Groups of wild forest foragers fight the pandemicCorporate
Committees receive support to get by from ARAUCO. The company offers training programs on the manufacture of products from foraging, how to sell them on social media, and online cooking workshops.
Wild foraging in the forest is an ancestral activity that groups of neighbors passionately perform in rural areas in different regions of Chile. This is the case of “Despertar Yerba Luna”, a group in the Sepultura sector of San Javier commune. Its members –women only—put up a fight against the coronavirus pandemic to continue to forage, which allows them to increase their income for the family budget, and they rely on ARAUCO’s support to do so.
“The pandemic has affected us very much in terms of fairs and emporiums. We haven’t been able to participate”, said Nelva Alegría González, secretary of the Despertar Yerba Luna committee, adding that before the sanitary crisis, their products were delivered to Santiago, Talca, San Javier, and Constitución.
The variety of herbs and other products that can be found on agricultural soil, native trees, and pines is extensive: common rue, paico, mint, lemon balm, St John’s-wort, dandelion, musk rose, and even edible wild mushrooms.
In spite of the COVID 19 contingency, they have kept their spirits high, gathering and dehydrating their products in the drying oven and processing room they have thanks to a project they submitted to the ARAUCO Contest Fund and AcercaRedes Foundation.
Thus, they have been able to move from the sale of unprocessed products to the end stage of adding value and directly selling to end customers.
ARAUCO’s collaboration with wild foraging groups of non-timber forest products in regions Maule, Ñuble, Biobío and Los Ríos, where the company is present, goes back several years.
However, in 2019 this relationship was made formal with a support program in Maule for the committees of Molco, La Vega and Lagunillas, in the Chanco area; La Orilla Cooperative, in Empedrado; and Despertar Yerba Luna. The first milestone was the signature of the agreement that provided access to ARAUCO land and then came the training programs on sustainability, safety and organizational development.
Lilian Vallejo, community supervisor for Environment and Communities at the company’s Forestry business area explained that “because of the pandemic, the decision was made this year to reorganize the support program, and in order to provide continuity, training sessions were implemented using short-form videos to reach all wild foragers. In addition, groups that had problems to access digital media were given printed material in person.”
These training sessions have mainly addressed the manufacture of products from foraging (murta berry jam, pickled wild mushrooms and mushroom spread, among others), in addition to information on how to display their products on social media.
Lilian Vallejo also said that a pilot plan for cooking workshops with forest products was started, under the Wild Pantry program launched by the AcercaRedes Foundation and ARAUCO. In Maule, Despertar Yerba Luna is the group that has actively participated in these workshops where members interact with a chef online, learning about new preparations that use the same products they gather among the pines and native trees.
“Cooking with our co-workers (foragers) from other regions was fantastic, because with this pandemic everything is being done online”, said Nelva Alegría. She revealed they are working to develop a demonstration garden to attract visitors and they wish to have a sale stand next to route L-30, which connects San Javier and Constitución.
Drivers who drive by this road every day can’t imagine that in the area of Sepultura –home to about 200 residents—there is a group that hasn’t given up during the pandemic and they continue to forage and dehydrate herbs and mushrooms that will later be sold as quality natural products.