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Reports from Planet Drum Staff
Eco-Ecuador Project 2011

Index to 2011 Reports, Set 3 (March 4-May 30, 2011)

Field Report #3

Clay Plager-Unger
Field Projects Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
March 4-April 7, 2011

Note: Click on photos for larger picture  

Things have slowed considerably volunteer-wise the past month, but there is a recent new arrival, Chris, from Germany, and more arrivals slated for the coming weeks. During the past month, Orlando and I have managed to keep things running on our own. The rainy season appears to be slowly making its exit, and the dry season is creeping in. Fortunately there have been enough drizzles and light rains recently to keep all the plants and hillsides a vibrant green.

Orlando removes a stray pumpkin (zapallo) plant from a bed planted with Chirimoya seeds.

Work has covered multiple areas. We’ve had to do some spot watering at the University Catolica revegetation site, for the Pechiches and Chirimoya (both native fruit) trees. There’s been weed clearing on trails and around trees there as well, since some areas hadn’t been visited in over a month.

We’ve also planted more (20) trees at a site from last year behind the cemetery. And a new site is being created in Jorge Lomas, also in an area where we worked last year. The land owner there, Don Carlos Salazar, is very keen on continuing to participate in the revegetation project. His land is on a fairly steep mountain side that has only sparse tree vegetation. It is a little late in the season to be adding sites, but we still have trees in the greenhouse, and Don Carlos has a cistern with water that we can use to water the trees. Last year we planted 470 trees, which are doing great. This year we will plant a couple hundred more.

Ramon and various visiting groups of volunteers from the Global Student Embassy organization have planted 1,300 trees at Ramon’s family land at Punta Gorda in the past month. Two more groups of volunteers will visit and they are asking for even more trees to plant. We will send out another truckload. They are revegetating strategic areas in the forest at Punta Gorda around and near water drainages, which retain moisture throughout the dry season. They will hopefully only need a minimal amount of extra watering. So far the planting is going very well.

Also, Orlando has been contacted by individuals interested in receiving trees. Several of them want to be responsible for the entire process of transporting, planting and caring for the trees. They have agreed to let us check in periodically on the work to make sure that they really do their part.

At the greenhouse, there are empty spaces where there used to be hundreds of trees in plastic bottles, in the foreground a seedbed of Guachepeli (actually from last year), continues to germinate seeds, probably because of the rains that have fallen in the past two months.

At the greenhouse we have been consolidating the space we occupy since nearly 3,000 trees have been delivered and planted so far this year. Black plastic lining was collected and washed off. Weeds were pulled and macheted. Compost was turned. Seed beds of Pechiche, Guachepeli, Cabo de Acha, Balsa and Chirimoya were planted and so far Pechiche and Guachepeli are already germinating.

On the side, we’ve been collecting 3-liter bottles, since the trees for next year are already popping up and soon we will need thousands more bottles for storing trees.

Recently planted seedbeds of Cabo de Acha, Guachepli, Balsa and Pechiche that will hopefully be germinating during the coming weeks and or months.

In other news, we are making preparations to give away the remaining 300 fruit trees at the greenhouse on Earth Day.

And finally, funding for 3 more classes of Bioregionalismo has been secured from the Canadian foundation, Children of Ecuador, and classes will begin in May. Preparations for the 12 week after school program for 11-13 year olds are underway with the teachers: Ramon, Margarita and Nadine.

We look forward to receiving more volunteers in the coming months and progressing with the revegetation project and bioregional education program. If you are interested in volunteering, please visit http://www.planetdrum.org/volunteerbahia.htm 

Pásalo bien,
Clay

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Field Report #4

Clay Plager-Unger
Field Projects Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
April 7–May 30, 2011

Note: Click on photos for larger picture  

May marked the arrival of numerous new volunteers. There’s Chris from Germany, Jack from Australia, Guillaume from France, Michelle from the US (Oregon), Dennis from New York, Anja from England and Celine and Liberto, also from France. As you can imagine, our productivity has increased accordingly.


Photo by Dennis Voskov.
 

Ceibo tree flowering. 

 

 


Photo by Jack Mitchell.
Chris hammers a bamboo stake into the ground to mark where a tree has been planted.

Photo by Chris Kose.
Jack cuts a tree out of its bottle for planting. 

Photo by Chris Kose.
Michelle plants what is most likely the last tree from the Planet Drum greenhouse to be planted this year.

The volunteers have been incredibly involved in the projects and some have brought their own interests to the work. Michelle has been involved in writing grants for four different grant opportunities that she found. Guillaume, with help from some of the others, is organizing a book with species information about the native trees that we work with at the greenhouse. The book will include photos and pertinent information about identifying each species and characteristics for planting. It will serve as a guide for how to operate a revegetation project in the greater Dry Tropical forest region. Many of the volunteers have been assisting with the Bioregional Education Program, now in its fourth of twelve weeks.


Photo by Chris Kose.
Orlando and Jack pose in front of an enormous Ceibo tree at the Cerro Seco nature reserve while collecting seeds.

Photo by Chris Kose.
A chameleon hanging out at the greenhouse.

Michelle, Jack and Dennis pull weeds from a seed bed.

Photo by Chris Kose.
Taking a break to munch a papaya. From left to right: Clay, Michelle, Dennis, Orlando, Guillaume, and Jack.

Meanwhile, Orlando has been fearlessly leading the crew working on the revegetation project. Tasks include those at the greenhouse, such as weeding, transplanting trees, composting, cutting bottles, and mixing soil. New seedlings continue to pop up from the seedbeds. We have already amassed hundreds of new saplings for next year’s planting season. In the field, more seeds of Pechiche and Guayaba were collected and sites maintained through macheteing weeds and watering.


Photo by Chris Kose.
Seeds drying on the seed rack

Photo by Guillaume Leveque.
Walking in the dried up creek bed through the El Toro area while looking for Pechiche and other seeds.

Photo by Dennis Voskov.
We get lucky on the way home and hitch a ride back to the main road.

Photo by Dennis Voskov.
Waiting for the bus to take us back to Bahia. 

Photo by Guillaume Leveque.
Loading up collected plastic bottles to take to the greenhouse. 

The sites we planted this past rainy season are doing fantastically and the greenhouse is looking excellent. Tree production for next year is on target. We are continuing to look at expanding the selection of native trees that we work with and securing a solid base of native trees that are proven to be good at planting in extremely poor conditions (soil, hillsides, direct sun, very little water, etc).


Photo by Dennis Voskov.
Volunteers repair stairs at El Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas. 

Photo by Dennis Voskov.
Guillaume clears grass out of the trail with his machete. 

Anja clears weeds off of an old cement stair case in ‘Las Ruinas’.

We also cleaned out the trails and repaired stairs at ‘El Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas’, which had been slightly abandoned. We hope to maintain interest in the park and keep it clean. Some of the neighbors have expressed interest in wanting to plant more fruit trees in the area in the future and have been protecting the forest from anti-socials who have destroyed signs, hand rails, benches and even trees in the past. Without their support, the park could be in much worse shape. After having not planted trees there for the past two years, I am considering taking the locals’ advice to have a tree planting campaign in the area and see with we can’t stir up more support for protecting the park. Although it isn’t surprising, it’s still disappointing that the municipal government has been totally uncooperative in providing any assistance, despite years of asking for it.


Celine clearing a trail.

Dennis, Jack and Liberto clear a trail.

The rainy season has definitely wrapped up, pretty anti-climactically. There hasn’t been a solid rain in close to two months. Any precipitation at this point is incredibly unlikely and probably won’t do much to moisten the soil. As a result, we will be watering the revegetation sites from this year as necessary.


In their spare time, Planet Drum volunteers help collect compost for a community garden project that Orlando has spearheaded in his neighborhood, Bellavista.

This summer we will be receiving several large groups of volunteers to help with the projects. William and Jaime of Sage Educators in California will be here (again!) for just over two weeks in June with a group of ten people. Children of Ecuador, who have helped fund the Bioregionalismo education program for three years now is returning for the first time since 2008 with a large group for a few days in early July. In late July we will be hosting students participating in an education course offered by the Cloud Forest Institute who are touring ecological projects in various regions of Ecuador.   

Despite the influxes of groups of visitors, we still have plenty of space during the summer months for volunteers to come and stay at the Planet Drum apartment, so if you’re interested in participating in our projects it’s not too late!  Please visit http://www.planetdrum.org/volunteerbahia.htm for more information.

Pásalo bien,

Clay

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