Eco-Ecuador Dry Tropical Forest Revegetation Project Index

(This is the Dry Tropical Forest Revegetation Project’s information page. For a complete compilation of all Eco-Ecuador Project activities by year, see the Eco-Ecuador Project Page.)

Planet Drum’s presence in Bahía de Caráquez, Ecuador over the past twenty two years has been colored by the various project managers and volunteers who expanded and pushed the project forward. Each left a mark on the Project and their impressions were regularly collected in their reports. This page is a compilation of who they were and what they did with links to their Reports. 

What is the Eco-Ecuador Project?

The Dry Tropical Vegetation of this bioregion is both specific and barely extant. The Project began in 1999 as an effort to stabilize hillsides that had become mudslides during an earthquake, by replanting a combination of indigenous trees, shrubs and grasses. Working with local people as well as international volunteers, the various project managers each left their mark on the Eco-Ecuador Project . This page is an compilation of who they were, the activities they managed and links to their Reports. The Project is a model of gradually understanding a community and its ecology and then exploring methods to sprout and grow indigenous trees and plants to revegetate the bioregion providing sustenance for the community and restoring a damaged ecosystem. Generous funding to support the Dry Tropical Forest Revegetation Project was provided by: The Rufford Foundation, The Rainforest Biodiversity Group, The Rainforest Biodiversity Group, Global Student Embassy, and Volunteer Latin America.

The Revegetation Project worked in conjunction with the Bioregional Educational Project. Generally the Revegetation Project works with adults and the specifically educational work relates to children. But education is involved with growing, planting and maintaining trees, so when the Revegetation Project donates trees to adults they also provide information to help the trees survive. Similarly the children who are learning about their bioregion learn about the trees by helping grow them with the Revegetation Project.

In 2016 a large (7.8) earthquake occurred in Bahia. Fortunately the Dry Tropical Forest revegetation work up until then was recorded in an overview report in 2015. Gradually the Project revived after the earthquake, though the greenhouse was never fully rebuilt. A second blow to the Project occurred with the Covid pandemic in 2021 which forced the project to close.

The Eco-Ecuador Project’s Status in 2022

Covid was particularly devastating in Ecuador and debilitating to Planet Drum’s last Project Manager Kat Castillo. She explored various ways for the project to press on despite the pandemic, supporting riparian clean-ups and initiating new children’s educational opportunities. International travel restrictions eliminated volunteers, and curfews, lack of public transportation, and social distancing all took tolls on activities. Kat weathered the increased difficulties, but early in the year she came down with a mild case of Covid, but by May, 2021 it had become clear that she was dealing with long-term Covid and was forced to cut back her involvement with Planet Drum. Planet Drum’s role in Bahia was impossible to maintain without a Manager so the Project was closed as of June 2021. (We have tried to eliminate references encouraging volunteering with the project; if we missed one, the project is no longer accepting volunteers.)

The Ecuadorian government recently developed a plan to support maintaining the Dry Tropical Forest coastal areas, where Bahia is located, as a protected ecosystem. The piece of Dry Tropical Forest land purchased as the site for Planet Drum’s Bioregional Institute is within that area, so connections in Ecuador may continue.

Below is a timeline of the revegetation project with its managers, brief overviews by year, and links to the project Reports, most recent at the top. (This page doesn’t include Peter Berg’s Dispatches or the Bioregional Education Project Reports from 2006-2011. For a compilation of all Planet Drum’s activities in Ecuador, see the Eco-Ecuador Project Page.)

2021 Reports: Kat Castillo

Kat Castillo, the Project Manager, planned to teach bioregional classes at the Universidad Catholica but the classes were cancelled in both 2020 and 2021. During 2021 Kat participated in community clean-ups, germinating and growing native trees, and working with the city on highway and community revegetation. She also researched a Food Forest project to replace the abandoned Community Garden.

2020 Reports: Kat Castillo

Kat Castillo, the new Project Manager, is learning the ropes and settling into the project. She has begun building a community garden in an empty lot near the Planet Drum house. She is also working with the University’s eco-club designing a new compost bin for the University, planting more trees and revisiting previous planting sites.After working on the Community Garden for 9 months, the project had to be abandoned as the plot, which was originally identified as belonging to the city, actually was privately owned and the owner reclaimed possession.

Late 2019-early 2020 Reports: Clay Plager-Unger, Kat Castillo

Clay Plager-Unger continued as Field Project Director until the end of October 2019 when Kat Castillo took over from him, Kat spent the last two months of 2019 orienting herself to the project.

During September and October, Clay’s last months, he collaborated with the Universidad Católica (Catholic University) on a new course held near where the Planet Drum greenhouse is located at the University. The course introduces university students to bioregional concepts and principles and includes hands-on components at the greenhouse. There were about twenty students in the class and it met Wednesdays for eight weeks. The plan was for Kat to teach the same class in 2020, however all classes were cancelled due to Covid-19.

Early 2019 Reports: Clay Plager-Unger

Clay Plager-Unger continues as Field Project Director. Tree growing, seed collection and hillside revegetation continue, along with community tree planting workshops and youth volunteering this year.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Bahía de Caráquez’s Declaration as an Ecological City in February, the city hosted an environmental forum. Ten projects gave presentations, including Planet Drum.

In June, Matt Timmins, a Professional photographer from Photographers Without Borders, joined Planet Drum in Ecuador to document the work and provide photos and videos for promotional purposes. Also in June, Planet Drum participated at a biodiversity conference held at the Technical University of Manabí, and an eco-fair for school children held in Canoa.

Planet Drum began collaborating with a new eco-club in Bahia and a municipal project to vegetate 32 kilometers of highway.

2018 Reports: Clay Plager-Unger

Clay Plager-Unger continues as Field Project Director with Orlando Arias as the Field Project Manager and Educator. Community involvement in neighborhood greenhouses and composting, producing trees for residents, and hillside revegetation has expanded. International volunteers continue to help with the greenhouses and Apiculture Project, and some interns designed and produced a composting toilet. They also developed gardens at several schools and took several field trips this summer. One trip was to Chirije, an archeological dig site, another to Punta Gorda Nature Reserve. In July and August a 3 week study abroad session was held in collaboration with the University of Oregon called Sustainable Development in Latin America.

2017 Reports: Clay Plager-Unger

Clay Plager-Unger continues as Field Project Director with Orlando Arias as the Field Project Manager and Educator. During the summer, Planet Drum hosted both a month long study abroad program with the University of Oregon, and a revegetation workshop for a group from the Sustainable Summer organization’s Ecuador: Seeds of Change program. Community outreach with neighborhood greenhouses and composting continued as well as the apiculture project. 3000 trees were grown in the greenhouses and distributed with help from National Electric Company (CNEL).

Planet Drum prepared new downloadable bioregional education & mapping materials. Peter Berg’s classic introduction to bioregions workbook, Discovering Your Life-Place, has been adapted to suit Ecuadorian school children. Additionally a little booklet, The Cycle of Fruit; ‘Ciclo de la Fruta‘was printed as an educational handout for both adults and children.

2016 Reports: Clay Plager-Unger, Nicolas Beriot

Clay Plager-Unger continues as Field Project Director with Orlando Arias as the Field Project Manager and Educator. The year began well with an eco-city celebration and reforestation coordinated in the entire Province, but on April 16th there was an 7.8 earthquake just as Planet Drum was moving its residence to a new house. Fortunately most of the move had been completed because during the earthquake the previous apartment was destroyed. After the earthquake Clay designed and published a blog website for the Eco-Ecuador project and his “reports” became shorter blogs.

The greenhouse building was mostly destroyed, so during the year “mini-greenhouses” were instituted at some schools and neighborhoods. The main greenhouse area at the University continues to function as a nursery for trees. The National Electric Company (CNEL), organized a native fruit tree donation event at the Planet Drum greenhouse area with CNEL contractors from around the Manabí province for their ongoing Árbol Eléctrico (Electric Tree) campaign. The contractors are more engaged in the process than ever, and many of them asked for trees to take to their homes for planting. Orlando gave them a lesson in tree planting and tree care.

In July an erosion study was begun by Field Research Intern Nicolas Beriot. Both Planet Drum and Ricardo Lopez are members of the Cordillera del Bálsamo biological corridor, they collaborated to begin a bee-keeping project funded in part by the United Nations Development Fund Small Grants Programme.

2015 Reports (A Field Report & A Project Overview—with photos):Clay Plager-Unger

Clay Plager-Unger continues as Field Project Director.Orlando Arias continues as the Field Project Manager and Educator. The National Electric Company (CNEL), organized tree donation events with Planet Drum. In June Clay travelled to San Francisco and did a presentation about the Project at Ft. Mason Center that was enthusiastically received.

2014 Reports (7 Field Reports/Student visits—with photos): Clay Plager-Unger

Clay Plager-Unger continues as Field Project Director. They distributed 8000 trees early in the year and initiated a new program of helping residents plant trees in their yards. Orlando Arias continues as the Field Project Manager and Educator. The National Electric Company (CNEL), organized tree donation events with Planet Drum.

2013 Reports (6 Reports, lots of pictures): Clay Plager-Unger, Becky Schroeder

Clay Plager-Unger continues as Field Project Director. He continues community outreach and expands types of trees grown to include indigenous fruit trees which are welcomed by the community. Distribution of trees includes collaborations with local volunteers and CNEL (the national power company). Orlando Arias continues as the Field Project Manager and Educator.  Bioregional educational trips to the greenhouse by schools have become very popular. The National Electric Company (CNEL), organized tree donation events with Planet Drum.

2012 Reports (6 Reports with pictures): Clay Plager-Unger, Thomas Weaver

Clay Plager-Unger continues as Field Project Manager. His enthusiasm working with the community continues with plans to do more projects in neighborhoods and the communities surrounding Bahia.  Orlando Arias continues as the Field Project Manager and Educator. 

2011 Reports (8 Reports with pictures): Clay Plager-Unger

Clay Plager-Unger continues as Field Project Manager. His enthusiasm working with the community is significant; he has expanded the project over the past year and is now also working with the Bioregional Sustainability Institute.  Orlando Arias continues as the Field Project Manager. 

2010 Reports: Clay Plager-Unger

Clay Plager-Unger continues to be the  Field Project Manager. He is dedicated to the work in Bahia and continues to expand it.  Orlando Arias has been hired as the Field Project Manager. In April a new apartment was located to house the project and volunteers.

2009 Reports: Clay Plager-Unger, Mark Hebard (Volunteer & Henchperson), Aaron Kase

Clay Plager-Unger continues as Field Project Manager. His enthusiasm and knowledge of the  community have added a significant dimension to our work in Bahia over the past year, as he continues to add revegetation sites. 

2008 Reports: Clay Plager-Unger, Muralist Fred Alvarado

In January, 2007 Clay Plager-Unger took over as Field Project Manager. His enthusiasm and dedication to community development have added a significant dimension to our work in Bahia over the past year. He continues as Project Manager until at least December of 2008. During January Muralist Fred Alvarado worked with students to renovate a school mural. 

2007 Reports: Clay Plager-Unger, Lise Tjorring

In January, 2007 Clay Plager-Unger took over as Field Project Manager. He wrote the Reports in 2007 except in June, while Clay was out of town visiting his family Lise Tjorring took over. His enthusiasm and dedication to community development will add a significant dimension to our work in Bahia over the next year. 

2006 Reports: Heather Crawford, Patrick Wylie, Valentina Carminati, Sarah Couture, Dan Robbins, Tom Kobilinger

In March, 2006, Patrick Wylie replaced Heather Crawford as Planet Drum’s Field Projects Manager in Ecuador. Patrick was unable to renew his Visa after 6 months and volunteers Dan Robbins, and Tom Kobilinger filled in as Manager until Clay arrived in 2007. 

2005 Reports: Renée Portanova, Riccardo Clemente, Heather Crawford, Kristen Lansdale

  Riccardo Clemente & Ryan LeBrun held Solar Energy workshops and built a Solar Hot Water Heater with local contractors in January. 

Heather Crawford began training to become the new Field Projects Manager in February 2005. Kristen Lansdale joined her in April to head our new Bioregional Education Program. 

Renée Portanova, previous Field Projects Manager, left at the end of March 2005. Hers was an extremely productive tenure during which she firmly established our major Revegetation Project, developed the Seed Bank and oversaw other new activities, developed community relations to a new high, and managed over a dozen volunteers. 

2004 Reports: Brian Teinert, Renée Portanova, Natalie Pollard, Christina Knott,

Renée Portanova arrived in Bahia in late January and after working as a volunteer, became the new Field Projects Manager after Brian Teinert left in May. She recorded the tree species and information about growing them and innovated a “Seed Bank” (July 23). Several Planet Drum staffers also decided to go to Bahia and volunteer there, and in San Francisco Peter and Elise Braaten wrote a bioregional curriculum for Bahia. In June, Peter’s often reprinted essay Learning to Partner with a Life-Place was written, and a promotional flyer encouraging people to volunteer was produced July 24.

2003 Reports: Brian Teinert

We started out the new year with one volunteer, Simon Winch, at the Eco Ecuador Project. In early January Peter returned to Bahia, and about a week later Brian Teinert, who has been hired as Field Projects Manager, arrived. Peter has been busy organizing the projects and introducing Brian to everyone.  Peter’s first January essay is a comprehensive dispatch which reviews Planet Drum’s accomplishments and visions over the past five years in Ecuador. The Guyaquil Green City Plan by Peter Berg (Feb.21) is the summary of a talk he gave at Universidad Espiritu Santi, Campus Sambopondon.

2002 Reports: Simon Winch, Sara Gomez and Matt, Chris Haaf, Kristen Ford, Jeff Godden, and Lisa Kundrat 

A busy and energetic year with various volunteers wring the 2002 Reports. Kristen Ford initiated Bioregional Education classes at a school. Discussions began with landowners about revegetating their eroded hillsides and the Fanca Produce composting project also began. The first greenhouse was built.

 2001 Reports: Amy Jewel & Peter Berg

Amy Jewel, who is experienced in waste management, worked in Ecuador during Spring, 2001. Her 2001 reports follow up on events set in motion with the Eco Committee’s proposals and subsequent Public Meetings in February. The Recycling Plan was written by Amy Jewel.  She noted that much of Bahia’s waste was compostable.

2000 Reports:  Carey Knecht, Claire Dibble

Carey Knecht was Planet Drum’s first Field Manager She writes, “I joined up with Planet Drum and the Eco-Bahia project because I was deeply inspired by the task of integrating nature and a city. That is a task that requires not only reforesting one hillside, but actually changing culture…” In June, the City of San Francisco adopted a resolution commending Ciudad Bahía de Caráquez of Ecuador on becoming an Eco-City. The Fall Reports were written by Claire Dibble “from the ground” on the hard work of planting the hillsides with hopes that the planting will survive the coming winter rains. Planet Drum Foundation launched an Eco-Bahía Ecuador Support Group with an event in San Francisco to support the Eco-Ecuador Project.

1999 Reports:  Peter Berg, Patricio Tamariz 

In February 1999 Peter Berg was invited to Bahía. While he was there he wrote Dispatches and when he returned in August, he wrote a Report about the city and its progress toward becoming an eco-city. Between his two visits, Peter received a letter from Patricio Tamariz updating him on eco-city activities. Planet Drum collaborated in discussions with  other local groups and the City of Bahía de Caráquez to produce a By-Law declaring an Eco-City this year.