Working with Local and International Students, and the Volunteers

April-June 2013

Field Report

During the beginning of April, planting the 2013 Bellavista revegetation site with children from the community was completed. While delivering trees to the site, fruit trees were also given directly to community members for planting at their houses.This is the last Planet Drum (PD) revegetation site to be planted this year since the rainy season has wrapped up and the dry season is setting in.

Orlando and Planet Drum volunteers
Malte and Jeannette pass out fruit trees to
members of the Bellavista community.
Bellavista community members gather to receive free fruit trees for planting at their houses.
Bellavista children who participated in a morning of tree planting at the revegetation site take trees back to their homes as well.
Orlando gives an introduction to the tree planting work about to be undertaken by a group of children in the Bellavista community.
Children participating in tree planting (Dormilón).
Malte oversees a Bellavista kid as he plants a Tierramonte tree.
Children walking home after a morning of tree planting.
Kids enthusiastically help plant trees. They spent the morning running up and down the hillside with trees.
A young Bellavista girl plants a Jaboncillo tree.
The group poses in front of the hillside where the trees were planted.

Cooler, more overcast days with minimal to non-existent precipitation are expected until December. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting El Niño Southern-Oscillation (ENSO) neutral conditions for the upcoming months ( so it should be a usual dry season. This cooler and more overcast weather has been excellent for field work. Additionally, it brings a much welcomed drop in the number of mosquitoes, so much so that using a net for sleeping has become optional.

The Global Student Embassy (GSE) visited  the greenhouse with two more groups  for revegetation workshops. The students learned about the PD Revegetation Project and assisted in transplanting hundreds of baby trees into reutilized plastic soda bottles.

Students from the Global Student Embassy help cut plastic bottles at the Planet Drum greenhouse.
GSE students prepare bottles with soil for transplanting trees.
GSE students transplant Chirimoya trees.
Inside the greenhouse, GSE students transplant Guachapeli trees.
Large groups of volunteers help transplant hundreds of trees in a single morning.
GSE students cutting bottles for transplanting.
GSE students fill bottles with soil.
The group of students from GSE fill bottles with soil as part of the transplanting process.
Planet Drum volunteers (left to right) Zoey, Malte, Jeannette, and Emily philosophize on compost.
With so many hands, moving trees around is a breeze.
Orlando digs up baby Guachapeli trees for transplanting with Zoey and Emily.
GSE students enthusiastically participating in the Revegetation Project.

For the second half of April and the beginning of May, I took a vacation with my family to the United States, specifically San Francisco, CA. While there I had the opportunity to check in with the PD headquarters and participated in a staff lunch with other members of the PD team. It was great to see everyone in person. The house and office in Bahia were closed for that time, but Orlando kept the greenhouse running and made sure the trees stayed healthy during my absence.

Shortly after my return, a new group of volunteers began showing up. Currently there are two community engagement interns who will each be spending 3 months  developing increased community interaction as part of their PD projects. Eric, from Ohio, is a grad student studying International Development, and Becky, from New York, is working towards a Masters in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development and International Affairs. We’re excited to have them onboard and look forward to strengthening communities ties through their work. Additionally, Joffrey from France, a professional in GIS work, is helping to GPS map all of the revegetation sites that PD has planted since 2007 (and some from before then as well). Plus we have the revegetation volunteer crew, headed up by Itxaso from Germany. It includes a group of students from Sage Educators (who often volunteer in summer) for a two week visit and more volunteers are expected soon and in July. This solid work force is completing the regular workload, along with some interesting additional projects. 

Joffrey takes a GPS point at the 2009 Universidad Catolica revegetation site.
A similar view from 3.5 years ago
Clay stands next to an Algarrobo (from 2009) at the revegetation site while recording GPS data. Photo by Joffrey Iboud.
Joffrey pulls weeds from the Guachapeli seedbed.
Itxaso and Orlando tend to the compost pile.
Eric machetes bamboo stakes for marking trees that were planted this year.
Members of the electric company CNEL visit the greenhouse to discuss collaboration efforts. CNEL is committed to planting a native tree for every $5,000 invested in electrical infrastructure.
Volunteers collect Grosella seeds and dig up baby Grosella plants that have germinated in the crowded (with plants) patio of Don Luis Otero, a friend of Planet Drum.
Orlando and Itxaso transplant Pechiche trees that we salvaged from a local’s backyard.
Eric, Itxaso, Joffrey and Orlando help organize bottles that have been collected by students at the Montufar school.
Orlando admires the work on a composting toilet that he helped construct at his house with help from the Peace Corps. The toilet is a model that may be replicated at up to 40 other households in the Bellavista neighborhood that has historically suffered the most from lack of water in Bahía. As far as I know, it is the only other composting toilet in the region outside of the Rio Muchacho organic farm.
Eric puts his long arms to good use pulling Laurel seeds directly from the tree.
A close-up of a bunch of Laurel flowers.
Orlando poses with a Papaya tree in Bellavista that was part of a campaign to plant Papayas around the neighborhood by Molly, the first Bioregional Sustainability Institute student. Two years later, the trees are still giving fruit.

Currently, seeds are germinating at the greenhouse. Seedbeds of Tamarindo, Guayaba, Caoba, Laurel, Tierramonte, Chirimoya, Guachepeli, Grosella, and Pechiche were prepared and are in the process of germinating, and more will be planted soon. Shortly after germinating, the trees need to be transplanted to individual plastic bottles. This is a labor intensive project since bottles need to be cut, soil mixed and filled in the bottles, plus the actual transplanting of the trees.

In a series of fortuitous events that benefits both PD and Bahía, one of the local schools, whose students previously attended PD bioregional education classes and who have been  helping collect plastic bottles recently, expressed interest in having students participate in educational workshops at the greenhouse. With an abundance of trees needing transplanting at the greenhouse and a desire to educate Bahía youth about their environment, PD jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with the Montúfar school. The result has been a series of revegetation workshops where we educate the students about the Dry Tropical Forest, the threats facing this delicate ecosystem and PD’s efforts to reverse damaging human impacts. After giving an interactive lecture and a tour of the greenhouse including composting methods, the students are instructed how to transplant the trees and they participate in the process. Large groups of students are able to transplant hundreds (200-300) trees in an hour or so.

Clay gives an introduction of Planet Drum and the Revegetation Project to a group of students from the Montufar school. Photo by Eric Ahearn.
Clay gives a tour of the greenhouse to the visiting Montufar students. Photo by Eric Ahearn.
School director Miguel Delgado oversees the work of the Montufar students as they fill bottles with soil.
Montufar students fill bottles with soil as part of the revegetation workshop.
Montufar students transplant Algarrobo trees.
Montufar students transplanting trees. The students thoroughly enjoyed spending the morning learning in the outdoors compared with in the classroom.

After taking the first group to the greenhouse, other students at the school were begging to be taken on a similar tour. Once PD had enough bottles collected at the greenhouse, we took a second group of students to the greenhouse for a morning. For the moment, we are well caught up with transplanting, and will wait a couple of weeks until more trees grow enough to be transplanted and then PD will host more groups for revegetation workshops.

Clay welcomes the second group of Montufar students to the greenhouse. Photo by Eric Ahearn.
Before getting to work we discuss ecology with the inquisitive students. Photo by Eric Ahearn.
Montufar students learn about compost by getting a little dirty. Photo by Eric Ahearn.
Clay answers questions from the students inside the greenhouse. Photo by Eric Ahearn.
The students ask interesting questions about the project.
Montufar students help cut bottles.
One of the groups of students at work.
The students filling up bottles with soil.
Orlando shows the students how to carefully dig up the baby trees for transplanting.
Students and teachers participate in the work.

Additionally, more and more local groups (individuals, communities, government officials) are expressing interest in receiving trees for planting, particularly fruit trees. The beauty of this method of revegetating is that locals are helping produce the trees in the greenhouse to be delivered to other locals who assist in planting and caring for the trees. Demand for fruit trees currently appears to be insatiable since people are especially interested in trees that will directly benefit them in the future by producing fruit. Planet Drum’s role in this revegetation becomes more about facilitating the process by providing the infrastructure and expertise to grow the trees and less about doing all of the labor ourselves. This is an extremely important distinction because people are far more likely to care for a tree that they take the time to plant compared with a tree planted by a stranger. And of course it is always exciting to see locals approach us with interest in being involved in the project.

          Pásalo bien,

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