1. Summer Learning Internships in the Peruvian High Amazon

Title: "Sustainability through Indigenous Permaculture             while Addressing the Climate Crisis"

Dates: July 1-August 11, 2016

Levels: Undergraduate & MA students.

Place: Sachamama Center for Biocultural Regeneration (SCBR), Lamas, Department of San Martin, Peru 

Learning Internship Description

This internship will teach students experientially how to re-create the perennially fertile pre-Columbian anthropogenic soil known in Brazil as Terra Preta do Indio (black earth of the Indians). This soil contains a type of charcoal made with reduced oxygen, called biochar that never decomposes in the soil, retains nutrients and sequesters greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and keeps them in the soil permanently. Students will learn to build a backyard biochar oven on the model of the successful oven at SCBR designed by its administrator, Randy Chung Gonzales. Professor F. Apffel-Marglin has been able to successfully re-generate this pre-Columbian anthropogenic soil (which in SCBR we call by its Kichwa name Yana Allpa) and create extremely fertile food gardens on degraded lands in native communities as well as in several primary and high schools in the region, in collaboration with the school board of the Lamas Province. Students will learn from SCBR permanent technical team about its Yana Allpa project. This team consists of Ingeniero Ambiental Tesista Carles Marquez Reategui and Reyser Tapullima Cachique, a deeply knowledgeable Indigenous Kichwa farmer. Students will be taken to visit native communities as well as some of the schools SCBR works with.

Additionally, under the guidance of Professor Apffel-Marglin, students will experientially learn to relate to the earth in its many aspects as a Being – a Thou – with many different aspects rather than as an insentient, mechanical, natural resource there exclusively for satisfying some human need. Since SCBR is in an indigenous milieu, the living world of the local Kichwa indigenous people will help us to empathize and connect with that milieu without necessarily adopting their specific practices.

This regenerated pre-Columbian Amazonian black earth of millenarian fertility, discovered by archeologists in mid-twentieth century, is able to give local farmers, both indigenous and mestizo, an affordable and successful alternative to slash and burn agriculture. This is urgently needed since this region has the highest rate of deforestation in all of Peru and degraded lands, where the forest is no longer able to regenerate, are growing alarmingly. This type of soil has in it biochar, a type of charcoal that allows the greenhouse gases emitted by plants and bacteria in the soil to remain in the soil and not be emitted into the atmosphere. It is a permanent type of agriculture, whereas slash and burn uses a field for only a few years, and then farmers must clear and burn another patch of forest to grow food. This type of biochar agriculture is both much more productive as well as able to strongly mitigate global warming at least three times over: by not cutting trees, not burning them and keeping greenhouse gases in the soil permanently. This recreated soil holds the promise of achieving food security and community-based food sovereignty for native communities as well as all small farmers and also holds the promise of greatly mitigating global warming. Much of this technology can be adapted to colder climates in the global North.

Part of this learning internship will also consist of two or three days per week reserved for readings and seminar discussion; SCRB has a budding library. Students will be expected to keep a diary of their experience as well as chose a final project for which they will earn a certificate.

Further Academic Opportunities

Those students wishing to add readings and writing to this internship can work individually with Professor Apffel-Marglin to identify relevant readings and help with writing if that is desired by a student. Students of course always have the option of registering for an Independent Study in the following academic year with a willing and interested faculty in their own institution and thus gain credit for all or part of the work done at SCBR during the six weeks internship in July and August 2016.

Additional Possible Activities

  • Students may also learn about Amazonian medicinal plants with Royner Sangama Sangama and/or Reyser Tapullima Cachique..
  • Learn Quechua with Royner Sangama Sangama
  • Students may also learn indigenous and mestizo organic “slow food” cooking with SCBR’s manager and chef, Profesora Ida Gonzales Flores.
  • Students can learn in the indigenous section of Lamas, called Wayku, indigenous crafts such as ceramics, waist band weaving and more with an award winning Kichwa ceramicist and weaver, Manuela Amasifuen Sangama, at an additional cost of US $ 7.50 for an entire afternoon.


$ 2,400.00 per student; for the six weeks of July and August 2016; includes room and board; local course related transport to visited communities; tuition to SCBR and instructors. Students are responsible for expenses incurred during their free days, although SCBR will provide a picnic lunch as well as breakfast and dinner on the weekly free days. This cost does NOT cover international air travel to and from Peru or to the city of Tarapoto where the nearest airport is located.

To reach Tarapoto in the department of San Martin, you take a flight to Lima (Peru’s capital), then a flight to Tarapoto (one hour flight; there are three airlines making daily flights Lima-Tarapoto-Lima) or a bus ride from Lima to Tarapoto (about 28 hours).

SCBR will pick up students at the Tarapoto airport for the half hour ride to Lamas.


  • One letter of recommendation from a professor who knows the student well. Send to
  • Send a brief statement about yourself, your interest in this internship and background for it to Prof. F. Apffel-Marglin at: ; If possible state which of these activities are most appealing to you and whether you are interested in guided readings and writing. State your level of Spanish.
  • Deadline: May 10, 2016.
  • Non-refundable deposit of $300 due on :May17, 2016.
    (payment information will be forwarded after applicants have been selected)
  • Full payment due on : May 31st, 2016.


2.- May 2016 Course for University of Victoria and Alberta Students, Canada.

Title: Pre-Columbian Indigenous Permaculture: Sustainable Ecology in the High Amazon.

Instructors: Frédérique Apffel-Marglin, PhD, and Jeremy L. Caradonna, PhD


Students in this unique program will journey to Peru’s Andean-Amazon region to learn firsthand from local communities living lightly in their local environment. Students will experience indigenous Kichwa principles of cultural autonomy and respect of ancient practices that ‘talk back’ to global systems of capitalism and politics and assert the wisdom of a worldview that values the ‘other-than-human’ living world of plants, animals, and spiritual energies. The group will build skills in working effectively with peers and contribute to the regeneration of local communities throughhands-on, service-learning projects that promote agricultural biodiversity, sustainable action, and right livelihood. The program will focus, in particular, on the soil management and ecological practices of the Kichwa, and will place these practices in the context of global sustainability movements. The idea is to understand how indigenous ‘permacultural’ practices 1) contrast with industrialism and industrial agriculture; 2) have been affected by colonial encounters and ecological imperialism; and 3) contribute to the modern permaculture movement.


The program’s home base during the May program is Sachamama Center for Biocultural Regeneration, a non-profit organization whose mission is to teach, research and publish about the regeneration of cloud forest, local healing traditions, the Quechua language, Kichwa culture, and ancient, sustainable, organic farming practices. The center has two acres of wooded land and is located at the southern edge of the colonial town of Lamas, which is itself situated on a high ridge of the northern tropical foothills of the Peruvian Andes. Lamas is a fairly small town that is located 30 minutes drive from a larger town, with an airport, called Tarapoto. (Continued below)

At left is a map of Peru. Note that Tarapoto, the city closest to Lamas, is located in the center of the country, on the east side of the Andes, and in the Highlands of the Amazon.

Below the map is an image of Lamas, Peru.

Bottom left shows a regional map. Lamas is 30 minutes drive from Tarapoto, where the airport is located. Most visitors to Lamas fly first to Lima, then to Tarapoto (a short flight), then drive by bus or car to





There are four buildings on the Sachamama premises that have been leased to Profesora Ida Gonzalez Flores, who runs the place as a hostel, called Casa La Sangapilla, when the buildings are not being used by students and researchers. The Casa La Sangapilla can accommodate 30 students quite comfortably in a combination of private rooms and hostel-like dormitories. Dr. Frédérique Apffel-Marglin, emeritus professor of anthropology at Smith College, founded the Center in 2009. Since 2009 numerous university courses and programs have been held at Sachamama, including programs from the University of Massachusetts and the University of British Columbia.


The Sachamama team has created an experimental sustainable organic field, called a “chacra-huerto,” on the grounds of Sachamama, where vegetables are grown using the “terra preta de indio” technique that will be taught in the course. The field is based on discoveries made by archaeologists in the Amazon basin of human-made soils, some of which date back 8,500 years. The soils have been shown to retain nutrients and fertility to the present day. The soils, which have been enriched with biochar and ceramic fragments, have been analyzed by a Cornell University soil scientist, in addition to others, who have demonstrated the long-term stability and fertility of the soils. Based on those findings, Sachamama has successfully regenerated these living soils, in an attempt to further revive indigenous permacultural techniques, which stand as an alternative to slash-and-burn agriculture and industrial, conventional agriculture. Long before Bill Mollison and David Holmgren coined the term ‘permaculture,’ and advocated for the adoption of permaculture practices and principles in European and Neo-European contexts, the indigenous people of Peru (and elsewhere) had been creating highly sustainable soils and ‘permacultural’ ecological practices.

One of the important features of terra preta is that it helps sequester carbon dioxide emissions. Organic farming in general, and terra preta in particular, has been shown to function as a better ‘carbon sink’ than conventional farms and soils. The biochar that is added in to terra preta is a form of carbonized charcoal that has very little oxygen and is able to store atmospheric carbon dioxide. The carbon ‘savings’ from terra preta are in fact fourfold: First, it doesn’t require deforestation in the form of slash and burn; second, it avoids the burning of those felled tress; third, by sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide; and fourth, by retaining carbon in the soil for long periods of time. It is one very simple and effective way of fighting climate change, while rebuilding poor or depleted soils.


The Center is staffed full time by Prof. Ida Gonzalez Flores, who is the Chef and also the manager; Randy Chung Gonzalez, the administrator of Casa Sangapilla and an artist; Técnico Royner Sangama Sangama, who heads the “Kinti Kartunira” project that produces booklets for bilingual classrooms; he also teaches Quechua.
Ingeniero Ambiental Carles Marquez Reategui, in charge of the permaculture project, called the chacra-huerto project; Reyser Tapullima Cachique, his assistant.

There is also a team of hospitality workers and cooks at Casa La Sangapilla. Sachamama also has two parrots, three dogs (Justin, Muñeca, and Doggie).

In may of 2016, the program co-coordinators for the course “Pre-Colombian Indigenous Permaculture: Sustainable Ecology in High Amazon Peru” will be Prof. Frédérique Apffel-Marglin, an emeritus prof. of anthropology at Smith College, and the founder of the Sachamama Center. Frédérique has been studying the Kichwa, their culture, language, and ecological practices for many years, and is the author of numerous articles and books on Peruvian indigeneity, spirituality, and ecology. She has taught many courses at Sachamama, and is fluent in Spanish, English, French, and has some knowledge of the local Quechua language. Prof. Jeremy L. Caradonna is an associate professor of history at the University of Alberta, and an adjunct professor of environmental studies at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. He is an expert in the history of the global sustainability movement, the history of Western science and ecological thought, and the European colonial contact with the Americas. This will be his first time teaching at the Center.


“Pre-Colombian Indigenous Permaculture: Sustainable Ecology in High Amazon Peru”

PROGRAM LOCATION: Sachamama Center, High Amazon Peru
UNIVERSITIES: The program will be open to students from the University of Victoria, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Alberta, and potentially other schools in Canada.
INSTRUCTORS AND COORDINATORS: Prof. Frédérique Apffel-Marglin and Prof. Jeremy L. Caradonna
CREDITS: Although the program will not have direct affiliation with a university, the course is designed to be 72 course hours, which in Canadian university system is the equivalent of 3 credits. The idea is that the course can be used as transfer credit in the home institution of the student.
TERM and YEAR: May 1st to May 31st of 2016. In most Canadian schools, this corresponds roughly to the spring term, which is usually a five-week term that follows the end of the regular school year. It is being held in May specifically to accommodate Canadian students, who could take this course after completing the second term of the school year.
DAYS: Class will be held Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays will be for field trips, hands-on learning and learning Quechua for those students interested in this language. Sunday is a free day for students to explore the region and its sites. There is also a four-day field trip and stay in an indigenous community with which SCBR collaborates.

Course Description
This course is designed to give students a hands-on experience of how the Kichwa-Lamista indigenous peoples of High Amazon Peru understand and live the connections between ecological and cultural health. Over the course of 29 days, students will live, study, and practice primarily at the Sachamama Center for Biocultural Regeneration. The course will be divided between seminar discussions, in the morning, and experiential learning practices, in the afternoon. The experiential aspect of the course will involve studying and making terra preta de indio (Indian black earth), a sustainable soil enriched with organic biochar and other elements. Students will also take at least two field trips as part of the course. The first is a visit to a neighboring Kichwa-Lamista community, where students and staff will spend four nights, in rustic but adequate local accommodations, learning indigenous ways of life. The second field trip will be to visit Takiwasi Center, founded by Dr. Jacques Mabit in nearby Tarapoto. Mabit is a physician who researches indigenous medicines and healing treatments.

Seminars, which will be held on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, will prepare students for these immersion experiences, field trips, and experiential practices. Tuesdays and Thursdays will also be program days, but most likely not in the classroom. Students will learn about global sustainability movements, in general, and local indigenous sustainability practices, in particular. The course will provide a strong grounding in the cultural and political history of the Kichwa-Lamistas, before, during, and after the colonial encounter with the Spanish. The Kichwa-Lamistas have long struggled to retain cultural autonomy, protect their lands from encroachment, and defy global systems of industrialism, market capitalism, and conventional political organizations. Students will learn to understand their own personal experiences of cultural shock as an historical aspect of the politics of encounter between modern and non-modern modes of inhabiting life.

Particular stress will be placed on soil-building techniques, indigenous food systems, and other “permacultural” practices employed by the Kichwa-Lamistas. The primary goal of the program is to foster cultural and ecological exchange between the inhabitants of the industrial North and a non-industrialized part of the South. This program allows for immersion in a worldview that holds transformational possibilities for how to build inclusive and sustainable communities, fertile soils, mitigate the climate crisis, and resilient food systems. Beyond the seminar and field experience, students will also have the option to study basic Quechua while at Sachamama.

Course Objectives

* Place indigenous and mestizo sustainability efforts in broader, global contexts.

* Connect the Western permaculture movement to indigenous, pre-Colombian “permaculture.”

* Understand basic history of the Kichwa in Peru and how they have been affected by colonial encounters and ecological imperialism and change.

* Foster cultural exchange, mutualism, and reciprocity between Neo-European conceptions of ecology, sustainability, and organic agriculture, and Kichwan conceptions of the same.

* Understand the basic science and techniques of making terra preta de indio, and how these soils differ from conventional agricultural soils, and also how they differ from Western permacultural soil building practices.

* Give students an integrated understanding of the connections between ecological and community health.

* Understand the forces behind deforestation, agricultural change, and how they relate to pre-Colombian agricultural and ecological practices.

* Learn to create community across cultural, historical, and social differences; create solidarities between North and South

* Learn effective ways of translating and communicating one’s experience back home

* Learn a transferable method of sequestering greenhouse gases through soil building techniques

Learning Modalities
The course will use a combination of seminars, readings assigned and read before travel to Peru, readings done in Peru, field trips, site visits, hands-on experiential learning, group work, and community stays as key strategies for learning from and collaborating with the Kichwa people and the professors and staff involved in the program.
Course Requirements and Assignments
1. Seminar participation
Students are expected to attend all classes, experiential learning, field outings, and immersion experiences. Active participation constitutes a large portion of the final grade, so the expectation is that students will come to class prepared to learn, share, and engage. Students are expected to participate in group activities. Students will show respect to fellow students, local hosts, staff, and professors. Students must alert instructors before class starts of any anticipated absences or tardiness.

2. Field work
A major component of the course is to learn how to make, maintain, and understand terra preta de indio, which students will build on most afternoons (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays). Students are expected to participate in these field exercises and demonstrate knowledge of the techniques taught. Students are also expected to participate in any field trips associated with the soil-building program.

3. Journal
The journal will be free-style and be composed of daily reflections and comments on one’s learning, both personal and intellectual, in the program. Instructors will be reading only those parts of the journals chosen by the students, and will factor students engagement into the final grade. The journals are a space for students to process and record reactions, transformations, and insights.

4. Written Assignments
Given the difficulty of writing longer-form essays while in the field, and given the heavy focus on seminar-style learning and experiential activities, the course will not have a heavy writing load. Aside from the journals, the only written assignments will involve questions about the readings that must be filled out prior to class. The written answers will be completed while at Sachamama, and can be done without the help of computers.

5. Readings
There will be a fair bit of reading for this course, some of which must be completed before arrival in Peru, and some of which will be completed while in Peru. For the readings to be done ahead of time, students must track down the books and articles on their own time, and via their home institutions. These readings will not be provided or offered for sale. The readings completed in Peru will come in the form of a course reader, and will be provided by the instructors upon arrival.

Readings: Pre-Travel

* Stephen Toulmin, Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of
Modernity (1990), selections
* Christine Hunefeldt, A Brief History of Peru (2004)
* Richard Grove, Green Imperialism: Colonial
Expansion, Tropical Island Edens and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600—1860 (1995), selections
* Charles Mann, 1491: New Revelations of the
Americas Before Columbus (2005), selections
* Charles Mann, 1493: Uncovering the New World
Columbus Created (2011), selections
* Alfred Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological
Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 (1986), selections

Readings in Coursepack

* Donald Worster, Nature’s Economy: A History of
Ecological Ideas (1994), selections
* Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway:
Quantum Physics & the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (2007), selections
* David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception
and Language in a More-Than-Human World (1997), selections
* Frédérique Apffel-Marglin, Subversive Spiritualties:
How Rituals Enact the World (2012), selections
* Jeremy L. Caradonna, Sustainability: A History (OUP,
2014), selections
* David Holmgren, Permaculture: Principles and
Pathways Beyond Sustainability (2004), selections
* V. Shiva, Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability,
and Peace (2005), selections
* Calderon, “Kechwa-Mestizo Relations in Lamas in the
Context of Globalization,” in Local and Transnational Communities, Five Case Studies in Peru (2003)
* Frédérique Apffel-Marglin, “Soil, Spirits and the
Cosmocentric Economy: RecreatingAmazonian Dark Earth in Peru”
            * Rider Panduro and Grimaldo Rengifo: “Montes and
            Montaraces: The Meaning and Use of the Forest by
            the Kichwa-Lamistas”
            * Susanna B. Hecht, “Indigenous Soil Management and
                        the Creation of Amazonia Dark Earths:                   
                        Implications of Kayapò Practices”
            *Albert Bates The Biochar Solution (2010), selections
            *Jacques Mabit, “Ayahuasca and the Treatment of
            Addictions” in Michael J. Winkelman & Thomas B.
            Roberts eds. Psychedelic Medicine: New Evidence
            For Hallucinogenic Substances as Treatments         (2007)
            * Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye
                        View of the World (2001), selections


Marking and Final Grades

Since this program is not directly affiliated with a university, there is no obligation to confer written grades to participants. The program will be pass/fail. However, in the event that a student’s home university wants actual letter and percentage grades, the coordinators of the program will submit to students final grades for the course. Active participation will constitute 50 percent of the grade, field work will comprise 25 percent, and written assignments 25 percent.

Course Schedule

On a daily basis, breakfast (8.00), lunch (12:30), and dinner (6:00) will be served at the Center’s Dining Tambo. Students will meet for class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Some field trips will occur during class time. The overnight trip will occur over a long weekend. On classroom days, the seminar will meet from 9-12, and the field work will take place from 2-5.

Schedule of Activities and Meetings

April 30 and May 1: Arrival at Sachamama, most likely at the airport in Tarapoto. Ground transportation provided.

May 2: All-day orientation at Sachamama. Readings assigned for May 4th.

May 3: Non-classroom activities

May 4: Morning seminar, afternoon field work. Readings assigned.

May 5: Non-classroom activities

May 6: Morning seminar, afternoon field work. Readings assigned.

May 7, 8: Weekend

May 9: Morning seminar, afternoon field work. Readings assigned.

May 10: Non-classroom activities

May 11: Visit area high school in morning, afternoon classroom time. Readings assigned.

May 12: Non-classroom activities

May 13 -17: Overnight, 5-day field trip to indigenous community called Shukshuyaku

May 17: Return to Sachamama, afternoon classroom time. Readings assigned.

May 18: Morning seminar, afternoon field work.

May 19: Non-classroom activities

May 20: Morning seminar, afternoon field work. Readings assigned.

May 21, 22: Weekend

May 23: Morning seminar, afternoon field work. Readings assigned.

May 24: Non-classroom activities

May 25: Morning seminar, afternoon field work. Readings assigned.

May 26: Non-classroom activities

May 27: Morning seminar, afternoon field work. Last day of classes.

May 28-29: Departures


The cost of the program is $1900 per student in US dollars. Students must enroll in the course by Jan. 31st, 2016 and pay a non-refundable deposit of US $300 by February 10th. The remaining US $1600 must be paid by March 1st, 2016, although it is encouraged that students pay the full balance by February 10th. Cost of the program includes all classroom activities, experiential learning, room and board, and all meals (3 meals per day for duration of visit, which equals around 90 meals), all transportation costs related directly to the program, and transportation to and from the airport in Tarapoto. Costs that must be paid by the students, and which are not included in the program’s fees, include primarily airfare to and from Tarapoto, Peru, and any recreational or discretionary spending that a student might make on days off.

Payments can be made by cheque in US dollars written to SCBR (a tax-exempt account at the Bank of America) and mailed to Frédérique Apffel-Marglin, 36 A Dana St., Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA or by direct wire transfer to SCBR's tax exempt account at the Bank of America. Those students paying by wire transfer will receive the necessary information beforehand..

For more information, or to enroll, please email both Professors Apffel-Marglin and Caradonna:,

The program will be open to students from University of British Columbia, University of Victoria, and University of Alberta, although students from smaller Canadian schools will be considered, where appropriate. The program is geared, in particular, toward students interested in anthropology, history, farming and food systems, permaculture, indigenous studies, Latin American studies,  Environmental Studies.
Lamas, Peru is a safe and enjoyable town of around 12 to 15,000 inhabitants, both indigenous Kichwa-Lamistas, and Spanish-speaking mestizos. The nearest city is Tarapoto, located 30 minutes’ drive to the southeast of Lamas. There is a hospital in Lamas that Sachamama has a relationship with, and several large hospitals in Tarapoto. Doctors make home visits to students and staff, should anyone fall ill.
Recreational costs and activities are left up to students, but staff and professors can recommend many hikes, natural spots, restaurants, and other leisure activities. There are a few small discotheques in Lamas. Although the town is safe, it is recommended that students, and especially women, go out in groups. There is an early curfew on weeknights and a later curfew on weekends. It is easy to travel to and from the central plaza (downtown) via moto-taxi, and on foot.
Important note about clothing and gear: It is imperative that students bring sturdy rubber boots that are rain and snake-proof; rain-proof jackets and clothing; clothing that is appropriate for hiking and digging in soils. Clothes can be washed at Sachamama, but it’s a good idea to bring a few pairs of clothes suitable for outdoor work and activities.Once selected, students will be sent a Student Handbook with much more such pragmatic information.

For more information about Sachamama and Lamas, visit:

A checklist of required and recommended travel items will be sent out to enrolled students via email ahead of the program.






Course Faculty

Frédérique Apffel-Marglin, PhD is Professor Emerita, Dpt. of Anthropology at Smith College and Distinguished Visiting Professor, College of the Environment, Wesleyan University (2013-14). She founded SCBR in the Peruvian High Amazon in 2009 which she directs. (; for more information see her biography on the SCBR website:
Or go to:

Useful Links

Click here for the SCBR web site in English (also in Spanish and French or go to:
Click here for accommodation in Casa la Sangapilla or go to:
Click here for SCBR 2015 documentary “Re-Weaving the Web: Amazonian Dark Earth”


Offering in the community of Shukshuyaku, June 2012


Cultivating in the Chacra-Huerto in Shukshuyaku










Farming for food sovereignty










































follow us on facebook