by Kitty Jenkin, Cool Earth’s Project Manager
As Cool Earth’s Project Manager I occasionally get the chance to visit Cool Earth’s partnering rainforest communities. It is my favourite part of the job although, I won’t lie, it isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. The last visit we totalled up 114 hours of travelling, 24 hours of meetings and that’s not to mention the permanent sweat moustache. But I am always asked ‘what exactly do you do out there?’ so here you have it – what a rainforest trip entails.
– Day 1 –
Matthew, Cool Earth’s Director, and I are heading out to visit our Ashaninka Project in Peru. The last six months have seen a marked increase in land invasions and cocaine production in the region and so we’ll be visiting all three partner communities within the project to agree forest protection plans for 2014. Leaving Cornwall at 1:30 am, we fly from Bristol to Amsterdam and then on to Lima.
Good Day for: Meeting up with head of our Peru team Dilwyn Jenkins – an anthropologist with nearly 40 years experience working alongside indigenous communities. Bad Day for: Travelling continuously for more than 24 hours.
– Day 2 –
Good Day for: Reaching 4,800 metres in altitude crossing the Andes. Bad Day for: Watching lorries laden with hardwood heading to the coast.
– Day 3 –
A 4am start to reach the frontier town of Satipo for an introductory meeting with community members from the Rio Tambo, just north of our current Ashaninka partners. We explain Cool Earth’s model and are invited to visit the Tambo to meet the communities. They speak passionately about conservation, their distrust of loggers and how they ‘rape’ the forest. Two more hours in car to the dusty river port of Ocopa and then an eight-hour boat trip up the Rio Ené to our partner community of Cutivireni.
Good Day for: Having a last cold beer before heading into the forest Bad Day for: Seeing clandestine landing strips along the river that the narcos use to fly out their coca paste (the raw material of cocaine). There are 60 landing strips along the Ené alone and the hum of the narco planes becomes a familiar noise.
– Day 4 –
Today we have community meetings with Cutivireni and Camantavishi. The meetings include both the banal and the life changing. A teacher complains that children are attending school with ‘trendy haircuts’ whilst we also hear that malaria levels have fallen from 60% of the population to 30% thanks to an uptake in mosquito nets.
Good Day for: Visiting the village of Tsyapo for the first time where we sleep. Bad Day for: An official from the Ministry of the Environment warning that men are moving into communities that still have intact forest and marrying young girls to then start logging.
– Day 5 –
Start our walk to the third and most remote partner community – Parijaro.
Good Day for: Matthew’s glee when I have to be pulled after sinking in quicksand up to my chest. Bad Day for: Getting anywhere. We spend the whole day fording rivers and cutting through the undergrowth only to find we’ve made 3km progress.
– Day 6 –
Reach the community of Parijaro at 1,400 metres altitude after walking uphill for eight hours.
Good Day for: Protected forest. We walk past vast stands of Tornillo trees, currently Peru’s most sought after hardwood. Bad Day for: Being vegetarian. Served a spit-roasted giant rodent for supper.
– Day 7 –
All day community meeting with Parijaro.
Good Day for: Planning. With the key topics being land titling and coffee. Having returned from exile from the Shining Path in 2002, Parijaro still lack legal title over their land over a decade later. Securing the legal title is one of the most important steps in protecting the forest so Cool Earth is stepping in to help the process. At high altitude, Parijaro is ideally suited for growing coffee. The community want to develop their coffee crop into their main income source. Training workshops were arranged to improve their growing and harvesting techniques. Bad Day for: health. Parijaro has no first-aid trained person to provide medical help to its 59 families. The village is also the nearest place for the Voluntary Isolated Groups that live in the Ashaninka Communal Reserve and Otishi National Park to receive medical assistance. We’re currently raising funds for our ‘Strengthening Lives’ Campaign to provide medical training and access for all of our partner communities.
– Day 8 –
Workshops for 2014 community planning.
Good Day for: Seeing Peru’s second largest waterfall. Parijaro is actually Ashaninka for waterfall and community looks across at the 900-foot cascade. Bad Day for: We are shown cut trunk of a huge red mahogany tree that was illegally cut in 2004. Despite seeming to be the most remote place I have ever been, the forest is still at-risk from loggers.
– Day 9 –
Walk and boat trip back to Cutivireni.
Good Day for: Walking downhill for once. Bad Day for: The boat. We seem to hit every rock in the river, spring a lot of leaks, begin to sink and nearly capsize in a whirlpool.
– Day 10 –
Spend the day with Cutivireni community members.
Good Day for: Interviewing the wonderfully charismatic Julian who is President of the community association Tsimi. Bad Day for: Matthew, whose resistance to infection was somewhat obliterated last year after he got TB and who now has the most impressively infected toe that I have ever seen.
– Day 11 –
Leaving day. We visit the village of Saboroshiari before carrying on to Puerto Ocopa and then Satipo.
Good Day for: Cold beer and hot showers. Bad Day for: Being served tapir to eat for lunch. Again, I am vegetarian.
– Days 12 to 14 –
Begin our journey back to the UK, where we arrive three days later.