Project #11211

Intercultural Education and Permaculture

by Alianza Arkana
Youth outside traditional maloka in Santa Clara
Youth outside traditional maloka in Santa Clara

I am delighted to write this report about exciting new developments that are happening in the Shipibo community of Santa Clara, where we have a major project that combines permaculture and intercultural education.

On December 1st last year, staff from Alianza Arkana were invited to the community to meet with and hear the ideas of a recently formed association of young people within the community. The wonderful thing about this association is that it has come about from an initiative from the young people in the community, concerned about the loss of their traditional culture and wanting to do something about this.

The formation of the association has been spurred by the recent eco-tourism visits to the community, which I wrote about in the last report, and which has led to the young people learning traditional songs and dances of their culture to show to visitors. As they have become more involved with this, their interest has been stimulated in learning more about their traditional culture.

You can read more about ecotourism and the young people on our blog here.

Since this first meeting in the community, we have had two further meetings with the group of young people in our office, which have been focussed on helping them get a grant from Global Greengrants Fund of $5000 USD to implement their dreams for the community. A further purpose of these meetings was to teach them the skills involved in applying for grants.

Their plans include:

  • Creating a one hectare reforestation project, using medicinal plants and trees. In time, this project could provide an income for the young people involved through growing, harvesting, preparing, marketing and selling medicinal plant remedies. Part of our work with the young people will be to equip them with the skills to do this. Interestingly, we have had two recent meetings with organizations looking for sources of medicinal plants so we are confident that a market exists for this.
  • Building an elevated walkway from the port to the community, which will greatly improve access to the community for visitors and help the community with easier access to the lake of Yarinacocha and the city of Pucallpa.
  • Equipping themselves with traditional clothing in order to perform the dances and songs of their culture.
  • Formally registering themselves as a nonprofit in Peru, which will give them the opportunity to have their own bank account and apply for funds in their own right. For the moment, Alianza Arkana will administer any funds successfully applied for and at the same time teach the young people the skills of administering funds.
  • Beginning the preparation to create the traditional Shipibo festival of Ani Xeati, which is no longer held in the communities. One of the roles of this festival was to bring together Shipibo people from many different communities. This role is now carried out by the yearly Mundialito Shipibo (the Shipibo World Cup), which will be starting soon on February 12th

We are confident, through initial responses received by the representative of Global Greengrants Fund in Peru, that the grant application by the asociation of young people will be successful and that this will be a great confidence booster for the young people in their ability to create positive change and sustainable alternative livelihoods in their community.

Meeting with young people at our office
Meeting with young people at our office
Welcome outside school at Bena Jema
Welcome outside school at Bena Jema

We have recently hosted a visit of Swedish kindergarten and primary teachers in Pucallpa. Five Swedish kindergarten teachers spent four days working with the kindergarten school in Bena Jema. Three primary school teachers visited the primary school in Bena Jema for three days and had a one day visit to the school in Santa Clara, where they saw the permaculture project we have established in the community.

The Swedish teachers visit was part of a program of intercultural exchange. Next year, there will be an opportunity for three Shipibo teachers to visit Sweden to continue exchanging ideas about educational practice.

Our intercultural book on plant medicines for Shipibo primary school children continues to develop well. We now have all 30 plantings of plant spirits commissioned from Shipibo artist Lastenia Canayo. Additionally, we have most of the botanical drawings from another artist in Pucallpa that will also be part of the book.

The paintings and drawings will soon be shipped to New York where a professional photographer will photograph them. We will be working with the Shipibo-Konibo centre for contemporary art, also based in New York City, on the book design. We plan to publish the book in the early New Year.

Swedish teachers singing
Swedish teachers singing
Meeting at Santa Clara
Meeting at Santa Clara
Lastenia's painting of plant spirit of Bobinsana
Girls and facilitators from workshop in Paoyan
Girls and facilitators from workshop in Paoyan

First of all, many thanks for your ongoing support, which is helping us do important work in education and health in a number of Shipbo communities.

In mid-July we ran our sixth five-day personal development workshop for teenage girls. This workshop was held in the Shipibo community of Paoyan, about five hours by fast boat downriver from Pucallpa.

This was the second workshop ran for girls in this community and we are building relationships not just with the girls there but also the two female leaders who have been attending each workshop. The female leaders have told us they have got so much benefit from the workshops themselves, that they want us to help organize a workshop for young mothers in this community.

As always, by offering the girls a safe space to voice their experience, the workshop was very successful. Key themes discussed were self-esteem, sex education, human rights, autonomy, violence and cultural identity. These were all covered using creative and participative methods that help break down barriers and foster sharing and involvement. You can read more about the workshop here.

At the same time as working with teenage girls, we continue to work with primary school children. This happens in two main schools - one in the urban community of Bena Jema and another in the semi-rural community of Santa Clara, where we have our combined education and permaculture project, which has featured in previous reports.

To learn more about our work in the urban school in Bena Jema, see this blog post written by Antonia, one of our year long German volunteers who has sadly just left us.

We also finished the second pilot project of what we call the 'small two-women-wandering clinic'. Nine and Carolina, the two women who lead this, worked for a month in the mixed Shipibo and mestizo urban community of Jhon Hawking providing a free medical service based on traditional Shipibo plant medicine and Western homeopathy. As in the first pilot project, this work proved to be very important in offering high quality attention to people who do not usually receive it and providing an effective health intervention. You can read more about this here.

Activity from girls workshop
Activity from girls workshop
Antonia with children from Bena Jema
Antonia with children from Bena Jema
Clinic operating from Carolina
Clinic operating from Carolina's house
Painting of the spirit of the plant Chiricsanango
Painting of the spirit of the plant Chiricsanango

The last three months have been busy.

In addition to our scholarship students returning to classes at their respective universities, and the schools re-opening after the long summer break - after the first round of national elections in early April - we have begun three important new projects.

Two of these projects were featured in a recent blog. See here:

We now have a budget for the book project and funding for it from an individual donor, so we plan to begin that soon, which means we will be commissioning 30-50 paintings for the book from acclaimed Shipibo artist, Latenia Canayo. You can see some photos of her beautiful and interesting work with this report, as well as a photo of the team of people from Alianza Arkana and our indigenous partner organization, AIDI, working on this..

The intercultural health project finished in the urban comunity of Bena Jema at the end of April run jointly by Carolina, a Shipibo expert in plant medicine and Nine, a German midwife and homeopath,  and we will be offering the same mobile health service, combining Western homeopathy and traditional Shipibo plant medicine, visiting families in their homes in the adjacent Shipibo urban community of Jon Hocking in June.

The third project is an extension of our scholarship program.

We currently offer a full scholarship program worth around $1000 USD a year for five to six years to six selected Shipibo young people to study at University. We would like to be able to offer more of these scholarships but need people to sponsor these scholarships and recognize that it is a major comitment to fund a student at university for $1000 USD per year for five to six years.

We have, therefore, recently supplemented this scholarship program with a further scheme to pay the university fees for a further four students, who have just started at university this April. University fees here are not expensive - around $100 USD per year! - but our paying them is a great help to the students and their families.

We are also providing these students with additional classes in English and computer skills, as well as a personal tutor. In the attached photo you can see three of the students and their families together with Dr Paul Roberts, Intercultural Education Director of Alianza Arkana, and Antonia Bratzke, a German volunteer who is teaching the students computing.

Lastenia holding painting
Lastenia holding painting
Team from AIDI and AA working on book project
Team from AIDI and AA working on book project
Our two health workers attending to an elder
Our two health workers attending to an elder
Students and their families with staff from AA
Students and their families with staff from AA
Artistic activity on Girls for the World Workshop
Artistic activity on Girls for the World Workshop

The last three months have been relatively quiet for education in the Peruvian Amazon as the schoolchildren and university students have been enjoying their long summer vacations. Most of our scholarship students take the opportunity to return to their home communities or go away from Pucallpa to work in this period.

However, during this time, we, in collaboration with the US-based NGO, Girls for the World, ran our fifth five-day personal development program for Shipibo girls between 13-19 years old. This was organized with girls and mothers from the community of Poayan, with whom we have good links, which is about five hours downriver from Pucallpa in a fast boat (twelve hours by slow boat!).

The girls actually travelled to a residential center near Pucallpa to receive the workshop, as have seen the benefits of them being away from the community and the often unwelcome interest of young men in what they are doing when we once ran this within the same community that the girls were from.

Like all the other programs, this was a great success. Additionally, the two mothers who accompanied the girls, who are important female leaders within their community, got great personal benefit from the workshop and are very keen for us to do another workshop and follow-up with the girls from this community.

Our other main activity during this time has been to offer holiday activities for the school children in the urban community of Bena Jema, where we have two volunteers working one year with the primary school. This has been a mixture of traditional educational activities such as help with reading and writing as well as artistic workshop activity focussing on creating representations of traditional stories, which the children investigated by talking to elders in their community. The photos show flags created by the children with emblematic characters from the stories of their culture.

Next March, we plan to start the pilot phase of a new project which will provide a free health service to women and children in the same community of Bena Jema. This will be jointly led by a German midwife and homeopath, who has already worked with us offering courses for traditional Shipibo midwives, and a Shipibo woman with great knowledge of medicinal plants. This represents the essence of good intercultural education - combining the best of what Western and indigenous cultures can offer, in this case in the area of health.

Leaving on the boat
Leaving on the boat
Displaying flags made with traditional symbols
Displaying flags made with traditional symbols
Talking to an elder about traditional stories
Talking to an elder about traditional stories

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Organization Information

Alianza Arkana

Location: Yarinacocha, Ucayali - Peru
Website: http:/​/​​
Project Leader:
Paul Roberts
Pucallpa, Ucayali Peru
$24,844 raised of $33,300 goal
353 donations
$8,456 to go
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