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Amazon Ecology partners with Penn State Social Entrepreneur class

July 13, 2021

Amazon Ecology partners with Penn State Social Entrepreneur class

In the spring semester of 2021, Amazon Ecology worked with Prof. Eric Foley, Director of the Center for the Business of Sustainability in the Penn State University Smeal College of Business who invited our non-profit group to be the sole client for a senior class he teaches on Social Entrepreneurship.  We began by sharing the goals, activities and context of our work with the full class which was then divided into seven four-person teams which each spent two months focusing on a specific theme developed by Prof. Foley, Amazon Ecology Executive Director Campbell Plowden and Kieran Holland who is the Executive Director of Ten Thousand Villages State College and an AE board member.

A cluster of three teams each developed marketing plans for woven baskets, decorations, and guitar straps.  The other teams developed strategies to expand our outreach to wholesale clients, ideas for forming strategic partnerships, ways we could measure and display our impact, and outline of a five-year financial plan for Amazon Ecology and our affiliate groups in Peru. 

The teams have given us a lot of valuable information and recommendations for ways to improve our website, work with influencers and social media, better frame our goals and achievements for the public and funders, and begin to understand the level of staffing and financial resources we will need to become a sustainable organization.  We will share specific ideas generated from this class with board members helping us develop our marketing, communications and financial plans.  Many thanks to Prof. Foley for giving us the opportunity to work with him and his class and introduce us to other people from the Penn State community and beyond interested in fair trade.

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February 28, 2018


While it can be very hard to get certain kinds of things done in Peru in an efficient way (like standing in line for hours to pay a bill at a bank), it’s a fun adventure to get other stuff done in a fun, timely and affordable way. I went out on Sunday to get some basic supplies for our house and got most of them at a modern store called Quispe, but right around the corner I found a fellow named Elmo who is the owner of one of the typical mobile micro-stalls (about 3 x 2 x 5 feet) that is his shop for his business to make copies of keys and help people with other kinds of locks. He first used one of those simple machine to make a rough cut of the key copy from the original. He then used a narrow grinder to fine-tune the copy.

I was really impressed that he used a hand caliper to measure the depth of each notch in the original key and the copy he was making. He eyeballed any minute differences because the calipers had no graduated lines on them. Elmo had been doing this work for 30 years so I felt pretty confident that his keys that cost me $1.25 each to make would work. He gave me his phone number to reach him just in case. His copies got me in my house just fine, but I’d like to see him again just to learn more about his life.

While the lease that we signed to rent our new house for CACE in Iquitos said everything was in good working order, we’ve discovered a few things that needed fixing to make the place more comfortable, safe and functional for our needs. As soon Tulio moved into the house, he met our neighbor Jorge who quickly became our go-to motorcar driver. When we mentioned to Jorge yesterday that we had a few plumbing issues that needed tending to, he said he had a friend who could handle them.

Julio showed up ten minutes later. They quickly determined that the threads in the faucet in the kitchen sink were stripped, the sink in my bathroom was leaking because the pipe under it was totally rusted through, and the sink in Tulio’s bathroom was clogged and just needed cleaning. After several trips to the hardware store to get various new pipes, glue, and tape, Julio donned my headlamp and used his and Jorge’s collection of old saws and wrenches to replace or clean all of the degraded items.

Julio returned this morning and spent the better part of the day doing four more tasks: 1) installing new pipes connecting our elevated water tank in the back patio to faucets in the work sinks so we could distill our rosewood material with an abundant supply of cooling water, 2) installed a new section of mosquito netting in my bedroom, 3) installed a new section of mosquito netting in the space above my bathroom, and 4) fixed up a wire in the back patio that was loosely connected by duct tape that was hanging out of a busted piece of PVC pipe.

We paid a total of about $25 in materials and $50 in labor for all seven jobs and everyone felt good about the tasks that were done. Julio looked around the house as he was leaving and said “please call me if you need anything done. I can fix your roof, put up a wall…….” Tulio told me tonight that Julio is someone who is referred to here as a “mil oficios” – someone who can do a thousand things. I know we have handymen in the US, too, but I’m awfully glad that I met Julio here.

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February 27, 2018

STINGLESS BEES AT CHINO One of the houses I also visit first at Chino belongs to the veteran artisan Romelia and her husband Jorge. Jorge is one of the folks in the village who has maintained several wooden box nests with stingless bees as part of a honey producing project developed under the guidance of German Perilla from George Mason University in Virginia. While these bees don't produce as much honey as their stinging honeybee counterparts, their honey is highly valued for its strong flavor and medicinal properties.

During my last visit, Jorge's nest boxes were in his back yard. This time, he had placed both at opposite ends of his kitchen to keep a closer eye on them. I took several shots of bees coming and going out of the entrance tube as well as the guard which is always on duty to prevent the entrance of unwelcome visitors (other bees, flying ants, etc.) who might wish to invade to prey on their young.

Check out the video Beekeeping in the Amazon ( focused on a stingless bee project developed with Maijuna native communities by OnePlanet.Org and its director (and CACE board member) Michael Gilmore.

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February 26, 2018

FINDING BEAUTY ALL AROUND YOU - 360 video Please check out the latest CACE video FINDING BEAUTY ALL AROUND YOU – 360 VIDEO (at: that CACE made for our submission to the 2018 GlobalGiving Video Contest. It has scenes of traveling on the river, Bora artisans collecting chambira palm leaves in the forest, women gathered at a skill-sharing workshop to make new handicrafts. This is our first video shot with a 360 degree video camera so you can literally look all around the scene by clicking on the up/down/left/right arrows on the screen or moving the viewpoint of the scene with your mouse. The video was shot and edited by Tulio Davila and narrated by Campbell Plowden. You can also see the video on our Amazon Ecology channel on YouTube at: I hope you enjoy looking around the Amazon from the artisan's point of view.

Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon

This project will help build sustainable livelihoods and conserve rain forests in ten native and campesino communities in the Peruvian Amazon by promoting planting, sustainable harvest and sale of value-added non-timber forest products. It will empower over 200 native artisans and woodsmen to create...

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