The chambira palm tree has been a vital resource to people in the Peruvian Amazon for thousands of years. Its leaves yield a fiber which is longer and stronger than hundreds of other palm species. Its little nuts provide a tasty and nutritious coconut.
In the past, people got enough chambira fiber from the trees which arose through natural regeneration in their farm fields which they allowed to go fallow after a few years of intensive cultivation of crops like manioc and corn. As artisans want to sell more crafts to improve their livelihoods, they need to increase the abundance of these trees which provide the most important raw material for woven crafts.
Their early attempts to plant more chambira were frustrating. They found that many of the seeds they collected below fruiting trees were infected with beetle larvae and never germinated. Other times when they planted good seeds in their fields, they were quickly carried off by rodents like agoutis and pacas who viewed them as a good source of food.
So Amazon Ecology contracted an artisan from the village of Chino on the Tahuayo River to share his experience creating chambira nurseries with artisans from the Bora community of Brillo Nuevo and other partner communities.
The key to success is looking carefully through a large batch of chambira fruits which have fallen below a tree and selecting ones which have already produced their first root. This shows they have escaped infection by the beetles. Next, these sprouted seeds are placed in a little nursery bag with their root facing down into the soil. These bags are then placed in a netted area in the artisan's backyard where they can be watched, watered as needed and guarded. When they have a young plant that reaches a couple of feet, they are mature enough to be transplanted to the artisan's field. They will now be safe from predation by the rodents.
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