"The Yanesha people know that by preserving their forest they are looking after their community."
"Pats" comes from the Yanesha language meaning "Earth." Jeronimo Cooklin, a furniture maker in Peru, firmly believes that the world's furniture industry has a great responsibility towards the preservation of the forests. He outlined a program of social and environmental responsibility to be developed in Peru's Palcazú Valley, situated in the central jungle of the Oxapampa province. It is here were most of the Yanesha people live.
Cooklin refers how, one night in 1997, he dreamt that he could contribute toward a lasting change in the preservation of forests, as well as in the financial situation of many people. He realized that through his furniture business he was consuming many tropical hardwoods, and that many people depended on the work he offered them. "I realized the potential I had to achieve these changes through my furniture business," confides Jeronimo.
"From that moment on, we changed our focus towards the preservation of the environment."
Pats was formed in 2001 as an NGO with a mission to preserve the forests as well as the jobs and salaries of the local people. Their aim is to establish market links for products that are crafted from sustainable materials.
"For now Pats has focused on Latin America, but our aim is to develop models that can be applied to all forests around the world. Our mission is to promote forest sustainability as well as the well-being of present and future generations through a responsible use of natural resources.
"We believe that making associations between different conservation groups and sustainable use is the most efficient way to combine efforts and abilities towards a common goal."
The Pats project includes a technological transfer that helps local communities make a responsible use of natural resources as well as marketing strategies. "At Pats we believe that in order to ensure forest sustainability, the financial sustenance of local communities must also be ensured. That's the only way to ensure the sustainability of the ecosystem.
"There's a beautiful place within Peru's Amazon jungle that hosts one of the most diverse biological ecosystems in the world, as well as several communities. We have taught them to increase their income while preserving their environment for future generations.
"We are executing the first phase of a long term project aimed at preserving the forests, preserving the region's cultural legacies, and generate more income. This phase includes handcrafted items and furniture carved from woods that are ensured in a sustainable way. Pats combines the skills and talents of local carvers with the designs created by Cooklin's designers. The goal is to have the carvers learn about product design so they can be in charge of this process, as well as of quality control. Eventually they can set up their own workshops.
"We are committed to breaking the cycle of the irrational use and the destruction of the tropical forests and its neighbors, who live in a precarious situation. The people living in the region have very few economic opportunities, therefore unrestricted logging is the only way they can survive. Pats offers them the opportunity of achieving well-being through the rational use of natural resources.
"Pats formula integrates forest use and training linked to the local production of home items that are aimed at a global market. If a community wants to join Pats, they have to sign an agreement that states their commitment to preserving the environment.
"We work with the Yanesha community who has lived in the Puerto Inca (Huanuco), Chanchamayo (Junín) and Oxapampa (Pasco) provinces since time immemorial. They have an admirable knowledge about the forest, as well as the benefits and hazards it offers. The combination of their knowledge with the Pats training is expressed in the products they make, which in turn benefits their quality of life. They have also learned to appreciate even more their natural surroundings, especially forests. The Yanesha people know that by preserving their forest they are looking after their community."