Thursday, August 07, 2008

Rosa the Peruvian activist: helping people help the rainforest

A child in the Amazon village of Comandancia.
Photo by Sally Kneidel

I really want to help Rosa. Especially since I'll be helping the rainforest and Amazonian villages at the same time.

We met Rosa Vasquez in Peru in June, when we stayed at her family's hostel in Iquitos, Hospedaje La Pascana. Rosa runs a travel agency at the hostel and she's really good at it. She helped us change a lot of our travel plans after we left the Amazon, giving us great advice for the Andes which I've mentioned in my last 3 posts. I'm very grateful to her for that help. It made a huge difference in our trip.

But Rosa, as we are learning, is a lot more than a travel agent. She's also an environmental activist and humanitarian. I just found out today that she serves on the board of a ACDA, a highly-regarded nonprofit that promotes health and sustainability in Peru. Right now Rosa is focused on five remote villages along a tributary of the Amazon River.

An Amazon home near the village of Yanashi.
Photo by Sally Kneidel

Rosa travels back and forth between the hostel in Iquitos and the five villages. She can't always answer my emails right away - there are no computers or even electricity in these villages. The villages are in the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Communal Reserve (ACRCTT), a critical area for conservation. The rainforests of the region have a mind-boggling diversity of primates, 16 species!! These 16 species represent every South American primate family. There are few places in the Amazon that have as many as that - maybe no other places, I'm not sure. The primates there include squirrel monkeys, tamarins, capucins, marmosets, night monkeys, saki monkeys....ACK!! I want to go there! Maybe next time....
A monk saki monkey in Peruvian Amazonia.
Photo by Sally Kneidel

Rosa's project is a health fair this September for the 900 people living in these five villages. The health fair will provide not only dental care and basic health care, but also reproductive health care and family planning, services that the villagers are eager to have.

Rosa sent me some info today from ACDA, advertising the health fair. The e-mail pointed out that the Amazon rainforest is the lungs of planet Earth. It said that ACDA is working to reduce the stress of human impact on the rainforest by educating and training local villagers to become stewards and conservationists of the forest, for the benefit of the world as a whole. "The health of the rainforest of this region depends on the health of these villagers who are trained to protect it," says the e-mail.

Children in the Amazon village of Santa Ursula
Photo by Sally Kneidel

Rosa and ACDA are right - the connection between family planning and stewardship is well established. All over the world, smaller families are more likely to be able to provide for all of their children's needs and send their children to school, where they can learn about choices in using natural resources. Right now, many or most Amazonian families rely on logging as their primary income - a practice that pays them very little, is dangerous, and is destroying the rainforest at an accelerating rate. This was something we learned and observed when we were there. Anytime we took our skiff out on the river, we passed local people floating downriver on rafts made of logs they were taking to sawmills. We passed the sawmills too. Sometimes we passed a single man standing on just one huge tree trunk, or a section of it. Just floating down the river to sell the wood. We didn't blame them, I don't mean it that way. They were doing what they felt they need to do to support their families.

A man floating a piece of tree trunk downriver to a sawmill, on a tributary of the Amazon River.
Photo by Sally Kneidel

Not surprisingly, ACDA's health fair is sponsored by the Rainforest Conservation Fund. And by Planned Parenthood South America. Ken and I have promised Rosa $50 for the health fair. Rosa's phone numbers, from the United States,are and 011.51.65. 233.466. Her email address is Call or email her if you'd like to make a donation.  You can also support this project by making a tax-deductible donation to the all-volunteer Rainforest Conservation Fund. Click here for the RCF webpage about how to make a donation.

My post about our trip to the Amazon is here.

All photos and text by Sally Kneidel

Keywords:: ACRCTT Rosa Vasquez ACDA RFA Rainforest Conservation Fund Planned Parenthood South America Peru Amazon logging timber industry sawmills primates tropical deforestation

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