La Reserva Forest Foundation

La Reserva Forest Foundation is a Costa Rican non-profit, tax exempt foundation working to restore and preserve native tropical forests, dedicated to creating "tree bridges" linking isolated forest islands using volunteers and the local school communities, and fighting global warming through various carbon neutral projects.
Jul 7, 2014

Telling Stories

Maleku Scribes
Maleku Scribes

La Reserva Forest Foundation (LRFF) works closely with local communities to ensure that our projects deliver the best possible social and environmental outcomes. However, we’re always looking for new opportunities to learn more about the communities where we work in order to better serve their needs. This summer, Global Giving provided us with the opportunity to do just that through their newly released program and Storytelling Fund (see an announcement regarding the launch of the fund and related program at http://tools.blog.globalgiving.org/2014/04/17/announcing-the-community-feedback-fund/).

After applying to the fund and receiving a generous $1,300 grant to undertake the project, LRFF reached out to local high schools in two of the communities where we work to recruit student volunteers. Eager to learn more about their communities (and excited to earn a small stipend for their efforts), each volunteer went through a training that introduced them to LRFF, the Storytelling Fund, the importance of social science research and their assignments over the next several weeks. After practicing with each other and gaining some experience in a quick trial run, we sent the volunteers out into their communities to conduct interviews using prepared questionnaires with two main prompts:

(1) Please tell a story about a time when a person or an organization tried to help someone or change something in your community.

(2) Please tell a story about a time when you had to choose between protecting the environment and maintaining a livelihood. Include if/how individuals or organizations were involved in the conflict.

The results? LRFF has already collected over 130 stories addressing topics from volcanic eruptions and earthquakes to arsenic in the groundwater. Some of the stories are optimistic – promising tales of the recovery of iguanas or scarlet macaws – while others sadly document the degradation of tropical forests or long-abandoned community centers. But however different the stories may be, they all remind us of one thing: the undertakings of non-profits, other organizations and individuals do not always align with the interests of local communities, and this misalignment is often to the detriment of the intervening body, the communities themselves, or both. For LRFF, this makes listening to the communities where we work as critical to the realization of our own mission as it is to addressing the concerns of the communities we seek to serve. Now, as we sift through the stories and prepare to organize and analyze the data they contain, we hope to pan out the clues that will lead us to these win-win scenarios for tropical forests and local livelihoods alike.

We hope you continue to follow us in this endeavor to see what secrets the stories reveal!

Maleku scribes writing their first story
Maleku scribes writing their first story
Gretchen shuffling stories
Gretchen shuffling stories
Tronadora student with Gretchen
Tronadora student with Gretchen
Carlos, Tronadora scribe
Carlos, Tronadora scribe
Daniela, Tronadora scribe
Daniela, Tronadora scribe
Tronadora scribe
Tronadora scribe
Luis, Tronadora scribe
Luis, Tronadora scribe

Links:

Jun 23, 2014

And The Work Continues...

Doing inventory at the Chimurria property
Doing inventory at the Chimurria property

This past week we had nine volunteers at La Reserva on Thursday, June 19th, the peak day. John Witter, our most excellent volunteer from Illinois, accompanied me on my last inventory for the Strack Transportation sponsored projects we began planting at the end of September 2013 on the Gonzalez property in La Fortuna. Here’s his report… 

Roberta Ward Smiley with volunteer John Witter and Maleku Jimmy Acosta Elizondo traveled to Chimurria de Upala to inventory Elias Cruz’s nursery. In total there are 1899 trees of 38 different species. More trees will be acquired from Elias other nursery in Delicias de Upala to obtain a wider variety of species. Jimmy suggested we take a look at the planting area once more before planting begins on June 23rd. With Elias’ son we walked and measured the planting site for the project. The site is a strip of land with many banana trees 690+ meters long and a width of less than 10 meters before reaching swamp. After crossing approximately 200 meters of swamp, there is more land to plant trees. Another thin strip of land across the swamp is more than 1200 meters. The entire area of the planting site is about 2 hectares.

John is being very humble because it was a “swamp run”. When Jimmy and I first surveyed the project it was during the dry season in March. We walked along the high ground/strip of land and on the left there was a swampy, slow moving river and the other side was a pasture. Now that it’s rainy season the pasture on the left side is filled with at least 2 feet of water and the strip of land that we’ll plant this month is covered with a type of saw grass. As we walked along the land we dodged old banana plants and got cut on our arms by the grass. After the 690+ meter point we had to ford about 200 meters of swamp, up to our hips in some places. None of us were prepared, we were wearing leather boots, tennis shoes and Crocs. John never complained once, none of us did, but we were glad to get back to Elias house.

Next we traveled to Elias farm in Delicias de Upala to inventory Santiago’s nursery. There are over 4,000 trees among 94 different species. It was touching to see how proud Santiago was of the large variety of species he was able to find. We talked to him early on about how to collect a vast array of species easily and Jimmy went over to help him “see”. All total we will plant over 6000 trees in the next couple of weeks. J

We are waiting to implement the Reforesting the Deforestation project because that would be 42,000 trees (42 has.), 7 times the area and amount of trees in this project. I love the fieldwork and love to share these stories with you to give you a feel for our on the ground work. And the work continues…

LET’S GET PLANTING!!

LRFF Volunteers, June 2014
LRFF Volunteers, June 2014
Walking Elias planting site at Delicias
Walking Elias planting site at Delicias
Santiago and his family
Santiago and his family

Links:

May 14, 2014

News You Can Use

Dena Sanftleben, planting trees for Earth Day
Dena Sanftleben, planting trees for Earth Day

We’ve been really busy here at La Reserva in Costa Rica with lots of visitors since our last project update.

Two of the LRFF/United States board members have come to our headquarters and one future member in the past two months. Dena Sanftleben, U.S. board member and Gretchen Engbring, LRFF/US’s most recent addition to the board, have been enjoying the land of Pura Vida this past month.

Gretchen is staying with us for three months, in fact she’s already written a project report on Global Giving, “Continuing Care for Our Community and Forests” about one of the important aspects of LRFF’s work in caring for and monitoring our projects years after they’ve been planted. She has come to learn, in depth, what we are doing “on the ground’ with communities and planting and how she can help us get projects like “Save San Luis Forest, Save This Family” certified on the carbon market.

This has become one of our biggest hurtles because of the HUGE upfront costs to have a third party verifier come and certify that the trees we have planted and that we are conserving are actually there. Folks, the world is changing and in the not so distant future carbon taxes will have to be imposed internationally. Already the E.U. has the cap and trade and California has passed a cap and trade law called the California Climate Exchange.

This means that everyone, businesses, corporations, governments and private citizens will have to purchase certified carbon offsets to compensate for the annual tons of GHG emissions they are responsible for. The key word here is certified…LRFF has been planting and conserving forests since before many of the carbon tax laws went into affect around the world yet since we haven’t been able to afford the upfront cost of verification our projects are not certified and consequently we are not able to sell “official” carbon offsets. We worry that folks who’d rather plant trees with LRFF will be prevented from so because they need the certified offsets.

Gretchen is a shining hope for me, my heroine in this story of La Reserva Forest Foundation. It is imperative that our projects receive certification and that’s what she aims to find out, if it’s possible, do our projects measure up, can we find the funding to implement the verification….there are so many scammers in the new forest carbon market (selling forest carbon offsets where there is no forest, cutting down forest to plant new, etc.) they make it difficult for an organization like LRFF because we are a minority, restoring and preserving only native forests and for all the right reasons. We are doing it for ALL life on this Earth because it’s our responsibility. So come on everybody….

LET’S GET PLANTING!

Gretchen Engbring, planting for Ryan Stallard
Gretchen Engbring, planting for Ryan Stallard
The Sign in honor of Ryan
The Sign in honor of Ryan
Nursery for our next planting in June @ Upala
Nursery for our next planting in June @ Upala

Links:

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