Alianza Arkana has been working on the Bena Nii (New Forest) program alongside the Shipibo community of San Francisco and the two hamlets of Nuevo Egipto and Santa Clara in the Yarinacocha district, in the Peruvian Amazon. Together with a team of technicians and Shipibo apprentices, we work in a highly degraded landscape, which was first impacted by cattle ranching and then by decades of slash-and-burn agriculture, as well as recurring forest fires over the last 20 years.

For a little more than two years, we’ve been an area of around 10 hectares using permaculture. Our main goals have been ecological restoration and production. Recently, thanks to support from IAFN, we’ve incorporated analog forestry, which is a tool that we consider to be very similar to permaculture, meaning that the transition has been relatively easy.

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On January 23, 2015, we paid a visit to the community of Santa Teresita, some 8 km away, where primary forest is still standing, though there is some degree of selective extraction. There, we had a theoretical introduction to analog forestry, and then learned to recognize components of the forest and reflect on its structure.

It was surprising to us that even though the Shipibo are traditionally a forest-dwelling people who live along the rivers, some young people had never seen a primary forest, or only had vague memories. In the meantime, some of the elders took the lead and enjoyed a happy process of recognizing and re-familiarizing themselves. They tried to remember the Shipibo names of the plants and their properties.

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After this visit, the concepts of analog forestry were clearer for everyone: in the words of some of the participants, “it’s imitating the forest, but using productive species from large trees to lianas and bushes, all kinds of plants, planting species that are useful for our family and for the market.”

“And,” he continued, “having the forest a little closer in a few years.” There was some nostalgia for the ancestral landscapes, which may be the best starting point for analog forestry. Afterwards, we began working on a demonstration site in San Francisco, integrating analog forestry practices in an area that is dominated by grasses, shrubs, and small trees, next to a secondary forest.