Local landowners explore visions of a reforested future for Azuero

On the morning of Friday June 2, the Azuero Earth Project kicked off their 2017 Watershed Restoration Program with a pre-reforestation event. Five of the seven participating landowners in the Los Santos region attended the event. The day’s agenda provided helpful information regarding plant and animal biodiversity, physical evidence of reforestation success, results of past programs, conversation space for program participants to talk with each other about their budding reforestation efforts, and Q&A about maintaining reforestation parcels in Azuero.

The program participants met the AEP staff for morning coffee and pastries at the Pedasi office, where they viewed a presentation on past reforestation efforts on the Azuero Peninsula, current national reforestation efforts, and toured AEP’s tree nursery. Before driving to an area of reforested land to witness the results in-person, this presentation established a solid foundation of understanding. Participants asked questions about topics ranging from the national Alliance for a Million Hectares, of which the Azuero Earth Project is a member, to specific tree species they found in the nursery, adjusting their reforestation plans to incorporate new and interesting species discovered at AEP.

 

After meeting at the office, the group reconvened at the nearby property of Vernon Scholey to tour his reforested lands. The tour was led through two distinct areas of land with different growth patterns. First, the group trekked up hills where horses grazed between young trees. Next, the program participants ventured down into an older plantation area, now thick with undergrowth, where the loud cries of monkeys could be heard from the trees.

Jairo Batista, AEP’s Organic Garden and Tree Nursery Coordinator, expertly outlined the changes resulting from reforestation and the accompanying regeneration of various plant species. The participants observed how native species can develop over time, witnessing how biodiversity adds to the value of a property. For the landowners, the tour of the planned land development kindled ideas and questions about the viability of implementation on their own properties.

 

Participants were able to voice their ideas, questions, and concerns in a meeting with Scholey, the landowner. Scholey has been dedicated to reforesting his land for many years, and was able to field questions and clarify processes for the interested participants. This question-and-answer session provided both a personal connection and informative resource for the prospective reforesters.

At the same meeting, participants shared their personal plans, reasons, and hopes for reforesting their land. Showing their commitment to the program and their engaged participation, these local landowners explained the species they hope to plant, the usefulness of new tree species on their farm, and their logistical concerns. Trees bearing edible fruit were particular favorites among the participants, and many expressed their wish to protect the environment and mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change and biodiversity by reforesting their land.

The event concluded with a lunch and permaculture tour at the nearby Eco Venao. The permaculture tour provided a look into the use of land to compost organic material and regrow native species for their productive capacity. Having observed the diverse benefits of reforestation and sustainable land management, the participants had much to consider as they returned home.

 

Friday’s event was a precursor to AEP’s exciting season of reforestation and regrowth that will plant around 5000 trees across Los Santos this rainy season. Hand in hand with collaborators such as current allies Prince Bernhard Nature Fund, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and American Forests, AEP continues to partner with community members who are interested in reforesting their land. If you would like to see more native fruit trees outside your window, are interested in sustainable land management, or are simply curious about compost, come visit AEP. Only you can make the decision to change the way we manage land on the peninsula. But never feel that you have to make that decision alone — AEP will help you take your next steps on your journey toward sustainable living!

 

 

Article and photos by Sarah Metzel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eco-Movil Malls: Tag sales to promote local support for conservation

When we talk about saving the planet, we’re not just talking about recycling plastic, cans, etc, but also thinking carefully about the use we give everything we have in our house that we no longer use or simply don’t like. To that end, our Eco-Movil Mall Initiative, together with Tortugas Pedasi, collects clothing, shoes, home items, and many other second-hand goods, to then sell at yard sales that rotate among rural communities on the peninsula. Every Eco-Movil Mall has an organizer in the local community in charge of inviting us to the community, and inviting their neighbors to the activity, that benefits local community through offering them the chance to buy quality items a low cost without travelling to urban centers, while supporting local environmental initiatives at the same time.

Through this initiative, we hope to promote the reuse of everyday items, giving them a second life, while at the same time supporting environmental NGOs in the region. In each of our two first sales, in December 2016 and May 2017, we have collected over $500.00, a great help to both organizations. Our next Eco-Movil Mall is tentatively planned for August 2017.

Do you have goods you’d like to donate? Would you like to help organize a Eco-Movil mall in your community? Reach out to us at (507) 995-2995 or info@proecoazuero.org to support this initiative. You can also deliver items directly to our Pedasi office, in front of Distribuidora LIBADI, during work hours (8 am – 5 pm, Monday-Friday), at your convenience.

Earth Day 2017 Celebration in Pablo A. Barrios Refuge

The Azuero Earth Project celebrated Earth Day this year in collaboration with other local organizations with a series of events in late April. The activities included:

  • A mangrove reforestation near the Pedasi port, in the Pablo A. Barrios Wildlife Refuge, with the Pro Eco Pelaos on Friday April 21st
The Pro Eco Kids hike to the mangrove reforestation site.
  • An Earth Day Celebration on April 22 on Arenal/Bajadero Beach with the local Hospital, Tourism Authority (ATP), Pedasi Municipal Government, CiMA Pedasi, OPC Panama, Tortugas Pedasi, the Barrios-Velasco family, Ministry of the Environment, Hablas Tortuga? and community members;
  • A Sunday Brunch in Las Tablas to benefit the Azuero Earth Project and its programs

The celebration on April 22 started off with a walk to the beach, followed by a beach cleanup that collected more than 49 bags full of plastic, cans and other recyclables, foam, and even some articles like a toilet seat, tires and pieces of scrap metal. Cleanup volunteers documented the quantities and types of beach trash to send this data to a national network organized by PROMAR. It is so important to remember not to leave our trash on the beach!

The winners of the annual Pablo A. Barrios photography contest were also announced on Earth Day. There were 11 entrants and 30 submissions in 3 categories: the Pablo Barrios Wildlife Refuge, Nature, and Ecotourism.  The event also included a sand sculpture building contest organized by Tortugas Pedasi y Hablas Tortuga?, traditional music, games for youth, and more.

c. Edith DĂ­az, Winner of the RVSPAB category of the 2017 R.V.S.P.A.B. photography contest
c. Santino Sirtoli, Winner of the Nature category of the 2017 R.V.S.P.A.B. photography contest
c. Santino Sirtoli, Winner of the Ecotourism category of the 2017 R.V.S.P.A.B. photography contest

We thank everyone who participated in these Earth Day weekend events and we hope to repeat them in future years! Meanwhile, we invite community members to get involved with our Pro Eco Kids youth group and Refuge Shared Management Committee initiatives. For more information please call (507) 995-2995 or write to gricel@proecoazuero.org

Azuero After Hours – Join us on Jan. 6th!

Want to relax after the first work week of 2017, win wonderful D.C. and Panama themed prizes, and save the environment at the same time? Join us for Azuero After Hours, a 6-8 pm Happy Hour on Jan. 6 with Panamanian food, music, drinks, and dance, and an ecological bingo with prizes from the Kennedy Center, Shakespeare Theatre, Teatro de la Luna and more! All guests will be entered to win a Panama vacation for 2 from COPA Airlines and RIU Hotels.

Can’t make the event but still want to contribute? Want to increase your odds of winning the Panama vacation? Support the Azuero Earth Project by entering to win an extra vacation raffle ticket.

For event and raffle tickets please see: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/azuero-after-hours-tickets-29561784092

Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/events/1439533582753300/

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APASPE’S THIRD AGRO-ECOLOGICAL FAIR AT LOS ASIENTOS

Carmela, Director of Education and Community Outreach, gives a participating family a new tree to plant and watch grow!
Carmela, Director of Education and Community Outreach, gives a participating family a new tree to plant and watch grow!

On June 19, the Association of Livestock and Agro-Silvopastoral Producers of PedasĂ­ (APASPE) held the third annual Agro-ecological fair. The fair was hosted by the school of Los Asientos, a community close to PedasĂ­. The theme? Health soil for a healthy family! This fair comes at a critical point in time, as healthy soil is considered a quickly dwindling resource.

The Perfect Earth Project Azuero (PEPA) participated with a table which taught visitors about the necessary components for healthy soil. Our table also shared other methods of increasing soil quality, such as reforestation or worm compost systems. Other participating organizations covered a variety of environmental issues, such as turtle conservation, sustainable tuna farming, reforestation or sustainable livestock production. Participants included ranged from local actors, such as different schools and NGOs, to national and international actors, such as the National Authority of the Environment (ANAM) and the FAO of the United Nations. This diversity of collaboration strengthens our ability to fight for an agriculture which supports a healthy environment and earth. Students from Las Tablas had created a model of a water-conservation irrigation system, and a competition to see which students could create outfits made entirely out of recycled material. The event was inaugurated by members of the FOA of the United Nations and representatives from ANAM.

The inauguration of the fair by representatives from ANAM and the FAO of the UN.

This type of event provides a fun and informative space for local farmers, families and communities, who are the people most immediately affected by soil decay, to meet with environmental actors who are working towards sustainable agricultural practices which best preserve biodiversity and healthy soil. PEPA greatly thanks APASPE and Los Asientos for their work in creating such a space, and for their invitation to participate! We look forward to the fourth annual fair!

 

Birding Excursion with the EcoKids!

excursion3By Carmela Luciano, translated by Rebecca Berube 

When we heard May 9th was Global Bird Day, we immediately thought- Let’s go birding! Most birding outings are accompanied by thoughts of silence, wide eyes, early mornings, guidebooks, pamphlets, birdsongs, and peaceful forest tranquility … But we wanted to go with a group of 21 children! Armed with this challenge, we combined our wonderful Pedasi group of EcoPelaos, trained veterans of the forest, with a group of new students from the Venao International School.
Our diverse group of explorers ranged from 4-12 years old, from different nationalities and speaking Spanish, English, and French. Excited by being part of a Global Bird Day, with over 12,500 participants from all over the world, the kids prepped their feathers and beaks to head out to the forest. Aided by the passionate forest guides and educators Guillaume and Silva, volunteers, and AEP staff, we reached the riverbed reeds and had barely gotten off the bus when we were greeted by birdcalls. With our logistics, we knew the birds would know we were coming! However, the kids were undeterred, keeping their senses open as they told their friends, “listen, listen to the birds singing over there!” 17499134396_59d2140ff4_z
Thus began our adventure,  our children bursting with excitement with the idea of walking through the riverbed, splashing through the small puddles of the river during the dry of summer. If the walk became challenging for smallest, the older kids helped them along, discovering and scrutinizing each small movement seen through the branches and leaves of the forest; howler monkeys, a hidden heron, a coiled snake, parrots swawking high above them (making almost as much noise as the kids were).
As we reached our goal, a delightful swimming hole and lunch spot awaited. The kids played in the cool water of the river, protected by the calm shade of the trees, and under supervision of a water turtle they found.
In this excursion, the birds went from being the observed to being the observers, as we’d like to think they were looking down from their perches as our boisterous group enjoyed the forest and its charms without fear!

Students Complete Research on Mangroves in Pedasi

Students Rebecca and Hans present the results of their study on mangrove conservation
Students Rebecca and Hans present the results of their study on mangrove conservation

On April 24, our students interns Rebecca Alvarez McInnis and Hans Herrmann from McGill University in Canada concluded four months of stay and scientific research in Panama with an excellent presentation of results at our office in Pedasi. The internship program is a collaboration between McGill University in Montreal, the Smithsonian Institute (STRI), and our organization as a counterpart for the internship and student research. The presentation of results was attended by officials from ANAM Pedasi and Las Tablas, as well as by residents of Pedasi. Hans and Rebecca, both students of environmental studies, analyzed the perception of residents in the region about the status and importance of mangroves, especially mangroves protected by the Wildlife Reserve Pablo Arturo Barrios on the Pedasi coast. Hans and Rebecca prepared a questionnaire and interviewed 65 people, including local fishermen. Their results showed clearly: the population is aware of the high importance of mangroves as special forests that provide multiple environmental services for the fragile coastal ecosystem.

Although it is not easy, it is urgent to better protect mangroves at all levels: globally by the RAMSAR convention, at national level by the Panamanian environmental laws through appropriate authorities, and locally by coastal communities (the most affected by changes to the ecosystem) and investors of coastal development projects (which have a high responsibility for future generations).

You can see the final report containing the results here. Thank you Hans and Rebecca for all your hard work, and we wish them success in their future professional development!

Exploring the Forest with the EcoKids

E16034861153_c8b4b9c7c8_zarly in the morning 14 young people from LimĂłn and Pedasi, fans of fun activities and discovery, came with their backpacks ready and their anxious faces asking… “When do we leave?” Again Azuero Earth Project staff was accompanied by youth group leaders from SCOUTS Pedasi, friends, and volunteers. This time we were also accompanied by the super knowledgeable guide Jairo Batista, who loves kids and is an expert of the woods!

T16447371807_305a80152f_zhe morning was fresh and the breeze kept us from getting too hot, perfect weather to begin our exploration. Once we established our rules of good conduct, we entered the forest, using special tools like mirrors to “search the forest from the bottom up.” Other activities included bark rubbings, seed hunts, and leaf comparisons. Because it’s the dry season, we had the special advantage to enter a small lake bed that was dry, but its floor still had a lot of moisture, where it seemed that we were walking on a giant fluffy bed! There we found with our search team (armed with little shovels and magnifying glasses) ??many bugs, shells, little roots and even a snake skin. The Gun-Gun monkeys greeted us with their shouts when we entered the forest, but soon appeared with their families. Key-wen counted 19 monkeys total. Our walk ended like all great explorers, learning how to find compass north … and on towards our next excursion!

For more pictures, check out the full album on Flickr. 

First Eco-Excursion of 2015 a success!

excursion grupoOn the beautiful sunny morning of Jan 14, 27 kids gathered at the Azuero Earth Project office bubbling with excitement for the days activities.  Together with the Scouts of Pedasi, AEP staff organized an outing to a nearby riparian zone … a spot locally known as “La Montaña.” cruzar cuerda2 The walk in the woods was more than just a casual stroll, as the Scouts prepared various activities combining leadership, outdoors skills, and teamwork.  At the culminating activity, a lunch under the shade of fifty year old trees, the staff and and kids spoke about the differences between pasture and forest, and the importance of maintaining trees along riverways.  Overall we recieved wonderful feedback from the Ecopelaos, including one young lady who asked, “Can we go again tomorrow?”

Check out the photos from the event here, and if  you’re interested in volunteering with us for the next excursion, shoot us a message at carmela@proecoazuero.org