October 2014 Field Update – Major strides in our conservation projects

Major strides in our Amazon conservation projects; Acaté receives 501(c)(3), first foundational grants, and more!

Dear friends and supporters,


Over the summer, the Acaté Amazon Conservation team made significant strides on all fronts of our on-the-ground conservation initiatives in partnership with the Matsés indigenous people. We are excited to update you on the interval developments and long range vision for each program!

Economic Development

Far too often, conservation involves telling communities what not to do, rather than addressing the drivers of destructive activities and creating viable economic alternatives where few exist.

Our “Renewable Resins” program involves the sustainable harvesting and marketing of valuable tree resins such as copaiba, a medicinal tree whose resin has anti-inflammatory, anti-septic and anti-fungal properties. Its golden resin is also used as a base for cosmetics.

copaiba resin extraction amazon rainforest

Urbano makes a scaffold to reach higher up the trunk for extracting copaiba resin.

The first 50 liters of copaiba resin harvested by the Matsés were processed, packaged, and sold locally in partnership with Eco-Ola Amazonian Superfoods in the Iquitos markets!

This landmark initiative provides real economic alternatives, enabling indigenous communities to buy everyday items they need for their homes, and it allows them to be free of the destructive and dangerous timber-cutting jobs that would otherwise provide this income.

We are now planning with Matsés communities to scale the program with expansion to other villages, as well as explore the development of additional non-timber forest products for market diversification.

Traditional Medicine Initiative

Having witnessed other indigenous groups lose their traditional medicine during the process of acculturation, the Matsés approached Acaté to help them sustain their intrinsic systems of medicine as they struggle to adapt to outside influences in a rapidly-shifting and encroaching world.

Together, we launched the Traditional Medicine Encyclopedia. This cultural repository gives Matsés elders the opportunity to document, in their own language, their extensive knowledge of medicinal plants. This is a concrete first step toward protecting their ancient understanding of healing with the plants of the rainforest. Because the knowledge is written in the Matsés language, it is not directly accessible for bioprospecting companies that may try to profit from it.

Lucho and his Matsés son on a plant medicine journey

Lucho is currently teaching his son the tribal knowledge of plant medicine. For many Amazonian tribes, much of the knowledge accumulated over untold centuries was lost in the short years that followed outside contact. The Matsés have witnessed this and are working with Acaté to protect and transmit the wisdom of their elders.

What started as a pilot initiative has been expanded by the Matsés into 5 villages!

We have also launched the second phase of our Traditional Medicine Initiative, the Apprentices Program, which provides the framework for younger Matsés to accompany elder shamans in the forest to learn their healing knowledge and wisdom.

Ultimately, the Matsés leaders envision the Traditional Medicine Initiative evolving into a formal integration of their traditional medicine with ‘Western’ health care approaches, enabling their communities to benefit from the active and vibrant presence of both systems. It is not common for conservation organizations to include health in their mission, but at Acaté, we share the indigenous concept that the health of a people, their culture and forests are interlinked. Acaté President and physician Dr. Christopher Herndon has worked with tribal communities throughout the Amazon to integrate traditional systems in partnership with regional health providers.

Sustainable Agriculture

Small-scale slash and burn agriculture is one of the most important and least-addressed drivers of deforestation in the tropics. Don’t miss Acaté Director Bill Park’s recent post on the tropical permaculture project and its importance. In order to expand our permaculture project in the Matsés village of Estirón, Acaté has teamed up with Marina Ëshco Bai Unan. Marina is working on building a food forest in an abandoned farm adjacent to her house where she is planting Matsés staples manioc and plantains as well as coconuts and other fruit trees. Dave Fleck is continuing his work on accelerated successional agroforestry in another nearby abandoned farm. One of the key colonizer species is Sangre de Grado which grows well in poor soils. As these new farms come into production we expect that the need to fell forest for new farms will be reduced and the Matsés will have a regenerative source of food, shelter, medicine and income!

cocona fruit acaté amazon conservation

Ripe and ready cocona fruit, perfect for many traditional jungle dishes. ©Acaté

First Published Direct Oral Account of Matsés History

Acaté’s Field Coordinator, Dr. David Fleck (recently interviewed on Mongabay.com) has published with Matsés colleagues, the first written history of the Matsés people, as recounted by elder Matsés historian Manuel Tumí. Dr. Fleck has previously produced a complete dictionary of Matsés language to Spanish! Both publications were graciously shared and are available at the links above!

David Fleck and Matsés elder Manuel Tumi acate amazon conservation ©acaté

David Fleck and Matsés elder Manuel Tumi ©Acaté

Acaté Receives its 501(c)(3)

On August 11, 2014, Acaté Amazon Conservation was awarded 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service! This is a major milestone for our organization, one that is difficult and time-consuming to obtain in current times due to a significant backlog at the IRS in review of applications. We would like to take this opportunity to convey our great appreciation to Mongabay.org, who provided fiscal sponsorship while our application was under IRS review, enabling your donations to be tax-deductible until we received our own 501(c)(3).

Our First Foundational Grants

In the United States, the Acaté fundraising effort led by Development Director Dr. Noah Sabich achieved success with awards of our first foundational grants! We would like to express our gratitude to the Conservation, Food and Health Foundation and the Irwin Andrew Porter Foundation for their confidence in our organization and support of our Traditional Medicine Initiative. Acaté would also like to welcome our new team member, Devin Waugh, who has taken a major role in helping us in the exhaustive but vital task of writing grant proposals that provides support for our on-the-ground conservation initiatives.

Acaté presenting at the San Francisco Green Festival

Last, but certainly not least, permaculture design specialist and Acaté team member Tigré Pickett will be giving a talk at the Green Festival in San Francisco on Friday, November 14 at 3:30pm PST. If you are in the Bay Area, don’t miss the opportunity to hear first hand about the work Acaté is doing on the ground to protect the Amazon (and come by and get a t-shirt!).

This is it for now! We are working on some special and exciting developments in the field that we look forward to sharing in upcoming field updates.

If you feel strongly about the Amazon, its life and its indigenous peoples, then please make a contribution today! Your contributions are tax-deductible!


The Acaté Team

PS If you missed it, check out our interview with wildlife photography team, Stephen and Marlo Kirkpatrick. Their world-class photos of the rain forests in the Peruvian Amazon we are working to protect are some of the most personal and beautiful images we’ve seen. Check them out also on our Facebook page!

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