April 23-27, 2007
After a slight lull in our community work, this week saw a strong resurgence. Through further developing relations with La Universidad Católica de Bahia I was able to connect two groups which now have a great opportunity to benefit from each other. The Maria Auxialadora neighborhood, where an eco-tourism development plan exists for the Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas (an inner-city park heavily revegetateded by Planet Drum over the past eight years), and the Universidad are now working together with our assistance. La Universidad Católica’s eco-tourism education program does practical work on local projects. They have the technical expertise to assist with tour guide training and promotion, as well as species identification in the park. There is a lot of work to be done, and much at this early stage relies on the motivation of the neighborhood residents to sacrifice their time and energy for a project with benefits that will not be realized in the short-term. We are using our influence in the neighborhood to help show the importance of conserving the park and how it can be developed into an attraction and hopefully one day a sustainable source of revenue. Involving the kids of the neighborhood in our activities is one example of this, but ultimately the motivation will need to come from the residents themselves. It’s their park and they are the ones who will be giving the tours, protecting the landscape, and sustainably gaining from a green resource.
At the same time we began planting seeds, which we collected from various sites around Bahia, in the greenhouse. The greenhouse continues to be transformed from containing larger trees that have been there for months or even over a year (three to six feet tall) to small trees that are only a few inches high. It’s inspiring to see the little trees that with our care and water will be ready to plant at next year’s sites.
On Monday we turned our compost, transplanted more Guayacan trees from the Maria Dolores site, and prepped seed beds for planting. That afternoon we prepared seeds for planting by scratching them to speed germination and left them overnight in water.
Tuesday we collected some more 3-liter bottles on the way to the greenhouse, where we planted beds of Guachepeli and Dormilon seeds. In the afternoon I secured a lecture hall site for the second part of our adult education series to be presented by Marcelo Luque of Cerro Seco. The presentation will be given at the brand new Eloy Alfaro University in Leonidas Plaza, a suburb of Bahia. Marcelo Luque will present on the biodiversity of local ecosystems: very dry tropical forests, dry tropical forests, wet tropical forests, Mangrove estuaries, and marine life. Look for coverage of the presentation in next week’s report.
On Wednesday I gave a tour of Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas for the director of La Universidad Católica in Bahia as well as two students currently enrolled in the eco-tourism program. While out touring with them, we had volunteers working in our office preparing materials for our Bioregional Education class, as well as a team in the greenhouse who had picked up baby Algarobo trees from Ricardito’s farm and were transplanting them in the greenhouse. That afternoon several of us (with Marcelo Luque) headed out to a neighborhood that borders on the Rio Chone river. It has a small patch of Mangrove trees which we have been helping them expand. We rounded up some neighborhood kids and gave a lecture on the sidewalk about the birds and animals that live in Mangroves. Then with their help we trudged through the low-tide mud, sticking in Mangrove seeds along the way. Walking barefoot through estuary mud with local Ecuadorian kids planting mangroves is a lot of fun.
On Thursday while the Planet Drum crew was back at the greenhouse transplanting more hardy little Guayacan trees, I took off to the El Toro site to meet with the landowner there. We discussed the options for water access during the dry season so that volunteers can fill up watering containers directly at the site. We also resolved a previous problem where another family member who is an inheritor of the land was considering letting pigs into the site where we have year old trees. Additionally we scoped out a promising area for a new site for next year. The land owner is also going to talk to his neighbors to help look for other ecologically minded landowners in the same watershed where we may be able to have more sites.
In the afternoon I attended the first meeting of the development of the Cordillera Balsamo which will be a conglomeration of private land owners in the Bahia area with the city municipality, the mayor, and local schools and universities, among other groups, to form a pact for environmental conservation, reforestation, eco-tourism, and sustainable development. The group is clearly very wide reaching in scope, but hopefully by uniting similarly minded groups we will be able to form a stronger force for ecological restoration and sustainability. Together, the group will have greater political clout, including the possibility for legal support and drafting of environmental laws, as well as the support of a network of private protected areas throughout Ecuador and Peru. More on this in coming reports as well.
On Friday we stayed in Bahia and did another top to bottom house cleaning to keep our abode in order.
Nos vemos, cuídense,