December 10, 2002
With election fever over, calm has once more descended upon Bahia de Caraquez. The Planet Drum house too has descended into relative tranquility, with only two volunteers living in the space previously occupied by seven.
Work on community liaison has surpassed expectations with residents of Maria Auxiliadora, the community worst hit by the El Nino disasters. In a hectic week about 50 people were guided through the community park, a residents’ group was set up, a steering committee for guided tours started and a re-inauguration ceremony held, to which over 100 local residents and members of the Municipio attended. Vandalism in the park hasn’t been a problem in this time of heightened community awareness of the park. Local residents really seem to value this green area of the city, and respect its’ history – 16 people were killed here by mudslides in March 1998.
A local artist has been painting signs for the park – two fairly small ones to mark the entrances to the park, and one enormous sign to place at the bottom of the hill the park is situated upon. He is also making t-shirts for the guides to wear. T-shirts are also being produced to sell to tourists, carrying the beautiful logo of the park. Given time we hope the t-shirt and merchandise revenue may pay for the upkeep of the park and bring money to one of the poorest parts of Bahia de Caraquez. One of the largest tour companies in Bahia de Caraquez has agreed to stock the t-shirts for us.
A group of residents have visited the Municipio to discuss how to make the guided tours fit in to the Ecuadorian legal system – the easiest way seems to be by starting a ‘non-profit enterprise’. Leonardo Maya, one of the guides, has prepared a portfolio demonstrating what has been done in the park and what there is still to do – ideas include building a museum – and presented it to the Municipio. An official of the Municipio is preparing it as a power point presentation for us to use. Hopefully the portfolio will be integral in winning Maria Auxiliadora grants for future projects in the park.
Work on a greenhouse to raise seedlings for reforestation has nearly finished – the structure and covering is complete, and once a raised bed has been built and filled with soil it will be ready for seeds. We estimate it to be able of producing 3000 plants every 2 to 3 months, which is ample for our needs. Now it only remains to collect or buy seed. At one revegetation site we are contemplating using a hand dispersal method instead of using hand-reared seedlings. The pioneering tree species we will use are frutillo, a fast-growing, hardy tree with red berries similar to redcurrants, algorobo, a very pretty tree which is in seed now, and moyuyo, which has a willow-like quality of sprouting from stakes hammered into the ground.
A lot of work has gone into improving Planet Drum’s volunteer center. The walls of the kitchen have been painted, and the entire house given a thorough ‘spring’ clean.
There is a busy time ahead. We hope to get tourists into the park before it may have to close for the duration of the rainy season, and there is a race against time to raise seedlings to plant in the January – any later and they won’t be well enough established to survive the subsequent 8 month drought.