Alianza Arkana Spotlight: Roberto Muñoz

In this second of our spotlight series, this week we interview Shipibo permaculture technician, Roberto Muñoz Sandoval. Roberto, 33, lives with his wife and three children in the Shipibo community of Nuevo Egipto, where, since last July, he has coordinated the Alianza Arkana community permaculture project.

AA: Firstly, can you tell us how you came to live in Nuevo Egipto Roberto?

Roberto: I grew up in Colonia del Caco, a community in upper Ucayali. When I was 21 we had a family crisis when my brother drowned, so we came to visit other family members who live in and around Pucallpa. My aunt already lived in Nuevo Egipto, and from the first my mother and I really liked the community. My aunt offered us a terrain. At the same time I fell in love with a local girl, so it was an easy decision to stay here! To this day, I prefer living in a smaller community, but one that´s close to the city. Another thing I really like about Nuevo Egipto is its artisan work, which is of a very high quality.

AA: How did you get interested in permaculture?

Roberto: From when I arrived here and saw Nuevo Egipto, which looks a bit like a desert, I´ve always had the dream to turn my land into a forest. Before knowing what permaculture was, I studied agriculture for 3 years in Colonia del Caco. Then I started learning about permaculture, first by reading books and later by practising its principles, and I found it very exciting to see how it worked out in practice. Later, a North American friend who was volunteering in Nuevo Egipto introduced me to Brian (Alianza Arkana Director of Community Based Solutions) and Amanda (Communications and Fundraising Director). We discussed the possibility of doing a permaculture project here, which has really taken off in the last year.

AA: What permaculture training have you completed?

Roberto: The same friend from the US I mentioned, Sarah, helped me to obtain a grant to study a Permaculture Design Course in Puerto Maldonado. That was in 2011. Then in 2012 I did a month internship in Iquitos with Alianza Arkana, where I learned more about permaculture design and different types of trees.

AA: Do you like working in permaculture?

Roberto: Yes, absolutely! I like all of it; planting, building, everything! This is my area, and I´ve always found it very satisfying, especially now as I start to see the fruits of my work in the community.

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AA: Please tell us something more about the work done in the community?

Roberto: The permaculture project has 13 local beneficiaries. At first it was 9 but as others have seen the benefits, they´ve joined us. Together we´ve built a community nursery where we grow fruit and timber trees to reforest our land. We also have a 3 hectare demonstrative area where I´ve planted some of these trees and other crops live plantains and manioc. We´ve built a storeroom, house for volunteers, compost toilet and washroom with its own grey water filtration system. Working together, we´ve also developed vegetable plots in each of the beneficiaries’ family plots. In workshops, they´ve learned how to design their own plots, prepare soil, plant vegetables and trees and develop their own compost and earthworm compost.

AA: What hopes do you have for this project in the future?

Roberto: In 5 or 10 years I hope to see a paradise within the community; medicinal plants, trees, food, all we need! I think we can also build up the seed bank so that other communities can benefit and that this part of the Amazon can thrive with all the trees it used to once again.

Deborah Rivett, Monday, 03 June 2013

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