April and Kevin in Kuna Yala, the northeast coast of Panamá

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Reforestation Update


Some days we just have a real Peace Corps day…a fulfilling, good work day. Well, Tuesday September 30th was one of those days. Together with 24 youth (the teacher had not come in for the week yet) and adults from the island, we planted 210 tree seedlings. Many of you will remember when we first started this project by working together to fill the bags with soil. If not you can check it out at: http://ak-panama.blogspot.com/2008/05/reforestationthe-first-steps.html

We planted them around a fuente de agua (a fresh water spring) with the goal that the grown trees will help keep the water source running strong. Forests protect water sources by absorbing and retaining more rainfall than un-forested areas. The area that we planted in serves as a backup water source for the neighborhood nearby. When the aqueduct fails to deliver water to their houses, because the users upstream have used all that is available, they go to the pozo (water pool) and dip up water for all their needs. Some people do this for up to 4 months of the year.

It was quite a process to get the trees planted. We had to get them from our house to the planting location…which is normally a 35 minute walk without the weight of tree seedlings to carry. The walk includes an occasionally slippery sidewalk, a challenging set of 80 uneven stairs, and a wooded trail. Rather than haul the trees over all of that we hauled them 100+ meters and loaded them into my wonderful neighbor Julian’s boat and sailed them around to the community dock.

We then used buckets to haul the seedlings, 8 at a time in buckets, up the challenging stairs to the school where they spent the night. In the morning we used the extra hands of the other community members to haul them up the trail to the planting site.

Before we headed out to plant trees, we gave a quick demonstration of tree planting best practices. We covered how big/deep to make the hole, where to put the fertilizer, and how to pack it in at the end. We were hoping to increase our tree survival rates as much as possible. Below you can see the instruction sheet that we (meaning Kevin this time) made for the demo in all of its Spanish glory.

When we went out to plant, hey used machetes to chop back the monte (wild plant growth…and it can be very wild) and clear planting space. Once we got into the monte everyone split into working teams to plant…with varying degrees of efficiency. We used coas (a flat metal spade attached to a long handle that is used as an all-purpose digging tools) to dig the holes for planting.

We put a small sprinkle of chemical fertilizer (hauling organic compost would have been asking just a bit too much of everyone this time) in each hole and planted above it. We planted a variety of tree species, all of them native.

Afterwards we had cool aid and cookies to celebrate our success. Then we went home and rested. It was a long day even though planting only took about 3 hours. We still have about 200 trees to plant this year and it feels a bit like a race because dry season starts in late December. The trees need to be established before the rain stops for the summer. Come February we plan to plant more seedlings for next year….as many as people request for projects and for their personal land (well, within reason).


Ginna said...

You all can be very proud of yourselves and you neighbors for such good work. We wish the trees much success.

Tabassum Majid said...

Wow, cool!! Go Kevin for your super Spanish instructions and April for your never-ending patience that I know! :)