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!

Soil Benefits of Raising Chickens in Mobile Cages

Bruno Borsari, visiting Fulbright scholar from Winona University offered a series of in the field lectures at the USMA farm in Las Minas, Panama.  Azuero Earth Project has been fortunate to have an extended connection with the bright and vibrant Dr. Borsari. As part of continued education, our staff attended several of the lectures.  Below, we’ll share a little of what we learned.

Raising Chickens in Mobile Cages

By Sr. Jairo Batista

Design of a simple chicken tractor (Bruno Borsari, 2015)
Design of a simple chicken tractor (Bruno Borsari, 2015)

Most chickens on the market today are produced in an industrial manner. In this workshop, Dr. Borsari shared his knowledge about managing chickens in mobile cages, for a healthier animal, and also a healthier soil.

What are the advantages but also the disadvantages of vertical integration of modern poultry industry?

This industrial system has helped the chicken to become a staple of low cost to consumers. But some farmers and consumers are questioning whether the process of achieving such efficiency is worth the sacrifice of values ??they consider important-the autonomy and independence of farmers, the welfare of the birds, and the taste and quality of their meat and eggs.

Note the difference after the cage has been moved. (Bruno Borsari, 2015)
Note the difference after the cage has been moved. (Bruno Borsari, 2015)

That’s why the laws in developed countries and medium-term projections ultimately seek alternatives to provide comfort and improve the “quality of life” of animals. Among the alternatives that arise are moving structures (cages) that allow access to a pasture, establish production systems outdoors or for animals to be in open spaces, where they can develop as if they were in their natural environment, use natural power supplies 100%, and have lower incidence of diseases.

In the workshop, we learned about how to construct a simple chicken tractor, or mobile cage using available materials such as bamboo, palm reeds, and chicken wire.

Soil sample from under a chicken cage.  (Bruno Borsari, 2015)
Soil sample from under a chicken cage. (Bruno Borsari, 2015)

Hens stir and mix the soil and manure and dig for insects and worms, increasing organic matter and improving fertility.

Chicken manure is rich in calcium and can eventually increase the soil pH, making excellent soil quality for growing tasty fodder such as clover, peas and orchard grass.

The birds cannot be kept long in the same place or in high concentrations, especially when the ground is wet, as this eliminates fodder and compacts the soil, hence the necessity of making the cages mobile.

Cage 1 was moved once every 14 days Cage 2 moved once every 7 days Cage 3 was moved once
Cage 1 was moved once every 14 days
Cage 2 moved once every 7 days
Cage 3 was moved once


Dr. Bruno also shared some details of their investigation of mobile cages.

Overall, the best features found floor when moving the cage every 14 days, but depends on a few factors such as number of chickens in the cage and the cage size.



Stay tuned for the next post in our series, “Caring for the Soil”!  If you missed it, check out our post on Simple Methods for Evaluating Soil Quality.

Preservation Meets Paradise – Edwina von Gal featured in the Wall Street Journal

When celebrated garden designer Edwina von Gal journeyed to the dry forests of Panama, she found an idyllic spot for an off-the-grid home—and an outlet for her lifelong passion for sustaining landscapes

AEP Co-Founder and President, Edwina von Gal is featured in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal Magazine. Preservation Meets Paradise, by Edward Helmore discusses Edwina’s passion for natural landscapes and how she has translated this into her life’s work.

The article mentions the Azuero Earth Project and its mission of preserving the dry forest ecosystem:  “Their goal is mapping and finding new ways to protect plant and animal species in the dry forest. Some programs use satellite imaging to compare tracts of forest and detect changes in soil and vegetation; some involve fieldwork (her team recently traveled deep into the Cerro Hoya, setting cameras to monitor the movement of ocelots and puma); some are educational, such as creating a local network to test new seed varieties and organic-farming methods.”

2011 Year-End Report: Inspiring Sustainability


The Azuero Earth Project is proud to announce our 2011 Year-End Report: Inspiring Sustainability. Incorporating great design at no cost to the environment, (we resisted the urge to print copies) it perfectly personifies what we do. You can read the 2011 Year-End Report here.


In 2011 we expanded our effectiveness in creating sensible environmental solutions through education, outreach, and knowledge-sharing at both the local and international levels. None of this work would be possible without the passion, determination, and vision of our partners and donors to whom we are grateful. Thank you!

2010 Year-End Report

2010 was a year of tremendous growth for the Azuero Earth Project as we made great strides in laying the foundation for our programs on the Azuero Peninsula. We would like to extend our gratitude to our supporters for their confidence in us and commitment to our mission. Thanks to their generosity, we were able to establish our office in Pedasí, purchase a vehicle, hire new staff, build much-needed institutional infrastructure, and initiate our programs. Because of the generous unrestricted support that we received in 2010, the Azuero Earth Project is now poised to further its programmatic activities in 2011 and to engage local landowners and community partners in a process of education, preservation, and restoration. Below is an overview of our achievements of the past year.

Read our complete 2010 Year-End Report here.