Planting 1000 trees, Saving 100 acres

by Camino Verde
Planting 1000 trees, Saving 100 acres
Planting 1000 trees, Saving 100 acres
Planting 1000 trees, Saving 100 acres
Planting 1000 trees, Saving 100 acres
Planting 1000 trees, Saving 100 acres
Planting 1000 trees, Saving 100 acres
Planting 1000 trees, Saving 100 acres
Planting 1000 trees, Saving 100 acres
Planting 1000 trees, Saving 100 acres
Planting 1000 trees, Saving 100 acres
Planting 1000 trees, Saving 100 acres
Planting 1000 trees, Saving 100 acres
Planting 1000 trees, Saving 100 acres
Planting 1000 trees, Saving 100 acres

Dear Friends,

This month is our last of three sharing the voices of CV visitors' experiences interacting with the Peruvian Amazon. We’re celebrating 2021’s return to some semblance of normal by featuring the stories of a few of the people who have lent their talents to making Camino Verde successful.  Today's Missive shares about the first time at Camino Verde for Blair Butterfield, who since that visit has returned to Peru and – for over a year now – has been CV's communications director. You can thank Blair for the improvement in our communications and social media! And now we get a chance to learn a bit about how and why she decided to start working in Amazonian regeneration after that first time in the jungle.  You can enjoy all the past months' reflections from guests of yesteryear on the CV blog page. And – because people keep asking – we’re happy to report that indeed, now we are able to receive visitors once again!



There’s nothing like being completely ringed by primary forest, it hugs you with its warm breath, it surrounds you in an auditory landscape that attunes your primal senses, and it floods your olfactory, creating a memory so unique, it will be hard to recollect or describe it when you are back to your normal life. 

Arriving to Camino Verde, via Peru’s many airports, I can’t help but think of the story of colonists coming to this country and delivering the violent fate that we all know. In the Lima airport, there are sky-high ads for designer brands, hanging like gods over your head. White, tall, emaciated models, you know the ones, the legacy of colonization still driving us to social and environmental depletion. 

Going from Lima to Cusco to Puerto Maldonado airport, things began to get more humble in appearance. The Puerto Maldonado Airport is very small, a little dingy, and inoculated with the buzzing energy of its city. Walking out of the airport is like having someone breathe hot air onto your face.  Palm trees sway in the background, the horizon is totally green and invites you to go with the flow. There are a myriad of men on small motor carts and motorcycles who offer you rides, their colors are vibrant, yellow jackets that you see swarming around the city like bees buzzing on a flowering bush.


Into the Jungle

But Puerto is not my final destination. I am greeted by Robin, my colleague, and host, then we are soon driving to a rural area where we get out of the car and begin our walk through the jungle. We hike in further and further and the forest grows denser and denser. Robin has a machete that he uses to trim the path as we walk along; he occasionally turns to offer me crushed leaves of various species of plants to smell. We cross over spindly bodies of water via fallen trees, we tiptoe, shimmy, and balance trying not to slip and fall with our full bags on our backs. We pause for moments to observe unique mushrooms, beautiful flowers, strange insects, and I take various Polaroids to document our journey.

After about two hours of walking through the forest and smelling many different scents, we arrive to a river and to a boat, a small canoe-like vessel with a tiny motor.  It is a relief to drop my bag, which contains a large scanner and photo equipment inside. We travel the river for what feels like an hour, moving across the water like a dried palm frond floating just on the surface. We putter against the deep and murky water surrounded on all sides by the unique ecotones of rusty colored mud, thick swaying clumps of golden grasses, giant tree crowns standing out of a blanket of bursting green canopies. The motor is loud, it is hard to hear anything, or to think, you just are.


Being Together

In Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgement, he attempts to define the concept of the sublime. One of his arguments draws out the difference between beauty –which is dependent upon an object and has bounds– versus that of the sublime, which has a quality of boundlessness. I find that I understand what he is trying to say when I bear witness to something that is much larger and more expansive than myself. (The concept of the sublime is an attempt to describe a human experience or emotion that arises out of us, and is not exclusive to those of us who happen to be concerned with philosophy!)  

Perhaps it’s a feeling like when you’re sitting under a completely dark sky on a tributary of the Amazon River and you can see the dust of the Milky Way and the planets that surround us. We comprehend our mortality as a species – but see the mirror that reveals the vastness of our spirit. Winding our way along the river, amidst the tapestry of raw earth and all her transformations, it is almost palpable to feel the wisdom humans once had dissipating into the cosmos, lost forever. 

We arrive at the Reforestation Center and we are greeted by Olivia Revilla. She is a strong, beautiful woman with long inky black hair. She wears mud boots and often carries a machete to clear footpaths. She later becomes a close companion during my visits, I will stay in her house, practice my Spanish with her, meet her family, she will teach me plant names, we will discuss intimate topics of being a woman, relationships, and our hopes for global change. But for now, she greets us on the banks and ties the boat up. We quickly drop our things in our stilt houses, strip down to our bathing suits or underwear and go swimming in the Tambopata River. It is silty and muddy, our feet sink down uncomfortably deep. The water is surprisingly cold even though it’s so hot outside.

Before coming to the Amazon I had read legends of anacondas, of little fish who swim up your urethra, dysentery, mercury from local gold mining, legends of the forest and the river judging your soul and having the ability to take you out of this life. But I let all that be suspended, my heart is full of love and joy. I embrace the imperfections of myself, I am a whole person who is a child of this planet. I swim in the river, I even put my head in. Floating on my back in complete suspension, surrendering my anxiety, my thinking, releasing the person who I think I am, my identity, the stress of the world, of jobs, of money... and I just let the river take it all.

I think of Mary Oliver‘s poem, The Summer Day. The end of the poem asks, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do, with your one wild and precious life?” and I answer, “this.”



For the rest of my visit, I mostly went without shoes, I wanted to be barefoot on the muddy earth, I allowed my skin to receive all the new additions to my localized ecology. To become integrated with the new environment, to rewild the body. 

More guests arrived at the Reforestation Center including an olfactory artist, and refined “nose” out of New York City. A distillation was made of moena alcanfór essential oil. We watched the distillation process for most of the day and when it was complete there was a bucket full of hydrosol. The olfactory artist introduces me to hydrosol bathing. We take the bucket near a huasaí tree (Euterpe precatoria), we strip down to our skin and we take turns pouring the moena hydrosol over each other‘s heads. We giggle like little girls as we take a shower in potent and magical botanical aromatics from the Amazon. That night we slept beautifully and both of us reported in the morning of wild and vivid dreams. 

I spend my days collecting plant material, learning about trees, and walking around the forest. I feel like I quickly assimilate, and familiarize myself with the Reforestation Center’s various paths, planting projects, nurseries, rhythms of the day held by the team members, and when it is time to leave, my heart breaks. It breaks because this is such a magical place, it breaks because when I return to the United States I see there is a rigidity in our culture. It is fast-paced, there is a constant demand for production and to use our time efficiently. We do not take siestas, we do not take time to sit and socially share herbal tea or mate. It is not common for us to receive our neighbors unexpectedly at lunchtime, abandon the productivity of the day to share conversation and what is at our dining table.


Integrating the Experience

The saddest part is that this magical land is threatened, it is vulnerable, it is being extinguished by the demands of a global economy. Returning to the United States and seeing cacao, açaí berries, bananas, any tropical fruits or spices, reminds me of the critical status of the landscapes and people who produce these products. I ask myself, what native land was destroyed to produce this item for a mass-market? Or, which of these items are supporting work being done to protect these places? I make choices to vote with my dollars, I vote to support my local farmers and product producers (I live in Vermont, so there are lots to choose from), and when I buy other products or ingredients, I vote for regenerative, ethical, and sustainable practices. When I eat cocoa nibs I remember the fragile wild ecosystems that are full of magic, mythologies, dying languages, and I know I can make choices to help preserve and uplift these places and people so they do not become extinct.

Soon after that first visit to the Reforestation Center, I am now the Communications Director for Camino Verde. That means it’s my job to bring the Amazon to life for people who might not have ever thought they were connected to it. It is a passion project that I contribute deep work, thoughtfulness, and time to with my entire heart. I hope this story might inspire you to spend more time barefoot, to let go of stress, to vote with your dollars to support regeneration, to donate to Camino Verde’s work, or maybe even visit the Reforestation Center yourself. 

The Summer Day

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean—

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver


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CV Baltimori Coordinator Oly with a giant kapok
CV Baltimori Coordinator Oly with a giant kapok

Hello Friends of Camino Verde,

We have so many reasons to be grateful – even after, especially after, this whirlwind of a year we have had. From the global pandemic to widespread political tension in Peru, the US, and elsewhere.  From the California wildfires to the Amazon burning again, almost as strongly as it famously did last year.  Even after so much loss, new life emerges from the compost.  Decay transforms into growth, if we just give it a little encouragement and then step out of the way.  

As we approach the end of the year, we are reflecting with deep gratitude on all the support we have received in such unprecedented times.  You, our donors have kept the work of Camino Verde consistent, and at such a critical time. Although things have been slower than normal, with Peru experiencing a drastically strict shutdown for much of the year, we have continued to plant and deliver trees to our community partners.  We have continued to develop regenerative, transparent Amazonian supply chains for endangered species like rosewood.  And as a team we have reflected on our priorities, decided to grow more of our own food, sought to use less fossil fuel and to listen to each other more.

It is always with humility and gratitude that we turn to our loyal network scattered around the globe.  Now once more, we ask you to consider the possibility of including Camino Verde in your holiday giving – whether in memory of a loved one, as a gift for a friend, or simply because you want to deepen your impact toward helping keep Earth’s ecosystems vital and whole.  

Camino Verde is honored to be a vehicle for the wishes and intentions of so many people who care about life.  We are honored to turn prayers and desires for a more biologically vibrant future into action.  We are honored to create meaningful livelihood for a team of over 20 people on the ground in Peru, not to mention a hundred farmers in our network.  We are thankful for you, thankful that there are so many like you who want to help. We’re grateful that you consider making a donation this season, no matter how large or small.

And there’s an exciting chance to make your donation count more, coming on Tuesday.  Our longtime partner GlobalGiving will be offering an unprecedented million dollars in matching funds this Giving Tuesday.  Give through GG here this Tuesday to make your donation count extra.  We’ll send a friendly reminder on Monday. 

What are your donations going to support? 

In addition to tree planting itself, CV is developing a groundbreaking new technology to document the trees we plant, transparently, tree by tree.  As one of the winners selected for Ashoka’s Act for Biodiversity Challenge, we have received mentoring support and a cash prize that have helped us catapult into action, setting up an app and a sophisticated backend database to make the documenting of trees easy, efficient, and stunningly traceable.  Our application, Real Trees will help provide transparency for donors and help farmers get paid for planting trees. Find out more in the coming missives. 

Meanwhile, this year we’re getting 2 more native communities involved in our rosewood supply chain, and reaching out to reforestation partners around the globe (Uganda and Tanzania to begin with) to implement the Real Trees technology in the field to register hundreds of thousands of, well, real trees.  And your donation is being complemented by an increased focus on diversified revenue streams: we’re selling our essential oils, now more than ever, in the United States and Europe.  Here in Peru we continue to locally sell bananas and other farm products every week.  2021 looks bright, but we can’t do it without you.

From time to time we ask one of our team members to share a bit about the work they do at Camino Verde. This offers a glimpse into the day to day of our reforestation crew and also gives the team a chance to reflect on the impact of the work they do. This time we’ve asked Percy to write about his experience as farm and nursery coordinator at CV La Joya in Tambopata, Peru. The writing has been translated from Spanish – and we have been careful not to edit his words too much.


It’s curious because it seems like a month ago that we started.  But as time passes and I look around me and see the changes, I realize that it hasn’t been months but years. Now this has become a place where everything grows happily, such a special place to think, reflect and receive the energy of peace, tranquility, happiness, without a doubt the best of life, all that and much more, simply for free. It’s a gift from the plants we sow, first Manuel, then Elvis, and me of course, Percy. Today, on a daily walk through the plots of CV La Joya (from the district’s name, “the jewel”) one can find timber, fruit, medicinal species that generate a cool environment, humidity and shade. We constantly see rodents, rabbits, and from time to time monkeys, white-lipped peccaries or capybara. They visit us as lovers of the fruits of shimbillo (Inga sp.), granadilla (Passiflora sp., similar to passion fruit but less tart and tangy), cacao, jackfruit, cashew and many others.

I got involved in this organization four years ago. We started with the nursery installation, we built germination beds, stretched a canopy of shadecloth for the baby seedlings, erected a water tower. We also opened space in the undergrowth for plants that prefer to live under shade – they are the skiophilous species. I remember that the first seed we sowed in the La Joya Nursery was the Enterolobium that we collected from one of the large trees that we have here on the property. We installed it in root trainer pots and after two days the seed had already germinated. We were very happy at that time, Manuel and I, and after a year we had more than a hundred species ready for planting out in the field. The seedlings had different destinations, some sent to recover soils degraded by mining, others to rehabilitate soils degraded by pasture, and some stayed here in La Joya to rehabilitate the spaces invaded by the brachari grass (Brachiaria sp.) – and turn these lands back into forests.

Studying and working at the same time has not been impossible thanks to the support of Camino Verde. Establishing compatible working hours, I was able to study and finish the degree of forest sciences at the National Amazonian University of Madre de Dios. Today the objective is to recover the fertility of the soils, making plantations with species that add organic matter, nitrogen and other nutrients.  In this way we contribute to the conservation of the environment, and we protect natural resources.

On the other hand we know that pollination is very important since almost 80% of the plants require pollination services so that they can produce fruits and seeds. In La Joya we also have two boxes of native Meliponas bees; these two will soon multiply and we will have four boxes.


Thanks to Percy for this glimpse into life at La Joya, Camino Verde's largest nursery and 3rd largest agroforestry site. We are so grateful for Percy’s contribution to the work we do. The knowledge and insight of team members like Percy make it all possible. 

And thanks to you for your continued belief and support, even through the challenges of a time that is utterly unique in our collective memory. We are honored to do the work we do.

Other News


  • New Partnership.  We are very excited to launch a partnership with Magnolia Wellness who will be donating to Camino Verde through their wellness products. “We believe in the symbiotic collaboration of mind, body and plants to achieve homeostasis for human health and all ecosystems. Camino Verde is a natural steward and educator of this philosophy and an inspiring connector for our customers to engage in vital conservation and regenerative strategies.” ~ Sean Haggerty, Magnolia Wellness. We are honored to be selected as Magnolia’s non-profit partner.

  • Calling all farm interns – Soon.  With Peru reopening slowly to normal tourist travel post-quarantine, in 2021 we will be reopening our doors to interns and volunteers looking to get hands on experience in Amazonian regenerative agroforestry.  If that sounds like a mouthful, fear not.  Interning or volunteering with CV means getting to enjoy the fruits of over 100 species of edible plants we grow on our farms.  Keep your eyes peeled for a call for intern applicants in early 2021.

In gratitude,

An agroforestry plantation area at CV La Joya
An agroforestry plantation area at CV La Joya
Percy at work
Percy at work
Melipona beehives at La Joya
Melipona beehives at La Joya
A bobinsana in flower at CV La Joya
A bobinsana in flower at CV La Joya
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Calliandra angustifolia, a multipurpose tree
Calliandra angustifolia, a multipurpose tree

Dear friends of Camino Verde,

I hope your year is off to a wonderful start, for those in the northern hemisphere with spring knocking at the door, and those of us in the Peruvian Amazon with the last pounding rains of the wet season still thundering overhead. As you may recall, the rainy season in the Amazon is the planting season, and in the lapse since you last heard from us in 2018 we planted around 30,000 trees.

This is our biggest planting campaign of all time, 100 acres planted all at once with over 50 species, and it’s just the first in a series of things we’re doing more of this year.

  • Producing more tree seedlings – Camino Verde now manages 3 forestry nurseries in Madre de Dios producing a total of 75,000 seedlings a year, representing over 100 species of trees.
  • Restoring more degraded landscapes – In addition to those 100 acres of former cattle pasture planted in the first months of 2019, we continue to provide seedlings to farmers, associations, companies, and government projects planting in a variety of degradation scenarios including subsistence agriculture, industrial papaya monoculture, and gold mining. We even provided native tree seedlings installed in the Plaza de Armas of Puerto Maldonado, the regional capital.
  • More Rosewood planting – We have secured funding for the planting of 10,000 rosewood trees in 2019 on Camino Verde land and possibly as many as 5,000 more trees in native communities.
  • Protecting more rainforest – With a new partnership in place, Camino Verde now oversees the conservation management of 5,000 acres of primary rainforest in the Peruvian Amazon. This initiative is being funded entirely by the partner, and is allowing our team and our impact to grow without relying on you our donors.
  • Producing more essential oil – Our production of aromatic essential oils from the Peruvian Amazon is set to expand this year, and that means working with more farmers to plant more endangered trees like Moena, Rosewood, and Copaiba.

Even as we are finding more private partners to allow us to grow our impact to a whole different scale – and even as we are building our organization’s economic resilience through the sale of essential oils and consultative services – we continue to rely on you our donors to make this work possible. Our growing team of 15 Peruvian staff includes farmers, ecologists, forestry engineers and one gringo (me). They and I thank you for the chance to do this work we find so meaningful and rewarding.

In this Missive I’m excited to turn things over to my friend and longtime colleague in the Camino Verde team, Ursula Leyva. Ursula and I met at a permaculture design course in 2010 and we’ve collaborated ever since. In 2014 she officially joined CV and in these 5 years she has worn many hats in the leadership of the organization. A natural builder, permaculture designer, orchid propagator, a writer and a mother, Ursula continues to wear many hats. But what comes to mind when I read her words is her study and experience in development communications (she holds a degree in Social Communications from the Universidad de Lima).

I hope you enjoy Ursula’s words on where Camino Verde comes from and where it’s going. Thanks so much for your interest and support of what we do. Together as a community of caring individuals we have a long path to walk ahead.

In gratitude,



When I think about the future of our organization, usually the beginnings are what come to my mind. What was the first tree planted? How much have we evolved as an organization and how did we do it? All of our results are intrinsically related to the way our plants have thrived. Our green path started a little over ten years ago, but the journey of our plants is more remote than we can imagine.

One of the questions I receive most frequently is: "So, what do you plant on the farm?" I always have to take a second to think about how to respond. Although our work focuses on trees, the collection of plants comprising our Living Seed Bank defies generalization. To sum it up you could say that we propagate all kinds of native Amazonian tree species in our nurseries, so that they can be planted by human hands to improve the land, improve the diversity of farms, improve the quality of life of people and sustain communities over time. In this sense, we actively contribute to the domestication of species.

The process of domestication of plants and animals in Peru began approximately 10,000 years ago, according to a variety of researchers. Great civilizations like Caral (on the Peruvian coast), which had agriculture 5 thousand years ago, represent only half of this process. I wonder if we can imagine or intuit something about the life and dreams of the seed collectors of the past, who were able to adapt hundreds of species and develop thousands of varieties for the benefit of human beings.

Despite this ancient legacy, the precious and uniquely rich biodiversity of the Amazon is not necessarily reflected in the species cultivated in our region’s farms today – and especially is not reflected in the edible species. Naturally, forest biodiversity has enormous potential to contribute to the food security of local families and the planet. But this is a well that remains untapped on many Amazonian farms.

An important part of what Camino Verde does in our labors of regeneration is to plant and cultivate the wild trees, so that they can adapt to new conditions and thrive. Every decision made about a plant’s development will have an impact on its ability to adapt – and its offspring’s success. So how do we know the best way to "breed" these native and wild species that interest us for their fruits, or their medicine, or for the ways they help the growth of other plants? In addition to a generous helping of local knowledge and a lot of practice, we rely on intuition and a great deal of respect. The objective is not to make a genetic change in the laboratory, but to support the resilience of each species, allowing for its successful growth in the field. We play our small part, with careful attention given to each of the plants we grow.

Facilitating a plant’s process of domestication involves close observation of the conditions that favor germination, the amount of water a species tolerates, testing of different soil substrates, not to mention trying to imitate conditions in a natural forest, understanding how to associate different species, how to prune trees to give more fruit or to thicken the trunk faster, among other activities. And so it is that, generation after generation, the trees sown in fallow fields in spaces designed for the uses of humankind will have a beautiful offspring that returns a protective covering of forest to the land.

Working in the nursery or in our extensive areas of long-term agroforestry systems is a fascinating, intellectually demanding task. Systematizing all the knowledge generated from this decade of experience (and also trying contribute to scientifically measurable results) is one of our most difficult challenges. Sharing our learning is one of our most important responsibilities.

Think about this. The changes that are taking place in plants are also reflected in us human beings. I always wonder, how much have these plants domesticated us? The communion between human and plant reaches its maximum expression through personal contact and deep observation. We are committed to this legacy, to the continuity of important species and their survival on the planet. They tame us. They raise us: they domesticate us even as they make us wild. In a sense we are the plants’ instruments and we have surrendered to them.

And that will remain at the core of what we do, throughout our growth and in time.

There is a green path that is traveled in our minds and in our hearts. That is the path that sustains us and on which our future is built. For us this work is an honor and a dream come true – and we hope, contagious.  

All plant images thanks to Blair Butterfield
All plant images thanks to Blair Butterfield
Chamaedorea sp.
Chamaedorea sp.
Mayna parvifolium - edible Amazonian fruits
Mayna parvifolium - edible Amazonian fruits
Walking the green road, coordinator Olivia Revilla
Walking the green road, coordinator Olivia Revilla
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Dear Friends,

As you know, every so often I send out a report sharing some of the good news from Camino Verde in the Peruvian Amazon, and this year there’s been lots of good news to share.

Keeping closely to our mission, we’re doing more and more to save the world’s forests and sustain local communities who live here. We are:

  1. Working to restore the Amazon with new partners who ensure our work is in line with their needs
  2. Engaging more farmers, more native communities, building livelihoods in the Peruvian rain forest for locals by using the forest in sustainable ways and bringing back forests that have been lost.
  3. Planting more species of trees, providing and developing a variety of income streams from the forest for local farmers.
  4. Producing and selling tens of thousands of seedlings for re-planting the rainforest
  5. Building a new income source from trees – we are selling essential oils from trees we have planted.
  6. Working with companies who share our vision for regenerating the Amazon. These companies are now paying Camino Verde to plant trees on their land.

The growth of our work has been astonishing and we’re grateful for all we’ve been able to accomplish.

During this period of rapid growth, our cash resources are strained to new limits and we look to you once again to continue your support of our work. Although we write foundation proposals to fund our programs, this year we have had challenges meeting our unrestricted funding goals. Your support in this area has historically been our backbone. We rely on contributions from people like you, our generous supporters, who firmly believe in what we do.

We understand this year has been a time of tremendous uncertainty for many of us on many different levels. The world feels strange to many of us. And yet it’s an ideal time to act. This year I’ve been renewed in my sense of mission to help create a more humane, loving world, and I hope you do as well.

So, I’m writing to ask for your help at a time when we have a significant need. Since we’re a small organization, every donation counts big. Please consider giving generously in support of Camino Verde today.

My sincere thanks for your continued support for the regeneration of Amazon forests and communities.

And now on to our regular report.


Don Hipólito arrived here in 1960, when he was 33 years old. His previous parcel had been flooded in the infamous river rise named after its year, el sesenta, in which he lost everything. Without other options available, he hoisted his few salvaged belongings onto his back and walked 60 kilometers in two-and-a-half days to a place where he’d been told he might be paid to harvest brazil nuts.  (We've changed his name to respect his privacy.)

In this part of the Peruvian Amazon the population was sparse, as it remains today. The “owner” of the land welcomed Hipólito’s help and eventually left, encouraging the young man to make a home for himself in this prized location with ready access to two streams that held water and fish all year round. The brazil nut harvest wasn’t bad and there was lots of timber in the forest. Hipólito decided to stay.

In the 57 years he worked his farm, the world changed around Hipólito in unexpected ways. His once isolated outpost had a decent dirt road running past it by 1964. In 2010 the road was finally paved. Before his ninetieth birthday in 2017 electricity had arrived to the farm. From the same single house, he presided over the childhood of three generations, slashed and burned around a hundred acres of pristine rainforest, and made his living wrangling cows across the grass he planted there.

Remarkably, he also planted brazil nut trees and several of the more sought after timber species. Twenty years later he was harvesting fruit pods from the castaña and wondering why he hadn’t planted more.

At age ninety he was looking to switch up his plan. He told me he was ready to find someone to whom he could entrust the farm now that soon he would have to move to town to be closer to his grandchildren. He laughed that they worried about him and seemed reluctant to leave the place he’d called home for over half a century. He was spry and quick-witted as he told me stories that seemed to jump to life fresh out of the landscape.

Hipólito got me involved, and together we found someone to carry the torch, a group of like-minded folks that wanted to plant trees in the pastures where his cows had once grazed. He and I had spoken more than once about how impressed he was with the results of his tree planting experiments, how remiss he felt in not having converted more of his pastures to reforestation. He was genuinely pleased to think that his land would be covered back with trees after he left it.

Fast-forward six months and a lot has changed. With the help of Camino Verde, the new owners of Hipólito’s land are making swift changes that honor the spirit of his time on this land. Over forty acres of grass were planted back to native trees. More brazil nuts are going in, as well as thirty other species that will help restore this worn-out pastureland to productivity and ecological equilibrium.

Hipólito and his family still visit the farm. Their stories are alive here. I walk under 25-year-old brazil nut trees with Hipólito and he picks up a pod full of the valuable seeds. “I remember when these trees you see producing here were just seedlings. You’re young. You have plenty of time to plant more.” Twenty thousand trees planted later, and we know he’s pleased with the new direction.

Thanks for all you help us do – building bridges that restore hope and ecosystems. We’d like to think it makes the world a better place. And we know we couldn’t do it without you.

All the best from the Amazon of Peru.

The new team working at Don Hipolito's farm
The new team working at Don Hipolito's farm
An Amazonian ironwood tree over 2 meters tall
An Amazonian ironwood tree over 2 meters tall
Ryan Smith with a cacao tree he planted in 2017
Ryan Smith with a cacao tree he planted in 2017
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Dear friends of Camino Verde,

Though our first project on GlobalGiving has been closed for some time, developments have been so exciting lately that I couldn't help but send you some information on the aftermath of what your support has made possible.  You can still support this ongoing work-- through our new project page on GlobalGiving found here.

For the June solstice of 2014, our winter solstice, I had the pleasure of finding myself in Iquitos, Peru, the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon and the largest city in the world not connected elsewhere by road.  In place of a road – the Amazon River, the earth's greatest river system and one of the "Seven Natural Wonders of the World" according to a 2012 global vote.  You may remember from previous missives that what brought Camino Verde to this part of the world – not too terribly far from our Tambopata home base – was a tree whose history is both fascinating and tragic.

I'm speaking of Brazilian rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora), a beautiful, enormous Amazonian hardwood whose rich, floral scent fueled an unlikely persecution: rosewood trees were sought out and exploited to the point of near extinction to supply the demand of Chanel and many a perfumer throughout the 20th century.  Think teams of haphazard lumberjacks ripping rainforest giants from the soil roots and all to distill an essential oil whose dollar value in the perfumers' trade blinded natives and industrialists alike to the inherent worth of a species, its inherent right to exist.

Fast forward to the 21st century.  Once plentiful rosewood trees became extinct over entire regions of Amazonia.  Despite ongoing demand for its aromatic oil, efforts at reforestation of the species were lackluster and few.

You may recall that in the first months of 2013 Camino Verde was able to acquire and give a home to over a thousand rosewood trees, the fulfillment of a five year search for seeds that finally, so to speak, bore fruit.  Over half of those rare seedlings were planted in partnership with Brillo Nuevo, a native community of the Bora tribe found on the remote waters of the Yabasyacu River, an area formerly thick with rosewood trees.

Last week I had the honor of revisiting those rare infant seedlings, now a year and a half on, and to share stories with the farmer-stewards elected by their community to be the caretakers of those trees.  To my delight, in the sixteen intervening months many of these precocious green youngsters had surpassed the height of their human keepers – a testament to the dedication of our native partners and to the resilience of the rainforest itself. 

The growth of the trees is worth celebrating in and of itself, but our plans for their future are equally exciting.  With our allies at the Center for Amazon Community Ecology, longtime friends of the Bora of Brillo Nuevo, we are forging a sustainable future for a once-abused species that will also provide meaningful income for a proud but marginalized people.  By the end of 2015 we plan to be harvesting the first branches and leaves in a new paradigm for rosewood essential oil production – one that promotes and enhances the species' survival rather than threatening it with oblivion.

Just days after returning from the pink dolphin-rich waters of the Yabasyacu, we visited another community remarkable for its role in the rosewood story.  Just an hour by fast boat from Iquitos up the Amazon River, the town of Tamshiyacu is home to Juan Silvano Yumbato and a small group of visionary farmers who with support from the Peruvian government planted hundreds of rosewood trees in the last decade.  Juan told me how the community had learned to value and protect this highly valued tree, and after a fruitful day of visiting with farmers and applauding this village's remarkable efforts, we sat down to forge an unprecedented plan for the survival of rosewood.  

Juan and his neighbors have agreed to collect seeds from their carefully stewarded adult trees, seeds that we and our partners at the Peruvian Amazon Research Institute will propagate to seedlings and distribute to native communities and Camino Verde's reforestation center for prosperous growth and safeguarding in perpetuity.  In exchange for their efforts, in the months to come we will deliver distillation equipment to Juan and his fellow rosewood stewards, allowing them to earn an ethical income from sustainable harvest of rosewood leaves and branches that rather than harm, will in fact encourage the trees' growth.

Thanks are in order to David Crow of the aromatherapy company Floracopeia, whose commitment to plant-based medicines and sustainable practices led him to offer to distribute the entire essential oil output of Juan and the folks in Tamshiyacu.  Thanks too to the Center for Amazon Community Ecology, whose ongoing relationship with the people of Brillo Nuevo and other native communities made a successful reforestation of rosewood possible there.

And thanks also to you – without your donor support the survival of rosewood and the many other species we plant and protect would be little more than a dream.  By the way, at last count the number of rare and endangered Amazonian tree species we care for passed 300!  Back on the home front at our Tambopata reforestation center we've planted another half dozen species closely related to rosewood, trees that in 2-3 years will provide entirely new, never-before-distilled essential oils.  Now more than ever, your contribution means a viable future for so many of the organisms that provide the air we breathe and make the Earth livable.  

Please continue to support our unique biodiversity preservation programs at whatever level you're able.  The trees thank you.  I thank you.

Wishing you a wonderful solstice season and excited for the future we're creating together,

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Camino Verde

Location: Concord, MA - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Robin Van Loon
Concord, MA United States

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