Jeff Goddin, Eco-Bahia Projects Manager
I sit at a table in a half-finished house as the street sounds, neighbor’s voices, and the smell of fresh baked bread waft in to distract me from writing this introduction to my Ecuador experience for the Planet Drum community.
So, you’re probably wondering who I am. I’m a 27 year old male from Ohio, with work experience in chemical engineering, pizza delivery, used camera sales, and community organizing. But why am I with Planet Drum in Ecuador? As it turns out, I went to school with the crazy idea of putting my math-and-science head to use by addressing environmental and sustainable development issues from a technical perspective in developing countries. It took me a while, but here I am.
I’ve also gotten a little political, associating with the Green Party and working for the Nader campaign in 2000, getting involved in a protest organizing as the Ohio contact for the DC anti-globalization events, and getting dirty down home putting together speaking events and conferences, speaking myself to local groups and at events, writing for local papers, putting out my own zine, community organizing with a local environmental non-profit, Ohio Citizen Action, etc…
So, I found out about Planet Drum in April and arrived May 13. I planned on staying a year, but now I’m not so sure. It may be three to five. Possibilities and potentials here are too good to leave halfway through a project. Like Planet Drum’s Fanca Produce community composting center and greenhouse.
I arrived with the intention of working on a regional environmental assessment. None has ever been done, and my chemistry skills would come in handy for water and soil testing. I imagined biodiversity surveys and establishing regular monitoring of environmental standards. But, as Peter warned me, I have readjusted my priorities a little. Planet Drum already has projects that need attention, full time, really, and I’m the only volunteer here to take on that responsibility. Also, there aren’t any resources for basic research costs. No office. No lab. No notebooks. No car. So, in addition to managing Fanca produce, I’m busily looking for resources.
I think I may have found some. New England Biolabs Foundation wants a project written up for $10,000. The Warsh-Mott Legacy Fund wants one, too. I’ve worked up a project for the Ministry of the Environment of Ecuador, along with the Municipality of Canton Sucre, to get 40 more ecological centers like Fanca started, with the goal of supporting the reforestation of 20 square kilometers. I’ve got another project in the works with the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund to get $200,000 to help Planet Drum work with other organizations, community groups, and government officials to form the Environmental Council of Manabi. The council will manage research, environmental monitoring, project development and execution, resource acquisition and distribution, policy recommendations, communication and educational materials. From a bioregional perspective. Within this project, I will receive the resources I need to conduct the much-anticipated environmental survey of Canton Sucre. So, maybe we’ll have money.
Also, I’ve been working with some of the local activists to support the formation of an environmental community association to work in Canton Sucre. There are some 50-100 people around who have a serious interest in helping address environmental issues, and once organized, will be a powerful group that can expect great results. Getting this kind of community support behind our projects will propel them forward rapidly. The Ministry of the Environment sponsored a series of workshops in Canton Sucre to help encourage community participation in the process of decentralizing environmental policy and practice formation to the Cantonal level. Many of these people attended, making this group a natural progression towards the goal of community participation in the formation of environmental policies locally and in the development and implementation of environmental projects.
I should also mention coalitioning with other groups working in Ecuador as a way of sharing resources. Ecuador boasts at least 20 great environmental organizations working on significant levels throughout the nation on issues like mangrove preservation, sustainable development, conservation landowning, environmental legal assistance, alternative community currencies and markets, organic and traditional agriculture, and environmental education. The Fundacion Progressivo y Desarollo (Development and Progress) is looking forward to working with us in the classrooms of Canton Sucre. The Coporacion de Bosques Privados (Private Forests Corporation) will be working with us on developing landowner networks in the region.
Yesterday I visited the students of the Fanca Eco Club, a separate project mainly managed by Flor-Maria Dueñas. They were working through an exercise to look at their club, their neighborhood, their schools, and make suggestions on what they would do to address problems they see with the environmental conditions of these living spaces. That’s the kind of education we can expect in high schools throughout the Canton within two years. The elements for success are all here, just waiting to be organized and reproduce.