Support Indigenous Medicinal Gardens in the Amazon

by Alianza Arkana
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Support Indigenous Medicinal Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Medicinal Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Medicinal Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Medicinal Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Medicinal Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Medicinal Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Medicinal Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Medicinal Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Medicinal Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Medicinal Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Medicinal Gardens in the Amazon
Raomis Manuela
Raomis Manuela

Rao Banabo (medicinal garden) is a new project promoted by Alianza Arkana. We seek to strengthen the transmission of knowledge and the sustainable use of medicinal plants for the Shipibo-Konibo population, in the Ucayali region, Peru


Advances continue with our first stage of work on the Rao Banabo project. After Marcos, our project manager, designed and selected the most suitable medicinal plants to start germinating life in the garden, and before continuing with the process, we decided to ask an important question to an important person: What do you think of this proposal and what do you think we are missing, Yoxan Manuela?

Manuela (Jakon Rate) is a wise Shipibo-Konibo elder. For decades, she has helped and guided many people through her ceremonies and has also greatly protected the ancient Shipibo-Konibo wisdom on the use of medicinal plants. Hence, listening to her opinion and suggestions was a privilege for us.

We had a very productive day with Manuela. We started going through the whole garden, observing, identifying and naming all the medicinal plants that we crossed on our way. Later, we had an exchange about the properties and uses of the main or most effective medicinal plants. Also, she  helped us identify the names of some plants in the Shipibo-Konibo language that we only recognized by their regional spanish name.

Just to give a couple of examples, "Ronon Rao" or Jergón Sacha, is a medicinal plant that is widely used as a powerful anti-viral. Likewise, "Bana Boains" or Mucura, is a common plant used for respiratory infections and for washing away bad luck through baths. 

The results have been very satisfactory. Despite not having the area for large trees, we have a list of over 45 plants that we could grow in the little medicinal garden! With this, we are showing that the size of the land you have does not matter as long as we have the desire to care for them and keep this ancestral indigenous practice alive. We thank Manuela and the enormous work of Marcos and the entire Alianza Arkana team who put their grain of sand in this new process.

We invite you to share this project with your family, friends and contacts that you are also committed to strengthening the ancestral knowledge of Indigenous Peoples. We greatly thank you for all the support you give us.

We will keep updating you with our progress!

Project leader, Marcos
Project leader, Marcos
Natural medicine
Natural medicine
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“The Covid-19 pandemic has severely affected humanity. In the Ucayali region of Peru, Shipibo-Konibo families, as well as other peoples of the world, have re-encountered themselves with medicinal plants that have always been close by. With this healing alternative, hundreds of lives have been saved”


We are as convinced as you are that helping to revitalize knowledge about medicinal plants can be an effective and powerful alternative to the complex and unfavorable national public health system that affects the Indigenous Peoples in Peru. According to official data from the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (INEI), less than 50% of native Shipibo communities have a health facility, of which the vast majority are medical posts that have limited quality care. In turn, we also know that most communities self-medicate or consult an expert in traditional medicine when they suffer from any ailment.

In the case of urban Shipibo families, it is part of everyday life for mothers and grandmothers in the nuclear family to use medicinal plants to cure diseases. The difficulty is in the intergenerational transmission of this information to the youth. This is due to different reasons, among them, the diminishing interest of young people to learn; the culture of “pharmaceutical health” as a quick measure of cure; and the reluctance of the State to truly promote policies that favor ancestral / traditional medicine.

As a result, Alianza Arkana has created the “Rao Banabo” (which translates to medicinal garden in the Shipibo-Konibo language) program, which seeks to contribute to the revitalization of ancestral knowledge, and the promotion of medicinal plants in the Amazon region. Territorially, despite our history of working primarily in rural areas, we want to focus on urban areas, where many Shipibo families currently live.

The first stage of the program focuses on the implementation of a sustainable medicinal garden in “Casa AMETRA”, which will serve as a model to be replicated in other establishments or spaces in the region. In addition to being a productive garden, it will seek to contribute to the facilitation of meeting spaces between traditional medicine experts to strengthen knowledge and promote learning in new generations. Likewise, we hope to expand spaces for intercultural scientific research.

This medicinal garden represents the first stage of a series of activities to be carried out in the future. It will serve as the guiding pilot project to later share its results with other institutions, organizations or families interested in following this model.

We thank you immensely for your support and for being part of Rao Banabo. A project that is relevant today more than ever. Join our work and share this initiative!


**Photos: Gabriela Delgado Maldonado

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Ancestral medicine has been fundamental for the health and wellbeing of indigenous peoples the world over. In the Amazon rainforest alone, the many living testimonies, as well as prolific scientific research stating the effectiveness of plants for medicinal use illustrate the wider impact and support of this rich practice. The Shipibo-Konibo are one ethnic group in which this valuable tradition lives on, having been able to preserve some sense of practice, alongside great uncertainty about the future and despite the compelling challenges of the globalization. Although efforts are being made to maintain this cultural knowledge, the shipibo are suffering a process of its loss due to a lack of interest amongst the younger generation: the healers and the mothers who would usually transmit the knowledge having been teaching less and less and the youth are not looking to learn.

This complex situation is not a coincidence, but rather the result of the interaction between indigenous people and a society which is mostly dominated by western values and globalization. In this socio-economic structure, there are more opportunities for prosperity  in city centers, leaving the outskirts and rural sectors in vulnerable conditions, with reduced access to basic services of the state. The system is built in such a way that the only way to really thrive economically is to move to the country´s capital city, away from people´s homes and land, leaving families and knowledge behind.

In an economic system built for producing and consuming without end, it is easy to see how some traditional practices lose their practical value. If you migrate to the city, you don´t own your own property and you can be working from anywhere between 8 to 12 hours per day. You might only have time for few additional activities and so your attention will be to focus on the most practical things. Buying medicine from the pharmacy instead of planting your own medicinal plants will be a far more efficient choice for you.

Shipibo people are oftentimes victims of employers who take advantage of their needs by offering them informal labour with low wages and lack of legal protection. One of the most famous strategies of neoliberalism is to destroy the legal and political defence of the workers. The reason why Shipibo people accept such conditions, is that they wish to give an education to their children, that they may go on to have a technical or professional career in order to secure their future. Therefore, these children, the current generation, aside from a small minority of youth activists who are fighting to preserve and give value to their traditions, no longer perceive traditional crafts, land use, or traditional medicinal knowledge as relevant and, most importantly, useful.

The landscape design of most urban spaces did not take into account green areas and this represents an additional obstacle for Shipibo people moving to the city. Even though it is not essential, the more space plants have, the more productive they will be. The only green spaces cities have are gardens and parks, mainly with grass and flowers, meaning that they have an ornamental purpose, not a productive one. This makes strengthening Shipibo culture, which value green space and medicinals, a complicated endeavour in urban environments. 

This, however, is not an absolute scenario. In rural areas for instance, plant medicine traditions are still crucial and relied upon because the public health system is very unstable and under-resourced. During these times of the quarantine, many families have been using their plants to protect themselves from the virus, an example of which is the daily use of the Mocura. Still, despite the effectiveness of this knowledge, indigenous knowledge in general, including traditional crafts, family farming. and traditional medicine, is underappreciated and placed in peril, in the globalized world. Even when a minority group recognizes the value of these cultural activities that benefit so many rural families, the mode of production and the society of over consumption and unending economic growth will not recognize nor protect such traditions. The current neoliberal economic system suffocates these traditions and drives them to the extinction.

It is important therefore to highlight that there are amongst the shipibo community, many groups, such as an artisan collective of mothers providing for their families, female plant medicine healers, intercultural health promoters, creators and producers of traditional medicine, who are all working to promote and preserve this useful and efficient practice. We support Shipibo people by using what´s available to us: creating medicinals with our soil, rich in nutrients, a soil of the rainforest, which before being covered with cement and wood, was substratum, it was the plant.

The partial or complete entry of Shipibo families or communities into the socio-economic and cultural dynamics of globalization puts them in a position of vulnerability. This was the determinant variable which caused the progressive disuse of medicinal plants.

We have difficult yet important work to do to preserve Shipibo ancestral medicine due to its essential and central role in response to this difficult period of crisis. COVID-19 has shown us that self-sufficiency is an imperative. If you have some space available to you, why not use it for planting seeds, for cultivating plants for medicinal or food use. We need to create communities with unified districts, unified botanical gardens. Let's use roofs for urban green spaces, and reuse common recyclable household waste products such as milk cartons, yogurt bottles, egg boxes and such.

We have to fight for a public health system because it is a human right and keep in place local traditional systems in the event that the underfunded state system collapses beneath the weight of extraordinary events like the one we are currently experiencing. In such times, it is medicinal plants and multi-use botanical and urban gardens that will support us all, irrespective or race or class, to cope with hunger and illness.

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After a year (2018-2019) of working and learning together with our colleagues in the Paoyhan Shipibo Community on the “Living Pharmacy” project, we came to the mutual agreement to end our collaboration. However, we are proud that the community is continuing this project while establishing new goals. 


Nonetheless, Alianza Arkana continues its mission to improve Shipibo communities health through the revitalization of Shipibo ancestral medicinal knowledge. After reassessing our past project, we realized the need to focus on nutrition as a crucial component of health. Therefore, in November of 2019, we piloted a smaller scale project called “Ametra Greenhouse”. This project focused on promoting urban agriculture combined with eco-agricultural knowledge for communities to produce their own foods. We started the first stages of this program by creating a practice of composting and building a small greenhouse. Unfortunately due to lack of resources to pay a full-time personnel to work on this project, we were forced to put this initiative on hold.


Our program in agroforestry and environmental education is currently developing a project called: “Bena Nii” in the native community of Santa Clara. Our team committed to this project full time in 2019 given the enthusiasm we received from the community. Thus, in committing fully to a bigger scale project such as “Bena Nii” and the lack of resources to hire more personnel caused us to make difficult decisions like ending the “Ametra Greenhouse” project. In making this difficult decision we committed to finding a feasible alternative to integrate the cultivation of medicinal plants in future projects.


After many conversations and reassessment of our past projects, this year we decided to introduce the micro-project “Rao Banabo” (Medicinal Garden). This new project focuses on the cultivation of medicinal plants starting with a smaller garden. Knowledge and, hence, cultivation of medicinal plants while once central to the Shipibo communities’ healing practices are now rapidly disappearing and replaced by the use of conventional medicine. With this new project we aim to revitalize this knowledge and, crucially, collaborate with Shipibo women who are experts in this practice. In our past agroforestry projects, we had mainly collaborated with Shipibo men, this time we seek to collaborate with Shipibo women as the main consultants and leaders for this project. At the same time we aim to combine ancestral knowledge with more recent advances in agroforestry. Therefore, this will be again a collaborative project that brings different experts to execute the project. 


The Alianza Arkana team is very excited to be working with Shipibo women in this new project. They will provide their expert knowledge to design,evaluate and execute this initiative. Therefore, with the funds we had left over from our prior projects we expect to start the first stage of the Medicinal Garden in which we will work with our Shipibo women consultants to plan and design this new initiative.


So even though it was challenging to make the decision to end "Ametra Greenhouse", we took advantage from this experience to learn, reflect upon it and propose a new project that can both meet our goals and those of Shipibo communities as well as rethink the scale in which this project can be feasible. We hope that you also feel excited for this new initiative and continue to support us with its execution and success. We intend for this project to, in the future, be replicated in other institutions, schools and Shipibo families. As always, we prioritize education and transmission of indigenous knowledge in all of our projects. 

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Preparing the nursery
Preparing the nursery

The immense pollution generated by cities in the world is increasingly irrefutable. The importance of creating green spaces that absorb all the carbon dioxide that their factories and excessive automobile systems become a necessity and less a privilege of a few conscious inhabitants. To achieve a zero-emission reduction, a transition from polluting and consuming cities to clean and green producing cities is needed.

After collaborating with a big social project, The Live Indigenous Pharmacy, which sought to promote the use of traditional medicine in the Native Community of Paoyhan, the Alianza Arkana team has turned the course towards the search to implement Medicinal Botanical and urban Gardens in Pucallpa. Our new line arises as a result of the reflection on the growing Shipibo population in the city and, in addition, for the importance of looking towards the polluting city and facing its environmental risks.

In this way, we have started with the micro project “Huerto Ametra”, which consists of the design and implementation of a vegetable garden in the central garden of the current work center of Alianza Arkana and ARIAP organizations, both working for revitalization and cultural preservation of the Shipibo-Konibo people. Cucumbers, tomato, lettuce, cabbage, papaya, chili, carrot, coriander, carambola, pineapple, banana and aromatics such as tobacco, lemongrass or chamomile are found in the planting list.

To adequately achieve the objective, one must not only implement the design, but create conditions. Thus, we build a simple nursery, made from the materials we found on the premises. All the wood we found and reused, is now an important space for the care of seedlings that will then be transplanted into the garden. In addition, we repaired the two large compost boxes.

This time, it only cost us to buy new mesh. In this month of November we will give a more colorful and creative tone to the compost and, in addition, we will signal all the spaces that are available and we will prepare a guide to properly follow their processes.

We need your support to implement a medicinal botanical garden, taking advantage of the fact that the location has enough space to design it. Help us to create a model that will then be used to carry out other activities in other organizations, institutions, homes or businesses in cities.

Let's make the concrete green! 

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Alianza Arkana

Location: Yarinacocha, Ucayali - Peru
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Yarinacocha, Ucayali Peru
$15,483 raised of $24,526 goal
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