Asociación Centro Sachamama (ACS) is a non-profit organization in the Peruvian High Amazon with a field station in the town of Lamas, Department of San Martin, Peru. ACS in collaboration with the indigenous Kichwa-Lamistas, the descendants of pre-Columbian inhabitants, as well as with the local Education Board of the province of Lamas (Sp. acronym UGEL) works to regenerate the millennially fertile pre-Columbian Amazonian anthropogenic soil known as Amazonian Dark Earth, or in Portuguese Terra Preta do Indio, or in Quechua Yana Allpa. ACS was founded in 2009 by the anthropologist Frédérique Apffel-Marglin and its presided in Lamas by Randy Chung Gonzales who has worked closely with Dr. Apffel-Marglin since the founding of ACS. ACS shares a worldview in which the human, the non-human, as well as the community of spirits, are all kin to each other, treating nature as a Thou rather than an it. By ‘biocultural regeneration’ we mean to honor this integration of all life as well as the cyclicity of its rhythms. It is also meant to obviate the backward/advanced implications of more linear formulations.
ACS is bringing together an expanding collective of scholars, activists, and students that cross the North-South divide. The Center’s mission is to integrate scholarship and spirituality, activism and research, biocultural regeneration and fair economic practices, with the goal of nurturing intercultural dialogue. ACS mission is to strengthen the ancestral legacies and other practices of the Kichwa-Lamistas and other local groups in dialogue with them as well as to regenerate the pre-Colombian Amazonian Black Earth of millennial fertility. This anthropogenic soil - meaning a soil made by the precolumbian humans - is one of the most fertile and most sustainable soils in the world. Carbon 16 dating places the oldest strata at some 8500 years ago. This soil made possible the emergence of the first complex civilizations of all the Americas. Archaeologists have discovered cities some 30 km long along many of the rivers, as well as large and complex ceremonial centers related among each other by wide and straight causeways. The very first complex civilizations in all of the Americas emerged in the Amazon basin, first in the low Amazon and later they slowly climbed up into the high Amazon and later further into the high Andes. The oldest ceramic wares of all the Americas were discovered in the Amazon basin. This anthropogenic soil and the complex civilizations it made possible due to its high fertility and productivity, can be found in the precolumbian Chachapoyas culture in the Upper Peruvian Amazon and probably in many others in this region. The Amazonian rainforest is not a virgin forest but rather a garden where humans and nature harmonized.
We also practice and teach a simpler method called Regenerative Agriculture that does not require ovens or biochar and we collaborate with the local Education Board of the province of Lamas (UGEL) to teach both methods that includes the heritage of the pre-Colombian ancestors. Both methods are taught to the new generation in order to slow deforestation, improve the local agriculture and help solve the climate crisis. ACS is an educational, research, and experimental center that regenerates the Amazonian pre-Colombian black earth with biochar as well as promotes Regenerative Agriculture using composting and terracing to achieve food security for the small farmers as well as for improving the climate crisis. We collaborate with the Kichwa-Lamistas and the local Education Board. The Center operates out of the beautiful grounds of Hospedaje Sangapilla (www.hospedajesangapilla.com), a complex of buildings and lush gardens designed collectively by the Sachamama team. The architectural vision of Hospedaje Sangapilla draws on eco-friendly, local indigenous design and technology. Hospedaje Sangapilla is located on the outskirts of Lamas on two acres of forested land, with panoramic views of the Cordillera Escalera mountain range, and an ecological swimming pool.
ASC is registered in Peru as a non-profit organization and ACS is registered in the US as a tax exempt 501 (C) (3) organization. ACS address is: 114 Jr 16 de Octubre, Barrio Suchiche, Lamas, San Martin, Peru. ACS address in the US is: 36 A Dana St. Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
SCBR PERMANENT PROJECTS
In several indigenous communities in the region of Lamas, Sachamama Center is engaged in regenerating a pre-Colombian soil discovered in the last century by archaeologists. These soils are still fertile today. The reddish clay of the Amazonian soils is notorious for its poverty in nutrients. Slash-and-burn agriculture (also called ‘swidden agriculture’) has become an important cause of the loss of tropical forest. Although it permits the forest to regenerate, it is very inefficient and environmentally unsound under the present land holding patterns. The burning sends a great amount of CO2 into the atmosphere. Swidden agriculture is the third cause of CO2 emissions in the Amazon basin. Additionally, in the region of Lamas, the population density has become much too high for this type of agriculture to be sustainable and it is leading to the highest rate of deforestation in all of Peru, behind the ravages of industrial agriculture and oil exploration in the region.
Teams of US and Brazilian archaeologists in the 1960s began excavating sites in the Amazon region where one finds what Brazilians call terra preta de indio (Indian black earth). These soils are still fertile today. Carbon dating of the oldest layers of terra preta are dated at 8,500 years ago. The key to the astounding sustainability of these anthropogenic soils is a mixture of biochar (see below for this term), micro-organisms, organic matter, and a great quantity of broken ceramics. Nutrients stick to biochar for ever since biochar does not decompose in the soil. The micro-organisms give life to the soil and the broken ceramics allow a postive exchange of ions that increases fertility.
At Sachamama we have successfully regenerated this black earth of the Indians which we call by its Quechua name: Yana Allpa, using biochar produced with a variety of agricultural biomass such as dried coconut shells. Biochar is the result of carbonizing the biomass with little or no oxygen at high temperatures, a method called pyrolysis. We mix this biochar with locally freely available organic manure. To those are added micro-organisms gathered on the floor of the rain forest that have been fermented as well as ceramic shards. The local Kichwa-Lamista have a tradition of making offerings to the spirits of the earth with such ceramic shards found in all the archaeological sites.
The regeneration of this pre-Colombian Amazonian technology along with Regenerative Agriculture will offer a simple, appropriate and economically accessible alternative to slash and burn agriculture and to the very high rate of deforestation in this region as well as a high rate of greenhouse gases production.
Education and Sustainability
ACS is collaborating with the Local Education Board in Lamas to implement a pilot program of teaching Ecological Literacy through the creation of chacra-huertos in schools. We have created chacra-huertos in three native community schools as well as in five High Schools in towns in the province of Lamas.
This project is being directed by Barbara Rodrigues Marcos and Royner Sangama Sangama. They write as well as produce booklets and short videos in Quechua following the model of Sarita Cartonera in Lima. Those desk-top booklets and videos are the first publications in the local variant of Quechua, spoken by the Kichwa-Lamistas. They are distributed to bi-lingual teachers, to native communities and to whomever shows interest. The Quechua is being edited locally by Bilingual Teacher Royner Sangama Sangama as well as by Genaro Quintero Bendezú, MA (Quechua and Linguistics) of the Ministry of Education in Lima. On August 18, 2011 the first Qinti Qartunira booklet was presented by the late Felipe Cachique Amasifuen at the Congress of the World's Indigenous Peoples and Education in Cusco, Peru. On September 2nd, 2011 this first publication was presented at Sachamama Center and distributed to bi-lingual teachers. In 2013 one written in Quechua by Barbara Rodrigues Marcos was published by the Lima publisher Pasacalle. There followed several other printed and well as video production by Royner Sangama Sangama.
This project is part of the international project “Cultural Agents” directed by Professor Doris Summer of the Romance Languages Department at Harvard University; She translates “Cartonera” as : “Pre-Text”. The word 'cartonera' derives from the book covers that are made with recycled carton. www.culturalagents.org/int/partners/kinti.html
Qinti Qartunira has its own web-site: www.wix.com/qintiqartunira/qinti
Note: Qinti in Quechua is the hummingbird, which in the Qichwa worldview is the messenger of the spirits and when it is spotted outside of the house, is the harbinger of good news for the family.
THE SACHAMAMA CENTER AND HOSPEDAJE SANGAPILLA
Sachamama Center for Biocultural Regeneration or Asociación Centro Sachamama is a non-profit organization whose mission is to teach, research and publish about the regeneration of cloud forest, local healing traditions, the Quechua language, Kichwa culture, and ancient, sustainable, organic farming practices. The center has two acres of wooded land and is located at the southern edge of the colonial town of Lamas, which is itself situated on a high ridge of the northern tropical foothills of the Peruvian Andes.
There are four buildings on the Sachamama premises that have been leased to Randy Chung Gonzales, who with others runs the place as a hostel, called Hospedaje Sangapilla when the buildings are not being used by students and researchers. Hospedaje Sangapilla can accommodate 30 students quite comfortably in a combination of private rooms and hostel-like dormitories. Dr. Frédérique Apffel-Marglin, emeritus professor of anthropology at Smith College, founded the Center in 2009. Since 2009 numerous university courses and programs have been held at Sachamama, including programs from the University of Massachusetts and the University of British Columbia.
Randy Chung Gonzales offers workshops on Amazonian Medicinal Plants and other types of workshops on both mental and physical health.
Frédérique Apffel-Marglin, PhD is Professor Emerita, Dpt. of Anthropology at Smith College She founded ACS/SCBR in the US with the field campus in the Peruvian High Amazon in 2009 She co teaches Study Abroad Courses with other university faculty at ACS/SCBR.
by F. Apffel-Marglin
published by Oxford University
Press, New York in 2011
Edited with Stefano Varese, Frederique Apffel-Marglin and Roger Rumrrill
Stefano Varese and Roger Rumrrill (members of ACS board of directors)
Published by IWGIA, UNAM and Casa de las Americas in 2013.
by Robert Tindall, Frederique Apffel-Marglin and David Shearer.
Published by North Atlantic Books in 2017.
Translation into Spanish of "Sacred Soil".
Published in Lima, Peru by Apus Graphs in 2019
ACS is situated in the Peruvian High Amazon town of Lamas in the department of San Martín, a half hour by car from the airport of the city of Tarapoto. Tarapoto to the North East of Lima is served by three airlines: Lan, Star Peru, and Viva Airlines. There are several flights daily from and to Lima. The flight is about one hour and is direct. If you contact us before hand we can arrange to come and pick you up.
Our snail mail address in the field station in Peru is: Asociacion Centro Sachamama, Jr 16 de Octubre 114, Barrio Suchiche Lamas; Dpto. de San Martín; Perú.