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 30, 2014

Planting With The Kids

Angel planting with care and joy
Angel planting with care and joy

Surrounded by nearly 50 giggling elementary school children, I set out with LRFF’s Roberta Ward Smiley and Jimmy Acosta through a flooded cow pasture near Upala, Costa Rica to plant trees as a part of our foundation’s “For the Monkeys” project. Titled as such because of the importance of the area for Howler Monkeys, Spider Monkeys, and White-Faced Monkeys, the project includes expanding a forested river corridor by roughly 6,000 trees of over 100 different varieties. However, I quickly discovered that planting with the school children that day was more an exercise in planting ideas in the minds of Costa Rican kids than planting seedlings in Costa Rican soil. 

Just a few weeks earlier, when preparing for the planting, we learned from local workers that many of the people surrounding the project viewed the local monkeys as more of a nuisance than a valuable (and increasingly threatened) population. Without the support of the local community, new or recovering forests and their many animal inhabitants are unlikely to prosper. Because of this reality, community outreach is an important part of many of our projects, including “For the Monkeys.” Thus, to help educate and enthuse the local community, we met with the director of the local elementary school – a quick, five-minute walk away from the planting site. She agreed that a field trip to the planting site would be an educational, hands-on experience for the local children, and a fun way for them to learn about LRFF’s work and the importance of tropical forests.

…And so we found ourselves leading a group of neatly uniformed children through waist-high grass and muddy puddles, their laughs, screams and chatter complementing the calls of the insects, birds and monkeys. Although we at LRFF rarely meet a group as excited as we are about planting trees, on this day we were undoubtedly outshined by the tiny hands eagerly reaching for trees and lovingly patting down handfuls of dirt around the freshly planted seedlings. In less than 40 minutes, our petite but powerful posse planted over 150 trees.

While the children learned about the local flora, fauna and planting process, I received a lesson in the unbridled enthusiasm of Costa Rica’s littlest environmentalists. As the policy-makers, farmers, landowners, entrepreneurs and scientists of tomorrow, these children are truly the key to conservation. If we can continue to nurture their natural passion for the environment, I think our forests have a very bright future.

On the way to plant some trees!
On the way to plant some trees!
Handing out the trees
Handing out the trees
Jimmy, the police, Roberta and students
Jimmy, the police, Roberta and students

Links:

Jul 21, 2014

Onward and Upward

An anteater came to see what
An anteater came to see what's the fuss about

Thank you, muchas gracias, mercí and afepakian…those are the only first words appropriate for this final progress report for the “Rio Sol Bio Corridor, Maleku Reserve, Costa Rica”. It’s been the most gratifying project for LRFF to date and will remain in our memories as our first really massive planting. It was very challenging making it a  “seat of the pants” accomplishment in a huge way.

Not least the other projects that this project led to. Just last week we finished planting a three-project combo that used to be on Global Giving, a total of 10,000 trees of more than 150 species and ALL of them now in the ground.

The Rio Sol Bio Corridor was partially sponsored by Sole Technology, the makers of etnies© shoes. In March 2011 the CEO and founder, Pierre Andres Senizergues, came to Costa Rica to inaugurate the project with his team of champion surfers and skateboarders. When he returned to the U.S. he took a limousine home from the airport and the young man who drove him heard all about his AMAZING trip to Costa Rica and how he was helping to plant 35,000 trees with LRFF and the Maleku indigenous people. The driver was a young man named Matt Strack he had a new premier transportation company, Strack Premier Transportation, and using a green approach by including some hybrids in his fleet.

Two years later Matt called me…he was in Costa Rica for a visit and wanted to come see if he could do something similar to what etnies© had done now that his business had grown. He calculated the projected GHG emissions of the business for 2013 and discovered he’d be responsible for approximately 366 tons of emissions. To “offset” those emissions planting trees he’d need to plant almost 10,000. I got to thinking…we had three projects on GlobalGiving earning a few donations to date and by combining the there would be a total of 10,000 trees.

Matt agreed to completely fund the project (10,000 trees) via monthly installments. He planned to pay for the trees planting by asking his clients to voluntarily pay an extra $1.50/ride. He figured he could probably raise around $1000/month, depending on how much his clientele supported the initiative. They loved it and were happy to support it. Strack Transportation hasn’t missed a monthly installment and now all three projects are now planted and in maintenance mode.

I say onward and upward because whilst planting the last 6000 trees in Las Delicias de Upala last week (see photos in this report), @ the For The Monkeys project a neighbor and the local police approached because they have other projects they want us to develop and implement in the surrounding communities and with the local school kids. Onward, upward…

LET’S KEEP PLANTING!

The nursery team in full swing, sans shoes :)
The nursery team in full swing, sans shoes :)
Boating to plant trees, quiet and peaceful
Boating to plant trees, quiet and peaceful
The school kids and me, a massive selfie
The school kids and me, a massive selfie
Ladies planting! 1500 trees in one day
Ladies planting! 1500 trees in one day

Links:

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

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