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Support Indigenous Botanical Gardens in the Amazon

by Alianza Arkana
Support Indigenous Botanical Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Botanical Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Botanical Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Botanical Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Botanical Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Botanical Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Botanical Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Botanical Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Botanical Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Botanical Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Botanical Gardens in the Amazon
Support Indigenous Botanical Gardens in the Amazon

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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We have great reasons to celebrate!

First, we are at the gates of the first anniversary of the community project Indigenous Living Pharmacy. For this activity, the Native Community Committee is preparing a wonderful food, sports tournaments and cultural activities like traditional dancing and singing. All this promises a lot of joy and a good time among the participants.

This celebration wants to show all community members the progress made throughout the year with photo gallery and videos. Our Communication Team, led by Gabriela Maldonado is working towards audiovisual materials on cultural revitalization with a special focus on medicinal plants. All this will be shown in a “Movie Night” along with other videos related to the importance of the Rainforest preservation and different indigenous community’s experiences.

Secondly, we have reached an important moment. After a year of collaboration, we are glad to inform you that the Community Members are now taking full responsibility of this initiative. We are grateful for all the time, friends, learning processes, and experiences shared. We wish them all the best, and we know a great job will be done.

We also want to express our gratitude for your consistent support and we hope you join us in the replication of this model to provide access to sustainable and traditional healthcare, educate youth on medicinal plants and generate income through sustainable tourism and fair trade medicinal products.


Stay tuned for our latest report with the Committee in Paoyhan, it will include pictures and the summary of the party!


Irake – Thank you for your support in this first initiative,

We are looking forward to continue working on Medicinal Botanical Gardens in the Amazon!

Visual Identity
Visual Identity
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The context

The Living Indigenous Pharmacy is a community based project led by Shipibo-Konibo community members in Paoyhan, in the district of Padre Márquez, Loreto in the Peruvian Amazon. This initiative came out of the urgency to improve quality of health within the population, by using traditional knowledge and medicines that the Amazon Rainforest provides. In this project, Alianza Arkana has taken the role as operational and technical adviser, providing temporary financial support through donations from organizations, individuals and state entities.


Our last the trip

Our last trip was very productive. Two days of hard work focused on two concrete activities: constructing a multipurpose maloka and taking GPS points of the five hectares of land we are using for this project.

We started our trip with our routine initial meeting to share updates and solidify our work plan. In this meeting, we presented our new official logo for the project, along with branded shirts sporting the logo that we will use in the future when we are carrying out campaigns in the community.      

We also received the updates from the Committee of the Living Indigenous Pharmacy— who are all Shipibo-Konibo community leaders in the Paoyhan— where they highlighted their excitement to pick up the work. Lastly, we reexamined the priorities for the year and planned the daily activities for the current visit.


Getting to work!

The day after our arrival, we woke up at the break of dawn and took the thirty minute boat ride to the Living Indigenous Pharmacy. Upon arrival, we faced a variety of surprises from mother earth. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that many new medicinal plants sprouted up that we hadn´t had registered yet. In fact, we found them just a few meters away from the base camp! Nature´s wisdom and touch gifted us with more medicinal plants and we hope they continue to grow and flourish.

            We then divided into two groups. One group focused on registering the geographic reference points of the entire area of our project by using GPS technologies. From these GPS points, we were able to see that 90% of the five hectares are and will continue to be dedicated to the conservation of medicinal plants. The remaining 10% is, for now, the base camp, where we are installing our infrastructure, including a self-sustaining food system, as well as other basic services. On the other hand, a larger group stayed constructing the multipurpose maloka. Within five hours many improvements were made and half of the walls were constructed. It is a joy to see, even with little, how we can make such great improvements and steps forward.

The second day of work was also productive. We stayed in the same teams as the previous day, but were fortunate enough to have the support of two additional people. In defining the geographic coordinates of the land, we can now better plan the project layout of the territory and better identify the paths we would like to create.   

These points will be incredibly helpful in improving the plant inventory and also help us to group plants in a more systematic way. Besides the georeferencing, we also made great progress on the maloka. In fact, we completed twice as much as we did the first day, so this was greatly gratifying for all of us. The maloka is almost ready!


Moving forward with strength

During the evening, we convened again, with more members in attendance than the previous night. We spoke about some relevant points and we made decisions in moving forward in regards to the following visit. We will be back at the Living Indigenous Pharmacy in May, where we will focus on deep maintenance work and also host a workshop discussion about our future organizational statute. Similarly, the maloka will be completed in two visits, with the help and organization of the president of the Committee of the Living Indigenous Pharmacy, Humberto.

            It is with your support that we are able to move forward efficiently with our work plan for this year. Ever cent that we receive makes it possible for us to travel, to buy materials, pay wages, food and more than anything, continuing dreaming.


We march on!

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Organization Information

Alianza Arkana

Location: Yarinacocha, Ucayali - Peru
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Project Leader:
Development Team
Yarinacocha, Ucayali Peru
$10,126 raised of $46,000 goal
63 donations
$35,874 to go
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