February 17-23, 2007
Now that all of our planned new sites for the year have been planted and the rains have been keeping up a semi-regular basis, we’ve been able to devote most of our energy to the Eco-week and local community activities. Unfortunately we had to make it through this time with only one volunteer; it would have been nice to have some more faces representing Planet Drum. On the bright side, we had two new volunteers show up at the end of the week and the house feels more like we’re a real group again.
The beginning of the Eco-week festivities coincided with Bahia’s Carnaval. For a long weekend the streets we’re packed with lots of people. That Saturday the local eco-amigos joined up with the city parade to show off some of our ‘Green Consciousness.’ We marched with banners and painted faces in the parade from one side of town to other. There were lots of people lining the streets and our messages got out to a large audience. Due to some poor organization on the part of the local government there was less involvement in marching from the local neighborhoods than usual in the parade. But I would guess that this was related to a general increase in the responsibility of coordinating the Eco-week on part of the local government and decreased responsibility of local community leaders. While on one hand this shows a growing role of the local government in Eco-activities here in Bahia, it also shows a potential pitfall of relying on them for too much and in the process overlooking neighborhood groups. We were still able to mobilize our group with the help of the Manglar Baseball group of kids and in total we numbered about twenty-five people marching. Sunday night the festivities of Carnaval continued and our next Eco-week event was the “Noche de Verde,” an artist’s festival. Lots of people turned up for a great night of music.
Since there was nothing planned for the Eco-week on Monday and Tuesday, the last two days of Carnaval, we decided to take our long overdue days off from two weekend’s before when we were planting on a Saturday and Sunday. We went with our bioregional education teacher, Ramon Loor, to a family house of his a few kilometers down the coast from Bahia. It was a perfect way to relax after a stretch of hard work. Upon returning Tuesday afternoon we gathered some of our trees from the greenhouse to bring to the municipality building for the open house on Wednesday.
Wednesday morning we set up our trees, some posters and a demonstration area with compost and plastic bottles for showing how we transplant trees at the municipality building. We had a fair amount of visitors show up to ask about our work and we were able to show off some practices. A few people showed up who have some potential planting sites that we can use to get rid of some extra trees from the greenhouse. It would be much better to have the trees out in sites as opposed to sitting for another year in the greenhouse. We are in the process of investigating these options, and there are at least two solid leads for new sites nearby La Cruz and in the Astillero neighborhood. We will be getting to work on these as soon as possible since we want to plant them before it gets too late in the rainy season. Two newspapers, El Nuevo Globo and El Mercurio, showed up as well as a local radio station. I gave interviews describing our work around Bahia and participation in the Eco-week. The Nuevo Globo article should be available on their website at: www.elnuevoglobo.com. There could have been a better turnout of visitors in person to our exhibition, but between the newspapers, radio station and some new contacts, the open house was still a success.
On Thursday we returned trees to the greenhouse and began doing some trail maintenance and a clean-up of Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas in preparation for some eco-tours that we will be conducting there. We are hoping to be able to help local residents of the neighborhood there begin their own tours of the park and possibly even be able to make some money in the process. This is a long term goal that we are beginning by keeping the park clean, planting new sites, and renewing relationships with the residents there and helping to begin interactive tours of the park. Look for more information about this in the next report.
On Friday there were two government meetings, one in the morning at the municipality building, and one in the afternoon at the city theater. The morning meeting was of local citizens concerned with the ecological progress of Bahia. We saw two presentations about possible projects in the area. One is a potential Private Protected Area that could unite Bahia and surrounding landowners who are interested in preserving their lands. The other project was for a Bahia ecological attraction for eco-tourists. Due to a lack of time we had to forgo a presentation I had prepared on Planet Drum. Despite this, the presentation is ready, and I am now thinking about giving smaller presentations directly to local residents within the neighborhoods in which we work. The afternoon event was the Formal Session of the Eco-week. Various government representatives gave speeches about the importance of conserving the natural resources in and around Bahia, as well as continuing with the mission of being declared an ‘Eco-city.’ After the speeches, some of the local government representatives went to an inner city park to plant Tamarind trees.
So far the Eco-week has had its ups and downs, as should be expected here in Ecuador. We’ve been able to get our message out a lot and have met some interesting people as well as seen some real dedication to the Eco-city mission, but there have also been some organizational problems throughout. And now we’ve delayed our planned Eco-tours a week to allow ourselves more time to publicize the events better. It definitely is an accomplishment that we are here working with a variety of other ecological groups to preserve this bioregion, but it is a constant uphill battle and you can never be sure how anything is going to turn out. Such is the environmental movement in Ecuador.