July 16-20, 2007
Summary: As volunteers continue to depart from Planet Drum, the rest of the family keeps the work going. We are planting seeds like crazy to build up the arsenal of trees for next year’s reforestation sites. Dry season weather persists with many overcast days and breezes that could be described as “cool.” There was another field trip this week, to a community called Los Caras, named after one of the indigenous groups present in this area from pre-Incan times.
Monday started off the week by checking out the greenhouse. While there some Guachepeli and Algarobo seeds were planted and some other seed beds were prepared as well. The seed beds from last year are dug up and replaced with fresh soil and compost. From the greenhouse there was the familiar walk back towards Bahia to water the Maria Dolores and Don Pepe sites.
Tuesday was the big field trip. We took a bus beyond Kilometro 8 and the greenhouse towards the town of Tosagua. We hopped off at kilometro 16 and started walking up a dirt road in the direction of some denuded hills above the Rio Chone. Along the way farms, a school and the typical bamboo houses on stilts were passed. My friend Sebastian, one of the members of the Cordillera el Balsamo (a corridor of private land owners interested in protecting and restoring the natural habitats on their lands) took us into his house to introduce his family. From there a tour of the community began.
First we went back to the elementary school passed on the way into the pueblo. In the one-room school, to a group of thirty children, I gave a small presentation of some of the ideas of conserving nature, its importance and how it relates to the kids and their community. Passing through the central square of the town, a couple of Guachepeli trees that we had donated a month before had been planted and could be seen. They were looking particularly healthy amidst the wide, dusty streets. From there we visited the construction site of an office of water administration, a pre-school and then a family sized operation of mangar (a sweet, milk based food) production. A woman stirred a large pot of the mangar over an open fire and offered tastes. The family sells mangar in the community and in Bahia.
We passed Sebastian’s house, a community co-op for bulk, staple foods, and then got to his farm. Fields of maracuyá (passion fruit) and a mandarin and lime orchard were looking quite green and we tried some of the fruits.
Fruits from these fields are taken to the central Bahia market on a regular basis. The fields of soybeans lay fallow because of the weak rainy season this year. The community prides itself on its organic soybean cultivation. They process the beans themselves to make milk, yogurt, sweets, and tofu among other soy based foods. Unfortunately, at the time of the visit there were no products to sample or buy.
Sebastian has several large and healthy Caoba trees growing on his property that were dropping seeds. We took the opportunity to collect several hundred seeds of this native tree to bring back and plant in the greenhouse.
Some Guayacan and Algarobo trees that had sprouted nearby were taken back to the greenhouse as well.
We then went back to Sebastian’s house to eat lunch with him and his family. He had another visitor, too, an elderly woman who was spending the morning with them. After talking to this woman for a bit we discovered that she was one of the victims of the 1998 El Niño mudslides in the Maria Auxialadora who were displaced to the Fanca neighborhood. Her son and husband were two of the sixteen people killed in the mudslides there. The site has since been reforested by Planet Drum and is a recognized green space by the city government called ‘El Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas.’ (The Forest in Middle of the Ruins) After lunch, Sebastian and his family were cordially thanked for hosting us. We will keep up contact with him and Los Caras and hopefully have a chance to help out their community once in a while. On the way back to the main road, we helped the old woman carry some of the fruits and vegetables that she was bringing home. At 80-something years old, she took care of the half-hour walk without a second thought. She got off in Fanca.
That was Kirk, Crista, Maria, Farhad and Angela’s last day. Travel plans obliged them to keep on moving and they bid farewell to the rest of the Planet Drum family. You guys will be missed, and enough thanks can’t be given for all the hard work you did. Safe travels and hopefully we’ll cross paths again some day.
Despite the sad goodbyes, the rhythm of life here has a way of continuing to tick, and without missing a beat we were back in the hills of Bahia on Wednesday morning watering the La Cruz site, and headed to the greenhouse and to plant the Algarobo and Guayacan trees from Los Caras into 3-liter bottles.
On Thursday the remaining three volunteers and I went to Ricardito’s farm to water the beast of a site, Bosque Encantado. That afternoon we did some cleaning up around the house.
On Friday some Ecuadorian friends were invited to come help out with watering. With the extra hands it was possible to knock out the El Toro and Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas sites without losing too much sweat. Thanks to Blas and Gabriel for taking time out of their day to help with the cause.
We were back at the greenhouse that afternoon, this time with Bioregional-Ed class.
The class was shown how to turn compost, plant seeds (the Caoba collected in Los Caras), water, and transplant a few of the seedlings that have sprouted so far.
The students had a great time helping out in the greenhouse and it was the perfect way to wrap up an action packed week.