Above: medicine man Honorato Mishaja Shajao.
Contribute to a Community That's Conserving
In Peru’s Madre de Dios region, the Ese’eja people have, through the country’s indigenous peoples law, received legal title to more than 23,000 acres of land. Much of that land, spread across an extraordinarily biodiverse expanse of the Peruvian Amazon, is set aside for conservation purposes; and in the community of Infierno, the Ese’eja pursue their traditional way of life as sustainably as possible.
One of the major sources of revenue for Infierno's 200 families is a community-owned ecotourism business—but it needs your help to become even more sustainable. The community has no way to sustainably dispose of the waste created by visiting ecotourists, but they’ve come up with a smart solution: by using green technology, they can turn that waste into fertilizer and nourish the medicinal plants that have made the community a destination for travelers from around the world.
"Nature means everything to me because I was born surrounded by nature and alive today because of the nature that generates me income," says Federico Duran Torres, a community member who works on ecotourism initiatives.
“The biggest challenge for us is creating community projects that raise funds through tourism, agriculture and other things that are good for the community,” he continues. You can help the Ese’eja overcome that challenge.
Sustaining Natural Medicine
One of the community’s major attractions is the Centro Medicinal Ñape, where visiting ecotourists can learn about and help prepare traditional Ese’eja medicine. The Centro Medicinal Ñape aims to rescue and protect Ese’eja culture, including traditional medicine; and medicine man Honorato Mishaja Shajao and his assistants harvest herbs from the center’s ethnobotanical garden, which has been yielding treatments for patients since 1986.
The center’s ecotourism component, in operation since 2001, has provided the community with a much-needed source of income, but as its appeal has grown, its impact on nature has grown as well. “Nature has a lot of value to me,” Honorato says. “We must protect it so that it also protects us.”
To better safeguard Infierno's resources, the Centro Medicinal Ñape plans to purchase and install both improved sanitary systems and biodigesters. By organically breaking down tourist waste, the center can create nutrients that will help its ethnobotanical garden flourish and attract more visitors. By supporting the Centro Medicinal Ñape, you can create a sustainable cycle that turns waste into growth, tourism into more tourism, and ecological problems into environmental solutions.
At the Ese'eja eco-tourism lodge.
About This Project
This project is part of the Initiative for Conservation in the Andean Amazon (ICAA)—a USAID-supported program that is bolstering environmental protection efforts in the Andean region.
As part of its emphasis on sustainable livelihoods, the Rainforest Alliance is working through ICAA to administer a small grants program supporting hand-picked projects in the Peruvian Amazon that have proposed green ways to create income in their communities. All of these projects are committed to having a positive impact on the forest ecosystems on which they depend, and the Rainforest Alliance will work with the Centro Medicinal Ñape to ensure that the grant funds sustainable livelihoods.
By supporting Honorato Mishaja Shajao and the rest of the Ese'eja community, you make tourism more sustainable and help an indigenous community continue a long tradition of responsible environmental stewardship.
"Through eco-tourism, we can use the whole forest without spoiling it," Honorato says, "and earn money so we can preserve and protect the environment."
The Centro Medicinal Ñape.