Thursday, April 22, 2010

Calanoa Project

Matamat√° Creek

The Calanoa Project
Towards a model of sustainable living
in the Amazon forest

The Calanoa project is an initiative by Marlene and Diego Samper that aims to contribute to the conservation of biological and cultural diversity in the Amazon region by providing a setting for scientific research, communication and education, aesthetic research, innovative design and
architecture, as well as sustainable tourism.

Calanoa is located on the banks of the Amazon River, 60 km west of the Colombian town of Leticia, beside the Amacayacu Natural Park and several indigenous communities of the Tikuna people.

The Amazon River from Calanoa

The hub of this conservation project is 125 acres of land - the starting point for a natural reserve and botanical garden, a collection of tropical fruits, medicinal and useful Amazonian plants, and a butterfly garden. A grid of trails and wildlife observation towers will facilitate the study and contemplation of the forest for researchers and visitors.

In the near future Calanoa will provide basic lab facilities, lodging and logistical support for researchers working in the region. The conservation program supports research in conservation biology, anthropology, sustainable horticulture and forestry, as well as alternative ways of generating income for local communities. Our intention is to promote the cultural identity of the local communities and the preservation of their traditional ethno-biological knowledge and way of life.

We are increasing the variety and number of fruit trees in the orchard on the property in order to attain self sufficiency in food production and building materials, and as a seed bank of useful Amazonian and tropical plants. A series of ponds are being built for landscaping purposes and to farm fish that will be fed exclusively with local fruits.

Milciades Curitima, guide and master gardener

Calanoa provides an ideal setting for the development and implementation of innovative design for the humid tropics.

Because of the infrastructure required, it is a laboratory for natural and sustainable architecture, research into traditional techniques, local materials, wood and natural fibers, landscape architecture, alternative energies and water treatment.

The first settlement, built with local materials and traditional techniques, already generates its own electricity, collects rainwater and composts waste using only the natural dynamics of the site.

To contribute to the awareness of environmental issues, the improvement of the quality of education and quality of life, the communication & education program will explore creative processes of regional communication, through visual and performing arts, communication design, the production of teaching materials and the support of local schools. A boat will provide an itinerant library service, complemented by video projections, and will facilitate diverse cultural events, such as traveling exhibitions, live performances, and workshops in music, puppetry, theater and dance.

Village of Mocagua

The Arts program – through residencies and workshops –will be oriented towards the creation and experience of art forms that spring from a dialogue with the natural surroundings and traditional cultures.

Another aim is to contribute to the improvement of local artists and artisan skills, and to the exchange of knowledge and techniques with visiting artists.

Matilde, potter

We hope to explore how music and other performing arts can weave a relationship with the people and the place; how can sculpture, ceramics and painting, paper making and print making.

Film and photography, as windows to the world and mirrors of ourselves, how can they contribute to a common vision, a synthesis of wisdom.

As for sustainable tourism, Calanoa provides the setting for a true eco-touristic and ethno-touristic experience, with its natural architecture, sustainable buildings and clean energy sources, locally produced food and traditional cuisine, and a well established Amazon garden and an accessible forest. The Amazon river, nearby lakes and creeks offer excellent possibilities for sport fishing and bird watching, canoeing and a relaxed contemplation of the rainforest.

Calanoa is a permanent forum for art, design and science, through residencies, workshops, encounters and international meetings. By promoting the exchange of knowledge, visions, experience and techniques, local residents and visitors (tourists, resident scientists and artists) engage with the objectives and holistic philosophy of the project.

How can we build a permanent and respectful dialogue between culture and nature, how can we build a creative relationship between cultures? These are the challenges the Calanoa project will embrace.

The different programs will merge in a unified vision of a balanced relationship with the forest and the river that nurtures us, designing and testing a model –an integrated system- of sustainable living at the heart of the biggest forest on the planet. The Amazon –what it represents in terms of its extraordinary biological and cultural diversity- is at stake and is in need of protection.

As a life force, the Amazon rainforest is a beacon of hope for humanity’s future.

Photographs copyright by Diego Samper and Marlene Samper