Building on Success: Expanding our Activities
If you’ve been following RCF´s activities for the last several years, you have probably noticed that we had focused our conservation work on the Tahuayo River and the 322,500 hectare Reserva Comunal Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo (RCTT). Together with our sister group in Peru, the Asociación para la Conservación y Desarrollo Amazónico (ACDA), our goals were to protect the reserve and support the communities located in the buffer zone of the upper Tahuayo River.
The courageous efforts of these communities and continued support from RCF and ACDA has been a success for conservation; so successful in fact that the reserve has been re-legislated and expanded in size, and a locally elected management committee (Comité de Gestión) has been mandated by the Peruvian government. Today, the 420,080 hectare Área de Conservación Regional Comunal Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo (ACRCTT) serves as a model for protected areas in the tropics, and in May 2009 the new reserve was recognized and established by the government of Peru in Lima (see link to official map in El Peruano on the RCF web page).
During the last two years we have been building upon our success by both expanding our work area and the number and types of projects that RCF funds. Since 2007 we have increased the number and scope of our collaborative projects with other communities and institutions in different areas of the Peruvian Amazon.
Continue for key examples of our progress and achievements during 2007-2009…
Improved and expanded protection of the reserve:
Since January 2009, we have worked with villages on the Quebrada Tamshiyacu. The northernmost part of the reserve, this area is home to several communities that have been in great need of assistance to manage their resources and will now play a key role as conservation partners for the reserve. Community conservation leaders from the Rio Tahuayo are brought to the Quebrada Tamshiyacu in order to share their experiences and expertise with the people there. We have also begun an agroforestry and environmental education project with the largest secondary school in the area. RCF has hired a new full-time extensionist and one part-time to assist with this effort. This is the first dedicated conservation work by an NGO on the Quebrada Tamshiyacu, an area that is of vital strategic importance for the reserve. At the same time, we continue to support the efforts and needs of the Comité de Gestión for the reserve in the Tahuayo River, as we help them to expand into the Quebrada Tamshiyacu.
Increased collaboration with rainforest communities and institutions:
We learned a great deal from communities across the Peruvian Amazon. Since 2007 we have had exchanges between experts across this vast region with experts from the Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo area that provide mutual benefits for all who are involved. For example, we have enlisted the help of experts in aguaje palm climbing from the Marañon River, experts in bee-keeping and honey production from the Maijuna communities of Loreto province, experts in agroforestry species and techniques from the Nanay and Itaya rivers, and medicinal plants from the Ucayali River. We have been visiting communities along the road to Nauta, and plan to have an expert in piassaba palm management join us soon. Residents of the Amazon have great skills and ideas to share; it is our goal to increase our networking capabilities so that communities and individuals can learn the best from one another.
Meanwhile, we continue to collaborate with an increasing number of conservation and development institutions. The RCF field station in Tahuayo helps facilitate this. While the station remains part of the Tahuayo community and residents of Tahuayo are still the main users of the station, use of this station by institutions has increased. This is important because of the many benefits that come with this, and is partly due to the addition of new RCF Board members during 2008 that have excellent relationships with diverse rainforest communities and institutions. Some of the institutions that have recently used the facility for educational purposes and community support include: El Comité de Gestión de la ACRCTT, Centro de Salud – Esperanza, Centro de Salud –Tamshiyacu, Planned Parenthood International, Universidad Nacional de la Amazonia Peruana (UNAP), Universidad Científica del Perú (UCP), Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonia Peruana (IIAP), Grand Valley State University, Saint Leo University, University of Florida, Western Michigan University and Penn State University.
Supporting women – Education, healthcare and economy:
From May 2007 to May 2009, RCF invested over $30,000 in family planning and reproductive health education in a joint project with Planned Parenthood International and our sister group, the Asociación para la Conservación y Desarrollo Amazónico. With the addition of a full time female specialist working in seven villages, over 90% of eligible women have received contraception. Men and students were also active participants, further enhancing the effectiveness and long-term impact of these programs. In 2009, we also hired a nurse to help with vaccination campaigns, prenatal and general healthcare in the buffer zone of the reserve.
Since 2008 we have been working with women who make artwork and crafts from the fibers of chambira palms (Astrocaryum chambira). The conservation and sustainable use of this species has been a serious concern near the reserve because of the increased demand for chambira palm products. Moreover, the income from chambira goes directly to women, who use the money for family necessities, and especially for the needs of their children. RCF has been providing equipment and footwear the women need to sustainably harvest the fibrous fronds of these very spiny palms. We have also donated tools and supplies that help the women to create their crafts. RCF has also introduced three new buyers of the crafts from the United States to the artisans, which has helped with sales of their products.
As always, RCF remains vigilant in its efforts to conserve biodiversity and cultural diversity in the Amazon. For all the gains we have made in the last two years, new threats will emerge. The search for petroleum and biofuel crop plantations now pose enormous threats to the Amazon – these threats will not go away. We are very grateful for your support, and hope that you will continue to join us in our efforts!
Jim Penn, RCF President July 2009