Adopt a tree in Azuero!

Greetings from The Azuero Eco Foundation! We hope this letter finds you well. We are currently in the middle of one of our busiest seasons, working in the process of planting, tending, and monitoring our trees throughout the Azuero peninsula. 
To take advantage of the season, we are beginning an “Adopt a Tree” campaign this season in conjunction with our reforestation efforts within these upcoming months. The goal of this donation campaign is to raise awareness about conserving not only the Azuero corridor but also our planet through these personalized cards in return for the donation.
With only a 5 dollar donation, through paypal, you can become an owner of
your very own tree that has been reforested by our team from Pro Eco Azuero in the ecological corridor in Los Santos. Now what does this mean?
Becoming an owner of one tree means that your name will be recorded in our system as such, and we will send you a personalized card with the following information to show our gratitude:

  1. A virtual picture of your personalized tree being planted!
  2. Various information regarding the tree, including the scientific classification, the height of the tree, the width of the tree, and other interesting facts about it!
    We envision these cards to be a small token to remind you of the greater planet that is our home, and the beauty of each and every tree that inhabits the planet! Furthermore, this could also be a small gift idea to someone that you know who would appreciate being
    an owner of an Azuerense tree! In these trying times of COVID-19, a special gift of their very own tree would surely brighten their day!
    In any case, any and all donations are greatly impactful to our mission and to our trees! We cordially invite you to join our cause!
    When making the donation, make sure to include the name of the OWNER of the tree. Any questions, write us an email to info@proecoazuero.org

The GIS Monitoring System: A Bridge Between the Forest and the Office

A snapshot of a bit of the ecological corridor that stretches throughout Los Santos province
Imagen de una parte del corredor ecológico que se extiende por toda la provincia de Los Santos

80 kilometers long, with two 10 kilometer buffer zones on each side. That means approximately 1600 kilometers of land, nearly 1000 square miles. This is the goal of Fundacion Pro Eco Azuero: establishing an ecological corridor that stretches across the Los Santos province. This corridor collects isolated patches of forest as it grows, connecting them with its inventory of other formerly isolated patches. It more or less follows along the Oria river watershed, connecting it with Cerro Hoya national park and La Tronosa forest reserve. At the end, FPEA’s ultimate goal is an expansive reforested corridor for biodiversity purposes, socioeconomic purposes, and environmental purposes.

Noble as is, this goal needs help. Its fulfillment seeks the help of an effective monitoring system, sheerly because of the large area of land under attention, thus meaning the large amounts of data that comes with planting new trees, tending to already planted trees, and taking in the data of the growth of the trees throughout time.

Fundacion Pro Eco Azuero has taken this matter into their own hands. FPEA utilizes the GIS monitoring system (GIS stands for Geographic Information System) as a digital mapping system in order to wholly and accurately harvest the massive amounts of data from the reforested trees in this expansive corridor. Without a doubt, this is one of the most defining features of Fundacion Pro Eco Azuero from the other non profits in Panama.

Fundacion Pro Eco Azuero is an organization that focuses on “strategic” reforestation; this is a measure that is rare to find in most reforestation initiatives around the globe. Whereas other programs involve reforestation and then no real follow-up in terms of monitoring, FPEA really emphasizes the importance of their monitoring system of 1) carefully and strategically planting trees in terms of location, and 2) refusing to leave the tree to fate by tending to it and monitoring it with the GIS system.

They monitor each and every tree on a biannual basis. The reforestation season is in the rainy season, which is from June to September, approximately. The first monitoring occurs in the dry season, sometime between November and December. Additionally, a second monitoring occurs right before the rainy season in May: the purpose of this second monitoring is to note how many trees need to be replanted. The trees that died off are then replaced.

This system guarantees the success of the corridor, since the future of the forests are carefully tended to.

ESRI is an international supplier of GIS software, web GIS, and geodatabase management applications. Fundacion Pro Eco Azuero works closely with ESRI Panama, using all the ArcGIS platforms like Collector and Survey123. A submetric GPS, a navigation feature that is a component of the GIS system, is connected to “cards” of the trees, which holds information about the tree. The card entails the following: date of planting, collaborator (data collector), owner of the plot, tree species, health status of the tree, height, crown width, and most importantly, the georeference of the point captured. Georeferencing simply means taking a digital image (either an airphoto, a picture of a geographic map, or a picture of a topographic map), and adding geographic information to the image so that the GIS system can locate the tree in its real world location in the system.

Roxana Garcia was a student of Environmental Biology who served as a volunteer for FPEA, contributing to a reforestation team that works closely with the ESRI GIS monitoring system. Her work involved dispatching to the forested locations with all their equipment, starting from the early mornings. She is now an employee for FPEA, a program assistant who goes out to the field for monitoring and for updating web maps. In her own words, Roxana explains that, “I had very good experiences throughout the monitoring project and the most beneficial one for me as a participant in the Azuero Eco Foundation were: 1.) The successful completion of digital monitoring in the field. 2.) New knowledge in the area of GIS monitoring. 3.) Exploring different areas of the Azuero region.”

Roxana García con el equipo de monitoreo

Thus, Roxana’s experience as a volunteer working with the GIS monitoring system naturally led to her learning more about the system itself, but also more about the Azuero region. It is inevitable for someone who treks kilometers of forested lands monitoring young trees to not learn more and be more exposed to the region. This monitoring system is more than a task involving tracking down trees; it is a bridge between forest and office, between analysis and experience.

Information is key. The monitoring system streamlines the data analysis process. At the crux of this monitoring is the basic communication of the tree with the one who planted it; as Roxana delineates, “From the day of the collection of seeds, the future trees begin to be our new children and as such we must take care of them, and follow them in their growth, which we always look at with a view towards improving our actions for the benefit of all fauna that is part of our corridor.”

Innovation is also key. Just like how the submetric GPS aspect of the GIS system was one of the spearheads in the implementation of digital mapping/monitoring, there could be further streamlining and efficiency of this process. Roxana mentions that “ Our next step is to introduce drones so that we will be able to obtain new images, which will enable a new massive and more efficient monitoring.”

Práctica de vuelo por parte de Flying Labs a los colaboradores de la Fundación Pro Eco Azuero

In 2019, Fundacion Pro Eco Azuero won a grant with Panama Flying Labs, a substituent off of Technological University of Panama – with this grant, FPEA won a drone. With proper training and licensing for the respective monitoring team, drone monitoring would really catalyze the process, since georeferencing could be done without the individual visitation to each tree. One caveat is that these drones would only be able to work on trees that are at least three years of age, since trees younger would be too hard to detect as they are just saplings.

Yes, the GIS system is one of the hallmarks that distinguish FPEA from other non-governmental organizations with reforestation initiatives. However, in order to maintain this biannual monitoring, the team has to visit very remote locations all across the Los Santos province over vast distances. They have to transport seedlings by horse, climb steep hills etc.) Ironically, despite the relatively advanced nature of the GIS system in use, the actual execution of the monitoring process requires rather rudimentary and primitive work that can be cumbersome. It is a lot of work. With the help of drones, this process can be automated and therefore streamlined, making the job easier for the monitoring team, and in turn, accelerating the vision of Fundacion Pro Eco Azuero for robust, reforested parcels across the 80 kilometers.

Without a doubt, the GIS mapping system has already been of increasing help to FPEA and its cause; one can only imagine how increased innovation could lead to exponential growth of the organization, and more importantly, the exponential growth of trees in the Azuero region.

Expanding Across Borders: The Experience of McGill University Students with Fundación Pro Eco Azuero, and their Impact Assessment of Iniciativas Escolares

Maranda y Paul en la estación de buces en la Ciudad de Panamá
Maranda and Paul at a bus stop in Panama City
Maranda y Paul con Kiera Morril, un ex integrante del cuerpo de paz
Maranda and Paul with Kiera Morrill, a former Peace Corps member in Bajo Corral

As COVID-19 began to spread at a horrific rate over the globe, the realization sunk into two college students that, indeed, their arrival to Los Santos would soon be followed by their departure. Yet again, COVID-19 rose up to play the role of the villain. With only 7 days in the workfield in the rural communities of Los Santos, the two McGill students Maranda Raskin and Paul Bent were forced to make a premature U-turn and return home.

However, this by no means meant a futile journey; their time in Los Santos, despite its short lifetime, bore fruit in the form of thoughtful claims and insights, neatly packaged and presented in their final report, “Assessing the Impact of Environmental Education Initiatives in Los Santos, Panamá: A Qualitative Study”.

Within their final report, they begin by delineating their analyses of literature pieces from which they derived frameworks for use in their qualitative assessment of the impact of Fundacion Pro Eco Azuero’s educational initiative “Iniciativas Escolares” on the participating students, but also the families of the students and the enveloping community that the students are an integral member of.

For example, they reference Nicole Ardoin and Alison Bowers’ paper titled “Environmental Education Outcomes for Conservation: A Systematic Review” and comment that Ardoin and Bowers’ paper “provides a framework to analyze impacts in two different ways; direct ecological impacts and attitude or behavioral changes”(Raskan and Bent, 16). More importantly, Raskin and Bent tie this concept back to Iniciativas Escolares: “It may be beneficial for future researchers to measure the impacts of the Iniciativas Escolares by quantitatively measuring the amount of trees planted within the last ten years and their survival rates in the communities and by qualitatively measuring environmental knowledge acquired and shared as well as individual behavioral changes”(17).

Furthermore, Raskin and Bent points to Ardoin and Bowers’ framework of four tenets that symbolize an effective environmental education program. 1) A topic selected with local focus. 2) Forming partnerships with local scientists and natural resource managers at local nonprofit organizations. 3) Incorporating projects of action. 4) Intentionality and creativity and thorough reporting of program outcomes (16-17).

In response to this framework, Raskin and Bent aptly point out FPEA’s qualifying characteristics; FPEA maintains a local focus on the Azuero Peninsula and specifically the strategic ecological corridor from the south of the Los Santos province to the protected reserve of La Tronosa, they possess close relations with local scientists, resource managers, and local government members, and their projects of action entail reforestation initiatives (16). The fourth tenet, however, is where Raskan and Bent’s research come in – they hypothesize that “a completed impact assessment would reveal both positive direct ecological improvements and heightened awareness of environmental issues within the communities in which the Iniciativas were taught”, since an impact assessment would entail a thorough reporting of program outcomes(17).

Their impact assessment is thus what they spent 7 days in the workfield doing. Although they were only able to visit two out of the seven originally planned locations, they were able to conduct thirteen insightful interviews with the community members in Nuario and Bajo Corral. To focus on their three objectives of measuring the impact that Iniciativas Escolares has on the students, and their respective families and community, they sought to interview members of each respective audience group. They describe that, “Four were conducted with students graduated from the environmental initiatives, four with mothers of students who had participated in the program, one with a relative to a participating student, one with each community Peace Corps and one with each community teacher”, with each community referring to Bajo Corral and Nuario being the two communities (29).

Through these interviews, Raskan and Bent uncovered sentiments that hinted towards the deep-rooted impact that Iniciativas Escolares have had on the students and their respective communities and families. However, this statement does not come without its caveats; Raskan and Bent point to the long-standing traditional view of cattle ranching and deforestation as the reigning champion of Los Santos’ environmental view.

Eduvina, the maestra of Bajo Corral explains that the information presented by Iniciativas Escolares often contradicts what has been seen and taught in the homes of these students all their lives: ““Ellos llevan el mensaje a la casa porque ellos aprenden cosas que no se deben hacer y que se corrigen. Por ejemplo, ellos hacen la quema, no deben ser porque se contamine el ambiente y todos esos mensajes ellos los comparten con sus padres en la casa””(33). Additionally, Renata, a high school student who graduated from Nuario primary school explains that her parents do not share the same opinions as her, since she values environment care and animal care (34).

However, Raskan and Bent demonstrate that there are certainly signs of change, learning and growth occurring as a result of Iniciativas Escolares. One particular example that they provide is from a mother of a student named Sarita. She voices out ““La idea de este proyecto es de sembrar más árboles y no tanto para el mono, el mono no necesita pero es más para nosotros humanos que necesitan porque nuestra planeta está muy deteriorada”(35). Her testimony highlights the introspective impacts that Iniciativas Escolares has induced, since she demonstrates the skill to see beyond traditional custom and extrapolate a grander meaning about the necessity of protecting a deteriorating planet – all from a primary school education initiative that her kids partook in.

Sarita further comments on her change in conscience due to this project initiative: ““Antes no tenía un amor tan profundo para el medio ambiente como el que tengo ahora, mi versión cambio sobre eso. Antes mis abuelos estaban por quemar y tabar. A través este proyecto, tome consciencia: no más destrucción, hay que generar vida. Yo ahora me meti a fondo en esto también, yo no voy a destruir mas a mi madre naturaleza, yo voy a dar algo a ella, a ayudarla, porque es mi planeta y la que queda para mis nietos”(40).

The students themselves also exhibit the knowledge they’ve gained through the initiative: similar to how whispering that occurs conversationally can be very loud in the collective, the brief quotes from the youth dispersed throughout Raskan and Bent’s report culminate to a grand, loud message. “‘Aprendimos mucho: medio ambiente, los monos, y los animales’”(38). “‘Aprendí muchas cosas sobre cómo cuidar los árboles, los animales’”(38). “‘Tratar de tener cuidado al medio ambiente, los animales’”(38). “‘Tenemos que cuidar los árboles porque los animales están en peligro de extinción’”(38). Altogether, it is an easy deduction for Raskan and Bent to say that Iniciativas Escolares has had a lasting impact on the primary recipients: the students. Through interviews with Peace Corps and teachers, Raskan and Bent were able to buttress the statement that Iniciativas Escolares has had an impact on the communities that surround the students as well.

Raskan and Bent, despite their shortened stay, have been able to conduct telling interviews that support and amplify the impact of Iniciativas Escolares on three primary groups: the youth, their parents and families, and the community members who they live together with. Inspired by the framework provided in Ardoin and Bowers’ article, they sought to execute a thorough impact assessment (in order to provide evidence for the fourth criteria of the framework) of the Iniciativas Escolares program in seven communities in order to delineate the effectiveness of this particular environment education initiative. One can only imagine the potential of in-depth data analysis that has had to be forfeited due to the viral pandemic; however, the work that Raskan and Bent conducted within their stay certainly ushers in the idea that based on their findings, Iniciativas Escolares is an environment education program that has met the criteria of effectiveness, especially given the various ways in which challenges to the preexisting norm of environmental negligence have succeeded.

Fittingly, Maranda explains in a personal reflection: “In reflecting back on my experiences being in the communities of Nuario and Bajo Corral, what has stuck with me the most is just how friendly and kind everyone we talked to was as well as the sheer amount of passion people had for learning about environmental protection and improving their communities”.

Written By: David Hwang


Bibliography

  • Ardoin, Nicole, and Alison Bowers. “Environmental Education Outcomes for Conservation: A Systematic Review.” Biological Conservation. Elsevier, November 14, 2019
  • Raskan, Maranda and Bent, Paul. “Assessing the Impact of Environmental Education Initiatives in Los Santos, Panamá: A Qualitative Study.” Fundacion Pro Eco Azuero. 2020.

In total lockdown, climate action heroes persevere

Desde casa siguen los Proyectos Comunitarios en Azuero

Our rainy season has arrived to Azuero and it is the right time to bring new seedlings to life. Due to the high demands of reforestation goal this year, we cannot achieve this alone, so we invited our allies in the Azuero communities to join us in producing as many seedlings as possible from their homes, allowing us to carry out the planned reforestation for the year.

Within the communities, there are many low-income elderly, who, along with their families, were selling their products in informal markets and neighboring villages due to the lack of large-scale agriculture. However, at the moment, these practices cannot be carried out, directly affecting the income of these families.

The Azuero Eco Foundation is offering these individuals, who love to cultivate land, the opportunity to provide us with seedlings from the comfort of their homes, allowing them to generate a small income through microcontracts, potentially helping to ease their financial burden. These microcontracts are an agreement where the allies are committed to providing us with seedlings and Pro Eco Azuero will provide them with monetary compensation in return.

Through this project we have been able to help precisely the MOST vulnerable populations to COVID- elderly, low-income community members by making them into income-generating environmental heroes at this difficult time.

In a country that’s in total lockdown, the project has empowered rural community members to produce and generate income through this difficult time. This has becomes a way to support their families while accelerating efforts to combat another crisis humanity now faces – climate change. The project is directly tied to our vision of restoring an 80 km tropical dry forest ecological corridor that restores spider monkey habitat, protects watersheds, enhances food security, and builds climate change resilience. Through this project we have been able to help more than 15 families and produce more than 7,000 seedlings. The seedlings produced will be planted in the corridor in the comming months and monitored by the Pro Eco Azuero team (see our youtube channel for more details on this program).

We have now collected the seedlings and pay each community member for their production.

At the same time, we have given enough material to our Eco Artisans to produce from home. The Azuero Eco Artisans, is a group of rural community members that produce crafts made of natural fibers and or natural raw material, making their products sustainable. With out leaving their homes, they are producing crafts which they will later sell in local markets, fairs and boutiques.

Happy Earth Day! Thank you, Mother Earth, for everything you provide!

Dibujo de Valeria Espino Ríos 8 años, ganadora del concurso “Dibuja tu Tierra Ideal”
Drawing by Valeria Espino Ríos, 8 years, Competition Winner “Draw your Ideal Earth”

On April 22, every year, Earth day is celebrated. This year marks the 50th anniversary of this important commemoration, designed to honor Mother Earth and demonstrate great support for both the protection of the environment and conservation of its biodiversity and natural resources.

Many countries participate in this movement through various activities that raise awareness of the importance of protecting our environment and what we can do to combat environmental problems.

Drawing by Ana Gabriela Agudo, 10 years, Competition Runner Up “Draw your Ideal Earth”
Drawing by Ana Gabriela Agudo, 10 years, Competition Runner Up “Draw your Ideal Earth”

At Pro Eco Azuero, we participated in this celebration by hosting a drawing contest for children, aged 5-12, with the theme “Draw Your Ideal Earth” where children used their imagination to draw their ideal world. About 60 children participated and voting took place on our Instagram @proecoazuero. Valeria Espino Ríos, an 8-year-old girl from the Panama city, won first place with the most votes. Second place went to Ana Gabriela Agudo who is 10 years old and from Santiago de Veraguas.

We appreciate all the children’s participation, as well as the support from their loved ones who were responsible for sending us the drawings. We also thank everyone who voted for their favorite drawings, helping make this initiative a success.

In 2020, we have had several natural events that make us think that nature is calling to the human inhabitants of this land. As the Earth is constantly riddled with sudden changes in temperature and the pollution of soils, rivers, seas and the air, we also factor in the felling of trees that is killing our planet.

Due to the global situation brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen significant changes in the environment such as the drop of CO2 emissions by 25% caused by the reduced consumption of fossil fuels, according to the calculations made by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA). As a society, we have had more time to realize that our consumption habits must change and we must make efforts to be more sustainable and environment-friendly, ultimately initiating progress and permanent change.

Earth is crying out for our help. Nature demands that we act in the face of the current situation as it is time to become aware of environmental issues and contribute from our homes to minimize the damage we cause to our Mother Earth.

Chief Seattle said:
“THE EARTH DOES NOT BELONG TO US. WE BELONG TO THE EARTH.”


Translated by Khushmeet Chandi, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

Support Climate action in rural communities during COVID

Global Giving 2020 COVID

Project Summary

This week, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, rural communities in Azuero are simultaneously vulnerable to climate change and the impacts of COVID. Pro Eco Azuero is supporting climate change action advocates at the peak of the Azuero dry season and Panama COVID epidemic by giving them income through microcontracts to produce seedlings and artisanal products from the comfort of their own homes. This project supports precisely the MOST vulnerable populations to COVID- elderly, low-income community members by making them into income-generating environmental heroes at this difficult time.

What is the Problem?

Once mostly tropical dry forest, Panama’s Azuero peninsula is now a degraded agricultural landscape that is less than 7% forested. Climate change imperils local wildlife and hurts the wellbeing of local communities. Azuero’s population is one of the most vulnerable populations to COVID- elderly, low-income community members, and economically they are being affected since small scale agricultural work is often done in groups here and the tourism industry has crashed.

How will this Project Solve the Problem?

As the June-August 2020 reforestation season approaches, Pro Eco Azuero has partnered with some of the most knowledgeable community elders in touch with the land to produce seedlings and artisanal products from the comfort of their own homes through microcontracts. This program empowers people who may otherwise feel isolated or experience income loss to become the everyday superheroes Azuero needs to increase resilience to the looming climate crisis by reforesting local watersheds with native and fruit species. Azuero staff make limited visits to deliver supplies and retrieve tree seedlings or finished handicrafts at the end of the contract and provide virtual guidance with community members as they work safely from their own home.

Potential Long Term Impact

In a country that’s in total lockdown, the project empowers rural community members to produce and generate income through this difficult time. We hope that this becomes a way to support their families while accelerating efforts to combat another crisis humanity now faces – climate change. The project is directly tied to our vision of restoring an 80 km tropical dry forest ecological corridor that restores spider monkey habitat, protects watersheds, enhances food security, and builds climate change resilience. The seedlings produced in the coming months will be planted in the corridor in 2020 and monitored by the Pro Eco Azuero team (see our youtube channel for more details on this program).

#environmentalheroesduringcovid

Azuero amidst the arrival of COVID-19 in Panamá

Landscape of a farm in Venao, Pedasí, Los Santos.
Landscape of a farm in Venao, Pedasí, Los Santos.

Right now, the world is experiencing a crisis that has taken over every corner of the planet, filling it with uncertainty and fear; we are facing a virus that spreads rapidly, infecting most countries, which is why WHO has declared a pandemic situation.

In March of 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was presented in our country, and since then a national alert has been sent, promoting essential care to prevent the contagion and spread of this virus in Panamá.

We have chatted via phone with different partners in our communities in the region to find out how the current situation is being handled with the arrival of the virus in the country.

We spoke with José Cárdenas, a collaborator of the Ministry of Environment, based in Las Tablas, in the Integrated Management of Watersheds. He informs us that “My Environment” has now taken steps by reducing its staff and adjusting business hours; his department has been closed for the time being. As a result, he is providing support to other areas of the ministry.

As for the situation in the city of Las Tablas, he observes people getting alarmed and spreading awareness of the situation. They are taking measures dictated by the Ministry of Health and abiding by it to the point where they are staying at home. In other words, they are self-quarantining themselves.

It is evident that citizens are concerned as to how they will be able to cope with the situation economically as many workers have been dismissed and granted unpaid leave.

We spoke to Doralis Cedeño, a teacher at the Primary School of Oria Arriba, a community that is located in the district of Pedasí. She informs us that, at the beginning of classes, she talked to her students about the COVID-19 situation and they reacted calmly and receptive to the information provided to them.

Being a little far removed from the city of Pedasí, the community of Oria Arriba does not have much contact with people who do not belong to the community. This grants a certain sense of security and tranquility to the population of Oria Arriba, but they still abide by the measures imposed by the authorities and stay informed of everything that happens in the country and the region.

The teacher lives in Pedasí and informs us that her family is following instructions as she does not leave her house. She also applauds the rapid action of the Municipality in restricting the entry of tourists, preventing possible contagion in the region.

Dalila Soriano, President of the Environmental Committee of Paritilla tells us how, at first, the community of Paritilla did not take the situation seriously, ignoring the indications given to them. However, once many public spaces were closed, the magnitude of the national problem was realized and citizens began to obey the instructions given by the Ministry of Health.

Citizens are staying inside their houses, awaiting information channels to stay aware of what is going on in the country. We are also told that no one has entered the country from the outside, reassuring many citizens.

We interviewed a restaurant owner in the city of Las Tablas and he informed us about how the current situation has impacted businesses in the area.

From his perspective, he views the situation with concern as it is a global problem that affects both those living in large cities and communities with a large elderly population. Problems, such as access to trained medical centres and the distribution of essential, medical equipment, can occur in these remote communities.

His restaurant’s business has dropped 80%. As a result, they have had to take drastic measures regarding the wages of regular workers and the purchase of food. They are replenishing only the amount of food that has been used in the day.

The cleaning protocol was modified to include disinfecting all surfaces with alcohol and boiling the sponges to disinfect them. After deliveries, they wash their hands thoroughly with soap and use alcoholic gel.

He views the uncertain situation, with the new measures decreed, as people staying in their homes and receiving low to no wages. In our region, there is a lot of informal work, people who depend on what they earn every day to take home; our situation may result in strong economic instability.

He stresses that in the end the most important thing is one’s health and taking care of it is a priority at the moment. The economy will be replenished but we must do our part to cope with this situation in the best way.

We are experiencing this situation at the global level, so we must be aware that the measures proposed by the authorities must be abided by. We understand that it may be difficult but we must act responsibly for the wellbeing of everyone. We must treat ourselves more humanely, while practicing empathy and solidarity to make this situation more bearable.

The Azuero region has been characterized by its fighting, hard-working, united, persistent, kind and empathetic people with difficult causes. Recognizing these qualities, the Pro Eco Azuero Foundation is proud to belong and collaborate with this region as it feels compelled to give support in such a way that the Azuero communities have some peace of mind and optimism that we will soon overcome this situation.

Here, in Azuero, a large part of the vulnerable population resides in face of this situation. For this reason, we must take care of ourselves and protect each other, together we will succeed as a region and as a country.

#StayAtHome Do it for yourself, your loved ones, your community, your nation and your world.


Translated By: Khushmeet Chandi, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

The “COGOLLO”, a natural fiber used by the Eco-Artisans in Azuero

An Artisan Making Elaborate Pieces with Buds

“From our land to your hands” is the slogan of the group of Eco-Artisans in Azuero, highlighting the use of natural fibers found in the region in the production of elaborate, local handicrafts.

Traditional handicrafts in the Azuero region are symbols of culture. However, more items are being developed and designed according to the current demands without changing natural materials as the primary materials.

We have been losing the plant species used to make the handicrafts over time. Our ancestors cultivated and harvested these fibers for use and so each craftsman was equipped with the materials they needed according to the type of handicraft he developed. They started selling these fibers, but fewer and fewer fibers were used in handicrafts.

Today, there are very few people engaged in the care of these fibers. Furthermore, the ignorance of the species that are used is another aspect of the disappearance of these resources, which are becoming increasingly difficult to find.

By using natural fibers, we are rescuing these species of plants that provide us with luxury materials for the production of unique handicrafts, in addition to lowering costs by being able to grow them in our homes.

Toquilla Palm (Carludovica palmata)

The Toquilla Palm (Carludovica palmata), also known as the Panama Hat Plant is a palm-like plant. The material for the manufacture of the Panamanian hat is extracted from this plant, among other handicrafts.

What we know as “The Bud or Cogollo” are the new closed leaves, which go through a rigorous process to reach the final material used. The process includes cutting the part where the closed leaves are located, removing these leaves and cooking them with water. After cooking the leaves, they are released and placed in the sun to dry. The bud fiber is ready to be used at the end of this process.

Earrings Made From Buds

The bud is a natural material that has soft and flexible fibers. These fibers are durable and helpful when working with the material. For these reasons, our artisans currently use it to create their handicrafts. Some of the items they manufacture are earrings, ties and cup holders, among many others.

Today, this plant is almost no longer cultivated in the region. To combat this issue, the Pro Eco Azuero Foundation wants to grow gardens within communities where artisans can grow and readily access these materials at no cost.

One of our goals is that each craftsman has the necessary fibers at their fingertips. Another goal is to educate the new generations about the cultivation of these species and the correct way to obtain and work with them.

To learn more about the Eco-Artisans and their products based on fibers and natural materials, we invite you to follow us on our social networks @proecoazuero to stay updated.


This document was translated by: Khushmeet Chandi, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

Watershed Committee, Save the Guararé River

Comité de cuenca 1

One of the main goals of the Pro Eco Azuero Foundation is being at the forefront of the conservation of our environment. On this basis, we work together with the watershed committees to help us have a community approach. On this occasion, our overall approach is focused on the pollution the Guararé River is suffering, which belongs to the province of Los Santos. The river is used by residents of this region for recreational use. Due to contamination, the river has caused diseases such as conjunctivitis, resulting in skin allergies that affect both children and adults. This is one of the most worrying issues, reminding us that as citizens we must take care of our water sources.

Comité de cuenca 2

Considering the community is not often aware of these issues, the decision was made to conduct three informative tours in the upper, middle and lower parts of the river in conjunction with members of the 126 basin committee. This committee is made up of members of different government institutions, NGOs and community members. The three communities visited were Cucula, La Enea de Guararé and Nanzal which belong to the upper, middle and lower parts of the Guararé River. Three focal points of this research show the observed results of the tours. Engineer Daniel Vergara, chairman of the 126 Basin Committee, made the presentation based on schematics, maps and results to disseminate the information to the community.

Comité de cuenca 3

In short, the results that were released were that the Rio Guararé is polluted due to the amount of chemicals that are thrown in its shores, negatively impacting aquatic life and limiting the river’s recreational use. Similarly, the amount of swine products found along the river come from tributaries. The Pro Eco Azuero Foundation seeks to create new methodologies through environment-producer-community interactions, creating opportunities to implement new techniques that do not negatively impact this water source.

In the same way, we also provide support to the Basin 126 Committee for the creation of a Caldera River sub-basin committee to further strengthen ties with the community and contribute to improvements in these environmental issues. These are issues that affect all the residents of Los Santos, Azuero and Panamá in general.

We invite you to be part of our efforts. Follow us on our various social media accounts @proecoazuero to find out about our events. It is up to everyone to fight for a sustainable Azuero for future generations.

Jay Chiat Environmental Learning Center, the Azuero Eco Foundation’s Home!

Casa Pasa
Jay Chiat Environmental Learning Center

Home is the place that creates a sense of calm and safety that people look for to live. This is exactly what this house represents for The Azuero Eco Foundation. This is the place that shelters the hope of building a greener Azuero, the place where tons of ideas on how to continue to restore the region’s habitat are born.

This compound holds the Azuero Eco Foundation office ever since it started. It ish ere where all the planning of our projects take place. Here, we receive people that is looking for information about environmental topics, it is a refuge of environmental knowledge. Every friday, this becomes a school for the Pro Eco Pelaos, one of our environmental education programs. For more information about this and other programs we host, visit our webpage: www.proecoazuero.org.

Memoria de Jay Chiat

January the 3rd, was a great day for our organization, as Edwina Von Gal, founder of the Azuero Earth Project, now the Azuero Eco Foundation, believing in our environmental efforts, has officially donated the house to our organization. Edwina Von Gal was the creator of this space, she dreamed that this compound would host such a commendable project.

In memory of her late husband, the house is now named: “The Jay Chiat Environmental Learning Center”

Jay Chiat

Born in Brooklyn and trained in communications, Jay Chiat became one of the most influential advertising executives of the 20th Century by combining innovative, challenging ideas, with a great sense of style. He pioneered the viral campaign and open office plans. He championed diversity in the workforce. He made the 1984 Super Bowl commercial and Think Different Campaign for Apple. His inspiration and generosity helped to make the founding of Azuero Earth Project, and construction of its offices possible. With some luck, perhaps even a little of his radical thinking and unconventional spirit can live on here.

Casa Pasa
The Miram Wosk Art Patio
Memoria de Miriam Wosk

The learning center also has an outdoor area, perfect to host art workshops, Eco Artisan meetings, environmental education presentations, among others. The patio has been named: THE MIRIAM WOSK ART PATIO, in memory of Edwina’s Von Gal great friend and artist, Miriam Wosk.

Arte de Miriam Wosk

Miriam Wosk 1947- 2010. An artist who worked in mixed media, paint and collage and even jewels, Miriam’s talent, joy and love of nature exploded off her canvases. Born in Canada, she moved to New York where she worked as an illustrator and drew the first cover for Ms. Magazine. She was so much in demand, she moved to California to focus on her art and it was there that her paintings became her primary work. She was an early supporter of PEA and we look forward to many young artists being inspired by her work on the patio. To see images of her work and a film about her vision, go to www.miriamwosk.com

Casa Pasa

For the Azuero Eco Foundation, it is a true privilege to have this extraordinary facilities that are at the complete disposal of anyone who wants to learn about habitat conservation and want to work for a more sustainable Azuero. We want that The Jay Chiat Enviroinmental Center, becomes a community house, where knowledge is shared, and a spirit of harmony with nature can be sensed. We want this place to be the place where new ideas and visions are born to make Azuero, the place we all dream about.

The Azuero Eco Foundation team, members of the board of directors, and community members, we are all very grateful with this sincere act of altruism for such a noble and just cause like the conservation of our ecosystems, our region, and our planet Earth, our common house.

If you are interested in knowing more about the Azuero Eco Foundation, and it’s role in the Azuero región, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in @proecoazuero or visit our webpage: www.proecoazuero.org