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Reports from Planet Drum Staff
Eco-Ecuador Project 2012

Index to 2012 Reports, Set 1 (January-February, 2012)

Field Report #1

Clay Plager-Unger
Field Projects Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
January-February, 2012

Note: Click on photos for larger picture  Extra Note: There are lots of photos in this report and it's really worthwhile clicking on them to view them larger.

This year three new revegetation sites have been created and are ready to plant with trees raised at the greenhouse. Trails were cleared with machetes and holes dug in anticipation of the rainy season which began, as it typically does, right around the beginning of January. Once the rains moistened up the soil, trees were delivered to the various sites and we started planting. One site (with 274 trees) is in the El Toro watershed, a large area with severe erosion problems.


Orlando selects trees to carry up the hill and plant at the El Toro revegetation site.

Hanna plants a tree. The trees are planted along trails which follow the contours of the terrain.

Elizabeth cuts a tree out of its bottle in order to plant it in the ground.

Elizabeth carries trees up the hillside in a recycled plastic bucket.
Hanna planting a tree on another trail at the El Toro site.

Another site for this year is a continuation of the site from 2011 at a property owned by Dr. Parra. He has chicken coops for egg production in the flat areas of his land, but is concerned about the lack of vegetation on the hillsides and wants to plant trees there in order to prevent mudslides. This year we continue to cover the hills on his land with 260 more native trees.


Volunteers from the Global Student Embassy joined us for a morning to assist in planting trees at the Dr. Parra revegetation site.

Elizabeth selects trees to carry up to the hill at Dr. Parra’s.

The hillside at the Dr. Parra site. Sparse vegetation shows the need to revegetate with native trees. The yellow flowers are Guayacan trees, a sure sign that the rainy season is commencing. The trails we cleared are visible. Volunteers dot the hillside as they plant trees as Orlando, at the top, looks on.

The view from the balcony of the Planet Drum apartment on a particularly rainy morning in January.

A flower burst open with the fresh rains.

Orlando planting trees along a trail at the Dr. Parra site.
A lizard hides out in a Ceibo tree that is growing at the greenhouse.

The third revegetation site for 2012 is at ‘El Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas’ (‘The Forest amidst the Ruins’) an inner city green area/park where Planet Drum has been planting trees for 10 years. This site, with 260 trees, is located in a section of the park that is still mostly devoid of large vegetation. Preparation for this site was started several months ago when we made trails and dug holes. Since then, some of the holes filled up with soil, so we spent a morning cleaning up the site again before delivering trees.


Elizabeth fixes up holes at the Ruinas revegetation site.

The view from the Ruinas hillside includes the houses of the Maria Auxiliadora barrio, a flowering Acacia tree, and chunks of concrete from previous structures that were destroyed during the mudslides of the El Niño phenomenon in 1998.

At the greenhouse, Alicia, Sam, Elizabeth and Ryan load trees into a rented truck to be delivered to the Ruinas site.

Neighborhood kids joined up with us to assist in tree planting at the Ruinas site.

Ryan plants a tree with a local kid.

Volunteers carry trees up the hillside for planting.

Elizabeth and a couple of helpers plant a tree.

In this area, a steep hill with very loose soil, the only existing vegetation are some grasses. Elizabeth and her help continue planting trees.

Sam and a neighborhood kid cut a tree out of its bottle for planting.

Local children planting trees at the Ruinas site.

Sam planting trees.

More tree planting.

Orlando shows some of the neighborhood kids how to plant trees.

Sam served up some refreshments to the group during a break.

The group takes a break from tree planting.

Local kids pose with the Planet Drum crew after a hard day of tree planting.
The children took some of the trees back to their houses to be planted there. We ended up giving away 180 trees to this community in addition to the 260 trees which were planted at the revegetation site.

Trees that are planted at our revegetation sites, as opposed to those given away, are marked with bamboo stakes so that we can locate and identify them, for example when we water them during the dry season.


Sam and Alicia split bamboo trunks to make the stakes that we use to identify the trees we plant.

Volunteers chop bamboo into stakes.

Long time friends and Planet Drum collaborators Jaeson and Gina Schultz organized a trip for James Haim of Cob Together, based out of Oregon, to visit Bahia and experiment with Cob construction in South America. They built a bench at their house in Bahia and an outdoor oven for the Bellavista community. Of course, Planet Drum got involved to learn about cob construction and help in the labor intensive work.


Alicia and Aaron prepare soil for the bench project.

James and the volunteers demonstrate ‘waddle and daub’ construction with bamboo on the high back of the bench.

Cob bench construction.

More cob construction.

The bench is almost done.

James, the Planet Drum crew, and local participants, pose for a picture with the completed bench project.

Orlando and James converse while working on the cob oven.

Planet Drum volunteers prepare batches of soil for mixing with rice straw.

A few of the community members got involved as well…

Putting the final touches on the oven.

James, the Planet Drum crew, and Bruce show off the cob oven we built in the Bellavista community.

The following day we found that one of the community members, nickname ‘Shark,’ had posted a warning to any potential vandals who might tamper with the oven project. Broken Spanish, translated to English, the sign reads: Sector: Organic Oven. Planet Drum and company organized. Thief who is caught will be brought to justice and turned over to the fishermen for shark bait. Thanks, Shark.
Planet Drum family and friends relax on the beach during the Carnaval weekend.

The 13th Anniversary Celebration of Bahia being declared an Eco-city was unfortunately, yet not surprisingly, small. Lack of support and organization on the part of the local government in recent times has given a feeling of emptiness to the Eco-city movement. The only visible signs of Eco-city activity are from individual organizations that do ecological work, such as Planet Drum and Cerro Seco nature reserve; the triciclos (eco-taxis) which are independently organized; and the half-hearted city effort to resuscitate the garbage separation program, which is currently underway. The Eco-city is suffering from a lack of initiative from local authorities, and Planet Drum is currently evaluating plans to inject some renewed spirit in the Eco-city movement through new urban-based bioregional projects. 

Despite all of this, Planet Drum showed up at the Anniversary Celebration with two truckloads of trees to give away.  We also hung banners and signs and had a strong group of volunteers. Pedestrians passing by the municipal building flocked to our stand to receive a free tree. Fruit trees have been by far the most popular. We have large quantities (six hundred to fifteen hundred) of three varieties of native fruit producing trees: Chirimoya, Pechiche, and Guayaba.

Clay, Orlando, and the Planet Drum volunteers show off and distribute free trees from the greenhouse to visitors at the Eco-city’s 13th Anniversary.

This past year we produced more trees at the greenhouse than ever before, over 5,000. However, due to a variety of factors, including low volunteer participation in October and November, we only were able to prepare sites for a small fraction of those trees. As a result, we needed to find new ways to distribute the remaining trees to more people and communities. Typically most of the trees at the greenhouse are reserved for the revegetation sites that we create.

I called up Ivan Aguirre, a good friend of Planet Drum, nature lover and one of the few level-headed politicians around. He agreed to help us deliver trees in his truck to communities beyond Bahia and Kilometer 8, all the way to Kilometer 20. In the past, Planet Drum has only worked with one of the numerous communities in the area to Kilometer 8. This year, with the help of Ivan, we have been able to give away trees in six different communities, including two repeat trips to communities that requested large numbers of trees. Residents were eager to receive them and promised to take care of the trees they were given. On the last trip we made, as we were arriving, three children walking down the road recognized us from a distance and held up their hands, signaling that they each wanted a tree. We stopped and handed them three trees to take to their houses.

Aside from the obvious need for restoring native vegetation in the area (there has been massive devegetation), there is clearly a large demand among the population for tree planting in the areas surrounding Bahia to Kilometer 8. Hopefully we will be able to continue and expand revegetation efforts in these new regions.

Talking with community members has also been helpful in identifying trees that are the most desired by the people. Among the most popular trees that were requested, that we didn’t have this year are: Mango, Limon, Guayacan, Cedro, and Balsamo. We will try our best to augment production of these species in the future.


Sam hands out trees to children from the back of Ivan Aguirre’s truck.

Unloading trees at the Los Caras community.

Orlando gives a demonstration of how to tree plant to members of the Los Caras community.

Ivan helps unload trees in the remote community of Las Delicias.

Alicia plants a tree at the Los Caras community.

Taking a break from tree planting with community leader Sebastian (Maxi).

Residents of Kilometer 20 show up to receive free trees.

Kilometer 20 residents carrying away their trees.

As we give away trees, more and more people show up.

Locals taking their trees.

A woman with her two Guachapeli trees.

Children and adults with their trees.

Sam helps pass out trees.

Orlando shows residents at Kilometer 20 how to remove the plastic bottle and plant the trees.

Orlando passes out trees at Kilometer 19.

Locals at Kilometer 19 arrive to receive trees.

Orlando gives another demonstration of how to plant the trees.

Orlando giving away more trees.

Delivering trees with Ivan to people at Kilometer 20.

A handful of trees were donated to be planted at a community health clinic.

Residents at Kilometer 20 come out to receive trees.

More people come for trees.

We delivered trees to a school to be planted by the students on the campus.
Unloading trees at Colegio Leonidas Plaza in Kilometer 20.

Meanwhile, it became apparent that this is an especially wet rainy season. It has been raining multiple times per week since early January, mostly at night, but occasionally during the day as well. Sometimes, the rain comes down quite hard. 

As of March, local residents are calling this the wettest rainy season since the El Niño year in 1998. Several towns inland from Bahia are completely flooded, and thousands of farms have lost their crops due to floods. In areas that aren’t susceptible to flooding, the rains have resulted in incredible plant growth, including crops, trees, and weeds. At the greenhouse we have led several weeding campaigns inside and outside to prevent the weeds from overgrowing the place.


Chris machetes clear the tall grass growing around the greenhouse.

Alicia machetes a trail that leads behind the greenhouse.

Ryan machetes weeds at the greenhouse.
We are currently producing compost from the organic waste collected at Hostal Coco Bongo, Jaeson’s house, the Planet Drum house, and the University cafeteria. Aaron cleaning the compost buckets.

We will continue to work on the revegetation project, as the rainy season progresses. Sites that have been planted will need to be weeded and soon we will begin to produce new trees for next year.

If you are interested in volunteering, please see http://www.planetdrum.org/volunteerbahia.htm on this website and get in touch at planetdrumecuador@yahoo.com , there are still volunteer opportunities available for the summer months and beyond.

Pásalo bien,
Clay

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