Novalis is located on 2000 hectares of Brazil Nut Concession in the district Bajo Piedras of Madre de Dios region, close to the triple border of Peru, Brazil, and Bolivia. The founder, Juan Zuniga, first settled here in 2001, exploring and understanding the position of native communities in the region. In 2006 he dedicated himself to forming bilingual educational programs with the government. In 2008, the land where Novalis now resides was founded with the center officially opening in 2013.
So, where are we, and where have we been?
We give thanks to several important people who have become part of our lives and are part of our history, as we are part of theirs. It is impossible not to mention original collaborators including Mariya Garnet, Sara Mason, and all the supporters who helped build through a funding campaign. We are especially grateful to Vivre Perché who was the major force in the construction of our tree houses. We are grateful to all our workers who have tirelessly helped us make sure our constructions stayed up, and that people were fed, and safe. Thank you to all the volunteers and participants, as well as our neighbors. We also offer our heartfelt gratitude to Jennifer Joy Logan, who will always guide us.
Surrounded by primary and secondary tropical rainforest in what is considered to be the bio-diversity capital of the world, Novalis is a habitat to many animal species such as Jaguar, Tapir, White-lipped peccary, black spider monkey, and many others.
Madre de Dios is home to some of the last substantial populations of big-leaf mahogany, one of the most valuable hardwood timbers in the international market, and the Brazil Nut tree, also a hardwood species.
The region is also an ancestral homeland to several indigenous communities. The rainforest accessible from the Las Piedras River, where Novalis is located, is largely unpopulated. The small native communities are located on the riverside, and the river affords them their main means of transport.
The region of Madre de Dios is home to 11 indigenous peoples, 9 of which are Aboriginal and 2 of which—the Kichwa and the Shipibo-Conibo—hail from other regions of the Amazon. The original peoples of Madre de Dios include the Matsigengua, Ese Eja, Harákmbut, Yine, Amahuaca, Yaminahua/Yora peoples, and the voluntarily isolated Mashco Piro, as well as two other unidentified voluntarily isolated peoples.
Novalis is located in close proximity to three communities: Puerto Arturo, mainly of Kichwa origin, Santa Teresita of the Yine ethnic group and Boca Pariamanu, Amahuaca. We have been closely working with these communities, researching while listening to their needs and responding by supporting the cultural preservation of these communities by developing a rescue plan and implementation of the native language in the Amahuaca community of Boca Pariamanu and developing the first grammar of the Kichwa dialect of Quechua language of Puerto Arturo community.
The Amazon rainforest is responsible for rainfall on an intercontinental scale, providing a host of ecosystem services, including protection of watersheds from erosion and evaporation, nutrient cycling, and providing habitat for species critical for pollination of food crops. A single rainforest reserve in Peru is home to more species of birds than are found in the entire United States.
Novalis, as a Brazil Nut concession, is responsible for safeguarding over 1,500 Brazil Nut trees, which can only reproduce in primary forests. By protecting their habitat and ceasing various illegal logging and burning activities of the dozens of hectares of primary forests of land intended for farming activities, we have consequently facilitated the protection of jaguars, tapirs, various species of monkeys, and low land pacas, the reappearance of which has been observed since the formation of Novalis. This also includes habitat for thousands of plants, amphibians, fungi, and invertebrate species.
By entering into an agreement with Brazil Nut Producers Association of Bajo Piedras we have supported the traditional practices of local communities and played a role in the protection of our land from heavy metal contamination by artisanal gold mining.
The biggest contributor to the ongoing mercury contamination is illegal gold mining. According to the Carnegie Amazon Mercury Ecosystem Project, a new study of fish and humans in the Peruvian Amazon finds that mercury is a serious and increasing environmental and public health problem in the gold mining region of Madre de Dios. High mercury concentrations found in a majority of people and in most of the wild-caught fish sold in markets in the capital city, Puerto Maldonado, indicate that the scope and intensity of mercury contamination by illegal gold mining in Madre de Dios is greater than previously thought.
According to the studies, the areas suffering the most pollution are Regions la Rinconada, Huepetuhe, Quincemil and rivers Madre de Dios, Malinowski, Colorado, and Tambopata.
Bajo Piedras, where Novalis is located, is one of the last unpolluted areas in the region. River Piedras, also known in the native language Tacuatimanu, is part of the catchment area for the Amazon basin. It meanders for more than 600km from its origin at Alto Purus, through the majestic rainforest with beautiful riverside scenery, including huge river cliffs and beaches, waterfalls, and green canyons.
Since beginning work in 2013, we have had a lot of help from people all around the world to undertake different initiatives to protect this territory from illegal mining invasions and to strengthen alliances with neighboring communities to protect our land rich in gold from destruction and contamination.
We will continue.