Monday, April 23, 2018

Making farina: A popular Amazon topping that (WARNING) may break your teeth!

Farina is a staple food source of the Amazon made from yuca (cassava).  It may also be made and sold to produce an income.  However, this tasty nutty-flavored food topping, if eaten incorrectly, may break your teeth!

These bags sell in Leticia for $2 USD per kilo 
In this blog post we are showing off La Libertad's newest farina processing plant.  This allows the villagers to produce a higher quality (less likely to break teeth) farina in less time and under safer conditions for the makers.

And at the end of the post we will explain how to safely eat farina and avoid a trip to your favorite dentist.

Gasoline-powered yuca grater.  This makes a finer farina.

The yuca mash is then placed into large bags which are pressed to remove water.

One thing missing was a good oven to roast the farina.
In this picture we are collecting river clay to build an oven.

While the clay was messy, if was a very fun activity for a hot day.

We are building the frame for the oven.  A large steel pan is
placed over the frame to help with its formation.

Cutting grass which will be mixed into the clay.

The grass helps to improve the insulating qualities of the oven's walls.

At last the oven is finished!  Earlier ovens were made from mud, which did
not insulate well and would deteriorate quickly.

Toasting farina.  The good walls and one opening helps to shield
the toaster's legs and body from the heat of the oven.

It takes three to four hours to roast one big batch of farina.  This farina is almost
finished, but the kids can't wait to try it!

How to eat farina:
  1. First, look at the coarseness of the farina.  If it has large particles that seem to be very hard, ONLY use it in soups or other hot, moist dishes.
  2. Sprinkle about two tablespoons per serving.
  3. If the farina is of good quality and finely ground, you may put it on anything (ice cream?).  It may even be eaten plain by the cupful, as enjoyed by the children of the village.
  4. Chew farina only with the back teeth.

Why we are very happy with the farina plant of La Libertad

We, the Amazon Pueblo project, are very happy with the farina plant.  The plant is helping the villagers to make high quality farina which they can eat and/or sell for profit.

But another reason is more important.  They borrowed the money for part of the plant, which they are repaying.  They also built much of the plant by themselves.  And it is used almost weekly.  This is one of our most successful projects.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Christmas dinner in the jungle!

First, thank you to all the supporters of the project.  After a rough end of 2017, we are back on track for this year!

I especially would like to thank all of the people who donated to the Christmas dinner through Google's platform, One Today.  Next year we hope to feed more of the village's adults in addition to the children.

The weather was great during the morning, but it started raining in the afternoon.  Luckily everyone wanted to cook and eat early, so we had everything eaten and cleaned up by 1 pm, just in time for the showers.

Preparing the meal.  Everything was cooked over an open fire.

Cooking the chicken.  The broth was used for soup.

Soup for you!

Waiting in line for arroz con pollo (chicken mixed with rice and vegetables).

This year we cooked the most food of the past three years, and it went quickly!

The sun was strong in the late morning, but it rained during the afternoon.

The cooks and helpers resting after the Christmas feast.

Feliz Navidad!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Year End Emerald Sale for Amazonian Students

The year is coming to an end and we are having an emerald sale to support indigenous students of the Amazon!

Please take 10% off of the marked price.  I am returning to Colombia on Saturday, December 30, so all sales must be finalized by Friday the 29th, 2017.  All work is done in high-quality Colombian silver.  I bought most of these emeralds during my last trip to the emerald district in Bogota, Colombia.  Colombian emeralds are the finest in the world.

$130, very small emeralds, but they have a spectacular color and brilliance

$50, small, light-colored emeralds

$150 A small bracelet with 5 small emeralds of superior color and brilliance

$180 Necklace earring set with large, light colored opaque emeralds

$160, necklace earring set with 3 small matched superior colored and brilliant emeralds 

$130, six small light colored emeralds in a crossed setting,
Size 6

$130, 2 matched superior colored brilliant emeralds,
Size 6

$100, light colored brilliant emerald,
Size 7

$90, small, spectacular colored emerald,
size 8

$180, excellent colored and brilliant emerald,
Size 7

$900, medium-sized, good colored, custom designed set.  The pitured does not show the quality of this piece (I must learn to do close-up photography!)

$600, the ring that we had made with the earrings and pendant.
Size 8 

Are you interested in buying one (or more) of  our emeralds?  Send me a message!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Happy Holidays and an Amazon Pueblo update

Happy Holidays from Amazon Pueblo!
Thank you to all of our friends and supporters during the past year.  It was difficult at times, but we are adapting our program and moving forward in 2018.  Fortune favors the bold.

A platano Christmas tree.
Project update
A new newsletter service
First off: We are using a new newsletter service.  It is called Benchmark Email.  They help us to send out information more easily and to better comply with anti-spam policies.  If you no longer wish to receive the newsletter/updates, you may now unsubscribe! email address
We have restarted using our domain name for email.  Our new newsletters will also use this domain.  The first example is:  Try it out and send me a message.

Sponsor a Student program
For 2018 we have sponsors for 14 Amazonian students, six more than last year.  Four of the new students are from La Libertad.  One is from Leticia, and one is from Tabatinga, Brazil.  Tabatinga shares a border with Leticia.  That makes our Sponsor a Student program multinational!  If we find another sponsor for this year, we would like to enroll a student from Peru.  Do you want to sponsor a student?  There is still time, CLICK HERE!

In a village classroom.
Traffickers update
Our contacts in the village have said the narcotics traffickers have not returned to La Libertad.  The village has heard nothing from them since the police raided their compound and burned the coca fields in October.

NOT the actual photo of the fields in back of the village.

Elections for a new village chief
The old village chief is being replaced (due to term limits) with a new chief.  The voting date is Sunday, December 24.  Hopefully a good leader will be chosen.

The town meeting hall is called a Maloka.

Late Christmas Dinner
I will return to the Amazon after the new year. When I am in the village we are planning a late Christmas dinner.  Thank you to all the people who donated on the Google One Today app!  Without their help the dinner would not be possible.

From Christmas, 2016.  I will upload pictures from Christmas 2017 in late January.

I hope to have the next update with the latest news towards the end of January.  Thank you for reading!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Yuca (Fariña) Factory: Production in the Village

While my last post briefly mentioned our fariña plant, we now have a full report!  

During 2017 the three most successful parts of our program were the student scholarships, community garden, and the fariña plant.  Here are the details of our work with the community which made the plant possible.

Students from La Libertad

Yuca is called cassava in English.  Yuca, plantain, and fish make up the majority of the diet of the villagers.  Yuca is easy to grow in poor soil conditions, is drought resistant, and is an excellent source of carbohydrates.  However, it must be processed.  Unprocessed yuca contains traces of the toxin cyanide.  The yuca is either fermented, boiled, or roasted to remove the cyanide.

When yuca is ground and roasted it becomes fariña.  Fariña retains the nutritional benefits of the yuca and is good for months in storage (if kept dry in plastic bags).  Fariña may be produced in amounts of up to 500 pounds per producing family every six months.  It may then be used by the family, sold locally, or brought to the city of Leticia to be sold.
The yuca plant.  It can grow up to 12 feet in height.  Out of the 40 families in La Libertad, about 20 regularly grow yuca.

The roots are the edible part of the yuca plant.  After harvest the roots must be eaten or turned into fariña within four days.  After four days it spoils and is inedible.

The roots are peeled and soaked in water for 24 hours.  There are two types of yuca; white and yellow.  The white is less bitter.  It is boiled, used in soups, and fried.  The yellow is very bitter and contains more cyanide.  The yellow yuca is typically made into fariña.  When processed if becomes much less bitter and nontoxic.

Pictured is Richard and Carmen with their children.  They are using a motorized grater to grind the yuca.  Before the motorization all grating was done by hand.  This was very time consuming and led to repetitive motion and hand-grating injuries.  Now instead of needing one day to grate, the yuca may be grated in about an hour.

The children are next to the new yuca press.  It removes the water from the yuca mash.  This is done before the yuca is roasted.  When much water is removed the yuca takes less time to roast.  The old press took about 24 hours to remove the water.  The new press removes more water in less time; only three hours.  The design above is the third prototype.  Each board is two inches thick, made of hardwood, and weights about 80 pounds!  The pulley system allows one adult to raise and lower the top board without help.  The cost to build this system was $75.

Here is a video from the first time we pressed the mash.  This was a historic event for the villagers.  There are five families (about 40 people) that use the yuca plant. 

Here is the oven that is used to toast the yuca.  We hope to build a new oven in 2018.

The yuca must be moved and turned during roasting or it will burn.

It normally takes around three hours to roast a pan of yuca.

After the fariña has cooled it is placed into bags for storage or to sell.

At last, the finished product is ready to eat.  Yum!!!!!!

Thank you for reading about out project!

For more yuca information, with recipes: 

Please help us to continue our work on this Giving Tuesday, November 28.  We are trying to provide scholarships to at least six more students during 2018.  Anyone donating $100 or more will be able to sponsor (if they wish) a boy or girl from the village.  

Sponsor a student, change a life!