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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
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,

Robin

---

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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One of our partner farmers showing off a tree
One of our partner farmers showing off a tree

Dear Friends of Camino Verde,

Happy holidays!  Thank you so much for including Camino Verde in your giving in 2013.  Since our organization is small by design, your contributions make a huge impact on what we're able to accomplish.  2013 has been a great year for us, and 2014 is looking to be even more exciting.  Thanks for helping us plant trees and save virgin Amazonian rainforest!

You may have noticed that our project on GlobalGiving is very close to reaching it's fundraising goal!  This is exciting news, and we couldn't have done it without you.  I want to give you a heads up that because we are soon to be reaching our goal, we have posted a new project on GlobalGiving, and we'd love to have your continuing support through this transition.  It will mean a few clicks to switch your donations over to the new project.  Please take a second to check out the new project page now.

In the meantime, we're celebrating the successes we've had through our partnership with GlobalGiving.  Thanks to your support, GlobalGiving has labeled Camino Verde a Superstar organization. It's their highest rank!  Here are a few more amazing facts related to our time on GG so far:

•Since our first donation was received through GlobalGiving on November 29, 2010, we've received over 900 donations totalling $50,000 

•Contributions through GlobalGiving have helped us to plant 5,000 trees and save 200 more acres of Amazon rainforest.  It doesn't take a math wiz to see that we dramatically upped our initial project goals.

•Great beginnings-- When Camino Verde signed up for GlobalGiving, we ranked in the top 10 new projects on the site, again thanks to your support and donations

•In order to keep up with your support, we expanded our project budget and goals three times in the past three years.  Finally it feels like it's time to retire this awesome project and start a new one! Join us in making the new project on GlobalGiving as big a success as our previous one has been.

•Did you know? Camino Verde also has another project on GlobalGiving as well: Turning Carbon Footprints Into Healthy Soils is our response to linking agricultural solutions for tropical farmers to exciting and practical technologies for carbon capture.  Passionate about climate change? Check this project out.

Thank You once again for your support of our Amazon restoration work.

Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful new year,

Robin Van Loon

Executive Director

Camino Verde

www.caminoverde.org

www.facebook.com/CaminoVerdePeru

Seedlings arriving to be planted
Seedlings arriving to be planted
A volunteer getting ready to plant a tree
A volunteer getting ready to plant a tree
Discussing the tree planting campaign
Discussing the tree planting campaign
Taking seedlings into the field
Taking seedlings into the field
Planting in the field
Planting in the field
A volunteer getting ready to plant a tree
A volunteer getting ready to plant a tree
Meditating on new life- planting a tree
Meditating on new life- planting a tree
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Bringing rosewood trees to Brillo Nuevo
Bringing rosewood trees to Brillo Nuevo

Dear friends,

What if everyone in the world realized that the best way to celebrate this season was to plant Christmas trees?  With the close of one year and the coming of another, it's a wonderful time to reflect on where we've been and where we're going, who we've been and who we're becoming.  Thanks to your support, Camino Verde has had an extraordinarily fruitful 2013, and we're looking forward to all that 2014 will bring.  When you plan your holiday giving, we're grateful for your consideration as a worthy project to support.  In fact, we're now less than $3,000 away from our total funding goal on Global Giving.  Help us get there.  We, and the trees, thank you!

A year in review

In 2013, Camino Verde broke new ground in several areas.  Here's a few of the highlights--

-In February, we planted 900 rosewood seedlings in the native community of Brillo Nuevo, Loreto, Peru in the parcels of indigenous farmers looking to establish a sustainable income from tree crops. (Photo 1, below.)  This brought the total number we planted in the first quarter of 2013 to 2,100 trees

-In April we inaugurated our new buildings at the Camino Verde reforestation center.  From the ground up, these new lodgings for visitors, volunteers, and staff are at the vanguard of sustainable architecture for the rainforest (Photo 2, below).  Thanks for making our new home so sturdy!  (And come visit.)

-In June we completed work on our tree nursery, which now allows us to propagate 2500 tree seedlings a year.  (Photo 3.)

-In November, with the first rains of the season we planted another 750 trees, our final tree planting of the calendar year.  These 750 trees represent a half dozen of the Amazon's most endangered, over-exploited trees.  Thanks to Carpe Diem Education for once again supporting our work in the world with volunteer visits and carbon offsetting donations!

What comes next?

In 2014, Camino Verde will ally with a diverse range of individuals and organizations to help transform our reforestation center into a world-class model farm of tropical agroforestry and sustainable agriculture.  Here are a few of the pieces of the puzzle to look forward to...

--Gorka Atxuara from the Basque country in Spain is an expert in bio-fertilizers.  Think compost tea: rich plant nutrient formulas that include abundant beneficial micro-organisms. In 2014, Gorka will help Camino Verde set up a small production facility for use in our tree nursery.

--Biochar! You may have noticed that we have another project on Global Giving, found here: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/turning-carbon-footprints-into-healthy-soils/  In 2014 we're gearing up to implement this vital technology on our farm.  Check out the link to find out more.

--Allies from Earth University and the University of Guelph are helping us to implement solar power, biogas digestion, and other amazing green technologies on our farm.  With their help, we are aiming to become a living example of what's possible for our neighbors and farmer partners.

--And, of course, more planting trees!

Once again, we're grateful for your support in 2013.  Thanks for helping us to plant a greener world, one tree at a time.  

The new lodgings at Camino Verde
The new lodgings at Camino Verde
Our new tree nursery
Our new tree nursery
A jungle flower
A jungle flower
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Organization Information

Camino Verde

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

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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