Can you imagine not having access to fresh fruits and vegetables?
Well, for many families who live in the area around the Manu rainforest in Peru, fresh fruits and vegetables have been too expensive. But a Peruvian non-profit organization called CREES is working to change that.
The reason fresh fruits and vegetables are so expensive is that they are mostly brought in by truck from the nearest big city, Cuzco — a journey of 10 to 12 hours on one-lane roads that curve around the mountains.
The result is that many families weren’t eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. One solution? Bio-gardens: small areas next to a family’s house where fruits and vegetables are grown.
We went with CREES one day to get a first-hand look, and to help build a bio-garden. In the picture below, we’re helping to build a roof for the bio-garden. Reynaldo is in the tan shirt, standing.
Why do the bio-gardens have a roof? The rainforest can be both sunny and rainy, and the roof helps protect plants from excessive sun and rain.
By having a bio-garden, families can grow their own food instead of purchasing it from stores that truck it in over the long, winding road from Cusco.
- Save expense for local families, giving them a healthier diet through better access to fresh produce.
- Save the fossil fuel that the trucks use, and prevent some pollution.
- Offer families an additional source of income. They can sell extra fruits and vegetables, giving them less of a reason to cut down the rainforest to make money (for example, by selling wood).
As much as we love spotting animals in the rainforest, one of the most memorable things we’ve done is meeting Reynaldo, a local Peruvian and CREES leader. The bio-gardens were his idea, and he’s helped CREES build 60 bio-gardens already, with more on the way. These bio-gardens were Reynaldo’s brainchild.
He’s an inspirational person, with twinkling eyes and boundless energy. His house is a model for the community, and his own laboratory for new things to try. He’s farming fruits and vegetables in his own bio-garden, growing tree saplings for re-forestation, raising chickens, ducks and guinea pigs (a delicacy in Peru), and even farming fish in a system of lagoons made by hand.
Even the toilet in his home is an experiment. He uses the poop from his family to create energy! He stores it in an underground tank. As it decomposes, it creates methane, a gas. By connecting a pipe to the underground tank, he can funnel the methane to their stove, and use it as cooking fuel.
Reynaldo is just one of many amazing people in the world who are helping to preserve the environment by creating new, inventive ways of doing things.
If you want to learn more about Reynaldo, click here to see an excellent 5-minute video about him.
And here’s a short (about 1 minute) video we made about Manu and building the bio-garden with CREES.
Study Guide Questions:
- Can you give 3 benefits to a bio-garden?
- Why is it better for a bio-garden to have a roof?
- How does Reynaldo use his bathroom in a different way?