Hello GlobalGiving Friends,
With the calendar year coming to a close, here in the Southern Hemisphere we are approaching the longest day, the shortest night. At Camino Verde we look back with tremendous gratitude on everything 2019 brought us. This year has been challenging, rewarding, and singular. Our work to bring real regeneration to the injured Amazon has grown in scale, and there will be more of that in 2020.
As always, this is a time of year when we reach out to our friends, supporters, and allies to ask your help to start the coming year strong. We know that many of you have supported us at a critical time of rebuilding earlier in 2019 – and we thank everyone who turned out to bring us back from the ashes after a serious fire we experienced in May. Whether you have given every month or never before, we are so grateful to everyone who is inspired to donate to Camino Verde.
But why contribute to Camino Verde? How is it impactful? It’s only natural to want to know what good it does.
(Dipteryx micrantha - plant images in this report from artists in residence Maisie McNiece and Blair Butterfield)
That’s why for this year end Missive, we’re going to share 12 reasons why supporting Camino Verde is a meaningful way to celebrate the holidays. If you’re curious to hear a round up of our impact this year or what is coming up on the horizon in 2020, don’t worry – the highlights of the year in review and the things we are most excited about for the future are in fact masquerading as 12 points below. (How’s that for “stacking functions.”)
Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) is a category that includes medicines, fruits, aromas, and fibers. Here we see an aromatic tree's fresh resin.
1. For 12 years, Camino Verde has been planting trees in the Peruvian Amazon. We’ve covered over 85 hectares of deforested areas with native trees of 400 species – on the land we own, on the farms of smallholders, in native communities, in research plots on heavily degraded mining sites, on lands owned by the Peruvian government and by private companies. But before November of this year, we had never before kept bees. With the expertise of Carlos – friend and specialist in Meliponas, or Amazonian stingless bees – we finally embarked on the agro-ecological adventure of native beekeeping.
2. In 2019 fires raged throughout the Amazon, with some considering this a tipping point in ecological history. In Madre de Dios we successfully fought fires around our largest tree nursery at La Joya and, sadly, at our reforestation center in Baltimori, where no more than a half dozen trees were lost, but also our main building was completely consumed in the flames. A month ago we began work on the Phoenix House (Casa Fénix, aka “el dátil”) that will rise from the ashes – thanks to the support of you, our extended family, and a special grant from Pacha Soap. This was a material loss – making your donations more vital than ever – but thankfully nobody was hurt.
Stingless bees from the Amazonian family Melipona, a significant addition to agroforestry systems.
3. The Camino Verde team grew and changed more than in any other year. Our Peru team of 21 people now manages three tree nurseries, two active farms, and one brazil nut concession, totalling 2,300 hectares, or over 5,000 acres. We were excited to welcome on Chief of Operations Estefania and Farm Coordinator Juan to the Camino Verde team. In 2020 we will hire a regional coordinator for Loreto and an additional distillation technician.
4. In 2020 we begin work on an ambitious expansion of our agroforestry systems with Amazonian smallholders and native communities. Thanks to first time funding from the Fondo Flamenco del Bosque Tropical and support from our longtime allies at Pacha Soap, in the next 2 years we will plant over 50,000 trees with 100 farmers. 10,000 of these trees will be the highly endangered (and producer of essential oil) Brazilian rosewood.
5. Before the year closed out, we received our largest ever order of essential oils – including moena alcanfór, rosewood, and other species you may have read about in our missives. We have finally confirmed proof of concept for harmless harvest of aromatic essential oils from endangered or vulnerable Amazonian tree species (that we reforest of course). This means that starting in 2020 we will be able to plant more aromatic native hardwoods with more farmers in more communities, growing our supply chain.
Aniba rosaeodora, Brazilian rosewood from the Peruvian Amazon
6. On a related note, thanks to our fruitful ongoing partnership with the Center for Amazon Community Ecology, we are now in discussion with two native communities in Loreto, northern Peruvian Amazon, to formalize agreements to reforest rosewood and also create forest conservation areas within the communities that will enhance the restoration impact of the polyculture agroforestry systems to be planted. We started planting rosewood in the same communities back in 2013, and now several families receive significant income from harvests of branches for distillation.
In one of the assemblies discussing Camino Verde’s proposal to expand rosewood planting, a community member stood up and mentioned that he and other community members had found rosewood seedlings many days’ canoe trip away – and were transplanting seedlings into their farms. It was an incredible confirmation of the concept of rosewood regeneration going viral, spreading beyond our doing.
7. On the personal front, in June of 2019 CV’s Executive Director sustained a severe injury in a transit accident in Puerto Maldonado. The CV team sprang to action to cover the bases during the ensuing 3 months when Robin was on medical leave. Thankfully the damage has healed and Robin is back online (and wrote the rest of this Missive besides this point).
Rosewood seedlings heading to their planting location in 2013.
8. A long time dream came true. CV had the chance to visit two communities in Peru’s tropical dry forest producing palo santo (Bursera graveolens) wood for incense. Palo santo is one of several species of essential oils that we are now sourcing with distillation partners, so we visited forests and nurseries attempting enrichment planting of this vulnerable species. Other oils produced by our partners include rare citrus from the Andes-Amazon transition zone and muña from the high sierra of the Cusco region. Our distillation partnerships connect us with far-reaching regions of this megadiverse country.
9. Camino Verde received the honor of being named an “Illustrious Neighbor” by the Municipality of Tambopata for donation of native tree seedlings for urban arborism, most noticeably on the Plaza de Armas of departmental capital Puerto Maldonado.
Palo santo is a keystone species of the tropical dry forest of Piura, Peru.
10. We are excited about new tools for transparency in forest management and restoration. In 2020 we roll out innovative mechanisms for supply chain transparency in essential oils. And this year we were featured alongside carbon offset pioneer company Pachama in Fast Company – Camino Verde was their pilot project for the carbon capture verification tools of the future.
11. We published our first book, over a decade in the making. Don Ignacio Duri Palomeque: Relatos de un Chamán de la Amazonía Peruana documents the extensive plant knowledge of the Amazonian herbalist who coined the phrase “camino verde.” Don Ignacio’s suggestions have informed our organization since its inception, when we first got to planting the species he considered vital to the forest’s equilibrium. The first edition is Spanish-only. The English version will be in 2020.
12. In 2019 we welcomed two artists in residence to our reforestation center in Baltimori, Tambopata, Peru. The plant portraits of Blair Butterfield and the botanical illustrations of Maisie McNiece that grace this Missive will be found in the 2nd edition of Don Ignacio’s book of plants. Inspired by the species mentioned in the tales that make up the book, these masterful artists surpassed all expectations in the representation of teacher plants of the Peruvian Amazon. We welcomed Blair to the Camino Verde board earlier this year, and since then have received a flood of interest in our reinvigorated communications (here are those Insta and FB links).
Myroxylon balsamum, Balsam of Peru (Fabaceae).
Another year, another cycle, Camino Verde at a dozen years of age says thank you.
We believe in symbiosis in 2020 as always. We believe we can do better than we did before. Thanks for supporting us, thanks for reading, thanks for accompanying this path we've been taking.
With our very best regards from Tambopata, Perú,