Regenerate the Amazon!

by Camino Verde
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Regenerate the Amazon!
Regenerate the Amazon!
Regenerate the Amazon!
Regenerate the Amazon!
Regenerate the Amazon!
Regenerate the Amazon!
Regenerate the Amazon!
Regenerate the Amazon!
Regenerate the Amazon!
Regenerate the Amazon!
Regenerate the Amazon!
Regenerate the Amazon!
Regenerate the Amazon!
Regenerate the Amazon!
Regenerate the Amazon!
Regenerate the Amazon!
Regenerate the Amazon!

Dear Friends,

“How are things in Peru?”

These are often the words that begin your messages, from family, from friends, and from the many of you who sometimes reach out to check in on what’s new with Camino Verde.

And lately we have been receiving this question more often than usual, more pointedly than usual, and with perhaps a slightly different meaning. 

That’s because, as many of you already know, the country that is home to Camino Verde and its people, our querido Perú, has been in a period of remarkable upheaval that began before the New Year and is still, at the time of this writing, actively upheaving away.

While most of these Missives are painted in the tones of the forest, today we want to take you on a little journey to Peru’s current events – hopefully reassuring some of your worst fears, and probably raising a few new questions. 

Because so many of you have asked, in this missive I’ll also share a bit about what this situation of political turmoil has meant for Camino Verde and the people of the Peruvian Amazon with whom we work. And perhaps I should start there: by saying that, yes, we have still been able to plant trees, even during a coup attempt and the successive shockwaves that have paralyzed the country and our region in particular.

So buckle your seatbelts, and let’s head to Peru in times of unrest.

Warm greetings from Tambopata,

Robin Van Loon

Executive Director

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Now, more than ever, with Peru’s political situation still shrouded in the dust and tear gas of uncertainty, your contributions are what make Camino Verde’s work possible. Please consider making a contribution through GlobalGiving today. We are grateful beyond words for your support. When the going gets tough, your support makes a bigger difference than ever.   

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A Crash Course 

So far, 2023 has been an austere one. As I write this Missive, the region of Madre de Dios (where Camino Verde was founded back in 2008) has suffered through the 6 weeks of this new year with precious few opportunities for supply trucks to enter its borders. Gasoline hasn’t been available, nor the vegetables grown in the nearby Andes. Roadblocks set up by protesters have prevented the flow in of even the most basic supplies, crippling the region’s economy. Since December, the departmento’s capital of Puerto Maldonado has been under siege by political activists willing to use violence toward authorities and fellow citizens. 

But where did this all start? How did a region the size of South Carolina find itself in complete lockdown once again, so soon, as such an unwelcome echo of the recently buried Covid quarantine times? 

To give a quick review of Peru’s current political situation, one has little choice but to begin with the last national elections, held in 2021. The presidential ballot was where the fiercest elements from right and left extremes faced off. Many were relieved when the leftist political outsider Pedro Castillo was sworn in – perceived as a Quechua-speaking savior by a segment of the population but seen more as a lesser of evils by the great majority of those who voted for him. 

Castillo squeaked in with less than a percentage point margin. His election meant one bullet dodged but another bullet landed. Castillo’s detractors predicted and then witnessed a unique blend of corruption and incompetence coloring the executive branch’s attempts to get off on the right foot with governance. Entire cabinets resigned again and again; a revolving door of new officials were introduced and then had the rug pulled out from under them. Public opinion was more and more against Castillo. 

But public opinion was, and is, also more and more against a Congress characterized by career politicians steeped in white collar crime and corruption scandals – and this Congress was gunning for Castillo. Keep in mind that during the last presidential term from 2016-2021, four presidents came and went, usually being forced out by an impeachment-like process that the Congress played again and again as a trump card. 

That’s the setting of the scene for an episode that was remarkable and of which you probably have already heard. 

What’s in a name? Coup edition

Congress was getting ready to impeach Castillo. It was a known thing. Whether due to his own legal naivety or because of the meddling of advisors who wanted to kill a king, that day Castillo made the fateful decision to dissolve Congress before they could oust him. This reminded Peru of the 90’s when Fujimori did the same thing, a self-coup. But Fujimori had the backing of the police and military and a significant constellation of the political establishment. Castillo had, well, the opposite. No support. That this was obvious to all but him was somehow tragic and farcical at the same time. After making his loaded decree, he was quietly arrested in heavy traffic in Lima while ostensibly driving to the Mexican Embassy to make an escape. His vice president (Peru’s first woman president) was sworn in before we knew it.

Was his a coup attempt? Well, if you were one of the 50.5% of Peruvians who voted for him, not necessarily. After seeing the past 4 presidents thrown to the hyenas one by one by Congress, a significant percentage of citizens were fed up with this form of business as usual, even if they didn’t support Castillo. And the Castillo faithful, well, they were feeling betrayed – again, by their frequently recurring betrayers in the political class. And so they took to the streets. 

The protesters were: 

  • carrying banners denouncing a democracy that would consistently depose its own fairly elected rulers; 
  • very reasonably feeling marginalized from centers of power through at least 20 years of ineffective governments dedicated to reinforcing the status quo;
  • a mix of all segments of Peruvian society, but concentrated in the South of the country, in the Andean and Amazon regions farthest from the domain of coastal elites;
  • students, mothers, nurses, retired police;
  • and, in our region of Madre de Dios, a great many of them also happened to be illegal gold miners, some of whom were receiving payments from their bosses to show up at the marches swinging, looking for a fight to pick.

The Strike

This is how Peru goes on strike. Highways were blocked by loosely organized mobs. More daring groups of protesters attempted to take over, then took over, several airports across the country. Via megaphones, demands were made that could not constitutionally be met. At Lima’s signal, helicopters jettisoned tear gas over plazas full of people across the Andes and police opened fire on political activists and bystanders alike. The death toll reached the dozens, injuries shot into the hundreds, and various regions were declared in a special “state of emergency” just one step shy of martial law. 

One of those regions under emergency status was Madre de Dios, here at the southern end of the Peruvian Amazon. With just one major highway (the Interoceanic) running through it, MDD is all bottlenecks. Barricades were erected from whatever debris was available at perhaps a dozen different villages across the region. Cars that made the mistake of approaching the roadblocks would have their tires popped with stakes. “Tolls” were collected by protesters. 

Gasoline and other supplies were still allowed through to most of the illegal gold mining camps, while the towns and the region’s one city of Puerto Maldonado were straining under a tightening noose. There, in the urban center, strikers descended on regional government buildings which they attempted unsuccessfully to destroy with fire. They clashed with police leaving injured and dead on both sides. Many of the protesters were armed to the teeth. Famously, so was MDD’s governor, who shot live rounds out his window after having it shattered by stones thrown by shouting marchers. Stores that attempted to open their shutters for business were looted and destroyed. Transit in and to the city was completely closed off. Burning tires marked the street corners. 

Living the Green Way

Could we get to the hopeful part, already? (Believe me, we have asked ourselves this question many times over the last 2 months.) You might by now be remembering that you were promised an update on how this political situation has affected Camino Verde, our team, our people, our forests. So let’s go ahead and get to that part of the story. If not the “inspiring” part, at least the reassuring part. 

Needless to say, in a region shut down to the arrival of vegetables, there’s no place like a farm. Our primary reforestation center on the Tambopata River, CV Baltimori was its usual self throughout the maelstrom – its usual, isolated, productive self. Lucky for us who have been at Baltimori, this is a season of many fruits – pijuayo (Bactris gasipaes) is eaten in hand or with a spicy ají salad on it. The fruits of sinamillo (Oenocarpus mapora) and huasaí (Euterpe precatoria) are made into thick, nutritious beverages full of antioxidants and healthy fats. 

One of the giants of our conservation area, the manchinga tree (Brosimum alicastrum and B. guianense) has dropped its nutrient-dense edible seeds all over us – a famine food consumed in times of war and scarcity in Amazonian history. All this (and more familiar fare like bananas and plantains) were what allowed us to weather the storm in relative comfort. 

What was not so pleasant was news from nearby – a neighbor’s land being invaded by squatters. While some are noble, it’s safe to say that not all land grab invasions are created equal. On the spectrum whose poles are landless peasant movements on one end and malicious black market actors on the other, this particular instance was somewhere in the middle. While it poses no immediate threat to the integrity of Camino Verde’s land, this invasion does mean an increase in deforestation in the area, and new tensions between old neighbors. And it also means we are now obliged to triple our team’s monitoring rounds on our border paths, increasing our regularly ongoing efforts to ensure there are no incursions by the invaders in our government-certified Conservation Area. So far, so good. 

Yes, we’ve stayed hard at work on the farm, with thousands of trees planted already in the new year. But our team is not only out on the farm at our reforestation centers. What about the team living in Puerto Maldonado, or the team living near our La Joya center, who commute to work along secondary roads subject to blocks? In a way that was reminiscent of the pandemic, they hunkered down, practiced prudence, and waited it out. And they went to extraordinary lengths to keep our farm teams stocked with whatever food or other supplies could be made available. Then, as always, our teams out in the field gratefully relied on the teams in town to keep us hard at work. 

Out in the Communities

Meanwhile, at the other (northern) end of the Peruvian Amazon, you might mistake it for another planet. In the city of Iquitos, perhaps a day or two of protests happened, it’s true. But then this wild town was back to normal. You see, the surrounding region of Loreto, larger than Ecuador, has never relied on the kinds of roads that can be blocked. Its roads are rivers. 

There, the CV Loreto team was able to carry on life and work as normal, meaning continuing visits to over 100 families with whom we work in 5 native communities, growing endangered rosewood and 40 other tree species. In these communities, the strike was barely felt. We continued harvesting and distilling rosewood, and just a few days ago celebrated a historic occasion – the first native beekeeping workshop with our rosewood farmers, with the aid of beekeepers of the Maijuna people. Native Amazonian bees are stingless and produce an exceptionally medicinal honey. We are introducing them to these Bora and Huitoto communities as another valuable product like rosewood, compatible with conservation and regeneration.

It's a gift to still be able to point proudly to some inspiring work going on, even during country-wide crisis. It’s a privilege to speak of fruits savored when surrounded by scarcity. Neighbors casually requested and carted off from our nurseries seedlings of those nutritious palm fruits we were eating. Light bulbs were going off about resilience and self-reliance, even in the darkness and thick fog of this national moment. Literally and figuratively, seeds were sprouting and taking root. 

Whether the most memorable seeds of this season will be inspiring ones or terrible ones, we have still to find out. Whether the harvests to come will be embittered or soaring, we can’t yet know. For now, Puerto Maldonado is slowly re-opening its shutters, and the police have managed just in the last 72 hours to clear the highways, bringing desperately needed supplies back to the region. Some small but hopeful dawn appears to be in the making. It’s too soon to say whether this shift will be lasting, or whether tomorrow the protesters will regroup and come back stronger than ever. Lord knows their concerns are justified, even if their methods are causing misery. Our hopes are for peace, for the least violence possible in the course of needed transformations. 

In the face of isolation, we pray for community. In the midst of separation, we pray for solidarity. And in the presence of despair, we pray for hope. In this way, a reforestation center can become a refuge – and a farm, a lighthouse. Thank you for helping us to spread inspiration and optimism in the midst of so many storms. We couldn’t do it without you. 

We are asking once again: Please consider making a contribution to our GlobalGiving project today. In these strange times and in all times, your belief and your support are the motor that keep us going. Thank you once again for believing in what we do and what we are. 

From Tambopata, Peru, with gratitude,

The Camino Verde Team

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Dear friends of Camino Verde,

We've made it once again to the end of a year. Is it just us, or did this one go by especially fast? And yet it was rich, full of so much – January or February feel like a decade ago.

Having passed the year's shortest day (or longest, like here in the Southern Hemisphere), and with the year's end quickly approaching, we are again residing in the spirit of gratitude. We are So Grateful to have the multifaceted, multi-continental, creative, talented, beautiful family that we have in all of You! – our supporters, our donors, our encouragers, our cheerleaders, and our bandleaders.

Thank you for making 2022 such an extraordinary year for regeneration in the Peruvian Amazon! You inspire us to do the work, and we hope it inspires you back.

This is becoming something of a tradition, our family Holidays Greetings card from Camino Verde. And the tradition goes like this: I invite you to read on about the amazing things you helped make possible this year. And I appeal to you one last time, if the spirit moves you, please consider making one last year's end contribution to the powerful, meaningful work you're about to read about (you can donate here). And to the many of you who have already donated, Thank You!

Thanks 2022! Thank You, friends. The road ahead in 2023 is looking bright. Thanks for believing us and keeping us going strong.

2022 By the Numbers:

  • 94,625 – Total trees planted 2022

  • 2,250 – Rosewood trees planted 2022

  • 33,215 – Total trees registered on our RealTrees Platform to date

  • 110 Families participating; from 7 Communities in 1 Native federation

  • Over 750 acres (300 hectares) of reforested areas under permanent management, registration and conservation.


How do I support CV?

What Else is New (in words):

  • GLF Semillero– CV was selected as one of the Global Landscapes Forum’s seed organizations in Latin America, or Semilleros. A cash prize is awarded with opportunities for publicity about CV’s activities with native species restoration and transparency technologies.

  • Amazonia Rising Conference – CV ED Robin Van Loon presented on a panel on buying Amazonian products at Amazon Investor Coalition's annual summit, alongside representatives of Pacha Soap and Lush Cosmetics.
  • MOU signed with ForestLab, Peruvian research company with experience in rosewood in vitro propagation for the production of seedlings and genetic cataloging of the species. In vitro rosewood experimentation is already underway with ally institution CITE Productivo.

  • Partnership formed with the Swiss NGO Wyss Foundation to further develop CV’s RealTrees technology into 2023.

Thanks again for all you help us do! We are stronger together, and grateful for this network of support.

All the best from Tambopata,

Robin Van Loon
Executive Director

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Dear friends,

With the year-end fast approaching, we turn once more to you, our cherished donors, with news on the ground in the Peruvian Amazon. This time, we're sharing about a unique event in our project's history. Just over a month ago, Camino Verde was graced by a visit from 10 artists from around the world. This first-ever group artists' residence at CV's main reforestation center was as inspiring as we could have hoped. Read on!
But before we dive in with this latest news from Peru, we'd like to share with you a reminder that CV relies on donors like you for the important work we're carrying out with hundreds of Amazonian families, planting hundreds of thousands of trees in the deforested patches of the Amazon basin. We count on your generosity to be able to continue with our impactful programs. 
Please consider making a Donation today or including us in your year-end charitable giving. We can't do it without you – and we are so grateful for your support.
Your donation has helped make so much possible in 2022!
-Planting of over 50,000 trees in the Peruvian Amazon
-Acquisition of additional rainforest conservation areas
-Reaching 110 families in 5 native communities as part of our agroforestry partner network
In 2023, with your support we will multiply our impact across new native communities, with new partner farmers, planting over 100,000 trees projected for the year!
Thank you for all you help us make possible!
And now, on to our show...

Why Artists in the Amazon?

At Camino Verde, we believe that if people are to do the things, make the changes, to build a better way of life, necessarily we are going to need to generate ripples in waters that are cultural. All the technical mastery and reforestation know-how imaginable aren’t enough alone to move the needle of collective human action. If embracing regenerative ways is to go viral, we are going to need more than a solid business plan and tech specs – we will need to activate the deeply personal reasons people have to act, embedded at the level of culture.

This appreciation for the importance of cultural outputs is why Camino Verde sends out these nicely written missives (if we do so say ourselves) and splashes poetry about plants on social media, along with those dreamy, esthetically satisfying images. We have seen from experience that if you can take someone’s breath away, you have a better chance of having a conversation after.

As such, we’ve always sought (and attracted) creative encounters with special artists. Our essential oils go into an artist-crafted, small batch perfume.

Modern dance performances have been filmed amidst our reforested trees. With Maisie and another past artist-in-residence, Blair (who is now our amazing communications director), we have illustrated the iconic flora of our region for use in upcoming books and our new tree species database.

And as creative agroforestry designers, we’d like to think we have exercised similar skillsets to artists, at least in a couple ways. Our blank canvases are degraded areas cleared by past slash-and-burn activities; the different tree species we plant are the colors in our palette, with which to concoct a harmoniously functioning, balanced composition. Beauty and inspiration are secondary byproducts but are inherent to the design nonetheless.

Now, wait, you might say, these “artistic experiments” in native-species agroforestry aren’t just artistic – they have an impact that is more than aesthetic. Ecosystems are restored. Landscapes are rejuvenated. But in this way they are not dissimilar from other artistic experiments. Great art surely has a restorative impact on the community, the experiencer, and perhaps the creator as well. Could it be that the balance achieved in the artwork is transferred to the “user” via a kind of harmonic induction?

Reforestation, art, healing– remarkably, they have much in common. And so it was with great pleasure that we opened our doors to a squad of experienced inducers of cultural ripples (and shockwaves) with the purpose of coming together to create. Intimate with universal design challenges, inspired by the abundance and diversity of raw materials for artistic expression, these representatives of most of the continents sprang to life in vital interaction with this forest that offers so much to those who are willing to carefully observe it.

Everywhere I turned, a new friend was using something that I see every day in ways that had never occurred to me.

Hosting artists at Camino Verde’s main reforestation center was a unique challenge – to inspire people whose job it is, sort of, to inspire people. So we threw creative sparks at each other – agro-forestry team on this side, artists on that side, until the sides all warped into the round walls of a hug circle and the distinctions resided. Shipibo members of CV’s farm team hauled fibers and giant palm leaves over to a Limeño artist’s workstation. Dye plants were chopped, boiled, and stained on fingers in the kitchen, with CV’s dear local cook giving pointers on achiote and turmeric to an artist from Brazil and a designer from Germany. 4 or 5 languages were flying around the dinner table.

The local Ese’Eja artist residents showed us all the best techniques for peeling and splitting the aerial roots of tamishi, a hemi-epiphyte used for basket making and other crafts. A Spanish artist in from Copenhagen had us all sipping chicory root coffee. A Colombian now living in Switzerland initiated us into the wonders of the jungle at night under a UV flashlight. We saw scorpions lit up bright ice blue for the first time. Lichens glittered with unbelievably fiery colors.

After 2 weeks of this, of evening presentations, frantic studio days, and afternoon river bathing, artists and team alike retreated to Puerto Maldonado, where an exhibition shared some of the residence’s fruits with a big turnout crowd from the Madre de Dios region’s small but dedicated art-loving community. In a city and region with few cultural offerings, the event, called “Art and Conservation,” was a smash success.

Activities like these are part of what helps make the Green Way a path that people will want to walk. We are so excited to be a part of planting this kind of seeds. And grateful to Amazon Aid, ACEER, and especially Maisie for stewarding the dream. It’s got us jazzed up and reflecting on how art and restoration collide and collude.

Few are creating spaces like these in the Peruvian Amazon, where creatives and indigenous communities can meet horizontally. Thank you for supporting the ecological and cultural programing that makes Camino Verde the vital regional actor it is today!

Are you inspired by the idea of environmentalists and artists coming together to tackle common challenges? Then please make a donation today.

Want to learn more about the intersection between art and CV’s regenerative work? Read on to get the first glimpse of our upcoming blog post on “the Regenerative Arts.” And, at the end, you’ll find Camino Verde’s statement prepared for the “Art and Conservation” exhibition.

What’s in a Word? – Regeneration Edition

If you follow Camino Verde, you’ve probably seen us use the word “regeneration” before. But what does this jargon mean? “Regenerative agriculture” refers to something a full stride beyond organic. “Regenerative” development is more than sustainable; it builds back something balanced and productive, starting from the foundations we have available to us: landscapes and societies that have been left degraded by history and by the pressures of our extractive economies. Regeneration is a terminology that acknowledges that we need healing and repair just as much as – and on more acreage than – the also vital task of maintenance and preservation of what remains intact. 

Regeneration is a powerful idea if you think about it. It alludes to healing and restoration – a return to wholeness after a decline into fragmented, jeopardized equilibrium.  Regeneration shares a common core with therapy, with farming, with art.  When you imagine regeneration as a verb, the mental motion picture that plays gives a sense of re-ordering, restructuring, an integration of components into a new cohesion. In this sense, regeneration is an opportunity for innovation and a welcome disruption – of status quos that have led us far down the road of degradation. 

When Camino Verde uses the word “regeneration,” we often employ it in a technical sense – in reference to restoration of ecosystems and landscapes, achieved via carefully implemented, native species-based, diverse agroforestry systems. Our tree-based productive areas in the Peruvian Amazon are designed with consideration for the processes of ecological succession in time, as well as complementarity in space – shape, size, and more, as the trees grow out to full size. Yes, there is a lot of art to it, a lot of room for artistry in the design of a forest farm. 

But of course, planting trees in diverse agroforestry systems is just one of the many kinds of regeneration. Let’s not limit our definition there.

The Regenerative Arts

What is art? Clearly this is a more nuanced, broader question than “What is regeneration?” Art is elusive to pigeonholing and strict definitions, or at least good art is. So let’s acknowledge the danger of confining art by defining its boundaries too narrowly. With that important caveat noted, let’s discuss just one of its myriad faces, that property of art that can help restore balance. 

Art is healing, isn’t it? For the creator and for the audience, for a community, art can be a way of transforming trauma, of producing affirmations of beauty out of some of the most terrifying contents of human experience. Art can express unspoken illness in order to digest and deactivate it – or can awaken parts of ourselves that went dormant for too long. Art heals by rendering balance.  Doesn’t everything that heals do so by rendering balance? 

With this in mind, we can start to imagine what “regenerative art” might feel like. And we might ask, does all art heal? We could make the argument that the therapeutic aspect is universal, a part of art’s DNA just like opposable thumbs for humans. And yet we can probably all agree that some pieces of art are more powerful than others in the healing processes they trigger in us, in a manner directly proportionate to the clarity of intention placed in the work by its creator. Or, to make a long story short, some art is meant to heal.

Using healing synonymously with “restoring balance,” how does great art heal?

Well, art can heal by… telling the truth about a world too often enshrouded in half-truths; by drawing attention to what has intentionally been hidden; by eliciting feelings we don’t often allow ourselves to feel. Art can heal by breaking with expectation in a way that makes the world seem new and fresh; by challenging the inertia of all the social debris accumulated over our history; by showing us something we’re supposed to see. Art can heal by forcing us to remember.   

Healing of any kind relies on knowledge and relies on intention – just as the Arts of the Muses rely on technical mastery as well as visionary imagination to achieve a desired effect, a purpose. The same could be said for the technically regenerative activities we carry out on the “blank canvas” of degraded landscapes – formerly slashed and burned or worse, mined. The design of successful agroforestry systems demands familiarity with the growth habits of the species planted, embodied knowledge of a kind that surpasses the merely intellectual. And tree planting also requires a vision of the future of the trees, a projection for the farm, an alignment with outcomes in terms of mouths fed, ecological functionality restored, and end products generated: a purpose.

Whether we’re discussing a forest farm, a massage therapy session, or an oil on canvas, similar ingredients (acquired skill, creativity of perspective, loyalty to purpose) collude to produce similar effects – beauty, awe, harmony, forgiveness, enhanced functioning, and a sense of respite, just to name a few. 

We talk about “healing arts,” so why not talk now about the regenerative arts? –oriented at addressing not only the woes of our flesh-and-blood vehicles as a physician or massage therapist would, but also the ecological woes inhabiting the intersection of our species and everything that “surrounds” us, everything we claim not to be. These ecological woes are of course coupled with our bodily woes – both we and our rivers are polluted.

These are just some of the ways that art and ecological restoration reveal themselves to be relatives. Additionally, art is capable of helping enact regenerative systems in another particularly important way. For humans to choose regeneration, hearts and minds must be changed. More and more people speak these days of “regenerative culture” – of the need to cultivate a culture that can produce the outcomes we all know are necessary for our species’ longevity on Earth. For as long as we know, art has been a powerful human software generating ripples at the level of culture, even while inspiring personal discoveries in individuals having their own non-collective experiences.

In that sense, bringing together a group of artists in the rainforest was like creating a tactical squad of regenerative insight sparkers. Each brought their unique gifts to bear on puzzles we muse over everyday in the Amazon, helping us to see with new eyes. 

Our statement on the wall at the “Art and Conservation” premier:

Camino Verde is a non-profit organization with a mission to Restore the forest landscapes of the Amazon by strengthening forest communities. Our primary strategy toward this aim is agroforestry – the production-minded reforestation of native Amazonian species in forest-imitating planting systems. Successful agroforestry systems eventually come to replicate the ecological functionality of a natural forest – performing restoration even while providing for human communities' livelihood needs via the non-timber forest products generated.

Agroforestry systems must be set up with careful design considerations respecting different trees' sizes and shapes and development over time. Ultimately, something beautiful results and a new equilibrium is rendered – something we can also say about the efforts and feats of artists. In agroforestry, we start with a blank canvas, which is a deforested or degraded area, cleared by, for example, farming or mining. Then we "paint in" the different tree species that will lead to a balanced and harmonious composition. Each tree plays a different role in this group effort for a cohesion that is greater than the sum of the parts. With over 450 species of Amazonian trees planted to date, you could say that Camino Verde has a diverse color palette with which to paint. Ultimately, all agroforestry is a collaboration between the human actors and Nature's own creative flourishes. As with all great art, we believe that a successful agroforestry farm should leave the viewer transformed.

With this in mind, it is both an honor and a mission enhancement for Camino Verde to play host to the visionaries of Studio Verde Air. Through creative new eyes, this collaboration helps us as an organization to approach familiar problems with innovative solutions – and help generate impacts at the level of culture, so necessary for environmental initiatives to be successful. Camino Verde thanks the artists and all the wonderful people who participated in making Studio Verde Air 2022 such a fruitful experience. 
 

All images in this missive by the artists in residence. Click on images for full size view

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For this report, we hear from our Farm Manager, Alejandro Zevallos, at our Reforestation Center in Tambopata, Peru. We hope this gives you insight into the daily work we do and what it means to our team.

Today more than ever, your donation makes a difference! Please consider renewing your contribution today.

We send a sincere and humble thank you to all of those who support our work and know how important it is at this specific time to plant trees and rebuild what we have lost. 

 

A Reflection on the Work We Do, by Alejandro Zevallos

For almost a decade, I have had the opportunity to live experiences related to agriculture in different parts of Peru. From a very young age, I had the privilege of seeing the different landscapes, climates, and colors of the soils of our country. I have felt the cold of the Andean night, the heat of the Amazon midday, and the saline wind from the coast. I have been lucky enough to connect with my Peruvian brothers in every place I visited.

These interactions with different people made me very curious to discover how humans coexisted with their habitat and what positive or negative impacts we were creating. One of the negative impacts that marked me a lot was during my travels in the jungle, where I observed the burning of forests to plant food crops. The impact of improvised agricultural exploitation stands out today and will be visible for many years. Most agricultural projects are monocultures. This intensive production model aims to achieve maximum production yields per area without considering anything other than profit. This creates an unsustainable system in the long term because of the design they put thousands of genetically identical individuals, who are forced to grow against all natural currents. Chemical fertilizers, machines, and pesticides are needed so the plants don’t die. This management saturates the capacity of the soil and generates erosion.

Most of these ag projects will not last over the years, and people have to migrate, slash and burn new hectares and start again. Seeing this situation in person awakened in me the ambition to find solutions. I found out I had a similar vision with the agroforestry engineering degree because, unlike other agronomic engineering, it was not only concerned with generating economically viable businesses but was also concerned with the responsibility of generating safe conditions for the environment and people. I am surprised and impressed with the results of different cases of agroforestry systems around Peru, especially here in Tambopata. We have implemented different plantation designs, which are more similar to a natural productive forest. The plants work together, and we don't have to fertilize, water or apply pesticides. We see that the soil is not eroded, the pollinators find different food sources, the fauna returns, and the plantation is healthy and has good yields.

Now that we are sure that these systems work, the idea is to adapt them and share them with a selection of native communities that can use them and get the most out of their lands without losing the biodiversity or fertility of their forests. I am sure of one thing, and that is that plants can grow against all odds if we use our criteria to solve problems and the scientific method to face doubts. An example where this was achieved is the famous case of Pinus tecunumani and the coffee rust in Oxapampa, where research was carried out to determine why the plantations that had both species had greater resistance to the rust fungus than the monocultures of coffee.

Experiencing first-hand how a deforested hectare is reforested gives me hope that I can leave a better world for the future. During this work, we made the enormous effort of taking more than a thousand seedlings to the other side of the river and planting them in places where there were no trees. Every time I carried the seedlings from the boat to the final planting area, I was surprised that, with each trip, the weight on my shoulders became lighter. I believe that the joy and euphoria of feeling part of a positive change overrides physical exhaustion, making us capable of achieving great deeds that will last over time.

At the Camino Verde Baltimori station, we are demonstrating that human beings are capable of regenerating tropical forests and, at the same time, creating job opportunities, scientific research, and food security for the future. It is here that I feel part of a nucleus that has the same mission and vision. I hope that, over time I can expand my knowledge by conducting experiments that help us decipher a little more the mysteries that are hidden in the jungle, and I am happy knowing that plants and the world have the will to give and sustain life.

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Organization Information

Camino Verde

Location: Concord, MA - USA
Website:
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Project Leader:
Blair Butterfield
Concord, MA United States
$22,256 raised of $250,000 goal
 
144 donations
$227,744 to go
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