Meet the Farmers
The farmers we work with are based in the provinces of Loreto and Ucayali. Our work is exclusively dedicated to working with subsistence smallholder farming communities. By smallholder farmers we mean farmers who manage their land with their own and family’s labour force, and whose primary income and subsistence comes from their land management activities. We only work with farmers who have title to their land because reforestation is a long-term investment and we want to guarantee the success and longevity of the project.
We are working with 63 different families. Read below to hear the stories of some of the farmers we work with.
Carlos (aged 63) has lived with his wife Carla in Nueva Esperanza, Ucayali, for 21 years. His daughter Judit and grandson Liam live at home with them. They built their home themselves, it is made of wood, and an array of hens, pigs and ducks wander in and out. Carla cooks the families meals outside, in a covered areas adjacent to the house over an open fuel food fire. Carlos owns 54 hectares of land. All of it has been deforested, and is now covered by invasive grass. This land cannot grow back as rainforest naturally. Carlos’ land is typical of this heavily deforested part of the Western Arc of the Amazon Rainforest where decades ago rainforest was replaced with pastures, and which has long lost it’s productive potential for ranching.
Plant your Future employs Carlos’ to run the new project tree nursery in Ucayali, which this year is producing a total of 14,000 fruit and timber saplings. He says “I am pleased to be able to learn from Plant your Future’s technical team.” It is immediately clear on talking to Carlos he is immensely proud of the tree nursery, and much of it’s success is thanks to his hard-work and dedication to it. His nursery routine varies depending on the weather but ranges from watering the saplings, planting out, germinating seeds to weeding and controlling insect outbreaks and other pests. His grandson Liam and wife Carla can often be found helping out too.
When he first moved to to Nueva Esperanza in 1997 he focused his attention on cattle grazing like many of the other farmers. At it’s height he had 47 cows on his land. He now only has 24 cows, which are looking thin. Carlos explains that the land in the rainforest is not well suited to cattle grazing. “Unlike in other parts of the world, the land isn’t very good for grazing cows here as the grass doesn’t grow very well and quickly becomes degraded. My cows have become very thin and don’t earn a good price at market.” For Carlos “the best thing about this project is that we are growing cocoa and cocoa grows quickly and has a local market so we can get an income fast. And in addition the charapita chilli pepper complements that, giving us an immediate income too”. Speaking further about the charapitas chilli pepper Carlos’explained “I’ve been growing charapitas chillies for years, and selling them has been a big part of my income. This helped me sustain myself, and enabled me to feed my family and send them to school. But the local price has really dropped recently.” The market provided by Plant your Future through the Charapita Hot Chilli Sauce is important for him. He says “Having a fair and fixed price to sell the charapitas chillies is a really good opportunity to improve our family income.”
Nancy has always lived in the rural Peruvian Amazon village of Nueva Esperanza. It’s about 1.5 hours away from the jungle city of Pucallpa, and only accessible by dirt track which can be impassible in the wet season. She lives in a small house on the village green with her husband, Jhonny and 8 year old son, Anghelo. Like many, they have no running water and meals are cooked over firewood.
At 24 years old, Nancy is the youngest farmer involved in our programme currently. A daughter of farmers, and now a farmer herself, she has a real passion for tree planting and is already thinking of the sustainability of the family’s farming practices. On one hectare of their land, through Plant Your Future’s programme, Nancy and Jhonny have so far planted 1100 trees — a mixture of fruit and forest species.
With an increasingly strong market in the region for Peruvian cocoa (and chocolate), the fruit tree focus has been on cocoa. Timber species Marupa, Mahogany and Shihuahuaco have been planted. Shihuahuaco is fast becoming rare in the Peruvian Amazon with rampant illegal logging of this much loved timber. But farmers within the Plant Your Future project — like Nancy — are choosing to nurture and protect it through sustainable reforestation for future generations. And while the trees grow, Nancy and Jhonny have planted a range of short-timber crops alongside the trees to give themselves an immediate income — they’ve already reaped harvests of charapita chilli, peanut, melon, banana and beans.
When asked why Nancy likes the project, her first thought is of Anghelo. “I like the project because it gives me the opportunity to help the environment, and for my little boy to learn and know the species.” She continues to say that “from the project, we hope to grow cocoa of a quality that we can export to other countries, as well as charapita chilli pepper — we have planted over 700 plants. Having an income from the sale of my cocoa will help my family.”
Maximo and his wife Felicita were forced to leave their home in Tingo Maria 23 years ago during the height of the Shining Path terrorist era. It claimed the lives of over 65,000 people in Peru, including Maximo’s Father. It was after his death that they fled overnight, leaving behind all their belongings.
Having now rebuilt their life in Ucayali, they have a farm of 12 hectares. Sadly, by the time they had arrived the land was already deforested and infertile. But Maximo is forward thinking. Prior to joining the Plant Your Future project, he had already made a start on reforesting under his own steam — collecting the seeds of his favourite timbers from the rainforest, he has already managed to restore 2 hectares. He is now excited to learn from the project’s technicians and install a higher density and money generating agroforestry system. As he puts it, he feels that being part of the project is like ‘a dream coming true’.
Talking about the project, Maximo said “I want people who walk past my agroforestry system to admire it and to be inspired to repeat it themselves, on their own land. He added “I want to bring back value to my land that has become valueless.”
As an older member of the community, he is concerned about the environment he will leave behind for his neighbours and grandchildren. But it’s not just for the human community — he wants to see forest cover being re-instated in and around for the vast biodiversity “Forest animals like monkeys, birds and forest pigs have a right like us to have food. They too are part of our family and we must reforest to give them back their homes.”