Ecuador Project Reports: Brian Teinert, Jan.–Mar. 2004

Brian Teinert
Field Project Manager Planet Drum Foundation

January 5, 2004

Reneé Portanova will undoubtedly be a great member of our team.  We have been in contact and I am looking forward to her arrival in Bahia on January 19th.   

I am excited about Natalie Pollard coming as well.  At the moment, we have 3 volunteers lined up for February (Natalie, Renee, and Debbie.)  We also have 3 in March, when a guy named Bevan will take over for Natalie.  That has us in good shape for volunteers through April.

The office apartment and greenhouse were in great shape upon my return from holiday vacation. The Algarrobos I planted before leaving are growing strong and Felex has transplanted many.  He kept everything alive.  He may have turned the compost and watered it. I have to take a closer look. There were no thieves.

The 3 girls from Minnesota are here.  They seem to be happy, working on transplanting and Algarrobo seed production.  We will be planting on hillsides very soon and they will get a taste of that.  The girl who has been here before sees the progress that has been made since her last visit, and is ready to contribute to thetasks at hand.  The other two girls are dealing with normal newcomer stuff like stomach aches and heat issues, but are both positive and helpful.

The rain has been sporadic.  It rained the 21st-24th of December, and then stopped.  It rained last night, the 4th of Jan., for the first time since the 24th, so the ground is pretty dry still.  The 11 days of no rain was not good.  My first hillside planting is scheduled for Jan. 7 in Jorge Lomas.  If the ground is bone dry we will clear trails, and give it a couple of more days to rain.  I know that if the ground does not get wet in the next few days, we will go ahead with the planting and water them.  We are going to dive into the planting this week, so next Monday’s report will fill you in on all the successes and obstacles.

Planning for the Fifth Anniversary of the Ecological City Declaration celebration has continued in my absence.  We will have another meeting at the B&B this Thursday, and I will let you know what is said.  

January 19, 2004 

Up until last week, I had been the unofficial organizer of the celebration for the Fifth Anniversary of the Declaration for the Eco-City.  Last Thursday I was made the official organizer.  I have been inviting more and more people every week. The calendar for the eco-city celebration is set.   We now have people from the Municipio coming, along with the steady attendance of the other groups who came when you were here, apart from PMRC.  Their office is temporarily closed.  The agency isbroke, they have let almost everyone go.  The problems are on a national level.  We are not expecting anything from them at the moment.  I will give you more info on this when I have it. This past weekend, journalists from the national TV show  Ecuavisa came to Canton Sucre to do some filming of places of interest.  Since I have been working with the Office of Turismo, they asked me to lead them on a tour of Maria Auxiliadora.  I did the tour and an interview, which will be shown nationally in a week and a half.  Hopefully, we will not get edited out.  Another television crew comes this week, and I will be on again!

I am helping Christina Ruperti (who is head of the Ministerio de Turismo and Medioambiante) with organizing monthly eco-meetings in the Municipio.  I have been to several meetings lately in the municipio where I have been pushing organization from within the municipio.  Apparently, they are listening.  On a recent radio interview, I said over the air that the biggest challenge the eco-city faces right now is in central organization.  I think that many of the current issues in the Eco-city could be easily solved if all of the right heads are together on a regular basis.  I told Christina that I thought the  municipio needs to invite all the groups working for the city into a monthly meeting that included all parts of the municipio (education, tourism, culture, sanitation, planning etc.) and other players in ecology.   There is agreement from the mayor that this needs to be done.  So, when the celebration has come and gone, the people who have been organizing it, along with all stakeholders in the Eco-city, will begin meeting at least once a month.  I have been asked to coordinate it, but declined, saying that it would only work if planned and organized by the office of the environment in the municipio.  I have told Christian Ruperti that I would come into her office and help her any way I could, but that the invitations needed to always come from them.  Other news….we are pushing for the city to recognize February as Eco-city month, instead of only calling attention to the day of the inauguration.  This is mainly Vladir’s idea, but I like it.

We will go to the dairy farm on Wednesday and Saturday of this week.  Lack of rain is starting to be an issue.  We had some good showers the week before last, but it has not rained since my last report.  I am going to have to start spending some time on watering, if the rain does not return tonight.  That means the volunteers will be occupied watering Jorge Lomas, the plants we put in at the Bosque last week, and at the University.  In between, I have to get the project at the Dairy Farm started.  It is a busy time with planting, greenhouse maintenance, planning the celebration, and the Universidad course that starts Thursday of this week.  

We did a planting at Jorge Lomas last week.  Stakes were the main focus. We will come back later and add more. We also did a workday at Maria Auxiliadora.  We cleaned, improved and planted the lower entrance. Several of the local guys and women helped out.  It was the usual crew and some new faces showed up.  They all walked the park and are happy to see it looking so green and well kept.

Greenhouse production is going very well.  It is very full of green. I wish I could send you picture.  The Algarrobos are coming in, along with a ton of others that were planted before you came!   The compost is doing fine.  I believe one side can be emptied in about a month and put into the trench.  We should have no trouble creating an ample supply for next year.  If we have a shortage, the municipio shouldhelp us out, according to Ivan Iguirre.

One of the volunteers has been helping Nathan at the Club Ecologia.  They are painting banners for the eco-city celebration. 

I have a meeting in March with the local head of the Peace Corps. This was set up by Alix, the current volunteer in Bahia.  She is applying to get a Peace Corp volunteer sent to Bahia to work directly with PDF. 

February 2004: Triumphant Eco-City Celebration in Bahia De Caraquez

The Celebration of the Fifth Anniversary of the Eco-city Declaration in mid-February was a very successful event. Many different groups helped to plan and organize activities to take place over a week-long period. There were several other environmental groups besides Planet Drum Foundation including Reserva Cerro Seco, Centro de Educacion Ambiental Eco-Bahia, Guacamayo Tours, and Fundación Stuarium. High schools Fanny y Baird, Eloy Alfaro, and Nocturno participated, along with the Eco-Kids Club from Fanca and another from Universidad Técnica Manabi. Several barrios sent representatives to planning meetings and participated in the events. The City Department of Culture and Education and the Department of Tourism and the Environment also took part.

First there was the hanging of banners on the 20th of February. The Fanca Eco-kids Club designed and painted them to announce the celebration, and hung them across the road so that they could be seen when people entered town. One said “Viva La Eco-Ciudad” and the other stated that it was the fifth anniversary.

On the 21st, we had the Eco-City Parade. There was a huge turnout of participants and spectators. Taking part were high school marching bands, fire breathers, triciclo taxi cooperatives, acrobats, walking trees, Eco-kid club children with their animals, and a long multi-car caterpillar train normally used for rides in the summertime. Faithful to South American tradition, there were several reinas (queens) representing various pageants and barrios, and even a princess of PDF, who was the one and only Laurita (age 7). All of the staff had painted faces.

We started near the edge of town at the new bus station and marched along the Malecon (riverfront drive) to the downtown obelisk, where we made a left and headed for the Municipio (town hall). From there, we went down Bolivar Avenue all of the way through the city until we hit the beach. At that point the parade ended. All who spoke about it, including the mayor, were extremely pleased. As we made the turn in front of town hall, I was amazed to see the street completely full with applauding spectators, and more were filling the balconies of the buildings that line main street. It was clear that all of the participants spent time preparing and that the publicity efforts paid off. This event set the tone for what was to be a great eco-city week.

On the following night, we had the “Festival Verde de Arte y Musica.” There were about 15 different performers and all of the shows were centered on love for the environment, harmony, and even world peace. There was a great crowd, and the event was spectacular. There were about 11 musical groups, 3 poets, and 1 theater group. Vladir Villigram was the master of ceremonies. The solid arc of a rainbow kicked off the event with a positive sign that things were sure to go well. People of all ages watched the show and listened to the message that these local artists were giving. A high point was when Mayito played a cover of Blue Unicorn by Silvio Rodriquez.

On the 24th of February, we had an open house showcasing environmental projects of the city. Various groups, including high schools, Reserva Cerro Seco, Eco-papel, and Planet Drum took part. It was in the open air underneath the Municipio. People wandered through the exhibits from 9 AM to 2 in the afternoon. They saw displays of local bioregional features, vermiculture, recycled paper products adorned with local flowers, and an excellent photographic display of local flora and fauna.

On Wednesday, the Municipio of Canton Sucre hosted a Commemorative Session of the 5th Anniversary of the Declaration of the Eco-City. The mayor, who also commented on the progress that has been made as well the need to go forward as an eco-city, read the original declaration. Honorable mentions were given to many people who have made a mark in the eco-city. I received an award as a member of Planet Drum and for my dedication to the city, and in turn thanked Jacob Santos for his continued support of PDF projects.

On the 26th Nicola Mears led an Eco-Tour. It was free and open to everyone in town. Leaving city center, it went to the Eco-Market, then to Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas, stopping to see the Galapagos tortoise Miguelito at the high school. From there participants climbed to Reserva Cerro Seco. Next they visited the Fanca Produce composting facility and the Planet Drum greenhouse and revegetation site at Universidad Catolica. About 35 people finished the entire trip.

On Friday the 27th there were two seminars on ecology. The first one took place in the museum. There were talks given by IMTAG, Planet Drum, Reserva Cerro Seco, Guacamayo, and Genesis. The other seminar was at the Municipio Theater, given by the head of the Department of the Environment from the City of Guayaquil, the largest municipality in Ecuador, who spoke on sustainable development and the impact of humans on the earth.

The final day of the Celebration, Saturday the 28th, we recognized International Mangrove Day with a symbolic planting organized by the Biology Department of the Universidad Técnica Manabi. There were about 60 people who planted mangrove seed pods on the site of the Universidad. They includedinternational volunteers, children from the Eco-Kids Club, university students, the Sloth Club, and locals from the surrounding barrio.

This whole celebration was planned and implemented by the Amigos of the Eco-Ciudad, under my direction, and the Municipio, under the direction of Lic. Isabella de Quijije, Jefe of the Department of Culture and Education. We did all of this with 0 dollars. That’s right, zero. Everyone was very pleased, and the Municipio plans to support the event in the years that come with finances and collaboration from more employees.

Amigos of the Eco-Ciudad was formed to carry out the fifth anniversary celebration but will continue meeting to identify and solve the ecological problems that face Bahia. This event became a genuine catalyst in the city. Interest in ecological projects increased greatly because the celebration brought them into the spotlight. Certainly, Planet Drum is seen as a central player in this movement, and received a lot of thanks from the general public, the mayor and the consejales (city council).

March 27, 2004

Report and Response

Hi Peter and Elise,

It looks like you guys have been doing some good work in San Fran.  I like the looks of the curriculum. Unfortunately, I will not be here when most of it is carried out.

We had an Amigos de Eco-ciudad  meeting—these are the main points covered.

  • I will remain leader of the group until I leave, at which point the group decided that PDF should remain in charge, which means Renee would take over. This will be the case until the new jefe del departmento del medioambiente (Environment Department) is named, and then he or she will take over the group.  That’s right, the city has finally decided to separate the dept of environment from tourism.  A huge step in the right direction and one that was taken because of our succesful efforts with the Amigos of the Ecociudad group.It should be pointed out that the main responsibility of the leader is to make sure the dates of the meetings are made public and invitations distributed.  When the meeting starts it is usually an open forum for discussion and problem solving.
  • The group wants to take on helping the canton-wide recycle project succeed as it’s next task.
  • Meetings will be held every other week for now.
  • We reviewed the celebration and talked about how to improve on it for next year.

Planet Drum work for the week included seed storage, shucking and cataloging.  We also planted at Jorge Lomas Canal and built a fence around the compost pit at the Universidad.

We are looking forward to Elise joining the team again and foresee a harmonious future. I love Bahia and am experiencing a lot of sadness and frustration leaving things right now, while they are going so good.  C’est la vie.  Perhaps I will be back soon.

Take care,



March 26, 2004

Dear Brian and Renée,

This is a combined message from Peter & Elise to share our thoughts after an intensive week of bioregional education research, discussion & melding of ideas. “Transparency” is the intended keynote for this, and we eagerly invite a four-part discussion now that the attempt has been made to lay some of the hopefully mutual foundations. Elise is prepared to undertake the year-long program starting by mid-June at the latest. She will be a Planet Drum staff person, sharing the apartment & initially receiving a budget for materials-only of $50/month. Salary discussions will take place after a review of the first three months segment (roughly September); until then she s working solely to accomplish the difficult work of this project (with a personal option to pitch in with other activities if time permits). The ed. program will take a minimum of 16 hrs/wk actual project/class time, with variable additional time for community visits & discussions, recruiting students, arranging work & learning spaces, and preparations. The estimated total time is 40 hrs/wk or more. She will also write reports for the website. PD Director (Peter) has ultimate oversight regarding the program & will take part in decisions about progress, feasibility, new directions, delays, etc. We aren’t up to speed on how Renee (or possibly other people) want to relate to the ed. program. Obviously there is a lot of room for interplay to carry out educational activities & goals and it is necessary to know whatever expectations exist.  To maintain transparency, copies of all correspondence should be made to all parties involved. 

Wouldn’t it be great if the rainy season is just late after all & not short?

We have mailed out the latest PULSE (did your copy arrive yet?), membershiprenewals & a grovel-on-the-ground begging letter to help the lean spring financial season. Jean has competed all 30 daily segments of an internet funding pitch for Bahia revegetation that will be in operation as soon as we find a sponsoring company. Peter & Elise spent at least 8 hrs a day this whole week poring over past PDF Green City school activities, locating sources & materials, actually finding some English-language books that can be translated, and doing more creative thinking & writing in a shorter space than has happened here in some time. Hope you enjoy the results.


Peter & Elise