Clay Plager-Unger, Field Projects Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
Report: January 8-14, 2007
It is an honor for me to be representing Planet Drum Foundation as the new Field Projects Manager here in Bahia De Caraquez, Ecuador. This is an incredibly interesting time to begin work here as the dry season is coming to a close and we are on the verge of the wet season, when we begin moving trees from our greenhouse out into the field. We are also rapidly approaching the eco-week festivities, which will take place during the third week of February (19th-23rd). This will mark the 8th year of Bahia being an eco-city and there are lots of festivities planned. This year we are trying to increase the exposure of our ecological movement by beginning preparations early and holding activities each week leading up to the Eco-week and then beyond. So, in addition to the maintenance of our current revegetation sites and greenhouse, there is a lot going on. Proposed activities for the Eco-week coming up in February are a beach clean-up, restoration of a park along the road into town (at Fanca), planting of Manglares, publicizing the event, work at Bella Vista, education about local birds, cleaning up the cemeterio, making tee-shirts for the volunteers that say ‘consciencia verde‘ (our slogan) and doing a town clean-up. Additionally we began todiscuss the possibility of proposing (and enforcement) of environmentally friendly laws such as anti-littering. This last topic has less to do with the Eco-week and there is clearly a lot of discussion/action to be had. Possibly involving the involvement of CEDA (Centro Ecuatoriano Derecha Ambiente) here in Bahia. These bi-weeklymeetings seem to be incredibly productive, especially since we are just beginning with them. They provide an excellent forum for many of the ideas that Marcello, Ramon, Orlando and the Municipio have. And there seems to be no shortage of their ideas.
The Planet Drum house has now become the meeting place for bi-weekly gatherings of local eco-amigos. Our meetings are open to anyone in the area with an ecological interest. We are working together to promote community awareness of local environmental issues and protect this beautiful bioregion.
Our volunteer who became temporary Field Projects Manager, Tom, has left for the next stage of his travels, working on the Galapagos Islands. But not before he kindly showed me the workings of Planet Drum and our sites around Bahia. And although we are in the process of saying goodbye to a few more volunteers who have spent the past 3-4 months furthering the Planet Drum mission, our house has been filled to the brim this past week. We had a work force of 9 volunteers in total and were able to accomplish a lot. But now as volunteers move out, we will gradually be becoming shorthanded. If you are in the area, or looking for something exciting to do in South America, come join us! Email planetdrumecuador at yahoo dot com to inquire about volunteering.
This past week had a healthy mix of both community involvement and revegetation. On Monday we watered two sites, El Toro and La Cruz. Along with the farmers and everyone else around Bahia, we are still waiting for the rains to begin. We also collected 3-liter plastic bottles from around the city and on the beach. We use the bottles for transplanting trees in the greenhouse. Each bottle acts as an intermediary stage for the young trees, which begin as seedlings in seedbeds at the greenhouse. Once in the bottles they can easily be transported to their specific sites after they have reached the proper size. Collecting bottles from the neighborhoods around town has the added benefit of reducing trash in the streets and on the beach.
Monday’s collected bottles were used on Tuesday to transplant trees that are only a few weeks old. These trees will have to wait until next year’s rainy season to be planted. We continued transplanting trees on Wednesday. Additionally a number of us split off to a couple of our new sites to prepare catchments around future tree planting sites. They involve digging a circular ditch around where each tree will be planted. The ditch will help collect water when it’s raining, will make watering easier and hold leaves which will be used to maintain humidity around the tree as well as provide additional nutrients for the trees through composting. Recent consensus suggests that these catchments will be crucial in improving our survival rates. We made sure to dig large catchments at two of our new sites this day. Thursday we continued our work of bottle collection, as we are always in need of more these days.
On Friday, after four days of making great progress on our own projects, we decided to help out with a local community project in preparation for the upcoming eco-week. We all spent the entire afternoon at a local park that was originally dedicated many years ago when Bahia first declared itself an Eco-city. The park hasn’t seen much attention over the years and we are in the process of upkeep, cleaning, and more revegetation. Along with a number of other environmental groups and local schoolchildren we repainted the sidewalks, and fencing, and planted a number of trees donated from our greenhouse, including my first, a Ceibo. The Bioregional Education class joined us to pitch in with the work and the mayor of the town showed up as well. It was a great way to show our solidarity with the community and gain some exposure for Planet Drum and the environmental movement in Bahia.
All in all my first week here has involved a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. I am looking forward to what the future holds for Bahia and its eco-amigos.