‘As seen on TV’ – the Amazon rainforest project you can join

Guest blogger Gemma, placement manager at volunteering organisation PoD, reveals more about their Amazon Conservation project recently featured on the BBC, and how you can join them…

The PoD team have loved watching the BBC 2 TV series ‘I Bought a Rainforest’ – not only is a great series to investigate the complexities surrounding rainforest conservation, but it also features our Amazon Conservation project location in Peru!

Wildlife photographer Charlie Hamilton James bought 100 acres of tropical rainforest on the edge of Manu National Park in south east Peru with the aim to conserve the area. The BBC documentary follows his journey into the forest and the difficult decisions he has to make when conserving his area of jungle. He learns that the conservation of the rainforest is not a simple issue to solve. To help understand the importance of regenerating previously logged or farmed rainforest and find out about the forest ecosystem Charlie and the film crew visited our PoD Amazon Conservation project location.

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In the first episode Andy Whitworth, the scientific coordinator who works closely with PoD volunteers at our Amazon Conservation project in Peru, demonstrated the different research techniques which help the research centre to have a greater understanding of the importance and biodiversity area of rainforest. The team documented all the species found on a mahogany tree using a ‘bio-blast’ which was due to be cut down by a local logger. It was incredible to see that there were so many species of beetle, ant, butterfly, bird and frog on one single tree. Unfortunately illegal logging is a big issue in the reserve and during the second episode Charlie follows individual loggers and gold miners.

Although it can be easy from an outsider’s point of view to blame the illegal loggers or illegal gold miners for the deforestation and the negative environmental impacts, the documentary follows individual loggers and miners which illuminates the complex issues. The illegal loggers and gold miners are desperate to make an income to support their families and there are often limited other options for them to pursue. It is incredible to see the juxtaposition of Beto, the illegal logger, who has strong love for nature and the rainforest, yet he cuts down 150 year old trees to pay for his daughter’s education.

How volunteers help the project

The PoD project in Peru has a real passion for helping to conserve the rainforest by working alongside the local communities. Volunteers at the Amazon Conservation project work alongside local communities to develop bio-gardens and agroforestry plots. Volunteers help develop food gardens with local mothers on wasteland which provides nutritious food for the families and even produces enough for the families to gain additional income by selling the vegetables at the local market. The biogardens provide healthy meals for 360 children at the local school, and since 2009 has increased local families’ income by 35%. This reduces the pressure for the local community to log illegally and helps to preserve the forest.

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The impact of the project

The agroforestry project works with local farmers to harvest sustainable woods and bananas. This is an environmentally sustainable alternative that protects the surrounding forest from illegal logging activity, encourages species diversity, increases soil nutrition, and creates carbon credits that can be sold to further support the project. Volunteers have helped turn 17 hectares of abandoned and degraded land into agroforestry plots, which have subsequently seen increased biodiversity, help plant over 10,000 plantains and 3,000 trees, and created the first program in Peru to ever commercialize carbon credits on behalf of a local community.

It is fantastic to follow the BBC series in the jungle – you get a real flavour for the rainforest and project location. We hope that this will encourage more volunteers to join the project and do their bit to help conserve the Amazon rainforest.

If you would like to find out more about the project or find out how you can apply simply visit: www.podvolunteer.org/Conservation/amazon-conservation.html

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