Community-Based Conservation

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Collaborative Community-Based Development
with the Yanesha in Amazonian Peru

For several years the Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development (CCSD) has worked closely with the indigenous Yanesha people living in the Palcazu River watershed of central Peru, one of South America’s most diverse but critically threatened regions.  This work takes a holistic approach to conservation, grounded in the understanding that the survival of biodiversity and the well-being of people living in biodiversity-rich regions are inextricably interwoven.  CCSD is helping the Yanesha build sustainable communities by developing the awareness, skills, and productive activities that will improve their lives while helping to preserve the resources and ecosystems on which their long-term welfare must depend.

Sustainable Development Project to Raise Majaz (Agouti paca)

We are collaborating with the Yanesha communities to raise majaz (Agouti paca), initially to provide high-quality protein for Yanesha families and eventually to generate supplemental income through sales in nearby markets.  The project is the first of several productive activities aimed at reducing wild harvesting, using the natural resources of the region sustainably, and generating employment opportunities.  CCSD is working with women in the Yanesha community of Santa Rosa de Chuchurras, who formed the Santa Rosita Women’s Association for the Management of Wild Species (AMMES) to conduct the project.  After completing the lengthy administrative process of gaining legal recognition for the project’s wildlife breeding facility from Peru’s National Institute of Natural Resources (INRENA), the project hired a specialist in wildlife breeding, who trained the women in the biology and domestication of pacas.  At the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Biological Station in nearby Oxapampa, CCSD staff trained the women in the plants of the region consumed by pacas.  The women then established gardens of fast-growing crops consumed by pacas (cassava, plantain, maize, cocona, and pituca) and planted native trees whose fruits are favored by pacas, with saplings supplied by CCSD’s experimental fruit tree nursery.  To supplement the animals’ diets, the women will gather edible fruits of wild plants identified by CCSD staff in areas near the cultivated plots.  With assistance from a builder, they constructed facilities to house the animals. They are now managing the day-to-day process of breeding and raising the pacas, applying the theoretical and practical information learned during their training.

Cultivation of Vegetable Gardens and Fruit Trees
in the Palcazu Valley, Central Peru

We are also collaborating with the Yanesha in a program of environmental education in the schools that combines understanding of basic concepts of ecology and conservation with ecological practice through cultivation of vegetable gardens as replenishable food sources.  Elementary and secondary students learn to recognize and respect the plants and animals in the surrounding forest and to understand the current problems affecting the area as well as the actions that they themselves can take to conserve their exceptional biodiversity.  Within this context the students come to appreciate what it means to have a species go extinct.  They also learn about traditional, ecological, and conventional agricultural practices, plant reproduction, the nutritive value of different plants, and the effects of fertilizers, insecticides, and fungicides.

To promote the practical use of the basic scientific knowledge presented in the classroom, CCSD staff work with parents, students, and teachers to construct, plant, and cultivate small vegetable gardens at the schools and in the communities.  At harvest time, the children use a portion of the produce to prepare food to share during school lunches and take the other portion home for family consumption.  Parents who assisted in planting the school gardens also work with their children to plant home vegetable gardens, where they apply the skills learned with school gardens.  Mothers in the community of Villa América also cultivated vegetables to supply to the comidería, a popular dining room that the mothers’ club has developed as a small business in the community.

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Director, CCSD, Missouri Botanical Garden, P.O. Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166 Phone: (314) 577-0871 © 2014