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Conservation Through Economic Development: Lemon Grass Saves Trees

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Feb. 11th, 2017 | 01:27 pm
location: Peru, Iquitos

In 2016, the owner of Aroma Maderosa (www.aromamaderosa.com/), Celine Motard, approached CONAPAC with the idea of purchasing lemon grass from a partnering community.  She was interested in producing the essential oil, and wanted to obtain the crop from a reliable group of rural people who showed a concern for forest conservation.  Moreover, she offered a fair price, and committed to a large quantity purchase.
The initiation of the project required experimentation and seed funding, so the CONAPAC team got together to brainstorm what the required steps would be while Cynthia sent out inquiry for donation interest.  Soon after, a brief list of materials and costs were identified, and Adopt A Village (http://www.adoptavillageinternational.org/) had stepped up to the plate with a donation.  Within a few months, three communities then agreed to join the pilot project.
Each of the communities assumed that lemon grass would grow easily because it's a native plant to the region.  They each formed nicely organized rows of the bushy, tall grasses and let them grow.  After several months, however, two of the communities began to notice leaves drying at the base of each plant and at the tips.  Only one community was able to maintain their plants as lush, healthy, and vibrant green.  The conditions were different for the successful plot.  They were the only ones who had both a full day of sun light accessing their plants, and well draining sandy soil.  We can only speculate before our soil test results are returned to us, but it seems that the combination of clay, partial sun, and mono-culture prevented lemon grass from growing to its full glory.  Nonetheless, the plants that did not become strong can be dug up, leaves cut off, and roots replanted next year in a more ideal location.
As indicated by our facebook post on February 10th, the lemon grass that was successful provided an abundant harvest, and it's only the first of five deliveries for the year.   Aroma Maderosa generously accepted three times their preferred amount for this first harvest.  Our team had arrived to the community early on the morning the harvest was planned.  We had expected to indicate the weight limit before they began cutting.  However, this community's organization skill and speed was strong, and between 6am and 7am, they had harvested over 1600 pounds.  Fortunately, this was a mere one quarter of their total crop.
Adopt A Village played a crucial role in providing transportation supplies, fuel, and other critical items.  They made it possible for us to learn how to set communities up to be successful in this project.  From growing condition requirements to logistical processes, we now understand what is needed for a community to begin from scratch, deliver a harvest, and walk home with a profit.  The more profit they obtain, the less need they will have to turn to the precious rain forest for income.  Equally important, we now understand how to set up these agricultural projects with a single visit.  Once we initiate  a community, the communication will thereafter remain between the townspeople and Aroma Maderosa.

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