Last Saturday 14th November 2015, four of us from the Alianza Arkana team went to the 30th Anniversary of the founding of the Shipibo community of Santa Clara, with whom we have been working closely for the last year and a half. We were accompanied by Jeiser Suarez, the Shipibo President of an indigenous non-profit called AIDI – the Asociación Indígena del Desarrollo Integral (in English, the Indigenous Association for Integral Development).
We are currently working with AIDI on two important projects.
One, together with the Shipibo community of Santa Clara is to rehabilitate an old maloka, which means a ceremonial center, in Santa Clara and turn it into a Shipibo Cultural Center, in which people from the community could show their craft work and where workshops could be organized in which elders of the community would teach the young people about key aspects of their ancestral culture such as plant medicine, stories and legends, songs and traditional crafts.
The other more long term project with AIDI is to create the first Shipibo-Spanish-English dictionary, which would be a key resource in helping conserve the Shipibo language and culture.
A fundamental aspect of our work at Santa Clara has been to integrate a permaculture project run by Marcos Urquia, our Shipibo permaculture expert, with the activities of the community’s primary school. Children have been involved in planting the first hectare of land attached to the school that we have developed, with the possibility, over time, of extending this to a further three hectares. This has meant them helping plant fruit trees and other plants and receiving classes and workshops linked to environmental education. For a good example of this, see a previous blog here.
It was great to see this project on the day of the anniversary as the banana trees have big healthy bunches of bananas on them, and the other fruit trees, as well as food crops like yuca, water melon, ajil (a Peruvian chile), and tomatoes will soon be able to be harvested.
These crops will be used to provide healthy breakfasts for the children who frequently go to school hungry and are, therefore, unable to concentrate on their studies. We have called this our ‘Grow and Cook’ project. To read more about this, click here.
The children can then use the dry compost toilet we have installed by the school, and their human waste will create ‘humanure’, which will then be used as fertilizer on the land. A good example of using nature’s cyclical processes, one of the key principles of permaculture.
One of the exciting things about this combined intercultural education and permaculture project is that it is now attracting the attention of the wider Shipibo educational community – to the extent that Profesor Eli Sánchez, a leading Shipibo linguist and expert on Shipibo culture, who is also a key adviser to Alianza Arkana, is organizing a visit to the project on November 26th this year during the upcoming week on Intercultural Education.
He plans to take a group of carefully selected intercultural teachers, who are committed to making the strengthening of indigenous cultural identity a foundation of their work, to experience at first hand and discuss the project with the key people involved – members of the community, our Shipibo permaculture expert, and the primary school teacher – there is one teacher for about 30 children of six different grades.
Profesor Eli Sánchez is also heading up the new initiative about Intercultural Education within ORAU – the indigenous peoples organization for the region of Ucayali. He is planning that after visiting the project, a number of the teachers will implement a similar project in the communities where they work, adapting the principles of the project to their specific local conditions.
This will be led by ORAU, who will look for funding to do this, and facilitated by Alianza Arkana who will provide technical support through our Shipibo permaculture expert.
Written by Dr Paul Roberts, Intercultural Education Director of Alianza Arkana