Research Finds Chagas Disease in Pando Not Linked to Local Açai

On June 28, at a meeting of the Inter-Institutional Platform for Connection of Amazon Fruit Products (PICFA) in Cobija, Bolivia, we presented a study that corrects misinformation about the link between açai and the parasite causing Chagas disease in the region. While the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi has been found in the primary açai species produced in Brazil (Euterpe olerásea), the açai species grown in Pando (Euterpe precatoria) is distinct. The presentation of this research, which impacts açai producers across the region, shows the importance of disseminating information through the Observatory of Amazonian Fruits and Climate Change to strengthen local information-sharing resources and networks for forest producers.

According to this study, presented this past month by Daniel Larrea, Coordinator of Science and Technology at Conservación Amazónica – ACEAA in the department of Pando’s capital city, the presence of the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi was not found in any of the local samples studied. These results indicate that the processed product of the local açai species is safe to consume in its initial processing stages. Entitled “Açai and Chagas: Myth or Reality, Molecular detection of the parasite that causes Chagas disease in açai fruit and pulp,” this study also serves as an important tool for early detection measures to control and prevent the spread of diseases like Chagas in the processing of Amazonian fruits in Pando.

The technical manual with the study’s results is available in Spanish on the website of the Observatory of Amazonian Fruits and Climate Change here. Daniel Larrea also gave an interview discussing these important findings, which can be viewed in Spanish here.

To find out more about how we are working to build local networks to support local forest producers and their livelihoods in Pando through the Observatory of Amazonian Fruits and Climate Change, take a look at our latest update or visit the Observatory’s website here.

This study was part of the project, “Strengthening of sustainable productive capacities in communities of the Manuripi National Amazon Wildlife Reserve in Pando, Bolivia,” implemented by our partners in Bolivia, Conservación Amazónica-ACEAA, in collaboration with SWEBOL BIOTECH A.B. S.R.L. with financial support from the World Wildlife Fund and Andes Amazon Fund (AAF), through the Inter-Institutional Platform for Connection of Amazon Fruit Products (PICFA) of Pando in coordination with the Departamental Federation of Açai and Amazonian Fruit Harvesters of Pando (FEDAFAP).

New Observatory Empowers Forest Producers to Adapt to Changing Climate

Earlier this year, we launched our new tool in support of forest-based economies called the Observatory of Amazonian Fruits and Climate Change. The Observatory is the culmination of a 10-month project that focuses on strengthening the management of Amazonian fruits in the Bolivian Amazon rainforest such as açai, Brazil nuts, cacao, majo, copoazu and royal palm.

Through the Observatory of Amazonian Fruits and Climate Change, local producers are able to access and share important information like this study, giving them the latest tools, information, and processing protocols to ensure that their products are competitive. To spread awareness and build local capacity among local communities in utilizing this platform, we have hosted events for local producers in Pando to provide training and space to share critical solutions that help producers adapt to the changing climate that increasingly impacts the primary livelihoods for many in the region.

In its first six months, the Observatory has been critical in empowering local people by providing a space to share important research and build networks among local producers across the department of Pando, Bolivia. This past month, we presented important research that corrects misinformation about the link between açai and the parasite causing Chagas disease in the region, which helps establish early detection measures to control and prevent the spread of diseases like Chagas in the processing of Amazonian fruits.

In June, we hosted a webinar that had more than 100 participants from across Pando who joined to learn how to access and utilize the resources, information and technology available through the Observatory. Through the webinar, we also introduced a user’s guide for how to best utilize the Observatory of Amazonian Fruits and Climate Change, which can be accessed in Spanish here.

The Observatory of Amazonian Fruits and Climate Change has two overarching goals that serve to both empower people to build forest-based economies and fight the impacts of deforestation and climate change:

  1. Prevent deforestation by placing economic value on keeping forests standing because the diversification of fruits helps local communities mitigate and adapt to climate change.
  2. Create a localized network that enables producers to adapt more efficiently to climate change by sharing “early alerts” about the local impacts of climate change on forest products and effective solutions to adapt to these changes.

In Pando, the Observatory stands to directly benefit around 87,500 people linked to the harvest of Amazonian fruits, including indigenous and local communities and nine local enterprises. Once the Observatory is in place with educational workshops and technical training in Pando, we plan to replicate the Observatory in other parts of the Amazon biome to benefit all producers and communities who depend on this ecosystem and whose livelihoods are threatened by climate change.

This project would not be possible without the support of the EUROCLIMA+ program. For more information about the Observatory of Amazonian Fruits and Climate Change, please visit the website here.

Cross-Border Workshops in Peru Use Geospatial Data to Detect Ecosystem Changes

Conservación Amazónica–ACCA, Amazon Conservation’s sister organization in Peru, held two workshops alongside geospatial scientists from the University of Richmond’s Amazon Frontier Spatial Analysis (ABSAT) team on June 9-10 and June 13-17 through ACCA’s partnership with the SERVIR-Amazonia program, an initiative of USAID and NASA. The goals of both workshops included showing how to analyze geospatial data and how to use geospatial science to detect ecosystem changes across borders and in indigenous landscapes.

The first workshop, “Ecosystem Services and Socio-Environmental Dynamics in Indigenous Landscapes,” took place on June 9 and 10 in the town of Puerto Breu in east-central Peru near the border with Brazil. In attendance were 122 indigenous leaders and representatives from 13 different Amazonian ethnic groups from Peru and Brazil. The workshop, led by the team from the University of Richmond, focused on how geospatial science can detect changes in Amazonian ecosystems as a result of alterations in the forest surface and these effects relate to climate change.

During the two-day event, indigenous representatives and leaders participated in activities to aid in recognizing and understanding the changes that their forests are undergoing. Participants learned about evapotranspiration, which is the way in which trees remove water from their bark as a result of tree respiration, and how this process has been altered due to climate change, resulting in forest degradation and the loss of the ecosystem services they offer.

The knowledge shared also included how the geospatial applications, known as “dashboards”, developed by the University of Richmond’s ABSAT team, work as information management tools to interactively monitor and analyze indicators and fundamental data related to deforestation, degradation, evapotranspiration, temperature, and precipitation in the cross-border area and territories between Peru and Brazil.

“The dashboard allows anyone to model or simulate a situation in which, for example, if forest is lost or if forest is transformed into another type of cover, what would be the consequences of this loss. If this could cause an increase in temperature, evapotranspiration reduction or water reduction,” said David Salisbury, leader of the University of Richmond’s ABSAT team.

David Salisbury, a professor at the University of Richmond, teaches representatives of different indigenous groups to read geospatial data and maps.

Through this workshop, we recognized the importance of collecting and incorporating the ancestral knowledge of the indigenous peoples of the Yuruá River basin. Given that they are the guardians of the forest, their knowledge and perspective may be able to identify blind spots that technology is not capable of identifying. For this reason, indigenous participation and ancestral knowledge are important contributions in developing the geospatial tool.

“Today, new generations are more prepared to face climate change, not only because of the tools that science provides them, but also because of the teachings to be the new leaders and guardians of this great forest – which is the Amazon – that they have learned from their parents and grandparents,” said María Elena Paredes, an Asháninka indigenous leader.

The second geospatial science workshop took place on June 13-17 on the campus of the National University of Ucayali in Pucallpa, Peru and focused on Cross-Border Corridors and Ecosystem Services of the Southwestern Amazon. The workshop included an overview of geospatial science and how it can help communities face climate change as well as the results of the ABSAT team’s latest geospatial research. There were 40 participants in attendance, including GIS analysts from local and national government entities from Peru and Brazil.

These workshops were made possible thanks to the valuable support of USAID. In addition, the technical and logistical needs were provided thanks to the work of various organizations including Conservacion Amazónica–ACCA and Upper Amazon Conservancy, and the workshops themselves were carried out with the support of representatives from SERVIR-Amazonía, the University of Richmond, and NASA.

“A Changing Amazon” Gallery Exhibit Inaugurated at Embassy of Peru in DC

On Thursday, June 16, Amazon Conservation inaugurated our gallery exhibit “A Changing Amazon: Climate Change and Conservation Solutions in the Amazon” at the Embassy of Peru in Washington, DC. The gallery exhibit, now open to the public through August 17, gives a visual retrospection of our work in Peru, explains how climate is affecting the Amazon, the role of Indigenous peoples in conservation, and showcases our conservation solutions in the region.

The gallery opening event included a cocktail reception with Peruvian fare and more than 40 guests including colleagues from the Norwegian and Peruvian Embassies, partners from IDB, USAID, World Bank, IUCN, an other organizations, as well as some of our most loyal supporters.

The highlight of the evening were the special remarks from the Peruvian Embassy, Bruce Babbitt, the former Governor of Arizona and former Secretary of the Interior; and Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, President of the COP 20 UN Climate Convention, former Peruvian Minister of the Environment, current Leader of the Climate and Energy Global Practice of World Wild Fund for Nature International, and recently-appointed Chair of IUCN’s newly established Climate Crisis Commission.

To kick us off, Germán Prado, Cultural Attaché for the Embassy of Peru, spoke on behalf of the Peruvian Ambassador, Oswaldo de Rivero, who unfortunately was ill and could not attend the event, expressing the importance of the Amazon for climate change and the Peruvian government’s support of conservation efforts to become a model for forest governance.

We then heard motivating words of wisdom from Bruce Babbitt, who reflected on how the beauty of the Amazon initially inspired him to support conservation efforts and how Amazon Conservation’s innovative conservation models centering science, technology, and local peoples has made him a long-time supporter of our work. Bruce also highlighted how working closely with governments like Peru and Norway has been a key to our long-term success on the ground.

John Beavers, Amazon Conservation’s Executive Director, spoke next, reflecting on how the photos in the gallery exhibit reminded him of the Amazon’s incomparable natural beauty as well as its fragility and how quickly it can all disappear without swift action and climate-smart conservation solutions. Spurred on by the desire to protect this fragile ecosystem, John described how Amazon Conservation is working on the ground to empower local people and governments to protect the forests on which they depend through forest-based economies that can better adapt to the changing climate and improved governance to mitigate the main drivers of deforestation.

Finally, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal provided an uplifting outlook on climate solutions and the future of the Amazon. As Manuel has seen in his work with WWF, COP 20, and now IUCN’s Climate Crisis Commission, organizations like Amazon Conservation are evolving and building climate into their work, and he believes that Amazon Conservation is doing the work that is needed to scale up climate and conservation solutions in our efforts to bring our climate-smart conservation solutions to more communities and countries across the region.

The gallery exhibit is open to the public during business hours at the Embassy of Peru in DC now through August 17.

Amazon Conservation would like to thank the Embassy of Peru in DC and Ambassador Oswaldo de Rivero for their support in hosting our “A Changing Amazon” exhibit and opening reception.