Our reason for coming to Iquitos was to construct a garden raft that would create agricultural space for a community within La Belen. However, as we met with La Restinga and learned about the garden raft project, we realized that it is about much more than food production. The raft project was implemented as a way to conduct research about the soil quality of Belen, while also surveying the community to gather dietary information from families and individuals. However, due to funding cuts the original scale of the project had to be minimized and the rafts themselves became the main focus for the community.
It has became clear to us over time that the project still has much more depth than just agricultural space, and is a project about community engagement and self-sufficiency. It also exhibits to the people of La Belen what can be done when a community works together and supports each other.
Before we began the construction of the new garden raft, we spent some time fixing up the original one. Due to Iquitos having the largest floods in forty years this past rainy season, the raft had been effected by the harsh elements and had began to rot. Through seeing the problems this first raft had encountered we were able to use different wood and techniques to build a stronger and more sustainable second raft.
We are now in the middle of constructing the new raft. Each morning as we arrive at 7 am, the youth meet us eagerly, ready to work. When designing this second raft, La Restinga went to the youth and asked them for their input. Allowing the youth to be a vital part of this construction and design truly makes this their project. With one week left to work on the rafts, we are looking forward to seeing the progress we have made and how the youth have taken initiative to be leaders and active members within their community. Thanks to all of the financial support from our friends and family, we have been able to fund this raft project that has offered another avenue for learning and community engagement to the people of La Belen.
Words by Hannah Campbell