Alto Mayo

Tea infusions bring economic empowerment for Indigenous women in Peru

The Awajún women of the Alto Mayo in Peru believe nothing beats a good cup of herbal tea.

They say the spirit of the land, Nugkui, has given the women of the Awajún people the responsibility of caring for the seeds. Now, these women, known as Nuwas in the native language, want to share their gift with the world.

As part of a Conservation International project supported by the BHP Foundation, they’ve produced their first commercial batch of herbal tea from a business that’s led by women and supports women’s industry.

“The Awajún women are building their business, management and financial skills. This process has empowered this extraordinary group of women, who are turning their traditional knowledge into a source of income that helps conserve their forests and support their families.” says Cecilia Gutierrez, M&E Manager of Conservation International Peru.

Nuwa Infusiones Amazonicas is based in the community of Shampuyac and produces tea infusions from aromatic plants sourced from the upper Peruvian Amazon. One tea is based on clavohuasca, whose taste is similar to cloves, in a blend with cape gooseberry (native to Peru) and native cinnamon; and the other is based on Amazonian ginger in a blend with cocoa husk, native vanilla and stevia.

The product was developed in collaboration with the Takiwasi Laboratory and Conservation International and recognises the cultural and traditional significance of native plants and the knowledge that’s been passed down through generations of women.

"This has been a great experience. I am very proud to see the value of our traditions. We are motivated to continue working and valuing the forest, to continue learning from the grandmothers and mothers who taught us to cultivate medicinal plants" says Uziela Achayap, a member of the Shampuyacu community.

Since 2015, the women of Shampuyacu have become protectors of 9 hectares of forest, now known as the Nuwa Forest, and continue to work to recover their ancestral knowledge, value their culture, and confront one of the main problems challenging the community, deforestation.

In support of these conservation efforts, local partner ECOAN, a non-profit focused on forest rehabilitation, provides technical assistance to 250 beneficiaries, spread across five communities, with 223 hectares of crops (including cocoa, coffee and pitahaya) managed with sustainable practices.

It’s all part of an effort to empower the Indigenous communities in the Alto Mayo region of the Peruvian Amazon to pursue sustainable businesses while conserving their unique natural environment.

The Alto Mayo is one of Peru’s most biodiverse regions and is nestled in the foothills of the Andes sloping down to the Amazon. Since 2001, the area has lost around 15 per cent of its forests to deforestation caused by unsustainable farming practices.

By helping Alto Mayo’s Indigenous and farming communities achieve economic self-sufficiency, the project is helping secure the future of the Amazon.

Read more about the Alto Mayo project.