The Peruvian Cooperative
As many of our customers already know, many of the products we offer come directly from indigenous peoples and from small farming communities; something we take great pride in being able to say. One of the places that we feel is a shining example of this is with the groups of small farmers and wildcrafters who live in the Pucallpa region in South America, located on the banks of the Ucayali River, a major tributary of the Amazon River.
With a small initial investment, and through the efforts of various determined people, a cooperative was started. The vision of this cooperative was to work directly with communities all over the jungle who had small farms or who sustainably wildcrafted plants and herbs. Their goal was to create a business that would allow these peoples to stay on their lands, to raise their families and to continue their traditions as “civilization” continued to encroach on them, forcing many to leave their homes to find work in the cities. Since purchases of any of these products would go directly to the actual people who grow or wildcraft them, prices could remain low, and the growers would get fair prices for whatever they produced, rather middleman decides they should get.
I am pleased to announce that the program was more successful than any of us had hoped, and the enthusiasm by the local communities who wanted to do whatever it took to keep their farms and their lands was overwhelming. Because of the success of this program, we have been able to help the cooperative build a certified facility in Lima, Peru, to further manufacture or refine the raw materials that are brought in from all over the jungle and mountain regions. The processing facility is even recognized and inspected by the Peruvian government, who has granted them all the necessary licenses and certificates to operate as recognized manufacturers and exporters.
The raw materials are required to be organically grown, or sustainably harvested, or they are not eligible for the cooperative. All purchases are made directly from the villagers with no middlemen and no chance for the product to be contaminated or adulterated, keeping quality high and prices low, and ensuring that the money from the sale of the harvests go into the hands that deserve them.
The participating farms and indigenous communities are widespread throughout the jungle, and sometimes getting to the more remote regions requires 4-wheel drive or boat. The farms are mainly located in Pucallpa areas, and some plants are wildcrafted sustainably from the mountain region, and there are even a few participating farms located in South Peru near Isca and Nazca. Organizing this vast network, which also required teaching the specific ways we needed to have plants harvested was quite an undertaking, but the results couldn’t be more exciting and promising.
Among other things, one of the most important benefits of this cooperative, is it offers local communities and indigenous peoples an alternative to abandoning their homes, their families, and the land they’ve lived in harmony with for countless generations. In many instances, it allows many to not only retain control of the land they’ve existed in harmony with for ages, but it helps to ensure that generations to come will not be forced out of their homes to try to find work in cities if they don’t wish to do so. We’re proud to say that, as of this writing, over 2,000 indigenous peoples in the Pucallpa region alone have seen tangible results from these efforts, something everyone, including our customers can be extremely proud of.
Also, although the farms have little chance of being certified organic, none of the raw materials that we purchase use artificial plant food or pesticides of any kind. They rely on Mother Nature and the jungle to provide for them as they always have.
And this is just one example of many. We have our own Private Reserve farms in India and Hawaii where farmers from the local communities are employed, and we pride ourselves in buying from small farms throughout the world to help promote and sustain a way of life that is getting destroyed by our advancing “modern world”. Many people feel that it’s “about time” that indigenous cultures join the rest of the world, but everyone we have spoken with are proud of their cultures and traditions, and want to be able to make the choice themselves about whether or not they want to join the “modern world” or continue with the traditions and communities that have sustained them throughout history.
Just as we feel the responsible adults should be empowered to choose what they want to put into their bodies, we like to think that in a small way, we are helping to empower small communities in various parts of the world to make the exact same decision for themselves in relation to their own communities. We want them to have the choice as to whether or not they want to join this increasingly modern world, or continue to live on their land, rather than simply being forced off of it.
The Peruvian Cooperative is giving them that power.
And yes, we know all of our efforts are just a drop in the bucket, but we are proud to be doing our small part to help out where and when we can. And most importantly, we truly couldn’t do any of this without you, our treasured customer. It is our hundreds of thousands of customers throughout the years who have made all of this possible and who continue to make it possible, as we continue to take what modest profits we make, and put them into unique programs such as the one described above, or into research of more products from more places, especially ones that come directly from small manufacturers and producers around the world.