Tag Archives: rosewood

Producing the first essential oil from rosewood trees at Brillo Nuevo

Heliconia flower montage at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

Heliconia flower montage at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

Three years ago we began an exciting joint project with our partner Camino Verde by planting almost 1000 seedlings of rosewood trees in the Bora native community of Brillo Nuevo (see Global Giving Report #8). Our aim was to help families create a long-term sustainable source of income by carefully harvesting leaves and branches of these aromatic trees and distilling them into a valuable essential oil.  Our other goal was to promote the recovery of this endangered species brought to the verge of extinction by unlimited harvesting of whole trees for the perfume industry.

Campbell and Bora team members measuring the width of a rosewood tree at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Tulio Davila/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Measuring a rosewood tree at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Tulio Davila/CACE

Our project reached an important milestone this month when our friend Robin van Loon from Camino Verde joined us again to lead the first harvest of material from healthy young rosewood trees planted in the forest fields of five families.  We began by recording the size and condition of every tree. While the seedlings had been planted in the same way, they had fared differently according to the characteristics of the site and management style of the owner.

 

Measuring rosewood tree seedling height at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Measuring rosewood tree seedling height at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

A few men had regularly cleared weedy vegetation that could compete with the juvenile rosewoods; one fellow pretty much allowed nature to take its course.  While half of the trees had died since 2013, Robin complimented the owners that their overall efforts to care for these trees had produced a much higher survival rate than other attempts to reforest rosewood in Peru and Brazil.  One of the plot owners Brito said, “I’m very content that most of my trees are still alive.  It’s important to realize that these trees grow more slowly than many others and don’t mind some shade.

Robin van Loon discussing pruning strategy with Bora team at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Discussing pruning strategy with Bora team. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

We did our first round of monitoring on a cloudless day under an intense tropical sun.  As we shifted to collecting rosewood material on the second day, we surrendered ourselves to working in the rain.  Robin showed the team how to cut small branches with pruning shears and how to use a pruning saw to harvest larger branches with a series of three cuts.  Plot owner and talented carver David observed, “It was amazing to see how much better my rosewood trees looked after removing some dead wood and a few lower branches with leaves we can distill.  I suppose this is science, but it feels more like a kind of art I can practice to shape and care for my trees for a long time.  Some of them will eventually produce seeds we use to plant more of these beautiful trees all around our community.”

Rosewood team returning to Brillo Nuevo in rainy season. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Rosewood team returning to Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

Our prime adventure of the day was wading up to our armpits to cross an engorged stream en route to Dolores’ field.  I was deeply relieved when she steadied our videographer Tulio’s arm just as he slipped off a submerged log and was about to plunge his camera in the water.  Navigating around wasp nests on the underside of leaves on the trail and rosewood trees was a challenge that usually succeeded but sometimes resulted in painful stings.  This site was the most distinct since it was on a slope, and most of the rosewood seedlings had been lost to unchecked regrowth of forest tree pioneers.

Weighing rosewood leaves collected at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Weighing rosewood leaves collected at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

After Dolores took on the task of caring for this field, however, the survivors had become the most robust and tallest rosewood trees we found.  While we collected five to eight kilograms of leaves and branches from other fields with many small trees, the few four to five meter tall trees in this distant plot easily yielded 12 kilograms of material.  Dolores said, “It was great to receive my first payment from these trees.  As they keep growing, it’s easy to see how we’ll be able to collect more material each time we prune them and provide some more money for my family.”

We invited two members of the rosewood team to go to Iquitos with us this time to distill the rosewood material.  It was fortunate that Oscar and David drew the lucky numbers since they and Robin figured out how to clean out the stalled motor of the grinder that had not been used for a while.  Oscar immediately appreciated the efficiency of this machine since the last time we distilled material in Brillo Nuevo, he and two other men had spent hours chopping branches into bits with their machetes.

Feediing rosewood leaves into shredder for distillation. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Feediing rosewood leaves into shredder. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

Once the shredder got working, we quickly fed leaves into the top hopper and straight branches through a cone to the larger knives.   We poured five gallons of water into the outer tank of the distiller and then packed the inner tank with about 20 kg of finely chopped green aromatic material.  An hour after setting the tank to boil, the first drops of golden oil began to flow into the collecting glass along with fragrant hydrosol – the water used in distilling plants that absorbs some its aroma.  While the oil is the most valuable product of the process, we also hope to market the hydrosol as an ingredient in natural cosmetics.

Our yield from distilling the rosewood material from Brillo Nuevo was modest, but it was a good start.  Leaves tend to have less oil than branches, and this first batch collected from young trees had a relatively high proportion of leaves.  The amount of oil we will be to extract should increase over time as the trees continue to grow and produce larger branches that can be carefully removed without damaging the tree.  This principle seemed to be confirmed a few days later when we collected material from 11 year old rosewood trees from a campesino family’s field near the town of Tamshiyacu.  The yield of oil from these older trees was 30% higher.

Collecting rosewood oil from Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Powden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Collecting rosewood oil. Photo by Campbell Powden/CACE

Oscar described his experience with the rosewood project this way – “I fondly remember the aroma of a few rosewood trees that my father had brought from the Putumayo to plant in our front yard.  I really appreciate the chance to plant rosewood trees in my field in Brillo Nuevo now and learn how to use this distillation equipment to make oil from it.”  He concluded, “Our goal isn’t to create big plantations of rosewood trees.  The Bora have an old tradition of planting many kinds of trees to produce fruits, fibers and medicines (a well-documented process called agroforestry).  It’s great that we can now include valuable rosewood trees in this mix.”

 

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Listening to artisans in the Ampiyacu

Angelina Torres and her family of artisans in the Bora community of Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

Angelina Torres and her family of artisans in the Bora community of Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

The Center for Amazon Community Ecology aims to promote conservation, create sustainable livelihoods and build stronger communities in the Peruvian Amazon by helping native and mestizo artisans to develop and market innovative handicrafts and novel essential oils.

We began working with the Bora community of Brillo Nuevo as a pilot project site in the Ampiyacu River area in 2009.  In recent years we have organized skill-sharing workshops so veteran artisans can teach others how to make new kinds of crafts.  This growth in the number and skill of partner artisans as well as our increasing capacity to market their crafts has allowed us to gradually expand our program to eight of the fifteen villages represented by the native federation in the region.

CACE intern measuring chambira yield with Bora artisan at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

CACE intern measuring chambira yield with Bora artisan at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

Surveys done in the field with artisans have given us an idea about the current stocks of chambira palm trees and the amount of palm fiber needed to make different types of crafts.  While our general goal has been to continue building artisan capacity to make and sell more quality handicrafts, the GlobalGiving Feedback Fund has given us a valuable opportunity to ask our partners about their economic realities and dreams, and how making more crafts with our without our assistance could help them achieve their goals.

With assistance from GlobalGiving staff and a team of international affairs students studying monitoring and evaluation at the New School, we designed a survey to ask artisans to respond to questions in four areas: sources of family income, expenses, assets, education levels, personal and family goals, and handicraft production.

We contracted Peruvian videographer Tulio Davila to conduct the survey because he was well known and trusted by the artisans due to his previous work with them in workshops and making instructional videos.  In the course of two weeks, Tulio spent an average of one hour speaking with 18 artisans from three villages – about one third of the artisans we routinely work with.

CACE paying Bora artisan for woven hot pad at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

CACE paying Bora artisan for woven hot pad at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

We learned a lot from this first round of surveys.  It’s been obvious from the beginning that our partners don’t have much money; this survey gave us a sense of the upper and lower range of income in the village and how important selling crafts is to many families.  It was also interesting to learn that CACE is the major craft buyer from some artisans and a minor one for others.  We had assumed artisans wanted to sell more, but asking them to describe their goals for one year and five years gave them a chance to set craft production targets and showed us how many more crafts we would need sell to help artisans meet their goals.

Two-story house in Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

Two-story house in Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

Learning how artisans spend their limited income now and what they want more for has given us valuable insights into their evolving expectations and aspirations.  In the past, people wanted enough money to buy a few basic items (like soap, salt and kerosene) to supplement their subsistence lifestyles.  As access to electricity increases through wider use of gasoline generators and connections to power lines from cities, lighting, TV, and DVD players have become common.  Many people now want bigger houses, bigger boats and engines, chain saws, refrigerators, and nicer clothes.  A few want to raise fish, raise cattle or expand the size of their fields.  Some goals are focused on increasing their means to increase income while others describe the amenities they could get with more money.

Confirming that our partners have materialistic aspirations was not surprising but revealed something important.  While artisans are well aware of the challenges, most families want to at least try to stay and improve their standard of living in their remote villages.  Recognizing this has significant implications for our work and forest conservation.  One is that we need to try and help our partners increase their income from sustainable enterprises even more than we had expected.  Their desire to make money is growing, and it may not matter much if the way they attempt to do so is illegal or damages the forest.

Bora children playing at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

Bora children playing at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

The stakes for success seem higher in another way we hadn’t considered before.  Families have often worked hard to help their children learn a professional trade so they can build a life outside the village, but it seems the trickle of entire families leaving the villages is increasing.  Adults want to get regular and higher paying work, and they want their children to attend higher quality grade schools.  This emigration threatens to create a downward spiral in local development because the regional government will close down secondary schools if their enrollment drops below a minimum number of students.  If the villages at the frontier of the forest continue to shrink, there will be fewer and fewer people with a vested interest in keeping the forest intact to support their low-impact lifestyles. This will leave the forests more vulnerable to predatory exploitation by outsiders.

The other types of lessons we learned from this first survey were that questions need to be asked in a way that matches peoples’ normal frames of reference.  We initially thought that since most people do not keep any records about their earnings or expenses, we would get the most accurate responses by asking people to provide monthly “averages” for certain sources of income or types of things they paid for.  It turned out that the artisans we spoke with had the best overall recall when asked about the previous six months of economic activity combined.

Bora artisan with daughters and woven bag in Puca Urquillo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

Bora artisan with daughters and woven bag in Puca Urquillo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

Our imprecise phrasing of one question greatly slanted its perceived meaning.  We expected that many families would say that a key long-term goal would be to provide a better education for their children.  A few did express this, but this response may have been low because our question unintentionally seemed to ask them to mention concrete objects they could buy like a TV or chain saw rather services they might need to pay for like school tuition.  We corrected these issues before carrying out a second round of interviews.

Bora artisan from Brillo Nuevo making chambira palm fiber bracelet. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

Bora artisan from Brillo Nuevo making chambira palm fiber bracelet. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

While artisan surveys provided thoughtful and insightful answers about their goals, the amounts of time, material and money they thought they would need to achieve these goals often seemed based on imprecise and unrealistic estimates and faulty basic math.  The message to us is clear.  Artisans need to continue mastering their craft, but we also need to help them better understand the quantitative aspects of managing trees, processing fibers, and selling crafts.  We have done studies that provide solid data about these issues.  Our next task is to teach the artisans how to derive and work with these numbers on their own.  This will be a critical step toward truly empowering them to improve their lives and safeguard the forests.

Miguel, Celestina and Rosewood Trees in Tamshiyacu – November 8, 2015

Juan harvesting rosewood branch

Juan Silvano harvesting rosewood leaves from Miguel’s tree. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

One highlight of my recent trip to Peru was spending a day with Miguel and Celestina – a couple who live in Tamshiyacu, a small town that is about an hour and a half by Iquitos by speed boat.  I first toured their farm a year ago with our local contact Juan who introduced us to a few families that had planted rosewood trees in a community development project around 2003.

 

They warmly greeted us in their home filled with their children, grandchildren and dogs.  Other families in the area had either sold their land or sold the rights to their rosewood trees to a new company making essential oil.  I was pleased that this senior citizen couple wanted to work with us to manage the rosewood trees they had left on their property.

Motorcar from Tamshiyacu

Motorcar from Tamshiyacu. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

Heading out with machete and large collecting basket, our project manager Yully, Celestina and I sat in the back seat of a motorcar while Miguel and CACE videographer Tulio perched in the luggage rack in back.  We soon got beyond the paved road in town and traveled for miles on dirt roads that were rutted but solid since the “dry” season rains were not intense.   Twenty minutes out, we passed by some rough wooden buildings with tarp roofs in a clearing made by roughly hacking down a section of rainforest.  The government was creating these new settlements by giving land rights to poor families seeking a place to farm.

 

Miguel squeezing sugar cane

Miguel squeezing sugar cane with wooden press.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

The motorcar dropped us off at a tiny trail entering the woods on the other side of the road and promised to pick us up at the end of the day if we could reach him on his cell phone.  After a half-hour hike, we reached Miguel and Celestina’s plot that they had legally acquired over twenty years ago.  They had planted yucca (also known as cassava and manioc) as their main staple food.  Pineapples, umari fruit, and Brazil nuts were their main commercial crops.  Sugar cane provided snack food. They hoped that selling rosewood material could increase their modest income.

 

Miguel attaching tag to rosewood tree

Miguel tagging rosewood tree on his property. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

We got to work tagging and measuring all of the rosewood trees that were still alive a dozen years after the donated seedlings were transplanted into their field.  Some were vigorous tall trees that seemed good to maintain as a source of seeds in the future.  Many had grown to 30 feet tall and seemed good candidates to be pruned to provide branches and leaves for distilling.  A few were still no bigger than seedlings that might grow if exposed to more light.

 

Tulio measuring rosewood tree diameter

Tulio measuring rosewood tree diameter. Photo by Campbell Plowden/CACE

After four hours of hot hard work, we gathered under their rustic shelter built to protect bags of charcoal they were soon going to sell.  Miguel then cut up and gave each of us a whole pineapple to savor – the freshest and sweetest I had ever had in my life.

We promised to return soon to do our first modest harvest to make a small batch of rosewood oil. We will need to undertake this task carefully, though, since many of the trees have grown very large and will need to be pruned carefully to keep them healthy and produce good material for distilling in the future.

CP Yully Miguel Celestina at Tamshiyacu

Miguel, Celestina, Yully Rojas and Campbell Plowden. Photo by Tulio Davila/CACE

In addition to helping this couple in the coming years, we hope to learn a lot about rosewood tree growth and management that we can apply to our rosewood project at Brillo Nuevo being developed with our partner Camino Verde.  Those trees are now almost three years old, and we expect to conduct our first experimental harvest in early 2016.

Amazon Connections #8 Photos

Monitoring weevil trap on copal resin lump at Jenaro Herrera.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Monitoring weevil trap on copal resin lump at Jenaro Herrera. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Copal resin lump in sustainability study at Jenaro Herrera. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Copal resin lump in sustainability study at Jenaro Herrera. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Floracopeia banner.  Photo by Floracopeia

Floracopeia banner. Photo by Floracopeia Ecology

Heart Magic distiller. Photo by Heart Magic

Heart Magic distiller. Photo by Heart Magic

Building a planter box for guisador with Bora artisan at Brillo Nuevo.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Building a planter box for guisador with Bora artisan at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Amrit Moore and Felix drawing craft plants. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Amrit Moore and Felix drawing craft plants. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

School bathroom built with CACE social rebate funds in Chino. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

School bathroom built with CACE social rebate funds in Chino. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Luke Plowden with stethoscope donated to Jenaro Herrera health clinic. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Luke Plowden with stethoscope donated to Jenaro Herrera health clinic. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Rainforest Ecoversity Center RECOVER near Pucallpa. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Rainforest Ecoversity Center RECOVER near Pucallpa. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Rosewood seedling and RECOVER staff. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Rosewood seedling and RECOVER staff. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Yermeth Torres with woven frog at Chino. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Yermeth Torres with woven frog at Chino. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

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

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

Mishquipanga leaves and young fruits. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mishquipanga leaves and young fruits. 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

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

By Campbell Plowden

See: The rosewood project in Peru – Part 1: Progress in the Ampiyacu

Recover - Rainforest Ecoversity Center. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Recover – Rainforest Ecoversity Center. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Near the end of our six weeks in Peru, my son Luke and I took a one hour flight from Iquitos to Pucallpa to investigate another rosewood oil project. This trip would have taken us five days to chug up the Ucayali River by lancha (ferry boat) since no roads link Iquitos to the outside world. I arrived in the city with a few disparate contacts, but a series of meetings led to me Limber Gongora – director of Recover (Rainforest Ecoversity Center).

Rosewood seedling under canopy at RECOVER. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Rosewood seedling under canopy at RECOVER. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Recover is a non-profit organization that does environmental education and rainforest restoration projects at its center just outside the city. When Luke and I toured the center we saw that each of the rosewood seedlings they had planted were shaded under a thatched shelter to prevent the sun from baking them. I was surprised to see that several years after planting, most of the seedlings were still only a foot or two tall. I’d heard that rosewood is not a pioneer species that grows rapidly in open sun, but I wondered if this growth rate was unusually slow due to the reduced fertility or increased compaction of the soil that was last used for cattle grazing.

Lush concession in Ucayali. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Lush concession in Ucayali. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Apart from his work with Recover, Limber is also working with the Lush Cosmetics company based in the United Kingdom to produce rosewood for export. While surveying forest lands belong to a Shipibo community, they discovered that the forest in a logging concession actually had more of this aromatic tree that had been wiped out in most of its former range. Lush ultimately took over the harvesting rights in this area and backed the purchase of an 85 gallon distiller from Heart Magic to process leaves, branches and wood from trees that were already on the ground.

Palo Rosa sign with Shipibo and scientific name at Recover center.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Palo Rosa sign with Shipibo and scientific name at Recover center. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

One valuable tip I picked up from Limber was that they had created their own version of a “rocket” (energy efficient) stove that allowed them to heat the still for a full run with a few pieces of fuel wood instead of having to buy and cart in an endless series of expensive tanks of gas. I wished I could have seen their operation, but it was too deep in the forest to reach with my limited time.

The Lush operation in Peru was getting a decent yield of oil, and they had already produced their first barrel. The company had not been able to ship it out yet, though, because they were still trying to sort out export regulations with the Peruvian government. The species is rightfully listed as a protected species with the Conventional on International Trades in Endangered Species (CITES) so procedures need to be adopted to demonstrate that making and selling this oil is being done in a sustainable way that does not aggravate the threatened status of this tree.

Campbell Plowden with FECONAU leaders in Pucallpa.  Photo by Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Campbell Plowden with FECONAU leaders Robert Guimaraes and Felipe Mori Guimaraes in Pucallpa. Photo by Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Shipibo artisan Esther Lopez Chavez with hand-made fabric. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Shipibo artisan Esther Lopez Chavez with hand-made fabric. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

During my stay in Pucallpa, I also met with two leaders from FECANAU (the federation that represents 33 Shipibo native communities in the Pucallpa region) and learned about their forest inventory activities in the Flor de Ucayali community and the group’s desire to develop their own operation to distill and sell rosewood and other aromatic oils. They seemed like good potential partners, but CACE does not yet have the resources to develop a new essential oil project beyond our current ones in Loreto. I did visit one Shipibo community, however, and bought a few of the beautiful hand-made Shipibo fabrics that CACE will try to sell on a limited basis.

My final stop in Pucallpa to learn about the management of rosewood was the IIAP (Institute for Investigations of the Peruvian Amazon) office on the outskirts of the city. The director welcomed me and brought me to the office of the man responsible for silvicultural research. He looked through his collection of thick reports on various trees, but they were none focused on rosewood. We then toured the nursery where hundreds to thousands of cuttings of several timber species were being cultivated in protected bins to study their genetic and growth characteristics.

Palo Rosa sign at IIAP herbarium in Pucallpa. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Palo Rosa sign at IIAP herbarium in Pucallpa. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

The only rosewood seedlings around were a handful of survivors of two rows planted in 2009 that an almost blank sign indicated came from Tamshiyacu. The researcher assured me that IIAP would be very happy to initiate a proper set of trials at their nursery if we wished to pay for it. His remarks were a potent reminder that the government invests few of its own resources into developing non-timber forest resources. The burden for doing such studies rests almost entirely with non-governmental groups who wish to develop these options for communities.

Patriot 6.5 hp shredder. Photo by Patriot Products.

Patriot 6.5 hp shredder. Photo by Patriot Products.

CACE now plans to purchase a Patriot grinder to shred small branches and leaves from rosewood and other aromatic trees in the Ampiyacu and other project sites into small chips. We will then feed these into a 20 gallon distiller we plan to buy from Heart Magic to extract what we hope will be beautifully scented oils that can be sold for use in perfume and/or aromatherapy. We will continue to share notes with Camino Verde that has purchased the same equipment and has already produced a trial batch of oil from a rosewood tree relative and aims to produce rosewood oil in the future when seedlings it has planted reach an adequate size to be pruned in a few years.

20 gallon essential oil distiller. Photo by Heart Magic

20 gallon essential oil distiller. Photo by Heart Magic

We have raised enough funds now to purchase the grinder and distiller in the U.S. which are not available in Peru. We now need to raise another $4000 to design and build our own “rocket stove” and pay for shipping and customs fees to get this equipment to our base in Iquitos. Learn more about this project and how you can support it at: http://www.AmazonAlive.net and http://www.AmazonEcology.org.

See: The rosewood project in Peru – Part 1: Progress in the Ampiyacu

Grasshoppers and other critters in a Peruvian Amazon field

by Campbell Plowden

Our mission for the day was to check on the status of rosewood seedlings planted in the fields of four families in the Bora village of Brillo Nuevo. We taught one group of four young men to use digital cameras to take photos of the other team measuring the seedlings. When we had enough shots of the basic tasks, we turned our lenses to capture images of critters hopping or flying about the leaves. These included multi-colored grasshoppers (even one with a sort of pointy horn on his head), wasps, assassin bugs, a butterfly, dragonfly, and tiny frog.

Thank you for providing tentative identification of any of these insects or frog as a comment. Learn more about or donate to this project at: www.AmazonAlive.net

Green grasshopper on leaf at Brillo Nuevo, Peru. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Green grasshopper on leaf at Brillo Nuevo, Peru. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Green horned grasshopper on leaf at Brillo Nuevo, Peru. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Green horned grasshopper on leaf at Brillo Nuevo, Peru. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Red spotted grasshopper at Brillo Nuevo, Peru. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Red spotted grasshopper at Brillo Nuevo, Peru. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Yellow and green grasshopper at Brillo Nuevo, Peru. Photo by Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Yellow and green grasshopper at Brillo Nuevo, Peru. Photo by Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Yellow and green beetle at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Yellow and green beetle at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Assassin bug on copal tree at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Assassin bug on copal tree at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Wasps on nest under branch at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Wasps on nest under branch at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Brown butterfly on hand with rings at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Brown butterfly on hand with rings at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Red dragonfly on leaf at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Red dragonfly on leaf at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Locust shell on legume tree leaf at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Locust shell on legume tree leaf at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Green frog on leaf at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Green frog on leaf at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Grasshopper in hand at Brillo Nuevo, Peru. Photo by Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Grasshopper in hand at Brillo Nuevo, Peru. Photo by Center for Amazon Community Ecology