I used to be a bit confused about what exactly ‘Amazon Pueblo’ does. Its´goal has always been to help the village of La Libertad to live sustainability, but the means in which Amazon Pueblo helps the village achieve that mission has morphed many times and has often caused me, a board member, confusion. 

The reason for these changes is because it
is hard to get a village of 350 people who have never had  central leadership to buy into an idea (of a
foreigner), look toward their future, and then actually start implementing
these ideas- after 20 years of having the mindset of day-to-day survival.
Ben and Gustavo discussing next steps for the Yucca Press

After years of my brother, Ben Angulo,
Executive Director, researching, speaking with the villagers, hearing
contradicting stories of needs, building their trust and having multiple
meetings with the villagers and local business contacts, the Amazon Pueblo project has
been able to create a more clear vision to achieve their mission.

The Mission of the Amazon Pueblo is to
reduce the poverty of indigenous peoples of the Colombian Amazon by developing
sustainable business through connections of people, sound environmental
practices and profitable ventures.
Parallel Business Plans

Two businesses that we’re currently helping
the people of La Libertad develop are:
Cassava (Yuca/Farina)

Cassava is kind of like a topping (the
texture reminds me of bacon bits

or granola) that is made from Yuca, a starchy
root, similar to a potato. Colombians put it on top of soups, fish, meats, or
eat it plain. The business will be to grow Yuca plants here in La Libertad and
then press it, dry it, toast it and sell it to other indigenous people,
villages, or local cities. It is an easy plant to grow in the soil conditions
found in La Libertad.

Cacao Cultivation

Cacao (the beans used to make chocolate)
will grow well in La Libertad. First, the people of the village will need to
find and identify the proper clones, along with help from the Amazon Pueblo
Project, clear and prepare the land, learn about the entire growing process and
then plant and grow the cacao trees. A tree will take about 3 years to grow and
produce the beans. The people can then pick, ferment, dry and sell all the
beans to businesses that will be able to turn these into bakers chocolate or
regular organic chocolate to sell.

These 2 business plans sound great and part
of my “let’s get it done!” fast-paced, north American mind set is like, “okay-
let’s fundraise, get them the things they need and get this going”…but it’s not
that easy:
1. It’s REALLY difficult to fundraise for
Amazon Pueblo because like many organizations that need to fundraise, I think
its hard for people to truly understand the need unless you have been there (or
involved), know someone affected by the organization or cause, or identify
directly with that cause.
2. The main mission of the Amazon Pueblo is
to create sustainability and in order to do that, we need to take a step back
and look at things from a distance…..

The mission of Amazon Pueblo is to reduce
the poverty of indigenous people of the Colombian Amazon by developing
sustainable business through connection of people, sound environmental
practices and profitable ventures.

My friend Tinka and I hanging out with the kids
during their school recess

what does “Sustainability” actually mean? 

is the ability to continue a defined behavior indefinitely.

Think of sustainability as a 3-legged
stool. Without one of the legs, it will not be able to function.  The seat of the stool is “sustainability” and
the 3 legs are as follows:

People (Social Sustainability): the ability of a social system (like La
Libertad) to function at a defined level of social well- being indefinitely.

Planet (Environmental Sustainability): the ability to maintain rates of
renewable resource harvest, pollution creation and non-renewable resources
depletion that can be continued indefinitely.

(Economic Sustainability): the ability to support a
defined level of economic production indefinitely.
To ensure that the village becomes truly
sustainable, Amazon Pueblo needs to address all three legs equally. In order to
get to our eventual goal of successful and sustainable business (Yuca/Farina
& Cacao production), we must also address the other two legs in parallel.

People in the port of Letitia, the nearest ‘big’ city.
La Libertad only has one boat for all 350 residents.

If the people are not healthy or working together
as a unit, then they cannot be successful in sustaining the other two legs. For
example, the villagers do not have access to filtered water and therefore have
parasites, people get sick often, and unfortunately, babies dying is a common
occurrence. This and other issues must be addressed in order to ensure Social
Sustainability and that the people are healthy and educated enough to make good
choices and run a profitable business.

The people of the village also must learn
about the process of processing the Yuca and Cacao in a sustainable way. For
example, they will need to use wood to process and toast the yuca, therefore,
they must have an efficient oven and not over use the trees in the area and
deplete part of the rain forest.
Planet, Profit

Whenever the Amazon Project does something,
we run it through the 3-legs of the stool to self-check our decisions, ensuring
we are always working toward complete sustainability. The Amazon Pueblo is a
‘connector’ organization and helping tackle the 3 pillars simultaneously by
educating and collaborating with the villagers, as well as connecting them to
the resources they need to help themselves. As mentioned. Amazon Pueblo does
not want to give away things, rather teach them necessary skills or connect
them with the resources that they need once they initialize the desire.

are some examples:

to Clean Water:
One of the major problems in La
Libertad is not having access to clean water. The water from the Amazon river
is contaminated with parasites and amoebas. The typical family does not

This picture is from 2 years ago. 
The black water tank that the company installed is behind
 me and Kaitlyn. I could not find a better pic. They are all no longer 
functioning. When we were there a poisonous frog jumped into one, 
therefore contaminating all the water already in there. 

have a
bathroom and many have a place behind their home that everyone in the family
uses. Because this is in the Amazon, it rains more days than not  per year, which
means these “bathrooms” behind the house run into the river. The people also
bathe in this river, as well as wash themselves, their clothes, and their dishes.

The water filter that the 

volunteers use. We must only drink filtered

water or we will get really sick

While the people of the Amazon are somewhat
adjusted to these parasites, they still get very sick. Also, when babies are
exposed to this in the early months of their lives, many get sick and have
diarrhea and vomit, which causes dehydration. Because of no boat transportation
to the main city, the babies cannot get to the hospital and sometimes die.

Several years ago, before Amazon Pueblo was
established, a Swedish company installed large water tanks and a slow-sand water. However, they did not sufficiently train the people (or they could have
been and these people didn’t take it seriously or think it was a real need at
the time) and they stopped working.  They also did not have the funds needed to make the repairs even if they knew what to do to fix the filter.
Amazon Pueblo has now connected with a
couple of well-drilling companies in Leticia, the nearest city, and is getting quotes for
drilling a community well  This would provide clean drinking water to the
350  community members. There is a grant
available for this, which Amazon Pueblo would write for the village, through
the Coca Cola Foundation.

This picture was from 2 years ago. Now, the ground has
tile, which is REALLY nice for the kids and teachers. 

We know that the children are the future
and must receive education in order to have the basic reading, writing, and
math skills to make good decisions, and sustain the village and business. The
education system is quite inconsistent and still, many families cannot afford
to pay the $100 per year needed for supplies for their child.

Amazon Pueblo has recently started a
scholarship program. Through donors in the United States, we are sponsoring 8
students each year to go to school. The teachers in the school fill out an
application form and recommend a

student that demonstrates their desire and effort to be
in school.

Several volunteers have also taught English classes, however, without consistent or long-term volunteers, it
is hard to make this regular. We recently received the Hooked on Phonics
program, as well as some ESL books and are trying to formalize a simple English

Organic Food, Composting & Health Benefits

One of the cutest little guys in the
village, who is always smiling! As you can
see thought, he has a very distended belly
because he is not properly nourished and
has parasites in his stomach. 

Another project that we have been working
on alongside the others is educating the residents about the importance of
eating vegetables and using the waste to compost and use as soil/fertilizer.
This has posed a challenge, as the majority of people have never eaten many vegetables, let alone thought to grow them here, despite the moist

There was a major effort to begin the
mindset shift by  going door to door
to explain the health benefits of eating vegetables and the composting
process. Garden beds and a compositing site were constructed.
Unfortunately, when Ben left and returned
to the States, they were not managed and he found the composting bins unused. We hope that with time and continued education, the people will start
to want to take ownership and grow and eat their own produce, which would save
them time and money of taking the boat ride into the main city and having to
pay for it.
So, there you have it! In order to move
forward with the profit leg, we need to ensure sustainability in the other two
areas, which often time requires, time, energy and related projects.

Small Update on the Yuca & Cacao Business

Amazon Pueblo is currently applying for any
applicable grants and has contacts with good

One of the prototypes for the Yucca Press. This
press would squeeze the excess water out
of the fermented yucca. 

connections to move forward in our
production of Cassava (Yuca) and Cacao. In the village, Ben and the villagers
are building 2 prototypes for the Yuca Press. Once they figure out what will
work, more presses will be manufactured.

Exciting things are happening in La
Libertad! The families and especially the kids (who I’ve mostly connected with)
are such positive, happy and special- always willing to help cook, assist in
building, clean, wash dishes, often times without being asked.

Thanks for reading and taking the time and
energy to learn about this part of the world and what we’re up to! 

Here I am with some of the kids as we cooked “Pizz-a-repas” Pizza made
out of arepas for dinner one night!