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CACE welcomes Robin van Loon and Camino Verde as partners

November 19, 2012

Robin van Loon with shaman Don Ignacio Duri at Infierno © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Robin van Loon with shaman Don Ignacio Duri at Infierno © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

The Center for Amazon Community Ecology is pleased to welcome Robin van Loon as the newest member of the CACE Advisory Board. Robin is the founder and executive director of Camino Verde, a non-profit organization dedicated to planting trees in the Peruvian Amazon. He is a native of Massachusetts who has lived in Peru since 2001 studying traditional use of medicinal and economic plants in the Andean highlands and lowland tropical forest in Madre de Dios.

Robin van Loon and pijuayo palm fruit at Baltimori. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Robin van Loon and pijuayo palm fruit at Baltimori. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Three years after moving to the Tambopata River area, he founded Camino Verde in 2007 to launch the first viable reforestation projects in the region. The organization created and manages a “Living Seed Bank” that features ten thousand trees representing 250 species valuable for fruits, medicines, craft-making materials and timber. Camino Verde also makes tree seedlings available to local farmers as an alternative to slash-and-burn farming.

Officers of the Marjorie Grant Whiting Center for Humanity Arts and the Environment (MGWC) introduced Robin and CACE Executive Director Campbell Plowden to each other in 2010 to see if they could combine their distinct experience and methods to enhance forest conservation and support sustainable livelihoods in the northern and southern ends of the Peruvian Amazon.

Campbell Plowden, Robin van Loon and Uusula Leyva at Baltimori. © Photo by David Imburgia/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Plowden, van Loon and Camino Verde forester at Baltimori. © Photo by David Imburgia/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

MGWC funded two Plowden trips to Madre de Dios to visit Camino Verde’s reforestation site at Baltimori and financed van Loon’s first visit to several CACE partner communities in Loreto. This pilot project is now developing three cooperative themes:

1) CACE is helping Camino Verde to develop a scientifically based study of the sustainable harvest of medicinal latex from several hundred sangre de grado (“dragon’s blood”) trees planted at Baltimori in the Tambopata River region.

Sangre de grado latex harvest experiment at Baltimori. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sangre de grado latex harvest experiment at Baltimori. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

2) Camino Verde is the technical advisor and co-financer of a project to plant 1000 rosewood tree seedlings in secondary forest fields in the Bora native community of Brillo Nuevo on the Ampiyacu River. When the trees mature, CACE will work with the community to distill the leaves into a marketable fragrant essential oil.

Distilling camphor moena leaves at Baltimori; Bora woodsmen collecting canoela moena leaves at Brillo Nuevo. © Photos by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Distilling camphor moena leaves at Baltimori; Bora woodsmen collecting canoela moena leaves at Brillo Nuevo. © Photos by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

3) CACE and Camino Verde are conducting trial distillations of leaves and branches from several sister species of “moena” trees to develop novel essential oils from Amazon rosewood relatives (family Lauraceae). Promising products will be developed for sale to fragrance companies to generate income for forest communities.

Both groups seek ongoing support for these initiatives. Donations may be sent to support them through the online non-profit funding platform Global Giving. The CACE campaign – Project # 12229 will “go live” on November 26.

Other links and related stories:
The Legacy of a Rosewood Tree
A Dying Copal Tree and Rosewood Seedlings at Jenaro Herrera
Steaming Leaves and Heated Emotions
Visions of Rosewood Oil and Ayuhuasca

Camino Verde on Facebook
CACE on Facebook






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GETTING STUFF DONE IN IQUITOS

While it can be very hard to get certain kinds of things done in Peru in an efficient way (like standing in line for hours to pay a bill at a bank), it’s a fun adventure to get other stuff done in a fun, timely and affordable way. I went out on Sunday to get some basic supplies for our house and got most of them at a modern store called Quispe, but right around the corner I found a fellow named Elmo who is the owner of one of the typical mobile micro-stalls (about 3 x 2 x 5 feet) that is his shop for his business to make copies of keys and help people with other kinds of locks. He first used one of those simple machine to make a rough cut of the key copy from the original. He then used a narrow grinder to fine-tune the copy.

I was really impressed that he used a hand caliper to measure the depth of each notch in the original key and the copy he was making. He eyeballed any minute differences because the calipers had no graduated lines on them. Elmo had been doing this work for 30 years so I felt pretty confident that his keys that cost me $1.25 each to make would work. He gave me his phone number to reach him just in case. His copies got me in my house just fine, but I’d like to see him again just to learn more about his life.

While the lease that we signed to rent our new house for CACE in Iquitos said everything was in good working order, we’ve discovered a few things that needed fixing to make the place more comfortable, safe and functional for our needs. As soon Tulio moved into the house, he met our neighbor Jorge who quickly became our go-to motorcar driver. When we mentioned to Jorge yesterday that we had a few plumbing issues that needed tending to, he said he had a friend who could handle them.

Julio showed up ten minutes later. They quickly determined that the threads in the faucet in the kitchen sink were stripped, the sink in my bathroom was leaking because the pipe under it was totally rusted through, and the sink in Tulio’s bathroom was clogged and just needed cleaning. After several trips to the hardware store to get various new pipes, glue, and tape, Julio donned my headlamp and used his and Jorge’s collection of old saws and wrenches to replace or clean all of the degraded items.

Julio returned this morning and spent the better part of the day doing four more tasks: 1) installing new pipes connecting our elevated water tank in the back patio to faucets in the work sinks so we could distill our rosewood material with an abundant supply of cooling water, 2) installed a new section of mosquito netting in my bedroom, 3) installed a new section of mosquito netting in the space above my bathroom, and 4) fixed up a wire in the back patio that was loosely connected by duct tape that was hanging out of a busted piece of PVC pipe.

We paid a total of about $25 in materials and $50 in labor for all seven jobs and everyone felt good about the tasks that were done. Julio looked around the house as he was leaving and said “please call me if you need anything done. I can fix your roof, put up a wall…….” Tulio told me tonight that Julio is someone who is referred to here as a “mil oficios” – someone who can do a thousand things. I know we have handymen in the US, too, but I’m awfully glad that I met Julio here.

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STINGLESS BEES AT CHINO

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STINGLESS BEES AT CHINO One of the houses I also visit first at Chino belongs to the veteran artisan Romelia and her husband Jorge. Jorge is one of the folks in the village who has maintained several wooden box nests with stingless bees as part of a honey producing project developed under the guidance of German Perilla from George Mason University in Virginia. While these bees don't produce as much honey as their stinging honeybee counterparts, their honey is highly valued for its strong flavor and medicinal properties.

During my last visit, Jorge's nest boxes were in his back yard. This time, he had placed both at opposite ends of his kitchen to keep a closer eye on them. I took several shots of bees coming and going out of the entrance tube as well as the guard which is always on duty to prevent the entrance of unwelcome visitors (other bees, flying ants, etc.) who might wish to invade to prey on their young.

Check out the video Beekeeping in the Amazon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca2kYBJN4tI) focused on a stingless bee project developed with Maijuna native communities by OnePlanet.Org and its director (and CACE board member) Michael Gilmore.

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