Shipibo Women Demonstrate Learning in Nutrition Workshops

It has been almost five months since Alianza Arkana started the Cooking and Nutrition workshops with the Shipibo mothers of the native community of Puerto Firmeza. The workshops have become more and more popular in the community with a growing number of participants and the recipes used have been successfully accepted by the women. Currently, more than half of the women participating have planted different vegetables in their family plots that have been used to cook in the workshops. The rest of the plots are scheduled to be planted in the coming weeks.

On Monday, October 7th, Alianza Arkana´s nutritionist, Mariana Orta, together with the participants, organized a demonstration in order to present the very important nutrition topics they have learned throughout the course. This was seen as a key way to reinforce their learning. Amongst the audience was the Director of Intercultural Education of Alianza Arkana, Dr. Paul Roberts, the Director of the US-based NGO Shipibo Joi, Mershona Parshall, a German midwife, Nine Uhlich, who works jointly with Alianza Arkana and Shipibo Joi on a project for training Shipibo midwives, foreign guests interested in learning more about the project and 2 Shipibo women from another community also interested in learning more about nutrition.

For Shipibo women, this type of demonstration activity is not common, as they are not used to speaking in public. At first they were a little nervous, yet the presentation was very successful – each one presented her theme wonderfully and they were all satisfied and happy after the presentation.


The event not only consisted in an oral presentation, but the mothers chose a traditional Shipibo-improved recipe to share with the visitors: mazamorra de doncella (fish soup). The traditional way of preparing this dish consists of grating plantain to form a puree, boiled with fish and some onion and cilantro. When cooked, the fish falls apart and the result is a delicious thick soup. However, in the improved version, other ingredients are added (more vegetables) to increase not only the taste but the nutritional quality of the dish, having at the end a tasty soup that has more nutritious ingredients such as onion, tomato, sweet pepper, garlic, coriander and ginger. This exemplifies the typical way that this project has worked, starting with traditional recipes and amending them in small but important ways to include a higher nutritional content.

All visitors and participants enjoyed the delicious lunch, typically accompanied by plantains. The mothers were very proud of their presentation and their succulent dish, especially as the visitors left with a great impression of both the presentation and the food. One of the 2 Shipibo women who was there, commented that: “This version of mazamorra was scrumptious, and I am proud to see that these projects are carried out, since the traditional Shipibo cuisine, despite being very natural, does not include fresh vegetables.”

This project has now reached the final stage of its first phase: teaching about the importance of nutrition; creating a cookbook for each of the participants with improved dishes that can be easily replicated; and planting vegetables in the homes of each of the participants. The next phase is integrated with another important education project Alianza Arkana has in the community of Puerto Firmeza, in which the community has donated to the school five hectares of land that have been planted with different crops in order to eventually provide school meals to students. The mothers who participated in the Cooking and Nutrition workshops will be responsible for coordinating the school lunch program through a seasonal menu of available food crops. The ultimate goal is that students have access to a healthy breakfast and lunch at least three times a week.

Mariana Orta Duarte, Thursday, 10 October 2013