The Center for Amazon Community Ecology is pleased to welcome Robin van Loon as the newest member of the CACE Advisory Board. Robin is the founder and executive director of Camino Verde, a non-profit organization dedicated to planting trees in the Peruvian Amazon. He is a native of Massachusetts who has lived in Peru since 2001 studying traditional use of medicinal and economic plants in the Andean highlands and lowland tropical forest in Madre de Dios.
Three years after moving to the Tambopata River area, he founded Camino Verde in 2007 to launch the first viable reforestation projects in the region. The organization created and manages a “Living Seed Bank” that features ten thousand trees representing 250 species valuable for fruits, medicines, craft-making materials and timber. Camino Verde also makes tree seedlings available to local farmers as an alternative to slash-and-burn farming.
Officers of the Marjorie Grant Whiting Center for Humanity Arts and the Environment (MGWC) introduced Robin and CACE Executive Director Campbell Plowden to each other in 2010 to see if they could combine their distinct experience and methods to enhance forest conservation and support sustainable livelihoods in the northern and southern ends of the Peruvian Amazon.
MGWC funded two Plowden trips to Madre de Dios to visit Camino Verde’s reforestation site at Baltimori and financed van Loon’s first visit to several CACE partner communities in Loreto. This pilot project is now developing three cooperative themes:
1) CACE is helping Camino Verde to develop a scientifically based study of the sustainable harvest of medicinal latex from several hundred sangre de grado (“dragon’s blood”) trees planted at Baltimori in the Tambopata River region.
2) Camino Verde is the technical advisor and co-financer of a project to plant 1000 rosewood tree seedlings in secondary forest fields in the Bora native community of Brillo Nuevo on the Ampiyacu River. When the trees mature, CACE will work with the community to distill the leaves into a marketable fragrant essential oil.
3) CACE and Camino Verde are conducting trial distillations of leaves and branches from several sister species of “moena” trees to develop novel essential oils from Amazon rosewood relatives (family Lauraceae). Promising products will be developed for sale to fragrance companies to generate income for forest communities.
Both groups seek ongoing support for these initiatives. Donations may be sent to support them through the online non-profit funding platform Global Giving. The CACE campaign – Project # 12229 will “go live” on November 26.
"While concepts like punctuality, mutual respect, no put downs of self or others, and listening when someone else is speaking may seem like obvious guidelines to form a positive community, a commitment to actually practice and hold each other accountable to observe these agreements is profound in a culture where showing up late, malicious gossip, and interrupting a speaker are painfully common."
"Artisan facilitators should of course share what they know, but beginning and experienced artisans all benefit by remaining humble, enthusiastic about learning, and committed to encourage and affirm their fellow artisans. So many artisans said that the thing they most wanted to bring back to their communities was this spirit of working in a mutually supportive environment."
"Both men and women wore garb made with bleached llanchama tree bark painted with graphic figures from Bora clans. Several wore headdresses made with the feathers from macaws and parrots. They discussed the importance of nature and craft-making in their culture and then launched into a lively dance where the men chanted and pounded sticks into the ground to the rhythm of moving around in a circle. Visitors joined the undulating lines to share the vibrant energy."