Community Programs

Pursuing a genuine exchange of knowledge between the community of Sani Isla and the outside world.


The wisdom of the ancestors is as valuable to the community of Sani Isla as 21st century advances in science and medicine.

This is a critical moment in the history of the community in which traditional knowledge and modern research can come together to create the best possible future for the people and the forest. Sani Isla will not be simply on the receiving end of information and training. We believe that traditional knowledge can also inform modern science on the biology and resources of the forest, and ways of living that can heal the mind, body, and soul.

Educating youth

Working toward this goal, we are pursuing funding and creating a curriculum for a year-long boarding program for youth who have finished high school . These students need mentoring and preparation, academic and personal, for their next steps in life.

Up until now, we have offered short programs to young people in the biology and conservation of the forest, and English. Programs involving other members of the community have been held as funds and circumstances allow. Sometimes these are held with visitors and reflect their interests and special skills, creating a special connection between visitors and community members.

Community-wide programs

We will be expanding community programming, weaving together traditional wisdom with the scientific principles that underlie what the ancestors already knew. For example, community members need technical training to design, build, manage and maintain sustainable infrastructure without depending on the outside world. Sustainability is a rich area in which modern science and traditional knowledge can be combined to create infrastructure that works in this place, and for this community.

Some of the challenges are new, some of the solutions are ancient.

The ancestors made their living in the forest without damaging the ecosystem. With a larger population, these traditional practices need to be reinforced and supported with new scientific advances. The profound ecological damage to the Rio Napo requires a new source of safe drinking water and advances in food systems to replace protein previously sourced from the river. The introduction of technology such as cell phones and radios has created a need for electricity. This is currently supplied with gas generators. In addition, new challenges of daily living undermine the community’s wellbeing such as the transition to a cash economy, alcoholism, and racism. Through adult programs, community members can help one another adapt to the new world they find themselves in.

Preserving the stories and wisdom of the elders

We recently hosted a party to celebrate the elders. It was the kickoff to a project we hope to continue for many years. We are collecting stories, history, and traditional knowledge from the elders to preserve it for future generations. With a small grant, we were able to offer a stipend to young people in the community to travel the territory and gather stories. It was a moving experience for the young people, and an honor for the US/Europe based team members to take part. This project embodies so much of what we are working toward, and we intend to find funding to continue this project until we have many volumes of stories and wisdom preserved forever.