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 29 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.”
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.”