
Ayni, Regenerative Food Forest in the Amazon
Workshop with children from Tres Unidos community.
Workshop with children from Tres Unidos community.

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Despite the menace of a third COVID wave looming over our Amazon region, our project staff and permaculture program have been running at full speed since we last wrote to you.

We continued to support local families to install their chacras integrales or food forests through mingas (communal work days), offering both technical and logistical support, including seedlings, as well as food provisions for the individuals participating in the minga. Since early march, we have assisted another 11 mingas. We are currently advancing on 22 hectares, most of them at stage 1 out of 3, but 9 families have also implemented phase 2. By the end of the year, we have set ourselves the goal to reach 24 hectares of fully installed chacras integrales.  

In May, we facilitated a training for all the participants that work on their chacra integral through our project, on how to include citrus fruit trees in their agroforestry system. The organization of this workshop is a direct response to feedback from the families we work with. Many are particularly interested in including either toronja (a local type of grape fruit) or lemon in their chacra integral. The training was led by a local expert in citrus plants, and was such a success that many participants asked for a follow up training. We also distributed 10 small citrus plants to each participant, to be planted in their chacra according to the instructions taught in the training.

Finally, there seems to be returning some normality to the schools, at least in rural areas. Normal classes have started twice a week in the communities we work. This means that we are finally able to coordinate with the teachers to organize a space for the kids, offering environmental education classes, the fun way. We don´t need to teach these kids “about” nature, or how to plant a tree. They have spent all of their young lives running around the forest, and can teach us. Making the link with our other project activities, however, we speak about the importance of sustainably managing their resources, for their future, and how they can talk to their parents about this.

We are also excited to let you know that we recently welcomed a new and very talented colleague to our team, Diego Carhuaricra, who will be in charge of coordinating our permaculture center from now on. One of his first initiatives was to organize the team to sell the produce from our own chacra integral at one of the markets on the outskirts of Iquitos, a half an hour walk and shorter boat ride away from our center. Our staff harvested ginger, anona fruit, cacao, guineo bananas, plantains, curcuma, and bijao leaves, and sold it all at the market. The bijao is a large banana-tree-leave looking leave, that is used in local cuisine, most prominently to wrap a dish that is called Juane. While Juanes are prepared throughout the year, they are the main ingredient for the festivities of San Juan, celebrated on the 24th of June.

As we head into the second half of the year, we continue with fresh enthusiasm to work with the local communities to implement diverse and regenerative agroforestry system, which wouldn’t be possible without your continued support.

With much gratitude,

The Chaikuni Team

Street market with products from our farms.
Street market with products from our farms.
Crops from our permaculture center.
Crops from our permaculture center.

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'Agrofloresta' one year development
'Agrofloresta' one year development

Dear Friends and Supporters, 

We hope this report finds you well and healthy. Over the last months we tried to make the most out of the relative calm and normality to push ahead with our activities. November and December were busy months with fieldwork, supporting families getting their agroforestry plots on their way, and organizing community assemblies to support the communities to organize the use of their community land in a sustainable way. After a well-deserved time-off around the turn of the year, our team continued the activities in the communities and our permaculture center. Unfortunately, by mid-late January, the second wave of the pandemic hit Peru and our city of Iquitos, once again impeding the normal development of our project. 

During the time we were able to work normally, we implemented another 13 mingas or collective workdays, working with local families on the establishment of their chacra integral or food forest. We are currently working with 15 families, and offer each family our support for three full workdays. By the end of this year, our goal is to extend this work to include at least 24 families, each one converting approx. 1 hectare into a highly diverse food forest. 

By mid-December we also concluded our third communal land planning workshop with the San Pedro village. Using a “talking map” methodology, we asked the villagers to draw the past and present distribution of the natural resources on their territory on a map. The decline of their resources over the years suddenly became very visual and helped the villagers to reflect on their current practices, how they would like their future to be, and what will need to happen so this vision of the future can materialize. Having collected all this information during the workshops, we are now working on transferring the communities’ proposal on how to sustainably manage their communal lands onto a geo-referenced map. We then expect San Pedro to endorse their own proposal in a signed communal agreement. By the end of the year, we aim to have concluded the same process in our three other partner villages.

Do you remember how 1 year ago and just before the strict lockdown of over 100 days we ran an agrofloresta-training with villagers, teaching them this particular method to install an extremely diverse and productive agroforestry system? One year later, we have harvested a great diversity of foods from our own agrofloresta that was planted one year ago, such as maize, yucca, beans, cocona fruit, papaya, chaia, katuk, and bijao leaves. (These latter are used to prepare several local dishes). In many ways, crop diversity strengthens the resilience of the system.

We hope this explosion of green (see photos) – an explosion of life itself - is as much of an inspiration to you as it is to us at the Chaikuni Institute. As another period of limited activity is forced upon us by the coronavirus, and the government´s response to it, we take this inspiration with us and get ready for the time when we can get our hands dirty again. Let´s hope it won´t be too long.  

We hope that your resilience to the current situation persists and once again would like to thank you for your support - to our Institute and the local communities that we partner with. 

Warmly, 

The Chaikuni Institute Team

The 'agrofloresta' is thriving one year later
The 'agrofloresta' is thriving one year later
Some of the fruits we harvested in our chacra
Some of the fruits we harvested in our chacra
Preparing new crops for future 'mingas'
Preparing new crops for future 'mingas'
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The 'agrofloresta', before and after
The 'agrofloresta', before and after

Dear Friends and Supporters,

We sincerely hope that you and your families are well and safe, as we are slowly approaching the end of the year and holiday season. In July, when we last wrote to you, government restrictions due to the pandemic were slowly rolled back. For us at Chaikuni, this meant to go ahead with full speed, trying to recover some of the months we had “lost” to the state of emergency.

Over the last three months we went back to being out there in the communities, working with local farmers and their families. You might remember: we set ourselves the goal to implement 24 hectares of chacras integrales in four neighboring communities to our permaculture center, by the end of 2021. The aim is to recover, improve, regenerate and diversify the (often degraded) farming areas of local families, putting them under a diverse and healthy agro-forestry system, producing an abundance of food, timber, medicine, and other benefits. To get their food forests established and under way, on three occasions for each participant, we offer technical and logistical support, as well as manpower, in a so called minga. A minga refers to a day of work in the field, where the owner is joined by the extended family and friends who lend a hand.

After re-establishing contact with the local farmers in august and visiting them to speak of their plans and ambitions for their farming plots, starting in September, we facilitated and accompanied 13 mingas. This means that, with Chaikuni’s help, 13 local farmers took the first step to establishing a chacra integral on their land, with each plot being approximately 1 hectare in size, some slightly less. Many more interested individuals have signed up to our project, whom our team will attend over the next months.

We have also started to support each of the four communities to get organized and work on communal land use planning. The objective is for every community to define a communal agreement over how to sustainably use and control their territory and its resources over the next years and decades. We had a GIS specialist help us preparing special maps for each of the communities. Last week we held the first communal land use planning work shop in the San Pedro village. As you can see in the photos, the villagers got extremely engaged.

In the meantime, our own experimental agrofloresta-plot that we installed in March continues to grow wildly. What was barren earth in March, is now producing: Yucca (manioc), maize, Chaia, Katuk, beans, and the Cocona fruit have already been harvested, and much more produce is to be expected in the coming months. We prepared some new “then and now” pictures so you can get a taste of this.

While many parts of the world currently experience the feared second wave of the Corona-pandemic, we hope that the number of Covid cases remain low in our region, so that we can continue our work in the communities. We would like to genuinely thank you for all your support to our Institute and the local communities we work with in the Peruvian Amazon.

With profound gratitude,

The Chaikuni Institute Team

The 'agrofloresta', before and after
The 'agrofloresta', before and after
The 'agrofloresta', before and after
The 'agrofloresta', before and after
Working with local farmers and their families.
Working with local farmers and their families.
Last workshop with the community
Last workshop with the community
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Before & After lockdown in the agroforetry system
Before & After lockdown in the agroforetry system

Dear Friends and Supporters,


On March 15th, only a few days after we wrote to you last time, Peru was put under a strict lockdown due to the corona pandemic. More than 110 days later, the lockdown was finally lifted at the beginning of July. As in most places, however, this doesn´t mean that things just go back to (the hopefully new) normal. At around 3000 new cases daily, infection rates are still
high in Peru. Rather than based on public health criteria, the discontinuation of the quarantine is the result of ordinary people and the government no longer being able to bear the socio-economic costs of “staying inside”.

Our jungle region and city of Iquitos went through a traumatic experience; the lack of a decent health care system, infrastructure, medical personal, medicines and oxygen led to the loss of unnecessarily many lives. While conspicuously exposing the weaknesses of our current “system”, it was a stark and painful reminder of all the failures and thefts committed for decades in our Loreto region. Oil royalties and public funds disappeared in the pockets of public functionaries rather than being invested in health care and education.

While the pandemic impeded us to go about our work in the field during the last months, we, fortunately, had just finished planting three food forests before we were ordered to stay at home. We were also lucky that two of our Chaikuni staff live right next to our permaculture center, and, despite the lockdown, they were able to tend to the agrofloresta throughout the quarantine, while nature was silently performing its miracles. In just a bit over three months, our agrofloresta plot went from barren earth to a lush emerging green, already gifting us with its first product, a local species of beans. The picture series at the bottom of this report - taken by our local staff Eder Baneo through his cellphone – documents the growth of the agrofloresta planted in March. We hope it conveys an idea of just how diverse and productive this system is.

While we were bound to our homes, immersed in the uncertainty of the situation, we – or shall we better say YOU – also achieved another great victory. Showing international solidarity and reciprocity at a level that has deeply touched us, you all made our Climate Action Campaign fundraiser a huge success. Thanks to your support, our project was chosen as one of
five organizations to be part of the year-long GlobalGiving Climate Action Fund, which will bring us further funding and new platforms to share our experience, hopefully inspiring many others to join the movement.

The successful campaign directly helped us as an organization to continue on through this global crisis and time of renewal. We can´t wait to go back out to the communities, put our hands in the soil, and continue the work with local families to plant food forests and regenerate soils and forests.

Thank you for all your support to our Institute and the local communities we work with in the Peruvian Amazon.

With profound gratitude,


The Chaikuni Institute Team

Before & After lockdown in the agroforetry system
Before & After lockdown in the agroforetry system
Before & After lockdown in the agroforestry system
Before & After lockdown in the agroforestry system
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Youth from the communities during theory lessons
Youth from the communities during theory lessons

Dear Friends and Supporters, 

Only yesterday we finished another 10-day key activity that we had been planning meticulously over the last months. We made it back just in time from the rainforest and our partnering communities to report to you today. 

As you may remember, through this campaign, we have been promoting a regenerative, diverse and resilient agroforestry system, which we call a “chacra integral”. Bridging traditional, indigenous land-management techniques with modern permaculture methods, a chacra integral produces abundance for local communities, creates healthy food forests, counteracts deforestation and soil degradation, and thus helps to combat and mitigate climate change. 

Under the masterful guidance of Tierra Martinez, founder of the Ná Lu’um permaculture Institute and one of the leading permaculture experts in Latin America, we offered a ten-day capacity building workshop to local families. A diverse group of over 30 people participated; women, men, and youth from 3 neighboring communities to our permaculture center in the lower Nanay River basin, in the Peruvian rainforest. 

The course offered a profound experience into a method called “agrofloresta”. Also known as syntropic agriculture, it is an extremely diverse and productive system of climate- and biodiversity-friendly sustainable farming. Just like a multi layered rainforest ecosystem, it works with plants that thrive on different levels and in different conditions (high, low, medium altitude, shade, sun, etc..), each producing food, timber or medicines at different time intervals, assuring a year-round production. Perfectly aligned with our local chacra integral system, we promote the agrofloresta as a part of it. 

Finishing the ten days, our team of eighty+ hands of villagers and Chaikuni staff had left growing three such rich agrofloresta plots. Installed in areas previously degraded by local farming practices, they are bound to grow back to thriving and productive forests. Two of the planted fields are in very accessible places in the communities, serving as example plots for community members which didn´t participate in the training.

With your help, we will continue to spread the knowledge on chacras integrales and the agrofloresta within our neighboring communities and beyond, to keep creating a movement to regenerate the Amazon.

Thank you for all your support to local communities in the Peruvian Amazon and for being part of our movement.  

 

With gratitude,

 

The Chaikuni Institute Team

No matter our origin, we all work for one dream
No matter our origin, we all work for one dream
Variety of crops and seeds is "agrofloresta"
Variety of crops and seeds is "agrofloresta"
These seed beds will become a "Food Forest"
These seed beds will become a "Food Forest"
Only with your support we made it possible!
Only with your support we made it possible!
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Organization Information

Instituto Chaikuni

Location: Iquitos, Loreto - Peru
Website:
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Twitter: @Chaikuni
Project Leader:
Stefan Kistler
Iquitos, Loreto Peru
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