Thursday, December 13, 2012

More from Adam and Elisa in Dominican- Biodiversity Restoration and Community Development Facilitators

Time flies! Work is rolling, friendships are blossoming and the beautiful vistas
are leaving us jaw dropped.  And to think, in a couple of weeks we will have
completed half of our internship abroad! Adam and I are realizing that the more we
weave ourselves into all kinds of projects, the harder it’s going to be to leave
come March.

Our approach so far has been to take advantage of any opportunity that comes our
way which means our weeks are flurries of activities running from meetings to
monitorings. These past months have been taken up by planning the big “Dia de
Campo” event which was a celebration of the reforestation project so far.  Adam
also tirelessly put together funding proposal to develop the forest industry in
Republic Dominican; while I spent a lot of time studying web design and planning
workshops.  A goal of ours is to ensure the continuity of the website updating
after we leave. So we have been offering computer training workshops to local
youth to teach them how to manage a website. In a couple of months we hope to have
trained a team of youth that will have a good foundation in web design and will be
able to promote their own region without relying on temporary interns.

On top of our outlined work plan, we also have been doing a lot of networking. One
of these partnerships is helping maintain communication between the Water Resource
PeaceCorps volunteers and ENDA.  Both organizations have worked together in the
past, so our role is to act as the intermediary to identify opportunities for
collaboration in the upcoming projects. We are also assisting the Incubedora de
Micro Empresas- The Incubator for Micro Enterprises  in Cotui  to develop a fruit
processing plant in a nearby community and working on various ecotourism ventures.

The concept of ecotourism is only starting to take off in Dominican. A number of
tour operating companies, including Colinas EcoTours, are actively working on
redefining  tourism in the country. For a country rich in biodiversity minus the
threat of any poisonous creatures; the time has come for the Dominican tourism
industry to turn its focus on the interior. A bonus from working in the ecotourism
sector is that we get to visit sites such as the Ruta del Cacao, and the wetlands
near Haitillo lake! Some of these tourist destinations are outcomes of  ENDA’s
forest management initiative so we are also promoting them via the website. In
parallel to our information gathering for the website, CATIE, the Centro
Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza – the Model Forest organization
based out of Costa Rica, is putting a 20 year legacy documentary together
highlighting all the Model Forest work that has been going on around the world.
We have had the fine privilege of accompanying the film maker to interview
involved members for the Dominican portion of the movie. 

Before the holidays start, we want to tie up loose ends and wrap up projects.  We
do look forward to some down time and getting to see more of the country.  There’s
also the highly anticipated the bachata legend, Frank Reyes, whose concert next
door at the De Melissa Car Wash has been marked in our calendar for weeks now!
It’s safe to say that yes in fact, we’ve caught the Dominican Latin Fever.

Elisa & Adam

Adam with his vegetation sampling partner.

Sr. Ferreira showing off healthy seedlings.

Tree nursery for reforestation project.

Monday, December 3, 2012

News from Salado Barra, Honduras – Mira Maude Chouinard, Biodiversity Restoration & Community Development Facilitator

Quite a few things happened in Salado Barra since Anna last wrote to you!  It is now the rainy season, and the workers of Falls Brook Centre’s local project – Proyecto Mangle – have been restoring and planting in the past few weeks.  All of the plants in our nurseries have to go into the ground before the dry season begins!

While Anna works hard in the kitchen and medicinal gardens with the hope of improving food security in the community, my individual work consists of monitoring and reporting the advancements and changes in the Biological Corridor (a project with the multinational Standard Fruit/Dole) and ensuring the success of the solar panel business that members of the community have started.  Together, Anna and I teach English and Environmental Education classes to kids in the community, and tackle the challenging task to revamp Salado’s ecotourism management plan.

A week ago, we were extremely lucky to have Dr. Ranil Senanayake, a systems ecologist and founder of the Analog Forestry restoration system, visiting us from Sri Lanka.  Dr. Senanayake has been involved in this project for a few years. His visit consisted of evaluating the progress of the Biological Corridor, the demonstration and restoration sites.  He also made sure to collect epiphytes from El Cacao (where Falls Brook Centre holds other projects), taught us how to put them back on trees to ensure their reproduction and proliferation.  Dr. Senanayake is an incredible source of information, and gave us the honor to evaluate one of our analog forestry designs.

Members of our project also held a reunion between workers of Salado Barra, Omoa and El Cacao, with the intent to share, learn and evaluate each project’s successes, challenges and lessons learned.  Anna and I were pleased to see Brittany, the Falls Brook Centre intern working in Omoa, and to learn from her project.

On a leisurely note, we celebrated the Proyecto Mangle’s one year anniversary this past Friday.  We played games, organized a talent show, and were treated to a real feast composed of a freshly bought and killed pig, rice and beans, yuca, tortillas, and chimol.  Community members danced until the wee hours of the morning, celebrating one year of hard restoration work!

Que le vaya bien,

Mira + Anna

Mira loving the jungle

Environmental Education with some of the kids

Beautiful mangroves

Brittany MacGillivray - Community Development Facilitator in Honduras

After a long day of traveling, I arrived late in the day Sunday to San Pedro Sula, Honduras on October 14th. I was promptly greeted by a smiling and helpful compañero, who much like myself was eager to get out of the busy, loud, and smelly city, and head to the coast. Jumping right into things the next morning, most of my first week was spent being oriented to the office and all of the people involved with the project. Much to my devastation however, when you drive into the Barras communities along the beach, you are shown a reality that exist here that is a major problem: the garbage! Due to the ocean currents and the geography of the coast, garbage is constantly being washed up onto the, what would otherwise be beautiful beaches. As is indicated in the picture, one of the many problems that exist with this is the sanitary nature of the things (i.e., the discarded medical jar) that sit on the shores where people are living, where food is caught, and where children are playing. Roger assures me that in January we will attempt to clean some of this garbage up, and hopefully start a trend where beach clean-up becomes a regular occurrence.
Garbage that collects on the beach in the Barras.

Week two and three for me were spent in Copan Ruinas at a Spanish language school, which was a helpful and necessary venture. Following my language training, the first work day back in Cuyamel, another reality sets in: we are faced with a lot of hardships here before the restoration work can even begin. Specifically, due to the rain the night before, the office had been flooded, and soon after discovering this, the electricity went out for the remainder of the day due to a tree falling onto a power line several kilometers up the road. This will continue to be a constant battle for us throughout the next couple of months while rainy season is upon us.

Throughout the weeks to follow, many of the same problems were faced again, with issues regarding electricity, but more so with the rain. The road to the Barras gets washed out, which prevents us from getting into the communities and conducting our restoration work. Finally, toward the end of week five we were able to get into the communities. Thursday and Friday we had visitors from other projects in Honduras with us to help conduct a workshop with some of the women from Barra Motagua, and to begin an initiative regarding the exchanging of knowledge between projects. A local artist showed everyone how to make jewelry and other useful things, such as long-lasting candles and purses out of the garbage that they have on the beach. Teaching these skills to the members of the community is useful because it gives them the opportunity to participate in their own economic venture, making and selling the things that they are able to produce from the trash that cost them nothing to acquire and use.

The following week, I spent a day being introduced to the nursery that is being constructed in Cuyamel. It will be largely beneficial to the project to have the nursery in town, close to the office to help increase the protection and care of the juvenile plants, along with the already established nurseries at the schools in the two communities. The next day was a long day spent making our way into Cuero y Salado on a knowledge-exchange venture with the project in Barra Salado. The sharing of knowledge is a beneficial opportunity for our project, as it is not as well established as the project in Cuero y Salado. Specifically, it will aid us in our initiatives by allowing us to observe the progress and successes made in a similar project. These methods can then be implemented here, allowing us to further help those who live in these vulnerable Barra communities, and to further protect and restore the environment that exists there as well. On our drive back to Cuyamel we also stopped to visit the mangrove restoration project in Cacao, spending some time there being shown some of their ideas and efforts, as well as getting to see their very large, very diverse nursery.

Hopefully over the next couple of weeks the rain will allow us to get back into the communities so we can spend time applying our new knowledge, getting some trees into the ground, and doing some monitoring of the restoration sites.
Por ahora, eso es todo de Cuyamel.
Hasta pronto,

The group of participants from the workshop in Barra Motagua.

Roger, Paula, Carlos, and I on our tour through the mangroves in Cacao.