Transformative Connections: Meli Meets the Kokama in the Amazon

Cacica Joana and meliponiculturist Orlando gave an emotional presentation of their village, Raízes da Ayahuasca, during the latest virtual meeting between Meli’s communities. Bridging distances, biomes, and cultures, they foster connections and inspire collective actions.

Author: Ivi Pauli
Leia em Português

Meli’s communities online gatherings are a ritual where we come together twice a month, bridging distances, biomes, time-zones, and cultures, to share experiences and foster connections. In the midst of the rainy season, when the Amazon is drenched in frequent and heavy rainfall, our online gatherings take on another level of special significance.

On Friday, on February 2nd, 2024, at the dawn of another rainy night, our virtual community space welcomed guests whose journey echoed the resilience of the rainforest itself: the Kokama people of the Alto Solimões – located 11km away from the city of São Paulo de Olivença to which it is connected by a dirt road which becomes extremely muddy this time of the year, rendering it impassable for any vehicle.

In this opportunity we delved into the heart of a very new community, “Raízes da Ayahuasca,” which emerged just two years ago. Led by the remarkable woman leader, Cacica Joana, this community resides amidst the lush expanse of the Alto Solimões, being composed by a group of Kokama families. The village lies right after the last electricity post, and the recent opening of the dirt road has been a big development, as it now stretches to the entrance of the village. Here, amidst the serene landscape, stand a school and family houses made out of wood, surrounded by fruit trees, sweet potatoes, stingless bees, and the vastness of the Amazon Forest.

In a remarkable display of dedication, Orlando, the community’s specialist in stingless bees, hailing proudly from the indigenous Cubeo and Guanano peoples of Colombia, undertook a courageous journey. Despite residing in the city, he rose before dawn and faced the muddy paths and relentless rain to honor his commitment to the Kokama family who had embraced him in Brazil. He walked for 4 hours straight to show us his village, leaving his house at 4:30 am, so he could support his Cacica in accessing the call.

As the virtual doors of our meeting swung open at 9:00 am, members from across the globe eagerly gathered to immerse themselves in the captivating narrative of “Raízes da Ayahuasca.” Through the heartfelt words of Orlando and Cacica Joana, we all gained insight into the joys and struggles of life in the Amazon, a landscape characterized by resilience in the face of adversity.

“It’s really touching for all of us to know that there’s someone out there, like you, looking out for us. We’re not used to being cared for, especially not with so much love and kindness.”

Despite the recent advancements – a newly constructed dirt road and the introduction of electricity – the community continues to grapple with the profound challenge of accessing clean water. The absence of treated water and a dependable pipeline system casts a shadow over adults, exacerbating the struggles faced by the children who fall ill far too frequently, primarily with parasitic diseases like amebiasis. Amidst these challenges, however, the community holds onto a shared dream of establishing their own fish ponds, which would not only aid in their self-sustainability but also enhance their food security.

Reminded of the potential for positive change through collective action, we were thrilled to announce the launch of a “Pollinating Regeneration” project with the Alto Solimões Communities, including “Raízes da Ayahuasca.” Through this initiative, the communities will revive their connection to nature, starting by cultivating stingless bees and producing honey. Empowering sustainable practices that enhance their self-sufficiency and resilience, we will also be addressing their challenges of accessing clean water. 

As the virtual gathering drew to a close, we all felt a profound sense of connection, all united by our shared commitment to resilience and community-led progress. Inspired by the people of “Raízes da Ayahuasca,” we left the meeting with a renewed sense of purpose and determination. In the midst of the challenges facing the Amazon, we couldn’t help but see the seeds of a brighter tomorrow – a future guided by compassion, solidarity, and hope.

P.S.: Orlando’s ease with digital media shines as he confidently steps into the spotlight, presenting his community’s agricultural projects and beekeeping initiatives through captivating video series. Although hindered by poor connection during the meeting, he shared these videos afterwards, allowing members to see the intricacies of their plantations, the strategic placement of existing beehives, and eagerly shared plans for new installations. His enthusiasm was a delight for every member of our network.

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