From the 12th to 14th of February, locals from San Salvador, a Shipibo community outside Pucallpa, gathered along with guests who travelled to the community from Pucallpa, to take part in a highly dynamic permaculture workshop organized by Alianza Arkana.
During the three day course, participants learned techniques to manage a plot of land sustainably, control pests and make fertilizers using organic methods.
This workshop in San Salvador is part of Alianza Arkana’s broader efforts to work with Shipibo families so that they can produce healthy crops and increase their self-sufficiency. Alianza Arkana is also currently working on permaculture projects in the communities of Nuevo Egipto and 7 de Junio. Working hand in hand with locals, Alianza Arkana is making community nurseries, growing 3 hectares of demonstrative plots in each and cultivating crops in family gardens.
We organized this workshop with Agricultural Engineer Jorge Saurin Lopez as facilitator, a Cuban permaculture expert with more than 6 years of experience working with small scale producers in the Loreto region of the Peruvian Amazon.
In the 1st session, Jorge Lopez explained the importance of managing land organically, and shared techniques to maximise its productive capacity. Community members eagerly questioned the agricultural engineer on how they could apply these concepts in their own plots and overcome problems they encountered.
Participants also learned organic pest control techniques. As Mr Lopez demonstrated, particular crops should be planted around the edges of a family nursery, such as beans and cucumber, which attract pests away from the main seed beds. Natural repellents (basil, lemongrass, rosemary, onion, garlic, mint etc.) can be planted amongst other crops to detract unwelcome insects.
On the second day, each participant made several traps using a simple and effective method to capture pests. One example of these techniques involves leaving juice or salted fish in a plastic bottle and cutting small holes into the top. The insect climbs in attracted by the sweet smell and dies inside the bottle.
The workshop presented steps to follow in order to create compost, offering three alternate methods. Later, these techniques were put into practice as San Salvador residents made a new compost heap using plant matter and left-overs from the kitchen.
In recent months, Alianza Arkana has begun to breed earthworms to be introduced into community compost projects. Earthworms process organic matter very quickly, leaving behind a soil rich in nutrients. Alianza Arkana brought some of these earthworms to show community members how to manage compost, and workshop participants are now breeding their own earthworms in San Salvador.
On the final day, residents of San Salvador cleared an overgrown area behind the community school. On this site, they mixed compost into the soil and created an elevated seed bed. Mr. Lopez demonstrated how to maximize space in a vegetable patch. Local women were keen to be involved in this, and took a lead in sowing the seeds, and also later in preparing bags of soil to plant fruit trees in.
One of the workshop attendees, Cecilia Brito Vazquez, the coordinator of the group Amazonian Indigenous Women, commented “this workshop was a new experience as before we just burned our land (to clear it). I have learned to work and value the earth; it´s important to integrate agriculture into our activities in order to have food security for our families and communities.”
Alianza Arkana permaculture technician and San Salvador resident Felix Rojas developed the idea for the workshop with renowned human rights lawyer Lily de la Torre Lopez, who secured funding for the project and was present for the three day course.
The community leader, Felipe Tananta Vasquez was happy with the workshop results, later commenting: “I have enjoyed learning new things, or things we (Shipibo) did before but no longer practice. Before we knew how to live off the land, but now we´ve lost so much of that. It is important to know these techniques and use them to produce in our plots. We would like to keep learning.”
Tuesday, 19 February 2013