AEP attends Agroforestry conference in Darién

Carmela and Rebecca at the entrance to Nicholas Bravo's Agrotourism farm
Carmela and Rebecca at the entrance to Nicholas Bravo’s Agrotourism farm

Cattle farming is the principle cause of deforestation in Panama, and as you may well know, the word “ganadería” comes from ganar.  The idea of agroforestry is to find an ecologically based natural resource management system, in which both the farmer and the Earth can benefit. Saturday, November 22, members of Azuero Earth Project staff attended the first symposium on Agroforestry, hosted by the University of Panama Darien Campus.  Although far from our home base of Azuero, many of the experiences shared and lessons learned are valuable across the country. The international group of expositors included Fernando Uribe from Cipav in Colombia, Diego Tobar from CATIE in Costa Rica, as well as NGOS working in Darién. With over 100 participants, the energy of the symposium was high, with many questions asked after each presentation. After the day’s events, we were invited to the farm of Nicolas Bravo, a farmer with agroforestry farm in Sazoncito. His farm is truly a labor of love, and from just 5ha, he harvests of 200 different products. Walking through the managed forest, we were impressed to learn how well thought out each planting was, and hearing the lessons of what work and what didn’t.  Bravo told us that each day he is learning from the soil, and that if you listen, the earth itself will tell you what you need to know.

Conference on Options for Sustainable and Productive Landscapes in the Azuero


Sustainable Land Use
Attendees listen in on sustainable land use presentation

On May 21st, the Azuero Earth Project facilitated a conference exploring ideas and strategies for sustainable and environmentally friendly land use.  This conference presented the audience with an overview of alternatives in sustainably managing their land to improve both profits and the productivity of their properties. The audience heard from experts like Andreas Ekes, Director of Futuro Forestal, who spoke about the profitability of reforestation with native species and explained how this activity can be more profitable than ranching. The conference also featured Mr. Jacob Slusser, Panama Coordinator for the Yale School of Forestry’s  Environmental Leadership Training Intiative (ELTI). Slusser shared some of the knowledge he has gained from years of experience working in the Azuero implementing and promoting intensive silvopastoral systems. The Azuero Earth Project’s Director of Agroecology, Dr. Carlos Navarro, delivered a talk on the use of biodiversity in agricultural production and environmental conservation, using the native tree species Berba (Brosimum alicastrum), a particularly useful example for its multiple environmental and utilitarian benefits.

Furthermore, panelists from different regions of Panama interactively discussed their experiences including reforestation with native and exotic species as an option for developing ecotourism, reinvestment of revenue in the establishment of native plantations, and “reforestation tourism,” which involves the tourist in planting activities. Other experiences included organic hydroponic gardening in the town of Limón and the conversion of traditional production systems to silvopastoral systems in Guararé.IMG_3821

The event was well attended and AEP hopes to continue to conversation and promote the adoption of these alternative land use systems.

To read the entire press release, click here.


Sustainable Practices: How to Build an Ariete and Make Bocashi

On Saturday, October 13, the Azuero Earth Project brought together local farmers and community members for back-to-back hands-on lessons in sustainable land use techniques.

The AEP invited not one but two guest experts, Professor Manuel Cedeño, Director of Pablo Ballesteros School in Los Asientos and member of the silvopastoral cattle association APASPE, and our very own Jairo Batista, organic gardener extraordinaire.

Professor Cedeño spoke about how to build an ariete (also known as a “water hammer” or a “hydraulic ram”), a special type of self-powered water pump.

In the Azuero, riparian zones are often polluted and eroded by cattle that drink directly from streams. The ariete, Professor Cedeño explained, helps to resolve this problem by allowing farmers to pump water out of almost any stream without using electric or gas-powered pumps. An ariete works 24 hours a day and allows water to be pumped uphill over considerable distance even with low levels of water pressure. With an ariete, Professor Cedeño explained, one can fence off sensitive stream areas, store the pumped water in tanks, and safely provide it to the cattle in troughs.

Diagram of a basic ariete c. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture

Professor Cedeño also spoke about the simple low-cost design of the pump, explained how the pump is assembled, and showed a short video demonstration of a working ariete. Attendees then gathered in the yard to see a basic ariete in action. The simple ariete assembled on site was raffled off at the end of the day, and one lucky Valleriquito rancher headed home with his very own basic pump.

Professor Cedeño with the lucky raffle winner c. Ryan Dibala

For more information about how to build and install a simple ariete, take a look at Professor Cedeño’s presentation (in Spanish). For an explanation in English, click here.

After a short break, Mr. Jairo Batista took the stage for the day’s second seminar: how to make and use bocashi, a special type of fermented organic fertilizer.

Mr. Batista began by explaining the importance of using organic fertilizers that, unlike chemical fertilizers, enrich soil over time, cost little, and provide plants with a wide range of nutrients.

Mr. Batista explains the role of different ingredients c. Ryan Dibala

Bocashi, Mr. Batista explained, is highly effective as a fertilizer and can be made from ingredients found on most farms. Bocashi is generally made from a mixture of manure, charcoal, ash, dirt, rice husks, molasses, water, and yeast, but many of the ingredients can be substituted if necessary. Mr. Batista explained the function of each ingredient in the mix, with different ingredients helping to regulate the fermentation, humidity, aeration, and body of the final product. Bocashi, according to Mr. Batista, is best applied deep in the soil, where it will nourish plant roots as they grow downwards.

Bocashi ingredients ready for mixing c. Mark Waterman

After the presentation, attendees got to try their hand at mixing up their own batch of bocashi, with two groups competing to see who could mix the best batch. Bocashi must ferment for 15 days before it can be used, but participants were presented with small bags of ready-to-use bocashi to take home as rewards for their hard work.

For full details about how to make and use bocashi, browse Mr. Batista’s presentation (in Spanish), send him an e-mail at, or visit us at our offices in Pedasí.

Steps toward Azuero Reforestation: Azuero Community connects in Pedasí

Diogenes Ibarra and community members from Valleriquito, c. Guillermo Duran

Over 100 participants from communities across the Azuero Peninsula gathered in Pedasi on April 23 to discuss innovative reforestation techniques for the region. The seminar, entitled “Reforestation Techniques for the Azuero Peninsula: A Day of Tree Talks” was hosted by the Azuero Earth Project to prepare interested landowners with practical knowledge and tools for reforestation in the upcoming rainy, tree planting season.

Azuero Earth Project staff members opened the seminar with the organization’s vision to create a biological corridor connecting forest patches to build habitat for the endemic, critically endangered Azuero spider monkey. Dilsa Barrios and Analida Castillero from the National Authority on the Environment (ANAM in Spanish) clarified how a landowner can protect their rights by registering their planted trees with ANAM.

University of Panama professor and Forest Engineer Emilio Mariscal outlined economic and ecological services that trees provide, such as carbon sequestration, nitrogen fixation, and water regulation. Fernando Uribe Trujillo from the Colombian organization CIPAV presented silvopastoral techniques to raise cattle on farms that have trees. Vernon Scholey gave the final presentation, providing participants with practical reforestation advice from his 10 years of experience reforesting in Venao.

Event participants listen to presentation by Fernando Uribe, c. Guillermo Duran

Event participants got the chance to test-drive the Azuero Plant Database, a new online tool that helps landowners interested in planting trees select species suitable for their goals. Each landowner can choose the ways in which they most need trees to improve their land value – whether that is fodder for cattle, beautiful flowers, or ability to survive in tough coastal environments – and choose their favorite species to reforest with in this wet season based on their individual needs.

Cattle rancher Clara M. Ros commented: I really enjoyed that expert speakers shared their experiences and positive reforestation results, helping to integrate and motivate us to learn good practices to improve farms in a natural way without the need to spend so much money on chemicals.”

The Azuero Earth Project would like to thank seminar participants, speakers and representatives of the tree fair, Distribuidora LIBADI, Casa Margarita, Villa Esplendorosa, El Rey, Biomuseum, organizers of transportation and CEFATI/ATP for their collaboration and time to make this event such a success.

For more about the event speakers, their presentations, and other resources from the seminar, visit our Guest Experts page.

Call the Azuero Earth Project at 995-2995 for more information about how you can reforest on your land this coming rainy season!

Written by Sophie M. Fuchs

Trees and Cattle: They can live together!

Attendees of the December 10 lecture


On December 10 the Azuero Earth Project hosted a Guest Lecture entitled Trees and Cattle: They can live together!

Nearly thirty attendees gathered on the Azuero Resource Center patio to hear a lectured presented by the Association of Cattle and Agrosilvopastoral Producers of Pedasi, APASPE.  For the past year APASPE has been implementing a revolutionary project to diversify the forage species that they use to feed their cattle and to reforest key parts of their farms.

The presentation included an overview of environmental challenges in the region, the aims of APASPE’s projects, and was followed by a visit to a nearby silvopastoral demonstration farm. The farm’s owner, Clímaco Barrios, explained how the Intensive Silvopastoral System (ISS) was established and shared plans for its management.

Climaco Barrios of APASPE and Jacob Slusser from ELTI/Peace Corps at the demonstration farm

View the APASPE presentation in Spanish. To learn about ISS, visit the APASPE blog and for more information about this event, click here.