Category Archives: Campbell’s Amazon Journal

Amazon Travel Blog of Campbell Plowden, Executive Director of the Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Building relationships with GlobalGiving – a crowd-source platform with smarts and hearts

The Center for Amazon Community Ecology began like many non-profit organizations – it had one person with few resources and a big dream about making the world a better place. I wanted to conserve the Amazon rainforest by helping native people to improve their livelihoods and communities by selling innovative non-timber forest products as alternatives to economic activities that damage the forest. Our early work was supported almost entirely with the support of a few friends, family members and foundations.

Campbell Plowden and Robin van Loon at Baltimori. Photo by CACE.

Campbell Plowden and Robin van Loon at Baltimori. Photo by CACE.

We gradually expanded our presence on the web, but did not get many donations through our website, Facebook or blog. So in 2012, I started exploring a variety of crowd-source platforms. Kickstarter seemed great for hot business ideas, but wouldn’t work for non-profits. Indie-gogo offered a space for non-profits, but these seemed lost in their mix, and every project had to meet a funding target with a short fixed deadline. Network for Good offers great resources to non-profit groups to raise their profile and funds, but it lacks a central site that attracts visitors interested in supporting a cause or project. Robin van Loon from a partner group Camino Verde told me that his group had received extensive support for his work reforesting native trees in southern Peru through the GlobalGiving network so I decided to give it a try.

Global Giving LogoGlobalGiving is a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC (with a sister group in London) that provides a dynamic platform for other non-profits to raise funds for specific projects that benefit people and/or the environment. GlobalGiving keeps a 15% commission instead of the 5-10% taken by most other platforms, but being part of the GlobalGiving network offers a lot more than a simple mechanism to channel online donations. It offers its partners valuable tools and a place in a community that fosters open communication and mutually supportive relationships between the people in the group, the people that it serves, the people that fund its work, leaders of other groups in the network, and the people who work in GlobalGiving. Playing an active role in this community has significantly increased the number of donors and quantity of donations to our work in Peru and strengthened the quality of our communications and relationships with our partners in remote villages and supporters at home and abroad.

Getting onto the GlobalGiving platform is a multi-stage process that begins by proving that your group is a bona-fide non-profit organization with tax-deductible status (501-c-3) in the US or equivalent status abroad. An applicant also needs to describe its track record and provide several letters of recommendation. After passing this due diligence process, a group can take part in an Open Challenge to earn a permanent spot on the platform by raising at least $5000 from 40 or more donors in one month.

Campbell Plowden giving Amazon presentation.  Photo by CACE

Campbell Plowden giving Amazon presentation. Photo by CACE

The prospect of raising this much money from so many people in one month seemed very daunting to me, but I decided to go for it in a challenge that began in late November, 2012. I began by contacting everyone in my universe and asking them to contribute any amount they could. I sent appeals to high school classmates, former colleagues at Greenpeace, and family members far and wide. I arranged to do presentations at church groups and homes of a few supporters who invited their friends. I wrote short pieces and posted photos on our website, blog, Facebook pages, and Twitter. I asked a few prospective larger donors to make their contribution on Bonus Days when donations were given a 15% match. By December 31, I was thrilled that we had raised almost $8,100 from 65 donors and matching funds from GlobalGiving.

Greenpeace Japan whale campaign reunion

Greenpeace Japan whale campaign reunion

When the challenge was over, I took some deep breathes and looked carefully at the data provided by GlobalGiving to see which outreach strategies had been the most effective for us. Not surprisingly, most of these funds came from my friends, family, or others I met through a friend. What was encouraging, though, was that many people who had known me and my work for years made their first donation to my group during this challenge. Being on GlobalGiving gave my group extra credibility and me the confidence to ask them directly for support for the first time. My friends understood that helping my group earn a spot on the platform would eventually give my group a good chance to receive support from many new people.

GlobalGiving Open Challenge results for CACE.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

GlobalGiving Open Challenge results for CACE. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

While CACE raised far less than the top earners during the Open Challenge, my frequent questions to GlobalGiving via phone, email and webinars caught the attention of a few staff people. A partner associate soon asked me to share my experiences and analysis in a webinar with groups who were considering participating in the next Open Challenge. Since last January, I have participated in almost every webinar and special campaign that GlobalGiving offers its partners including a free two month long online fundraising academy. These lessons, contests, and feedback from GG staff have tremendously helped me improve the proposals, progress reports, thank you letters, photos, videos and social media posts we share with past and potential supporters.

CACE project manager reviewing guitar straps with Bora artisan. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

CACE project manager reviewing guitar straps with Bora artisan. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

GlobalGiving also offers its partners great tools and encouragement to improve their communications and relations with the people they aim to serve. As we strive to increase artisan income with new products, we are learning how to better incorporate traditions and cultural realities into the process. A GG volunteer visited our most remote village in the Peruvian Amazon with us to see how we were doing. When she witnessed our project manager Yully in the thick of a difficult conversation with an artisan partner, she offered her empathy and encouragement rather than judgment. I am now looking forward to trying out the new GlobalGiving Storytelling tool with our partners in eight villages this summer.

Amazon crafts at GlobalGiving. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Amazon crafts at GlobalGiving. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Beyond its standard offerings, GG has directly supported our sale of handicrafts made by our native partners in Peru. These efforts have included featuring our crafts in their Gifts for Good program, bringing back a batch of our crafts from Peru to the U.S., buying 125 hot pads which they gave to a group of special donors, welcoming us to sell crafts to their staff people in their office around Christmas and inviting us to sell crafts at a big conference about corporate volunteerism in Washington, DC.

GlobalGiving continually encourages groups on the platform to seek input from and listen to their supporters and beneficiaries, and it passionately applies this practice to their dealings it partners. Companies now routinely solicit feedback from their customers in surveys, but it is clear that GlobalGiving is not following a rote corporate mantra. As I participated in one webinar, campaign and Leadership Council meeting after another, it became apparent that every person I interacted with from GlobalGiving genuinely wanted to know how they could improve their site and programs and then actually used partner ideas to do so.

I now think of GlobalGiving more as a “they” than an “it” because GlobalGiving staff people including Alexis, Britt, Katherine, Sonja, and Mari seem to truly understand CACE and want to help us succeed. Their commitment has inspired me to try and help GlobalGiving help other groups do their important work as well.

www.AmazonAlive.net
As of We have now raised $25,248 for our Peru project on GlobalGiving. Crossing the $24,000 threshold gives a group “SuperStar” status on the platform which gives groups greater visibility, opportunities with corporate partners, and a 50% match on donations on Partner’s Bonus Day coming up on July 16. Thanks for contributing any amount you can to help us help our partners in Peru and save some Amazon rainforest? Check out our project on GlobalGiving at: www.AmazonAlive.net.

Achiote – a dye plant for fiber, food and faces

Bixa orellana is the scientific name for a small tree whose spiny pods contain seeds covered with an oily red substance that is used around the world to dye food, fiber, and faces. While often known as annatto when used to give naturally white margarine a hint of yellow to make it look more like butter, people in Peru usually call it achiote. Below is a gallery of photos of achiote plants and its use by native and campesino artisans in the northern Peruvian Amazon to dye chambira palm fiber various shades of red and orange for weaving handicrafts. All photos were taken by CACE director Campbell Plowden with artisan partners from the Bora native community of Brillo Nuevo on the Ampiyacu River and campesino artisans from the town of Jenaro Herrera on the Ucayali River.

Achiote flower in native artisan field. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achiote flower in native artisan field. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achiote flower and budding fruit in native artisan field. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achiote flower and budding fruit in native artisan field. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Immature achiote pods in native artisan field. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Immature achiote pods in native artisan field. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mature achiote pods in native artisan field. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mmature achiote pods in native artisan field. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mature achiote pods with seeds in native artisan field. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mature achiote pods with seeds in native artisan field. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan harvesting achiote pods. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan harvesting achiote pods. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan holding small branch of achiote pods. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan holding small branch of achiote pods. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan holding achiote pods in her garden. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan holding achiote pods in her garden. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan holding achiote open seed pod in her hand. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan holding achiote open seed pod in her hand. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan holding achiote open seed pod with red finger. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan holding achiote open seed pod with red finger. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan soaking chambira fiber with achiote seed oil. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan soaking chambira fiber with achiote seed oil. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan preparing to dye chambira fiber with achiote seed oil. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan preparing to dye chambira fiber with achiote seed oil. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan removing red oil from achiote seeds to dye chambira fiber. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan removing red oil from achiote seeds to dye chambira fiber. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Boiling chambira palm fiber with achiote to dye it red. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Boiling chambira palm fiber with achiote to dye it red. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chambira dyed with achiote, sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) and guisador. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chambira dyed with achiote, sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) and guisador. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) plants and chambira fiber dyeing

The Center for Amazon Community Ecology is working with native artisans from the Peruvian Amazon to develop and market innovative handicrafts to increase their livelihood and support health, education and forest conservation in their communities. Most of these crafts are woven with the fibers of chambira palm trees – most are dyed with plants the artisans collect from their backyard gardens, farm fields, or forest. Native artisans in the Ampiyacu River region commonly use leaves from a vine species of Arrabidaea in the family Bignoniaceae. Bora and Murui artisans usually call this plant “sisa,” “cudi,” or “cudi-i’.” Leaves are mashed and boiled with bleached fibers of chambira to dye it a dark red. Red fibers can also be mixed with clay rich mud to darken the fiber to maroon or near black. These photos taken in the Bora village of Brillo Nuevo show plants in different conditions and stages of processing.

Sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) dye plant growing in artisan field (2).  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) dye plant growing in artisan field (2). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) dye plant growing in artisan field (3).  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) dye plant growing in artisan field (3). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arribidaea spp.) leaves on vine on ground. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arribidaea spp.) leaves on vine on ground. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arribidaea spp.) vine growing up tree.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arribidaea spp.) vine growing up tree. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arribidaea spp.) vine.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arribidaea spp.) vine. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan planting sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan planting sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Murui artisan harvesting sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Murui artisan harvesting sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan harvesting sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan harvesting sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mashing sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves with wooden pestle.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mashing sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves with wooden pestle. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mashing sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves in a cooking pot.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mashing sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves in a cooking pot. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan cooking chambira with sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves (2).  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan cooking chambira with sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves (2). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan cooking chambira with sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves (3).  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan cooking chambira with sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves (3). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves and sisa dye chambira fiber.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves and sisa dye chambira fiber. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan dying chambira with sisa (Arribidaeae spp.). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan dying chambira with sisa (Arribidaeae spp.). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan dyeing chambira with sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan dyeing chambira with sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan hanging chambira fibers dyed with sisa (Arribidaeae spp.). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan hanging chambira fibers dyed with sisa (Arribidaeae spp.). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan hanging chambira fibers dyed with sisa (Arribidaeae spp.)(2). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan hanging chambira fibers dyed with sisa (Arribidaeae spp.)(2). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chambira dyed with achiote, sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) and guisador.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chambira dyed with achiote, sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) and guisador. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achira (Canna indica) – seed plant for Amazon handicrafts

Achira (Canna indica) is a lily family plant that many artisans in the Peruvian Amazon grow in their backyard gardens. When the green pods dry, the artisans use the black seeds to adorn jewelry like bracelets, necklaces, and earrings and put inside maracas and ornaments to make them rattle. These photos show the plants and seeds used by native and campesino artisan partners of the Center for Amazon Community Ecology.

Achira (Canna indica) plant flower. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achira (Canna indica) plant flower. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Campesino artisan with achira plant. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Campesino artisan with achira plant. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achira (Canna indica) seed pod. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achira (Canna indica) seed pod. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Holding achira seed (Canna indiaca) pods. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Holding achira seed (Canna indiaca) pods. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan holding achira (Canna indica) pods and seed bracelet. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan holding achira (Canna indica) pods and seed bracelet. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achira (Canna indica) plant, pods, and seeds. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achira (Canna indica) plant, pods, and seeds. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Pouring achira (Canna indica) seeds into calabash ornament.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Pouring achira (Canna indica) seeds into calabash ornament. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

A fountain of frogs and new bathroom for children at Chino

by Campbell Plowden

Romelia Huanaquiri with woven bowl. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Romelia Huanaquiri with woven bowl. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Melodi Tuesta with woven bowl. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Melodi Tuesta with woven bowl. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Every time I go to Peru, I look forward to spending at least a few days in the campesino village of Chino on the Tahuayo River. I go there primarily to buy some of the beautiful baskets and other woven handicrafts made by women in the Huacamayo artisan cooperative. What makes these trips possible is that we enjoy an easy working relationship with the Rainforest Conservation Fund (RCF) to help arrange short stays at their lodge, meetings with artisans and leaders, and the purchase and delivery of materials for community projects funded with the CACE social rebate from craft sales. Finally, Chino is a very welcoming community in an incredibly beautiful place where I usually get to go fishing on a free morning.

Yully Rojas paddling RCF boat with floorboard in 2010. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Yully Rojas paddling RCF boat with floorboard in 2010. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

I have sometimes taken a small lancha from Iquitos to Chino (an 8 to 10 hour journey often shared with a boat full of people, chickens, fish and bags of charcoal), but Luke, Amrit and I were lucky that our friend Gerardo, an extension worker with RCF, was available and willing to take us there in their motorboat as long as we paid for the gas. While these trips are not guaranteed to be speedy (we once had to paddle the boat to a nearby village with floor boards when the engine conked out), we made it comfortably to Chino on this Tuesday without incident.

The rainy season was over, but water marks more than a foot above the already elevated first floor on the walls in the RCF lodge showed that this year’s floods had been very high for the second year in a row. In past visits, I’ve share the four bedroom space with as many as a dozen students from Grand Valley University doing an Amazon field course with RCF President Jim Penn, but this time, we had the place to ourselves with Gerardo. The house is no luxury eco-lodge, but having access to a flush toilet, cold shower, gas stove, a generator for light and laptop, and a bed covered with a mosquito net canopy was a welcome upgrade after much more rustic conditions in the Ampiyacu.

Campbell Plowden buying chambira basket from Chino artisan. Photo by Amrit Moore/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Campbell Plowden buying chambira basket from Chino artisan. Photo by Amrit Moore/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

We spent most the next two days watching the artisans and buying their handiwork. They have a well-deserved reputation for making a great variety of baskets woven with chambira palm fiber that has been dyed with a rainbow of local plants. I had bought many of these during past visits at a “feria” (fair) in the same simple building where coop members display their crafts to visiting guests from the Amazon Adventures lodge upriver. This time I had placed an advance order to buy dozens of woven frogs, particularly small ones designed as Christmas tree ornaments.

Dina Peña with yellow frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Dina Peña with yellow frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Estelita Loayza with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Estelita Loayza with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

When arriving in Chino, I learned that my request for woven frogs had generated some confusion and discontent. The cooperative had split the order among interested members so the benefits would not be limited to the one artisan who had specialized in the making these frogs in the past. This division led to a fountain of new designs for woven frogs including the neat innovation of well-defined feet. See other photos of artisans with woven frogs. See photo album of Chino woven frogs on CACE Facebook page.

Orange woven frog ornament made by artisan from Chino, Peru. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Orange woven frog ornament made by artisan from Chino, Peru. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Red woven "jewelry box style" frog with clasp. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Red woven “jewelry box style” frog with clasp. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Unfortunately some women did not make their first frogs with a pleasing shape or imbue them with the personality of their master creator. To compound this problem, the original frog lady had not understood the details of my order so she and her fellow artisans presented me with a squadron of larger than life bullfrogs and only one of the ornament sized peepers I had wanted as a tree ornament. I bought as many of the colorful mid to super-sized hoppers as I thought I could sell in the next few years with hopes that tourists would buy the rest in time. Few artisans left empty-handed, though, since I also purchased my usual quotient of 40 woven baskets and pots.

Woven basket made by Chino artisan. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Woven basket made by Chino artisan. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

The lesson for me (that I learned the hard way three times the hard way this trip) and the artisans was very clear. Handicraft orders should include very specific dimensions and photos of the desired models. It is wrong to assume that just because someone has made something one year that they will remember how to make it the same way the next. That evening I did a slide show of all the baskets I had bought from Chino since 2008 and gave a CD copy of these images to Exiles (an RCF extension agent who lives in the community) to share with other artisans so they could see and replicate some of the stunning designs they have made in recent years. See sample photos of Chino baskets.

Chino artisan with rosario and huayruru seed necklace. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chino artisan with rosario and huayruru seed necklace. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chino artisans are also looking to expand their craft-making beyond weaving chambira. The day after the “feria,” most coop members gathered in the open-air common area (with a conical thatched roof) to practice making some complex necklaces with huayruru (Ormosia spp.) and rosario (Nothoscordum spp.) seeds. They used a hand drill mounted upward to drill a hole through the center of each seed and then strung them in patterns according to design specifications of a potential buyer. It was neat to see pairs of artisans working comfortably together to figure out the nuances of different models.

Amrit Moore drawing artisan with girl at Chino. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Amrit Moore drawing artisan with girl at Chino. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Amrit attracted the attention of girls and eventually a few boys as she sketched women stringing beads and weaving bags. She admired one multi-strand shiny red, black, and grey necklace so much that she asked Rosa to make a duplicate for her.

Pijuayo fruit at market in Pebas.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Pijuayo fruit at market in Pebas. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

While most Peruvian artisans have many plants to dye chambira various shades of yellow, orange, red, and brown, it is surprisingly difficult to find green plants that can impart a durable green color to this otherwise receptive fiber. This visit to Chino, I was happy that two artisans left the necklace-making session to show me how they use leaves of pijuayo palm (Bactris gasipaes) and cocona (Solanum sessiliflorum) plants to dye chambira green. Both plants are common in home gardens and fields throughout the region, although their fruits are harvested more for food than dye.

Pounding cocona leaf with rock. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Pounding cocona leaf with rock. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan Romelia Huanaquiri who had demonstrated other dye plants to me before escorted us to her backyard and used a pole saw to cut a long leaf hanging out from a modest-sized pijuayo palm tree and plucked the spear-like leaflets off the petiole (stiff central stem of the leaf). She then picked a handful of large plate size leaves from a cocona plant and brought them all back to her house. The next stages of processing both plants were the same. Romelia and her artisan colleague Lastemia took turns folding and smashing the leaves with a round smooth stone onto a large flat one.

Cooking chambira with pijuayo leaves. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Cooking chambira with pijuayo leaves. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Each batch of mashed leaves was then put into a pot with some water and a hank of clean chambira fiber to boil over a fire. Romelia removed the pot from the flame after ten to fifteen minutes, sifted out the chambira, and laid the strands on a table to dry in the shade. The pijuayo dyed chambira had a pleasant medium green tint while the cocona dyed batch seemed quite pale.

Romelia Huanaquiri soaking chambira with pijuayo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Romelia Huanaquiri soaking chambira with pijuayo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Romelia said that it had probably needed a stronger concentration of leaves and longer time boiling. The main reason why Ampiyacu artisans said they didn’t use these plants was that the color in dyed in chambira faded too quickly if exposed to water or sun. We plan to do some controlled studies with these and other plant dyes to test their durability.

Yellow catfish and bananas on canoe. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Yellow catfish and bananas on canoe. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Luke, Amrit and I had a chance to go fishing with Exiles, but the best fish we had were from a couple of large striped (Psuedoplatystoma spp.) and yellow catfish that Gerardo had bought from a local Chino man who had been dropping his line in the water all night. As we enjoyed our supper of fresh doncella, we were also treated to a gorgeous rainbow over the Tahuayo River.

Rainbow over forest on Tahuayo River. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Rainbow over forest on Tahuayo River. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Last year, Chino had decided to use its social rebate funds from CACE sales of its crafts to build a basic bathroom for its school children. It took many months to complete, but I was very happy to see that the job had been done well. It was a two-stall wooden structure with basic toilets. A tube had been connected to the gutter from the school roof to funnel runoff water from rain into a large barrel that stood next to the bathroom doors. Kids would need to scoop water from this barrel with a bucket to flush the toilet.

Exiles from Rainforest Conservation Fund at new bathroom in Chino. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Exiles from Rainforest Conservation Fund at new bathroom in Chino. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Luke made his own contribution to the kids in Chino by teaching English to the high school students for both days we were there. Teaching these classes in Chino and other villages was both inspiring for him and gave him an even deeper appreciation for the advantages of his education opportunities at home – benefits that many of his peers at his high quality public school take for granted.

The community meeting convened to decide how to use CACE social rebate funds from the past year of craft sales was due to start at the typical time of 7 pm. While it was a convenient time to gather after work and family dinners, it also coincided with the peak dinner time for mosquitoes. As people casually arrived, the growing assembly resembled an unchoreographed jerky dance as people randomly swatted their shoulders and thighs and stamped their feet. Within half an hour, Solis Zandromo, the Agente Municipal (top elected official in Peruvian villages) felt that a sufficient quorum of residents had arrived to proceed.

Gerardo Bertiz from Rainforest Conservation Fund helping to buy water pump for Chino bathroom. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Gerardo Bertiz from Rainforest Conservation Fund helping to buy water pump for Chino bathroom. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

I presented a brief summary of CACE craft sales from Chino and the amount now available. Proposals came from the floor to carry out various projects, but the group finally reached consensus on a plan to build a cement patio in front of the school so the kids could gather on a dry spot that was often pure mud. If there were sufficient funds, they would also upgrade the school bathroom with a larger tank on the roof so the toilets could be flushed at any time with water pumped from the river because there were often times in the dry season when there wasn’t enough rain to fill the barrel. I passed around a bag of buttered and salted popcorn to the attendees with appreciation for their reaching a decision before the mosquitoes totally devoured me.

Chino leader with water tank for bathroom. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chino leader with water tank for bathroom. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Back in Iquitos, Gerardo and Solis shopped around for supplies at hardware stores and quickly concluded that we actually had enough budget to finance both projects. I didn’t feel a need to accompany them to buy cement for the patio, but it was fun joining them to purchase the giant water tank and test out the pump. I look forward to seeing the upgraded bathroom during my next trip to Chino in the summer of 2014.

Other photos from the trip to Chino

Amrit Moore in palm spate hammock. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Amrit Moore in palm spate hammock. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Girls playing on monkey bars at Chino. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Girls playing on monkey bars at Chino. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Two kids at Chino. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Two kids at Chino. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Doncella catfish caught in the Tahuayo River. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Doncella catfish caught in the Tahuayo River. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chino artisans and a plethora of frogs

by Campbell Plowden

Below is a photo gallery of women from the Huacamayo Artisan Cooperative in the campesino village of Chino on the Tahuayo River in Peru who wove multi-colored small, medium and large frogs with chambira palm fiber for the Center for Amazon Community Ecology in July, 2013. Contact CACE at info@amazonecology.org if you would like to purchase any of these items. See accompanying story and photos: A fountain of frogs and a new bathroom for children at Chino. See photos of all woven frogs on CACE Facebook page.

Orange woven frog ornament made by artisan from Chino, Peru. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Orange woven frog ornament made by artisan from Chino, Peru. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology


Yermeth Torres with orange frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Yermeth Torres with orange frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sarita Mendoza with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sarita Mendoza with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Rosa Sanchez with orange frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Rosa Sanchez with orange frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Romelia Huanaquiri with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Romelia Huanaquiri with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Madita Sinarahua with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Madita Sinarahua with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Liria Enocaires with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Liria Enocaires with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Lastemia Ruiz with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Lastemia Ruiz with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Estelita Loayza with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Estelita Loayza with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Dina Peña with yellow frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Dina Peña with yellow frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Darli del Aguila with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Darli del Aguila with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Dalila Lopez with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Dalila Lopez with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Charlita Espinoza with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Charlita Espinoza with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Carmen del Aguila with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Carmen del Aguila with woven frog. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

The rosewood project in Peru – Part 1: Progress in Brillo Nuevo

By Campbell Plowden

Putting rosewood leaves in bag at Brillo Nuevo. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Putting rosewood leaves in bag at Brillo Nuevo. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

The CACE rosewood project began in the summer of 2012 when we collected and distilled some leaves from one rosewood tree near Brillo Nuevo in the Ampiyacu River region. It was the lone survivor of a few seedlings that Oscar López Flores’ father had brought with him from the Algodón River farther north almost 70 years. Oscar remembers growing up with these aromatic trees in front of his home that had long since been left to return to forest.

Bora man separating rosewood oil from distillate water. © Photos by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora man separating rosewood oil from distillate water. © Photos by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

The oil that we extracted from this tree had a wonderful aroma, but we would clearly need more than one tree to create a community enterprise that would make and sell rosewood oil. Read full story about Oscar’s rosewood tree.

Juan Silvano with young rosewood tree. Photo by C. Plowden/CACE

Juan Silvano with young rosewood tree. Photo by C. Plowden/CACE

We got a look at what such a project might look when we visited shaman Juan Silvano and saw some of the thousand plus rosewood trees that he had planted near his eco-lodge on the outskirts of Tamshiyacu. While most of his fellow rosewood planters had stopped pruning their trees many years ago when government support for the project evaporated, Juan still hoped that he would be able to find a good partner to make essential oil from his rosewood trees and other medicinal plants. Read full story about rosewood and ayuhuasca at Juan’s center.

Rosewood seedlings and scions at Jenaro Herrera. © Photos by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Rosewood seedlings and scions at Jenaro Herrera. © Photos by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

With encouragement and funding from the Marjorie Grant Whiting Center, we combined forces with the NGO Camino Verde and contracted the Institute for Investigations of the Peruvian Amazon (IIAP) to use rosewood cuttings and seeds from rosewood acquired from the Tamshiyacu River region to produce 1000 seedlings to plant at Brillo Nuevo. See full story about rosewood seedlings at IIAP nursery.

Robin van Loon from Camino Verde, Yully Rojas from CACE and Bora family who planted rosewood seedlings in their forest field. Photo by Italo Melendez/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Robin van Loon from Camino Verde, Yully Rojas from CACE and Bora family who planted rosewood seedlings in their forest field. Photo by Italo Melendez/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

By February of this year, the nursery had produced 900 good seedlings that were taken by truck, ferry, speedboat, motor canoes and backpacks from Jenaro Herrera to fields around Brillo Nuevo. Robin van Loon from Camino Verde then worked with four families (chosen by lottery) to plant 225 seedlings in a half-hectare plot of each family.See more photos about rosewood planting at Brillo Nuevo.

Luke Plowden and Bora man measuring rosewood seedling at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Luke Plowden and Bora man measuring rosewood seedling at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

This summer we organized a team of young Bora men to check on the status of the rosewood seedlings in the four plots around Brillo Nuevo. Half of the team including CACE volunteer Luke Plowden first counted the number of rosewood seedlings that were still alive. They then recorded the height, width, number of leaves and general condition of twenty seedlings selected at random in each area.

Measuring soil humidity near rosewood seedling at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Measuring soil humidity near rosewood seedling at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

The team also used a battery-powered probe to record the soil moisture near these sample plants. While we had heard complaints that some plants had been stolen and saw that a few had withered to leafless stems, it was good to find that at least 90% of the plants were alive in each plot and most were in very good shape.

Bora men photographing insect at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora men photographing insect at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

While one crew was taking these measurements, four other fellows used digital cameras to take pictures of the measurers and sundry critter and plants in the field. This was our first photography workshop designed to help the Bora document their activities and nature in the forest, field and around their own homes. See photos of insects and frog in the field.

Red lip plant with water at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Red lip plant with water at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

On the next day of the monitoring, we reversed the roles so the photographers learned to use the measuring tape, GPS and humidity gauge while the first group got lessons and practice using the cameras. We gathered in the evening to review the day’s images with the group when we had reliable power and functioning computers.

it Moore and Bora man drawing chambira palm at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

it Moore and Bora man drawing chambira palm at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Our Amazon Field Volunteer Amrit Moore was beginning another kind of documentation on the first day of the rosewood monitoring. She sat on a log and drew colored sketches of chambira palm trees – the most important plant for making crafts in the region since fibers are pulled from its leaves to weave into almost every handicraft.

Felix Flores sketch of chambira palm. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Felix Flores sketch of chambira palm. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology


Amrit was joined by Bora woodsman Felix Flores Vega who showed that he had good potential to develop as much skill with a colored pencil as he already had with a machete. Amrit is now working to make illustrations for all of the major Ampiyacu craft plants for a resource manual to be shared with all of the artisans in the region

Go to: The rosewood project in Peru – Part 2: Rosewood in the Ucayali

To learn more about or support this project, please visit http://www.AmazonAlive.net or http://www.AmazonEcology.org.

Campbell Plowden measuring rosewood seedling at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Campbell Plowden measuring rosewood seedling at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Yully Rojas doing training Bora men to use GPS. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Yully Rojas doing training Bora men to use GPS. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora man measuring rosewood seedling at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora man measuring rosewood seedling at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Yully Rojas and Bora team recording rosewood seedling growth. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Yully Rojas and Bora team recording rosewood seedling growth. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Amrit Moore drawing chambira palm tree. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Amrit Moore drawing chambira palm tree. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Luke Plowden in field with rosewood seedlings at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Luke Plowden in field with rosewood seedlings at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Luke Plowden and Amrit Moore on canoe at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Luke Plowden and Amrit Moore on canoe at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology