Madre de Dios
This winter we took a deep dive into the Amazon rainforest. The Madre de Dios region of Peru is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, considered to be the largest remaining region of relatively intact tropical forest left in the world!
From the wild jungle town of Puerto Maldonado, we took a 10 hour boat ride up the Tambopata River to reach our destination -- an incredibly inspiring project, Camino Verde.
A rainforest of 1000+ species used to stand here. Now we see one species -- papaya -- which will be grown with heavy pesticides and shipped away to be eaten in a distant city. A few burnt stumps remain amidst the young papayas. This slash-and-burn method of clearing rainforest is a common means of creating space for intensive farming.
This is a recently emerging challenge here. While this area was historically isolated, without dependable roads to reach the nearest city, the creation of the Interoceanic Highway is changing the landscape. The highway spanning South America coast to coast - crossing Brazil and Peru - now makes it possible to transport fresh, perishable foods to the nearest city. Suddenly there is a big market for products such as bananas and papayas where there wasn't before. The response over the past ten years since the highway opened: deforestation has skyrocketed.
Camino Verde is grassroots reforestation project which is working to address the serious threat to this precious habitat. It was founded by Robin Van Loon to create economic opportunities for local people in an ecologically responsible way.
Since its conception in 2006, the good people of Camino Verde have resurrected land which was severely damaged by intensive farming in the past. They have turned this land into a Living Seed Bank - home to over 300 species of trees - including fruits, medicines, crafts materials and culturally significant species. Seeds and young trees are being grown and distributed to local communities with one major goal: create income through a standing forest, rather than clearcutting to intensively grow one crop.
Camino Verde is working to support jungle communities in keeping their forests intact, providing economic incentive for tree planting.
Moena Essential Oil
One product that Camino Verde is partnering with communities to produce is essential oil from the tree, Moena Alcanforada, pictured here.
Moena is a close botanical relative of the highly endangered Rosewood, which was overharvested due to the popularity of the fragrance Chanel No. 5.. The name Moena Alcanforada refers to the camphor-like scent and therapeutic properties of this tree. In traditional Amazonian medicine, the tree is regarded as having cooling properties, and used to reduce inflammation, especially associated with fever and heat such as arthritic conditions.
Camino Verde has worked with 20 families in four communities, planting over 5,000 trees on small farmers' land. Only the lateral branches and leaves of the tree are used, which are pruned to benefit the trees’ growth and health.
This is the largest reforestation of Moena in the world, and Camino Verde is the only organization in the world distilling this species. Camino Verde plans to plant thousands more of these trees on partner farmers' land, and to provide the growers with distillation equipment as a source of livelihood within a few years.
Look for this very special essential oil at Origins this season!