A Heartfelt Visit to Pacasmayo

Grazia with University of Trujillo volunteers, Milagros, Sachira and Ciro

A Heartfelt Journey in Pacasmayo: Planting Seeds of Hope and Sustainability

By Grazia Rabasa

Pacasmayo, a picturesque coastal town in northern Peru, is traditionally recognized for its beautiful beaches and warm-hearted inhabitants. However, during my recent visit to Pacasmayo, I not only admired its natural richness and scenic views but partook in a truly transformative experience. As a member of A Rocha Perú, my mission in Pacasmayo was to truly capture the essence and mission of A Rocha Peru through my camera while participating in the day-to-day activities of the Dry Forest Project with the local communities.

Milagros showing the baskets made by the Association of Artisans of the Cañoncillo Forest

Upon arrival, the excitement in the air was palpable. A Rocha team – Ciro and Andrea- welcomed me with smiles and open arms, graciously sharing stories of the beloved town of Pacasmayo and the challenges it faces.   I have never experienced such an abundant amount of hospitality. Children, young adults and older individuals welcomed me to their homes and generously gifted me avocados, watermelons, tunas and other Peruvian fruits from their gardens! This was a very humbling experience. Today, as I reminisce about my time in Pacasmayo, I think about what one of the women said to me when visiting her house.   She said, “Little girl, these fruits are from my garden, its free for me…I love when people visit me…if I could, I would give you more, but this is what the season has given me so far.”

Another highlight of my journey was visiting the beautiful dry forest. Ciro, Andrea and I woke up early in the morning, at around 4 am, to experience the mighty sunrise and capture the majesty of nature waking up. It is astonishing how some places have the power to stir introspection and awaken a dormant purpose within us. That day, among the silhouettes of ancient trees, the whispers of the wind and the chirping of thousands of birds, I felt a profound realization about the importance of volunteering our time to the world. The dry forest, with its gnarled trees and the occasional rustle of unseen creatures, painted a tale of endurance. It had survived the worst of climatic odds, and yet, its beauty was undeniable. But more than its aesthetic allure, it was a testament to the interwoven fabric of life that thrives despite adversity. However, as much as it was a space of resilience, it was also an ecosystem at the brink, vulnerable to human exploitation and negligence.

Ciro teaching volunteers how to plant Algarrobo seelings

As I continued my walk back, I went house-to-house talking about climate change. A Rocha Peru endeavoured this mission with the help of young volunteers from the University of Trujillo. The next day, we planted around 20 algarrobo trees that will not only to combat desertification but also to help restore the local ecosystem. Each hole dug and every seed planted, was symbolic of hope.  Everyone took to the task with an endearing enthusiasm, including a 5-year-old princess who helped gently place each sapling into the earth.

As we shifted our focus to spread awareness the community about climate change, I was moved by their receptive nature. Using simple language and relatable examples, we discussed how a warming planet affects everything from their local farms to the health of their children. Many expressed genuine concern and wanted to know more about how they could make a difference.

As my journey in Pacasmayo came to a close, I was overcome with a profound sense of gratitude. The experience had been deeply transformative. I came to Pacasmayo as an outsider, hoping to bring about positive change. But by the end, the community had embraced me as one of their own, teaching me invaluable lessons about resilience, hope, and the unbreakable human spirit.

A Walk for A Rocha

Way of Peru (Chemin du Pérou), Switzerland: “One of the many ‘winks’ I had during my walk…so I would not get discouraged and remembered why I was doing the walk!”
Cross, anchor and heart key ring, gifted to bring faith, hope, and love along the walk (a symbol of 1 Corinthians 13)

In a world overflowing with overwhelming news, now and again, a tale of hope, determination, and unity stands out. This is the incredible story of Coline Raillon, a beacon of light in the realm of conservation, who undertook an epic walk spanning three countries to raise awareness of the living crisis.  Part of her mission was to raise funds for the global family of A Rocha since we are celebrating 40 years of A Rocha worldwide.

Coline’s walk covered over 1,200 kilometres through three countries, including Germany, Switzerland, and France.  She carried no cash or credit card and was 100% reliant on the ask for hospitality in the form of food and accommodation.  Coline shared A Rocha’s message of caring for creation with the people she met, offering nature walks as an optional contribution.  Along her path, she met with strangers who soon became friends and enlightened many about the domino effect of a single environmental catastrophe.

Coline also aimed to raise money for A Rocha Peru, since Cyclone Yaku wreaked havoc on the northern coast of Peru at the beginning of the year, leaving countless communities bereft of necessities. Among the damages were the improved cookstoves installed in households as a part of La Libertad Dry Forest Project, and have become an essential daily tool for many families and an innovative move towards a sustainable future.

By the time Coline concluded her walk, she had sown seeds of environmental consciousness in countless hearts.   Now, Coline plans to continue her theology studies and travel nomadically through France in a truck.  She will continue to spread awareness of the living crisis by offering coffee and conversation with churches and their communities.  A Rocha Peru wishes Coline all the best on her future endeavours and we thank her for all her efforts and the generosity of supporters, as many families will be able to have their cookstoves restored.  To Coline, we owe a debt of gratitude.

Hosts Ana-Bela & Duke, Lausanne.
Visit to a beautiful farm in Switzerland

Bird Monitoring in the Amazon

Monte Carmelo Bird Watching Group

Nestled in the heart of the Peruvian jungle, Monte Carmelo stands out as a testament to the rich biodiversity of the region. Monte Carmelo, located in Cuzco, boasts a myriad of habitats – from high-altitude grasslands and cloud forests to low-lying valleys. Such ecological diversity provides a home for an astonishing variety of bird species, making the area a magnet for ornithologists and bird enthusiasts alike.

Blue-crowned Trogon (Trogon curucui)

The Amazon Natural & Cultural Heritage Conservation Project is working with the local community of Monte Carmelo to aid in the conservation of avian diversity and promote bird watching tourism. In an effort to understand the conservation status of the resident bird population, research was undertaken.  A considerable amount of bird species was documented, through field surveys, acoustic monitoring and citizen science guided by our field expert Hugo Marcos Loyola.

Field surveys reveal that the Military Macaw, the White-winged Trumpeter and the Razor-billed inhabit the area.  Military Macaw has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.  In addition, the White-winged Trumpeter and the Razor-billed are classified as Near Threatened.  The new birdwatching group observed the Russet-backed Oropendola, Blue-crowned Trogon, and the Common Squirrel-cuckoo, amongst others.  The biodiversity of the jungle is a treasure that we must value and protect. With initiatives like this one, we take another step towards the conservation and understanding of our natural environment.

The transformation of a community kitchen

Women from the Micaela Bastidas community kitchen (Image by C.Flores, October 2022)

At the end of 2021, A Rocha Peru started an initiative with Pastor José Guzmán from Iglesia Casa de Oración in Pacasmayo, northern Peru, to develop a community kitchen in San Demetrio. El comedor popular Micaela Bastidas was facing the challenge of improving its modest premises. In response, A Rocha Peru installed an improved cookstove for self-sufficiency, set up an organic garden and a space for rearing small animals, and introduced environmental education activities.  The collaboration proved a significant catalyst that inspired the local government and companies to get involved and complement this work by developing the building structure, improving the kitchen, and providing a water cistern.  Through these combined efforts, the Micaela Bastidas community kitchen was transformed. It became a communal hub run by local women committed to preparing and serving daily nutritious meals to 28 families of 120 adults and children. This inspiring example of community work shows the multiplying impact that A Rocha Peru is having in the communities it serves.

Iglesia Verde project moves to Lima!

Grecia Valdivia (left) and beneficiaries of the Iglesia Verde project (Image: March 2023)


The Iglesia Verde project moved to Lima this year and will be working in the outskirts of the Lima district.  A Rocha Peru’s project is partnering with GZB and the Iglesia Betel de Lima (Betel church of Lima), a Presbyterian church led by Pastor Elmer Laura Quiñones.  Grecia Valdivia is coordinating the activities as the new Project Officer.  Aligned with the Creation Care Program, it aims to spread awareness and sensitize pastors, leaders, community, and church members on the importance of conservation and preservation of God’s Creation.  The project will be working directly with approximately 80 beneficiaries.  This includes church members, the Red de Jóvenes Presbyterians del Perú (Presbyterian Youth Network of Peru), and the Club de Madres Sarita Colonia (Sarita Colonia Mothers’ Club).  The project will conduct in-person workshops on composting, home plant care, and recycling. For the youth network, the project will run a virtual course about the environmental challenges of our time, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental pollution. In addition, the course will teach the importance of ecosystem conservation and restoration and how we can work together to protect the environment and improve the quality of life in our communities.

Buzzing our way towards sustainability

Beekeeping workshop, December 2022

An achievement from La Libertad Dry Forest Project this past year has been the installation of apiaries in Tronco Prieto Forest, where the honey bees forage on the flowering algarrobo trees. Bees play a crucial role in biodiversity conservation by pollinating wildflowers and help to conserve the dry forest. With a dedicated beekeeper, the project team explored the Tronco Prieto dry forest and met with Muchick Conservation Group to investigate the possibility of installing apiaries.  Later in the year, the project held two sustainable training workshops for the local community on beekeeping. The new trainees will manage the apiaries installed in Tronco Prieto to produce honey. The beekeeping initiative is on track to beekeeping success, already making 12 litres of organic honey in January!

A Rocha Peru attends COP15

Attendees and friends of A Rocha at COP15 (Image: December 2022)

A Rocha was at the UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP15) in Montreal from 7-19 December 2022. Maria de los Angeles La Torre Cuadros represented A Rocha Peru as part of the A Rocha delegation to the conference. Maria de los Angeles is A Rocha Peru’s Board Chair and Director of Science and Conservation, and below is her reflection on attending the UN Biodiversity Conference.

“This meeting was a space to raise awareness of the situation of biological diversity, to see that the problems are a shared responsibility, to raise awareness of them … and investigate solutions among the various actors, to negotiate common actions, and to make progress in reducing the progressive loss of biodiversity.  Commitments involve the whole of society from the financial sector, and business, to governments, ngos, and civil society. Reaching agreements of financing including the extent to which rich nations support developing countries to finance biodiversity conservation.  The participation of indigenous people and local communities is especially important in decision making process relating to nature and the recognition of their land rights…I believe that commitments to reduction, for example, carbon emissions,  pesticide use, land use change or the destructive industry itself should not only imply financial support to developing countries but also a responsibility of those who also finance them.

María de los Ángeles La Torre Cuadros at COP15 conference

I believe that a recognition of these responsibilities should be explicit and also more ambitious for their own countries.  The political vision of the government of the day should not influence the agreements ….it is important not only to bring proposal but also to disseminate them in order to be visible and these four alliances that can put pressure on those who negotiate with governments.  I believe that we need to listen more to those who are guardians of biodiversity, work more on raising awareness among those who finance and the various actors. If we want to bet on green infrastructure, sustainable production also implies investment in education and technology transfer for example reducing the gaps between countries in the north and south…., it was an important experience as an academic and as an actor seeking conservation to see how important it is to make visible the wellbeing done in conservation, the need for others to know about it, that you must make visible with multiple strategies what you are doing in such a way  that it raises awareness of support of those who make decisions on the whole of government”.

Our new micro-livestock breeding initiative!

Beneficiary with guinea pig for micro-livestock breeding (C.Flores, August 2022)

La Libertad Dry Forest Project continues to supply improved cookstoves for families in Pacasmayo. The improved cookstoves use less fuelwood than traditional open fires and reduce the need to cut down dry forest trees. The project delivered the kits to households in July and in August ten cookstoves were installed in households from San Demetrio and Pueblo Nuevo.  A local mason installed the cookstoves.

This year the project also gave guinea pigs to beneficiary households to promote micro-livestock breeding. This new initiative hopes to address food security in rural areas. Guinea pigs are not only a source of animal protein but also their manure can fertilize agriculture fields and kitchen gardens. In traditional Peruvian households, the rearing environment for small animals is usually the kitchen, where the heat source protects guinea pigs from sudden temperature changes.

Sowing seeds for change

Loza & Quiroz gardening at Tecapa Secondary School (C.Flores, July 2022)

La Libertad Dry Forest Project continues to raise environmental awareness in schools and churches. This year it has expanded its education talks and garden activities to three schools and churches, including Calvary Chapel. The project inspires younger generations to become environmental ambassadors, helping them to reconnect with nature and enhancing conservation knowledge.  Calvary Chapel, led by Pastor Renzo Plasencia Moscoso, is located in Pacasmayo.  Since April, the project has conducted over 22 workshops and activities with adults and children of the Calvary Chapel congregation. Talks have included a variety of topics such as the state of the planet and its biodiversity, responsible consumption and sustainable development of the environment, solid waste, the importance of the dry forest, and ecological gardens.  In July, the church started to create its garden called the El Buen Fruto [The Good Fruit]. Environmental leaders learned practical techniques such as home irrigation, composting, and planting vegetables. They prepared the soil, levelled and cleaned the terrain, and they have begun creating an interpretation centre.

Helping improve land health & crop production

Better Rice Production Workshop (C.Flores, July 2022)

Agroforestry is an approach that combines agriculture with trees on the same piece of land. Planting trees on farms can give farmers healthier soil and higher yields – not to mention creating vital homes for wildlife.  La Libertad Dry Forest Project in Pacasmayo promotes agroforestry with local farmers by helping them combine fruit trees with existing crops. This approach aims to restore degraded agricultural land and reduce soil erosion. Over time, it also helps farmers to enhance crop production and generate alternate income from the sale of the fruit. In June, fruit tree species, such as apple, orange, mango, Japanese plum, and guaba, were produced in the local nursery in San Pedro de Lloc.  In July, the project gave local farmers sixty agroforestry tree seedlings to plant on their land. The project will irrigate and monitor these trees over time.  In addition to these agroforestry practices, the project has been helping farmers to improve crop production in other ways. In July, the La Libertad Dry Forest project held a workshop for rice producers in Santander.  Rice is an important staple crop in the area.   These workshops help to increase farmers’ knowledge of how to improve rice crop production and quality.