Assisting indigenous and traditional communities in the creation of sustainable development projects that help to generate income without jeopardizing their biological and cultural resources.
Stingless Beekeeping Project
Amazonian stingless bees produce a type of honey that is highly valued for both its unique taste and medicinal qualities. Regionally, stingless bee products garner a premium price and there is a robust market for their honey. We are training communities to raise stingless bees as a sustainable source of income, providing alternatives from other more destructive economic activities. For example, there are now over 50 stingless beehives in one Maijuna community with more on the way. This project is in collaboration with the Asociación La Restinga.
Aguaje Palm Fruit PROJECT
Aguaje palm trees (Mauritia flexuosa), which can grow to heights of over 30 meters (100 feet), are culturally and economically important throughout the Amazon as their fruits are edible and sold regionally. Additionally, a wide variety of rainforest animals (tapirs, monkeys, peccaries, and macaws, among other species) consume the fruit making it an ecological keystone species. Unfortunately, aguaje palm swamps have been severely degraded throughout the Peruvian Amazon, by the cutting down of adult palms to harvest the fruits, which is both ecologically and economically unsustainable. We are working with communities to develop community-based management plans for this palm so that they can earn income from the fruits without sacrificing the long-term ecological and economic health of their communities. For example, we will continue to train the Maijuna how to climb M. flexuosa trees, instead of cut them, as well as to cultivate these palms in their agricultural fields and home gardens ultimately reducing the need to harvest this species from the wild. This work is in close collaboration with researchers at Oregon State University and the Institute for Conservation Research at the San Diego Zoo.
The chambira palm (Astrocaryum chambira), native to the Amazon basin, is highly prized for its fiber. Amazonian indigenous communities have harvested and used this palm fiber for millennia to weave hammocks, bags, baskets, and other traditional items. We are working with communities to expand markets for these products providing a sustainable source of income to families. For example, we are currently working with Maijuna artisans to sell their handicrafts both in Peru and the United States. This work is in collaboration with the Center for Amazon Community Ecology.