Tea of the Amazon: context
In this project, alternative cultivation technique are being developped together with local Guayusa tea producers, also management plans are being developed for the surrounding forests. It is important to pay sufficient attention to the participation of local people in these productive projects, in this way we can ensure the sustainable management of protected areas and their buffer zone.
We are in the Central Ecuadorian Amazon Region. There are several indigenous communities living here, many at the edge of valuable forest areas and in very remote regions. It is not easy for these communities to get involved in the modern economic system.
Local partner RUNA found a sustainable product that also has and interesting economic side: guayusa (pronounced as "wajoesa"). Although the leaves of the tree ‘Ilex Guayusa’ have been used for centuries as a drink and have an important role in many local rituals, up until now the international market was never considered. RUNA introduced change and developed an innovative tea product in an attractive package. RUNA is not only a company but also a NGO, that works with the producer groups to improve their production, diversifying their chakras (fields) with agroforestry systems and managing their environment more sustainably. The VFTB project focuses on this last objective.
The project aims to improve the quality of life of 2500 native families in the Ecuadorian Amazon and to promote the protection and sustainable management of 200,000 hectares of native forest.
In this project, four different communities work together to develop management plans. Some of the communities have been working with us for a longer time because they produce guayusa tea. Another community is the Sápara, a small population that lives deep in the Amazon in still almost untouched tropical forest.
With the first group the aim is to link the production with protection and the management of the surrounding forest. With the Sápara, a management plan will also be elaborated and the possibilities for ecotourism will be investigated.
There will be three main lines:
- designing and implementing agroforestry management plans and forest protection in four pilot communities;
- formation of zeven existing groups of agroforestry producers in order to give information about organization of management, organic labels and fair trade;
- improving government policy on sustainable management of forest and agroforestry products based on experience within the project.
In addition, alternative products are sought to avoid the dependance of one product.
For example this project looks at the native variety of ground nuts and the leaves of the cinnamon tree to commercialize.