In a culture that is hunter gatherer based, there is little free time on a daily basis for tasks other than hunting and gathering. Full days are devoted to gathering food and preparing it for consumption. As there is no means of refrigeration in these communities, this process is a daily chore. I remember Julio going on a long diatribe about how most people that come to visit the research station just don't understand how much time is spent doing these things everyday, because "We don't have ice boxes, so things don't keep!"
Working for Project Amazonas, Julio is lucky and he knows it. I asked if he liked his job. "Of course, otherwise I would have to leave my wife and children for most of the year." The men that leave to work for the logging industry, if they come back at all, often return missing limbs or carrying malaria.
As a part of making a living, most rural Peruvians are sustenance farmers, the majority of the people living in these communities have little to no money to spare. Because of this, it seems unlikely that without good reason, they would be convinced to spend it on building a biogas digester when collecting firewood, which is a sustainable practice for the indigenous peoples of the Peruvian rainforest, is a much cheaper and easier way of providing a source of fuel.
A source of fertilizer would be much easier to market, and it would be much more useful.
As a demonstration of soil quality in the rainforest, you can simply dig a hole and take a look-see. The very top layer of soil is a dark loam of leaf litter. From there down is sandy clay...or clay-y sand, depending. This is terrible for growing crops.
The best solution, based on our assessment, would be to develop a cheap sustainable way of creating fertilizer using the biogas digester as a starting point. The only benefit of building a biogas digester (assuming the gas isn't a viable option), as opposed to a compost pile, is Nitrogen sequestering. In a compost pile, nitrogen leaches away into the surrounding soil, but in a digester it is conserved. A compromise of these practices would be to develop a contained composting unit that would be cheap and easy to build.
The logical next step, in following with the organizational of goals of Future Scientist, would be to create an educational program that would work in tandem with this technology. Future projects could focus on sustainable agriculture and water sanitation. By providing these tools, Future Scientist is aiming to give initiative to the global community, whether it be in Peru, or in the United States. With the help of social entrepreneurs, individuals such as yourselves, reader, this can be made possible. Thanks for all of your help and for reading this blog. I hope there was some learning involved on your side too.
You can visit our website at
futurescientist.org to follow our progress.
Please consider making a donation
to help support our cause!