Previous Council for Cultural and Biological Diversity
2001 Annual Report


Ethnobotanical Gardens and Teaching Centers

Council for Cultural and Biological Diversity works to create ethnobotanical gardens containing food, fiber and medicinal plants. The gardens are used to teach and practice traditional medicine, rainforest conservation, and sustainabale forest management.

Council for Cultural and Biological Diversity Current Project

The Secoya Ethnobotanical Garden and Teaching Center

Secoya community elders
Secoya Community Elders
The Secoyas are an ethnic minority of the Upper Napo Region of the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest, numbering approximately 350 people in Ecuador and 350 in Perú. Their name, Secoya, means "People from the Multi-Colored River." In 1941 the Secoyas were separated by a war between Ecuador and Perú that divided the Secoya homelands. Their culture and ancestral lands are now imperiled by geopolitical borders, the encroachment and harassment of the petroleum companies, and the impact of colonization.

Secoya traditional elders and healers use over 350 species of medicinal plants. Over 100 of these are found only in cultivation in family gardens and are regarded as family treasures. The Secoya traditional elders refer to their plant lore as an umbilical cord that connects them to their past.

  "My vision awoke when I began to notice that the youth of my community no longer had the interest to learn about the uses of our medicinal plants. Since nobody else was, I began to study with the elders and I found what I was learning to be very interesting. By learning about the deepest knowledge of my elders and the reality of what nature offers us, I realized the need that we have to keep our relationship with the medicinal plants. Then the inspiration arose within me to make a garden of all of the various useful plants, not just the ones we have in cultivation but also the important forest medicines, to bring these to light and to share the importance of knowing and loving them and of their benefit to humanity.

My vision and purpose for this work is to serve my community, to transmit the wisdom and teachings to the children and students who today are naive about the importance of our true relationship with nature. What I wish to create is a center for the rehabilitation of our vanishing traditional wisdom about our relationship with nature and in particular the plants which help us learn these truths."

- Alfredo Payaguaje, Secoya ethnobotanist and author

Don Cesareo Piaguaje, an 80-year-old traditional elder and healer, together with a dedicated group of Secoya youth and elders, initiated the idea for a healing arts center and an ethnobotanical garden to practice traditional medicine. Its purpose is to produce traditional medicinal products and to propagate rare medicinal plants for reintroduction to the forest. The idea was discussed and approved at the 8th Annual Secoya Congress in May of 1996.

Don Delfin and Alfredo Payaguaje in front of the Tui'que'wu-e

The first phase of this project was the construction of a Tue'que'wu-e in the Secoya homeland. The Tue'que'wu-e is an ancestral lodge designed to serve as a gathering place and to provide a forum for workshops on traditional medicine. At one time these lodges could be found throughout the Secoyas lands in Ecuador and Peru. One of the last remaining lodges collapsed in a storm several years ago. This year Council for Cultural and Biological Diversity financed and coordinated the construction of a new Tue'que'wu-e which was completed in August, 2000.

The next phase of the project is the collection of important food, fiber and medicinal plants from the Secoya pharmacopoeia. These plants will be propagated in an ethnobotanical garden surrounding the Tue'que'wu-e. Additional lands will be planted with rare forest medicinals for the commercial production of medicinal plants and plant products for sale, to create a sustainable source of income for the garden and teaching center.

USKO -AYAR School of Amazonian Painting: New School and Ethnobotanical Garden Project

Students in front of the new Usko Ayar schoolhouse
Students in front of the new schoolhouse
USKO-AYAR was founded in 1988 in Pucallpa, Perú by Don Pablo Amaringo. Today the school provides painting classes for hundreds of youth, teaching love for nature through diligent observation and art activities. USKO-AYAR is an oasis of creativity in the jungle town of Pucallpa.

On any given day you can find the school full of kids of all ages and backgrounds blissfully painting and studying. Don Pablo urges them to visualize internally what they are going to paint and then reveal it. The work of Pablo and his young students, known as "neoamazonico," is marvelous and has been displayed internationally.



The objectives of USKO-AYAR
Detail of student's painting
Detail of student's painting

Council for Cultural and Biological Diversity helped finance the acquisition of a site for a second school in the area surrounding Pucallpa to allow the school to outreach to more rural people. With the construction of the second school, Usko-Ayar more than doubled its class size from 30 to 100 students. Council for Cultural and Biological Diversity is partnering with Usko-Ayar to help develop this school into a much needed cultural center where the youth will have the opportunity to learn not only painting, but also theater, traditional dances, music, ceramics, and other handicrafts.

Council for Cultural and Biological Diversity is also woking to acquire more land around the school site for the creation of an ethnobotanical garden to enhance the school's conservation curriculum.

For more information about USKO -AYAR School of Amazonian Painting, please contact:
USKO AYAR, Escuela de Pintura Amazónica - Jirón Sánchez Cerro 465, Pucallpa, Perú
Tel/Fax: (011-51-64) 573-088

Students study art, history and culture in the new classroom
Students study art, history and culture in the new classroom

Previous Council for Cultural and Biological Diversity ECUADOR
2001 Annual Report