A marathon of reforestation.

February 5-9, 2007

We began the week with a downpour on Sunday night and what was likely to be the commencement of the raining season! The “festival of nature” as it was described to me by an eco-amigo. Since we needed to wait for a few of days of hard rain to begin planting—the earth needs to soften up a bit before we can transplant our trees—and because we didn’t have to manually water our old sites, we were afforded a couple days to take care of some sidelined projects. Then when it was clear that the climate here has changed patterns and that we are now in the Ecuadorian winter, we began what has become a marathon of reforestation. Since there is such a short wet season in this region of the coast, two to three months, we need to maximize every day of potential rain. As a result we are now in the middle of planting all of our sites one after another, postponing our usual weekend until after we are done. Additionally, our community participation is on the rise and I am re-establishing forgotten contacts with the municipality.

Our first loose-ends project was to finish some staircases and handrails in Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas, which we took care of on Monday. This is a unique park in the city center that was hit particularly hard during the El Niño phenomenon of 1998. Numerous houses were washed away and some people were even killed in mudslides there. Now what remains is a protected natural area, ruins in the middle of the forest. Planet Drum has done (and continues to do) tremendous work to reforest this area and maintain trails within what is now a park. Thanks to the work of previous volunteers in December who took care of most of the handrail and staircase work, we were able to finish the leftovers in a day. Now there are painted handrails and staircases along all the steep sections of the trails. We will have ample opportunity to show off our hard work there, including two newly planted reforestation sites, during the upcoming Carnaval and Eco-week when tourists come from all over Ecuador to visit the coast.

On Tuesday our next project involved weeding all of the trees that we have transplanted out of seedling beds and into three-liter bottles. Hundreds of bottles of trees had small weeds competing for nutrients that needed to be removed. It rained heavily during the day and we pulled weeds while getting soaked as we worked. It was an unusual and refreshing experience.

On Wednesday we moved trees to two of our sites in the Maria Dolores neighborhood in preparation to plant in the upcoming days. Compost needed to be mixed at the greenhouse, trees organized and then loaded onto our friend’s truck (thanks Ricardito!). The trees were moved to a safe place nearby and divided into separate groups for the two sites we have there: Don Pepe and Maria Dolores.

Now planting commences! Light rains Wednesday night gave way to our hard work on Thursday. With the help of Ramon, the Bioregional Education teacher, who is on break right now, we planted all of our Don Pepe site, nearly fifty trees. First holes were dug in the catchments we had prepared, compost was mixed and sprinkled in the holes and the trees were gently moved from their plastic bottles where they will be planted in the open earth. This site sits on a clear-cut hill that already has erosion problems beginning. Hopefully our plantings will be able to prevent these problems. It is hard to not have high hopes for it.

In the evening I attended a community meeting to discuss the distribution of a large donation of fruit trees that have been given to the municipality for planting in the communities around Bahia. This particular meeting took place in a neighborhood called Astillero. Neighbors came by to listen to a presentation on the importance of protecting the environment. We then shifted gears to cover the logistics of preparing the sites that have been designated for planting. These sites are municipal lands that were recovered from displaced people who lost their houses to mudslides. They will now be used to grow fruit trees which can provide food and possibly income to the neighborhood residents. It was inspiring to see the turn-out of people who are interested in this project. A clean-up was organized for the upcoming weekend to prepare the sites; and planting will take place next week. Towards the end of the meeting I was given the chance to present myself and Planet Drum. I talked about the work that Planet Drum does and offered our help in this project.

Thursday night one of our volunteers ran into some visitors from California who were passing through Bahia. It didn’t take long to convince them to join us in our tree planting the next day. We rounded up some of our local Ecuadorian friends to pitch in as well. With the surge of labor, we tackled one of our more treacherous sites, El Toro. For a few dollars, we rented a truck to move some trees (the others were awaiting us there) and our crew of nine out to the remote site. En force we dug over eighty holes and filled them all with our trees. Despite the tiring work it was an energizing day spent in great company, working hard to do our part in reversing the destruction of nature. Many thanks to Tashina, Ariel and Ben for the unexpected volunteering!

Between the rains, community work and the Eco-week preparations, things are getting pretty hectic around here. Hopefully we will get a chance to take our weekend at the end of next week. I’ll include the work from this weekend in next week’s report. We continue to press on. Our bodies tire, but spirits remain high.


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