Towards Cultural Preservation and Food Security

(Shipibo students plant a sapling in Puerto Firmeza)

When I first visited the combined kindergarten, primary and secondary school at the indigenous Shipibo community of Puerto Firmeza nearly two years ago, it looked like a typical school found in many native Amazon communities – a one-story building with corrugated iron roofing, undecorated classroom walls, and very few visible educational resources such as pens, books, and whiteboards.

The only difference was the vision of the school´s director, Professor Luis Márquez Piñedo. Luis saw a way of creating a new model of intercultural education, that immersed the students in their own culture and cosmovision, while also teaching from the Peruvian national curriculum.

Marcos_in_vivero
Shipibo Permaculture specialist, Marcos Urquia, in the nursery at Puerto Firmeza

Since that first meeting, Alianza Arkana has been working with Luis, the teachers at the school and the community to realize this vision. The school now looks very different. We have created the basic infrastructure for eight educational zones – only one of which is the traditional classroom experience,  employed a Shipibo permaculture specialist who has helped train three further permaculture technicians, and together with the students and community, have created educational areas for traditional games, medicinal plants, food crops, and fruit trees.

Alongside these advances, which have been achieved in the last eighteen months, there are five further significant developments.

  1. Professor Luis is working with teachers to create a curriculum in which the Shipibo culture and cosmovison will be integrated into every area and level of the school. For example, geometry class will incorporate the teaching of the geometric properties of the beautiful, intricate designs found in Shipibo artwork. This curriculum will be completed by the end of December and then implemented in the new school year starting in March 2013.
  2. We have recently finished the construction of a chicken rearing area. Alianza Arkana provided the funding for materials, the community provided wood for its construction, and each child has brought a baby chick to school to stock the area. Furthermore, we are working with the community to build a fish farm on the school grounds. These two projects, alongside the planting of food crops, will provide key sources of high quality food for students. With time, the aim is that every child will receive breakfast and lunch at the school, helping to reduce malnutrition and improve student concentration and learning.
  3. We have recently employed a nutritionist to research healthy, seasonal diets and recipes based on traditional Amazonian foods. Sugar, white pasta and other packaged foods have become staples in the Shipibo diet and are having significant negative health and environmental impacts. The nutritionist will give workshops to the children and their families using these recipes, with the aim of reducing dependence on packaged goods and re-introducing the consumption of traditional and nutritional crops
  4. With the help of the Rubin Foundation, we built a traditional maloka (longhouse) for students to receive after school classes in the artistic aspects of their culture. A male and a female elder have recently been appointed and are now teaching the students traditional craft skills in this building.
  5. An important aspect of our educational work is to connect and create synergy between our different educational projects. We are therefore delighted that Hernan Garcia, one of the students receiving an Alianza Arkana scholarship to become a primary intercultural teacher, is now mid-way through his final two-month teaching internship at the school. He has told me that the school has had a significant impact on him, and that he is excited to implement this new model of intercultural education as a teacher in other communities. This synergy between our scholarship program and our intercultural school will aid us in the replication of this school in other communities.

I would like to recognize and thank Igor Rakuz for his fundraising activities, which have substantially helped to support the recent developments described above.

Deborah Rivett, Friday, 09 November 2012

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