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The Living Library

Devi Lockwood photo

An indigenous community in the Peruvian Amazon is combating climate change, deforestation, and loss of traditional knowledge by preserving their plants in the wild.

Farmacia Viva Indigena, the Living Indigenous Pharmacy, is five hectares of primary forest in the Amazon preserved as an intact library of indigenous plants, many of them medicinally useful, near the river village of Paoyhan in Ucayali, Peru. The library is an indigenous climate adaptation strategy in the rainforest, and an effort to revive the Shipibo-Conibo culture of healing with medicinal plants. The pharmacy was established last year by Alianza Arkana, an NGO in Pucallpa. They have divided the land into sub-parcels, and are categorizing and archiving each of the medicinal plants contained inside. In Ucayali, the main environmental concern is deforestation. Land-use change also changes patterns of rainfall, as water is transported in the atmosphere through aerial rivers. The Living Library is an archive and repository of plants in a rainforest that is rapidly disappearing-an attempt to revitalize and preserve indigenous knowledge systems of medicinal plant life in Shipibo culture. The living library of plants in Paoyhan provides an economic alternative to deforestation. They also hope to attract ecotourism, scientists, and possibly pharmaceutical companies. Making the land useful by extracting medicines is one way of protecting it from loggers who enter legally or illegally.


Devi Lockwood
Written by
Devi Lockwood

Devi Lockwood comes to science writing from poetry, folklore, and long-distance cycling. For years she has been traveling on a mission to record 1,001 audio stories about water and climate change. She has collected 750+ interviews, and is working to create a map on a website where you can click on a point and listen to a story from that place.

Devi is a 2018 National Geographic Explorer for a project recording stories with ArtCirq, an indigenous Arctic Circus in Igloolik, Nunavut, Canada. In May 2014 she graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude from Harvard University where she studied Folklore & Mythology, earned a Language Citation in Arabic, and rowed for the Radcliffe Varsity Lightweight Women's Rowing team. She loves interviewing scientists and non-scientists, and the many doors a good question can open. You can follow her on Twitter @devi_lockwood.

Thesis: The Living Library

Devi Lockwood Written by Devi Lockwood