Week 2 – Sustainable Development Study Abroad Program 2018

Students continued to explore the challenges and possibilities for reconciling development and conservation in Ecuador during the second week of the University of Oregon Sustainable Development Study Abroad Program in Bahía.

Activities for week two included a visit with local fishermen, tree planting with the National Electric Company, a tour of the Isla Corazon Wildlife Refuge, a trip to the Machalilla National Park and whale-watching in Puerto Lopez.

To better understand local economies and realities of subsistence living, the group of students and their professor, Moriah, met with local fishermen outside of Bahía de Caráquez. The fishermen explained the difficulties of the industry and initiatives to achieve economic and ecological sustainability. Afterwards, we got into a fishing boat and accompanied them on a tour of the estuary, where we helped them cast and reel in nets and got to catch and release a variety of fish and shrimp.

Taking a look at the fish and shrimp before tossing them back in the water.
We stopped to climb onto one of the bridge platforms on the way back to Bahía.
Touring the estuary in a fishing boat.
Ben helps the fishermen let out the net.

The following day we traveled to Crucita to meet with representatives of the National Electric Company who are working with Planet Drum on the “Árbol Eléctrico” pilot program, where one native fruit tree is planted for every $500 of new electrical infrastructure in rural areas. After introducing ourselves, meeting community members and Electric Company workers, we planted a few dozen more trees around the community. We also got to sample local tropical fruits, such as Guanabana, harvested from Planet Drum trees planted there in 2012. As expected, the fruit was delicious, and we saved the seeds for planting more trees at the greenhouse.

The Planet Drum team introduces itself to the National Electric Company representatives and Crucita community members.
University of Oregon students planting trees in Crucita.
Orlando (right) plants a tree in Crucita with Edith, Moriah, and Miranda.
University of Oregon students pose with National Electric Company workers and residents from the Crucita community.
Clay (left) Eating Guanabana harvested from a Planet Drum tree with a Crucita resident, Harold Rivadeneira, an Electric Company engineer, and Orlando (right).
Don Rafael shows off a Planet Drum orange tree from 2012 that is already producing fruit.
Planting trees with National Electric Company workers on Don Rafael’s farm.

Next on the agenda was a visit to the Isla Corazon Wildlife Refuge. Our favorite guide Don Francisco led us on a tour of shrimp farms to witness first hand the impact this lucrative and ecologically devastating industry. From there we got into boats to travel around to the far side of the Isla Corazon mangrove island, where canoes were waiting to take us through a mangrove tunnel. Along with seeing lots of creatures such as Frigate birds and crabs, we saw where the community had replanted mangrove trees and where natural restoration within the refuge had also occurred. After the canoe tour through the mangroves, we went on a short walk on a raised walkway through another part of the mangrove island and Don Francisco told us the legend of the mangrove goblin “Felipito”. Then we rode the boats back to shore and headed home.

Don Francisco leads us on a tour of a shrimp farm.
The students have the opportunity to plant their own mangroves by carefully dropping seeds into the mud.
Riding in canoes, we are taken into a tunnel that leads through the mangroves.
Traveling via canoe through the mangroves.
Don Francisco, Ben, Eva, Ethan, and Bri climb into the mangrove roots.

The following morning we set off on a multi-day adventure south to the Machalilla National Park and Puerto Lopez. We arrived at the Aguas Blancas community, which is located within the park, gives tours of archeological points of interest, and is committed to preserving regional ecology. That afternoon we took a tour of the archeological museum and divided into small groups to spend the night with families from the community. The next day, we took a hike through the community to see their organic garden, more archeological sites, and a mineral pond that has therapeutic mud. Everyone took a dip in the pond and lathered themselves in mud. After lunch, we traveled to Puerto Lopez (20 minutes away) and that afternoon we took a spectacular whale-watching tour that included snorkeling at one of the nearby islands.

The mud at the Aguas Blancas pond is purported to have healing powers.
Walking through the Machalilla National Park.
Whale watching off of the coast of Puerto Lopez.
Excellent whale watching during the boat excursion.
Humpback whales breaching near the boat.
On the way to Puerto Lopez, we stopped off in Portoviejo at a regional ecological exposition.
Cordillera del Bálsamo members showed off their goods and services at the eco-fair in Portoviejo. Ramon from Punta Gorda poses with a banner for the Cordillera and Planet Drum trees.
The Cordillera del Bálsamo stand was considered by many to be one of the best at the ecological fair.
At the Aguas Blancas Community in the Machalilla National Park we toured the archeological museum.
Touring pre-colonial ruins at the Machalilla National Park.

Photos by Clay Plager-Unger.

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