November 17 and 18 Jimmy Acosta, Bienvenido Cruz and myself did the tree inventory of the nurseries growing trees for the second phase planting of the Rio Sol Biological Corridor project. The final count was 20,250 and over 95 species.
I felt very fortunate to write all of the checks to the 18+ nursery owners on my birthday, what an amazing gift. Daniel, Jimmy and our friend Brian Bubb delivered them the following day, Friday, November 25th. Everyone in Tonjibe knew they were coming but I wasn’t able to tell them what time exactly. Dan, Jimmy and Brian had to go first to Katira and Guatuso to deliver checks. When they arrived at Palenque Tonjibe the bus was parked waiting, all of the nursery participants were waiting to receive their checks and board the bus for Guatuso where they would cash them. Only problem was each person had to also sign a receipt and by the time everyone signed the bus had left, leaving quite a large crowd of women and children behind. Daniel had to go up into the housing area to pay a couple of people who weren’t out in the street. When he came back to the car he said he’d never seen so many taxis coming in and leaving with so many people. Everyone doubled up and rented taxis because they’d missed the bus.
This past Monday, the 28th, work began planting the second stage of the Rio Sol project. The preliminary crew hauled the trees from Felipa Alvarez’s nursery (500 meters into the forest without a road) out to the main road using a team of oxen and a small cart.
On Tuesday the full ten man team hauled all of the trees from the nurseries in Palenque Tonjibe out to the main road using plastic boxes and wheelbarrows. They also brought the 1000 cacao trees from Deiby’s nursery in Katira that took two trips with a cargo taxi. A truckload was also taken from the La Reserva nursery, approximately 800 trees of 15+ species, and delivered to the church in Tonjibe. That makes a total of over 21,000 trees and 110 native species. By the end of the day all of the trees except a small amount on the road into Tonjibe were sitting next to the bright green church ready for pick up by the tractor and huge trailer on Wednesday morning.
This morning, Wednesday, with everyone ready to haul the trees up to Marvin Castro’s farm in Viento Fresco, the tractor driver called to say he wouldn’t be able to make it. The team worked the rest of the morning hauling out the other small amount of trees at Palenque Margarita and then were done for the day. Mañana says the tractor driver. Hmmmm.
Waiting to ………………..GET PLANTING
The Rio Sol Biological Corridor with our family, the Maleku. In Guatuso, where the three villages are found with the Rio Sol running through, the soil is sticky gray/brown clay. This is one of the most fertile agricultural areas in Costa Rica and the growth of the trees planted in June is astounding. Here is a photo that our on-site supervisor Jimmy Acosta Elizondo took with his little cell phone. No matter it is blurry, you can see the trees growing against the brighter green of the recently cut rice.
Lillian’s 1 hectare corridor along the Rio Sol has actually been a real pain in the neck but look at those babies grow. On planting day last June the planting team found they were unwelcome when they entered the property to plant the 1000 native trees. Julio, Lillian’s son, mistakenly rented the entire farm area to a local rice grower to plant rice. When the team arrived the rice farmer told them they couldn’t walk back and forth across the newly planted field much less haul the trees to the planting area from the truck with horses. The rice farmer is our friend and is a great supporter of the project. I talked to him, promising the horses would follow the same track through the field each time and the rest of us would only walk on the unplanted borders of the field. He agreed and Lillian’s was planted.
The rice grew and grew. Last month was harvest time and we went with Jimmy and the rice farmer to have a look at the baby trees. Most of the trees had grown taller than the rice already and the rice was above our wastes. We all agreed that Jimmy would find 10 workers to cut the rice by hand with machetes in one day, harvest day, to keep the heavy machinery from cutting the baby trees and running them over with the huge wheels. Above you see the corridor safely fenced, the rice cut, the baby trees cleaned and the ones that didn’t survive have been replaced. Great work, Jimmy.
Above is just one of the 22 community nurseries at the Maleku Reserve. Moncho is participating with almost two hectares of his farm and is growing 2000 trees in his nursery. On November 17th the inventory will be taken of all nurseries, the quantity of trees and species type in each. We bring these numbers home and start writing checks to the nursery keepers and making our new tree species list for this phase.
We have 21,000 trees to plant starting at the end of November and continuing on until we are finished. Volunteers are very much needed for this project. Funding is short and we must be able to plant these and then maintain all 35,000 immediately afterward.
PLANTING TREES AND SPREADING SEEDS!
Almost one month ago KC Woods and his dad, Ken came to La Reserva for a visit. KC said he needed to see first hand what we are doing here since being elected to the LRFF/US board. We went to the Maleku Reserve to see the trees planted thus far in the Rio Sol project. We were amazed at what we found! The trees had been planted only 2 ½ months earlier and were growing, no thriving. But wait, this is about forests and people. Here are the people working to restore forests for you.
Rebecca Bell arrived at La Reserva from the UK on July 23rd to begin her internship as a language major in a Spanish speaking country and work as my administrative assistant. She is amazing and has created the new LRFF 2012 calendar that will feature some photos from our supporters. Jimmy Acosta Elizondo has been working with us on the Rio Sol project since the first days of planting in June. He is now the on-site project supervisor. He has proven to be an excellent crew leader coming up with innovative solutions for nursery organization and project maintenance techniques. You probably already know Daniel. He is my beloved partner, LRFF field manager and treasurer of LRFF/CR. We couldn’t do any of this without him.
This past week we have inspected the areas planted at the end of May and the nurseries for the second phase plus looked at new properties to be reforested in yet a third phase of the Rio Sol Biological Corridor project,. Most of the nurseries have been created by women in Palenque Tonjibe and are doing great. We lacked cacao trees to be able to plant 10% in the remaining 21,000 trees but our friend Deibys, who also works as a regular team member planting and maintaining the areas, has a nursery of only cacao, a special durable breed. In December we will use his trees to make up the cacao to be planted in the third phase of the Rio Sol project.
It is the greatest feeling of bliss and purpose to see these women in their nurseries. They keep a daily watch on the baby trees making sure they have enough light but not too much sun. They watch the recently planted, scratching their trunks to make sure they are still alive and watch them struggling to put out new green buds. It is amazing and a huge thank you to these beautiful women for giving this great gift to their community and future generations.
See for yourselves how the baby trees are doing in the areas we visited today. In the photos see the area planted on March 18th with Pierre Andres and the etnies Team Riders for the BASPAT inaugural ceremony. In the photo we are looking toward the area where the etnies sign is planted.
Jimmy is able to keep a close watch on the planted areas, nurseries and maintenance because he lives along the river. He inspects all of the areas once a week and alerts us of anything needed. There is a vine that grows super fast. It grows up the small tree and within two months takes it over. I found a small tree today whose new leaves were deformed and it was bent over to the ground with one of these vines climbing it’s frame. Jimmy was worried and suggested the crew perform a maintenance cleaning earlier than planned. He is also organizing the nurseries into groups of 100 trees to make the inventory easier.
No one knows the name of this tree that Daniel is standing next to. We found it in the La Reserva forest with amazing round fruits hanging from the trunk and limbs. We planted the seeds last year in the nursery and they all germinated. This one is doing great on Lillian Tinoco’s farm, over two meters tall.
In the close up photo of the baby tree you can see by the yellow leaves where the little tree went into shock when it was planted. Everything above it is new growth. Check out the photo below. I can’t help but get excited seeing these little trees thriving.
Yesterday we also looked at Alex Flores farm, “Finca La Nica”, within the Maleku Reserve in Palenque Tonjibe. Alex wants to reforest approximately 2 ½ hectares of pasture but must continue to have his cattle for income. He loves trees and already has an extensive primary forest on the property full of orchids, birds and animals. In the photos below and above you can see part of the area to be planted. The tall, thin trees below are Laurel, a common timber tree in the northern zone of Costa Rica.
We will now offer this project for funding as a continuation of the Rio Sol Biological Corridor project. Alex can’t begin his nursery until we have most of the funding in place so come on everybody………………
LET’S GET PLANTING!!
There has been nothing but progress here in Costa Rica at LRFF. You’ll be very proud to be part of the synchronistic and accelerating work of this great organization. I’ll recount this story with photos and chronologically.
We left off last time after paying the landowners for the trees in their nurseries in preparation for the planting of the Rio Sol Biological Corridor project the following week. On Monday, May 30th Daniel Spreen and Omar Muñoz from LRFF and about 15 Maleku workers (above in photo with Daniel) began planting on Franklin Mojica’s four hectares of pasture in Palenque Tonjibe. Remember Franklin and his two sons Francisco and Estefan built an abundant nursery, enough to furnish all of the trees for his property.
Franklin’s farm is very steep and immediately Dan realized progress would be slow if they had to carry all of the 4000+ trees by hand to the planting site. Dan got a groove going and by the second day at Franklin’s the planting was going amazingly fast. Here’s how the “team” (this is what they called themselves) achieved planting 14,392 trees in only ten days for the first phase of the Rio Sol project.
The Mojica’s rented LRFF three horses to haul the trees from the nursery area to the planting site. This enabled Dan’s team to carry 30 trees per horse, 15/sack and two sacks. That means 90 trees at a time going up the hill. Francisco (Chico) Mojica and his brother Estefan were in charge of working with their horses. At the nursery area Dan and Melvin Mojica loaded the seedlings into feed sacks being very careful to load only one tree of each species into each bag. This way when they arrived at the planting area the same species wouldn’t be planted together.
By tying two bags together at the top the team working at the nursery loaded the horses by putting the tied part over the seat of the saddle.
Ready to go up the hill. Estefan and Chico led those horses up and down hills, through rice fields with extreme care, down to the river, home along the busy highway and into deep weed patches delivering trees for ten days.
Up on the hill the rest of the team were digging holes and planting the trees as they arrived. Above you see one of the women workers digging and her partner bringing trees to plant.
The rains hadn’t begun yet in Guatuso where the Maleku reserve lies but all day that first day in the back of everyone’s mind was the need for rain that night. When Dan left after work that day he thought it looked hopeful with thunder in the distance and big black clouds on the horizon. The next morning when he arrived at the Palenques the fields were flooded and he got a photo of a rail enjoying the first rain as the baby trees did.
The team finished planting the Mojica property on Thursday, June 3rd, only four days after starting. They planted approximately 5000 trees on the four hectares. When the terrain is a steep slope there is more area and we need to plant an average of 1200/hectare.
Dan went back on the last day of planting, June 13th, to take pictures of the Mojica’s reforested area. He expected to see the trees in shock but was surprised to see them ALL standing tall with leaves spread to receive the sun and rain. These are the best results we’ve seen so far in any of our reforestation projects.
The team, me included on this day (pay day), planted Julio and Lillian Tinoco’s 15 meter wide strip along the Rio Sol, an area totaling approximately one hectare, using the system they perfected at the Mojica farm. We planted almost 1000 trees at the Tinoco’s. On Monday, the team began planting Alex Vela’s 3½ hectare strip along the Rio Sol and finished on Tuesday after planting approximately 3500 trees. They then proceeded to Oscar Quiros’s (Chino’s) farm on Tuesday afternoon to plant his 3 ¾ hectare strip along the creek feeding into the Rio Sol.
Each of the landowner’s nurseries lacked the variety of species needed to plant each area so there was a lot of transportation between the farms moving trees from one nursery to the another to finish up with 113 species planted in this first phase of the project. On the second day of travel between La Reserva and the Maleku reserve, a hell of a road, our little car’s tires blew out. After ten days of hauling trees and people we took it to the car wash and were amazed at the amount of Guatuso soil that was left behind.
On Thursday, June 9th, the team moved to Isidro Acosta’s 1 hectare area to be reforested. Here, the weeds were dominant and there was quite a bit of land preparation needed before it could be planted. In the photo above you can see the team chopping with machetes.
Dan and Omar tried to keep up with the Maleku team the first four days but were dragging ass after that. They said they have never seen anyone work as hard as this team of planters. Isidro’s farm was the toughest yet because the other reforestation areas had little or no preparation involved. The team finished planting Isidro’s on Friday and that left only Belmer Blanco’s small area to be fenced and planted on Monday.
Monday, June 13th, was a GREAT day for everyone! With 16 regular workers they built a fence 10 meters from the Rio Sol on Belmer Blanco’s farm, to keep the cattle out of the newly planted trees, and then planted it as well. Everyone was paid and invited to work again in another month for the first maintenance of this first phase of the project.
This was an amazing experience for everyone involved directly in the project. The landowners hadn’t seen some of the species planted in their properties for many years or ever, the Maleku planting team took great care and pride in the planting work and we, at LRFF, feel a very important accomplishment was made. 14,392 trees planted in only ten days.
Dan took a few days off and then we were back out to the Palenque’s on Friday to talk to more potential landowners wanting to participate in the second phase of the project. Remember we still need to plant another 21,000 trees to live up to our promise to etnies shoes (Sole Technology), our generous sponsors.
We couldn’t find anyone home and I began to wonder how difficult it would be to find that much land along Rio Sol. Finally in the afternoon Dan and I were sitting on Bienvenido’s front stoop, talking with him and his family when a familiar face walked into his yard. Bienvenido looked at me and said, “Look, it’s Marvin Castro”, and I knew we were both thinking the same thing.
The larger project LRFF is working on with the Maleku is a recuperation of their decreed reserve of 2994 hectares (decreed by the Costa Rican government in 1976) and the restoration of 2/3 back to native tropical rainforest. Marvin Castro is a non-indigenous landowner within the Maleku reserve and is wants to sell his farm. We went to see his 38 hectares farm this past May. He took us for a tour of the 24 hectares of pristine, primary forest on his property that borders the Rio Sol, up in Viento Fresco above Tonjibe (above is Marvin in his forest). His property contains the springs that are the source of all the potable water flowing down to the Palenques. He also has 14 hectares of pasture where he keeps a few cattle and I was after him to let us plant the pasture, but he declined saying he needed to sell it.
On Friday, sitting on Bienvenido’s stoop, we imagined Marvin saw our car and wanted to lower his asking price for the farm. He came and sat down with us and I began to give him a bad time again about letting us plant that pasture. But this time he said YES, and he’s not interested in making a nursery. We almost got up and danced in celebration! This meant that the Maleku people who don’t own land would be able to create nurseries to sell to the project in December when we plant the second phase of the Rio Sol project.
With Marvin’s fourteen hectares and the other three smaller properties that want to participate we will be planting the other 21,000 trees in December when the nurseries have had a chance to develop.
The Maleku use the Suita palm for their traditional roofs on the ranchos. Now they must travel long distances to collect it because it must grow in the shade of the forest. At this early time it is impossible for us to plant the Suita in the newly reforested areas because of the direct sunlight but Marvin’s forest will be a great resource for Suita to use for planting in the new forests in years to come. We have included in the newly planted areas 10% native cacao and 5% Pejibaye (Peach Palm) so that the forests will contain immediate resources for the community.
Because of his generosity, “wanting to give something to the Maleku people”, I offered Marvin a lower price for his property. I explained that if he would accept a lower selling price I’d attempt to find a donor or grant to buy it. He accepted the offer and LRFF will work to fund this purchase, the first Maleku land recuperation project.
Last Saturday, June 25th, LRFF and the Maleku Tribal Council president, Bienvenido Cruz Castro held a meeting for all people interested in creating the nurseries that will furnish the trees for Marvin’s 14 hectares in December. The purpose of the meeting was to equally distribute the nursery opportunity amongst the people wanting to participate. Fourteen people attended wanting to raise a minimum of 14,000 trees. We distributed 1000 bags to each, gave them a list of the species planted in the first phase of the project as an idea of what species we are looking to plant and explained how to build the nursery.
Afterward, Rosa Elizondo stood in front of the group and said that many organizations and people have come to the Maleku and promised grand projects, but that LRFF has done everything they said they were going to do for the past two years. She thanked us and I hung my head with my heart shining bright inside.
Marvin’s forest may as well be on Pandora from the movie Avatar. He loves the foret like the Na’vi and has cared for it tenderly, keeping it fenced from intrusion by cattle and preserving the fresh water that flows from it.
It’s been one month since LRFF and the Maleku team finished planting the first stage of the Rio Sol Biological Corridor project. LRFF’s previous reforestation projects were cleaned at the end of May. With all of the rain this time of year we must do the maintenance cleanings only one month to six weeks apart, especially for the newly planted area because the trees are small.
Brian Nicewander, a great volunteer from Virginia, has been helping us here for the past six weeks. This is his final two days and we are going to miss him terribly. He has been a welcome face every morning and a huge help with the planting, nursery replenishment and maintenance. He may return in December when he has more time off to help plant the second phase of the Rio Sol project, another 21,000 trees. He has promised to write a short report about his time here at La Reserva and I will publish it for you all.
Last week the six man Maleku team, Daniel, Omar, Brian and Kera Tucker, a recent volunteer who will be with us for two months, did the maintenance cleaning of the 14,000+ trees that were planted last month along the Rio Sol. You can see in the photos that they form a line, working with machetes to clean a circle approximately one meter wide around each tree, leaving all of the other growth. At the same time when the team finds an empty space where a tree didn’t survive they tell the planting team who replant a new tree as a replacement.
The Mojica farm was the first planted last month and the last to be cleaned last week. The team planted 5000 trees here. I reported in my last blog how well the trees are doing on all of the project areas but this one takes the cake. Out of 5000 trees planted the planting team only needed to replace 5.
Follow LRFF and the Maleku teams example and…….
March 18, 2011 - LRFF, the Maleku people and etnies shoes (Sole Technology) inaugurated the Buy a Shoe, Plant a Tree campaign (BASPAT) for the Rio Sol Biological Corridor with a grand event and ceremonial tree planting.
June 2011 - Since the inauguration etnies has been promoting the BASPAT campaign all around the world.
January 2011 - LRFF has agreed via a formal contract to provide a minimum of $10,000 toward the planting of the Rio Sol project. To date we (LRFF/CR and LRFF/US) have donated approximately $7600. We have received, to date, three installments from Sole Technology totaling $8750. These installments are paid to the LRFF/US office in Houston and are disbursed to LRFF/CR as needed for the project. The Rio Sol project is also listed on the Global Giving philanthropic website where donors from around the world may donate. We have now accumulated more that $15,000 (see the Rio Sol expense sheet for deposits) of the $61,000 needed to finish the project.
January 2011 - we began approaching landowners along the Rio Sol and within the Maleku Reserve about participating by allowing us to reforest areas of their properties. The landowners that were interested were given bags and instructed on how to collect baby trees and build their own nurseries so that in June LRFF/CR could buy the trees in each landowners nursery at .50 (USD) per tree to be planted in the project. For example, if a landowner wanted to participate with 1 hectare we asked him to plant a nursery of 1000 trees. We always plant a minimum of 1000 trees per hectare of 80+ species.
March 2011 - For this first stage of the Rio Sol project we ended up with 13.75 hectares to be planted with six different landowners.
May 24,, 2011 - LRFF/CR did an inventory of all the participating landowners nurseries to make a count of the number of species and how many trees would be available for the planting of this first stage scheduled to start on the 30th of May.
May 25, 2011 - The next day we did an inventory of the La Reserva nursery and found that we had enough trees to start planting on the scheduled day. The final inventory was 113 native tree species and 14,000+ trees.
May 26, 2011 - we paid all of the landowners for the trees in their nurseries and made plans to begin planting at Franklin Mojica’s farm in Palenque Tonjibe first.
Monday, May 30, 2011 – The “team” of about 16 Maleku everyday workers, Daniel Spreen Wilson (supervisor) and Omar Muñoz (field manager) began planting the Mojica property of 4 hectares. They finished this property on Thursday afternoon after planting 5000 trees.
Friday, June 3, 2011 – The “team” planted Julio Tinoco’s 1 hectare area in Palenque Sol along the Rio Sol with more than 1000 trees.
Monday, June 6, 2011 – Planting began on Alex Vela Vela’s 3.5 hectares area along the Rio Sol. The planting team planted 3500 trees by late Tuesday morning and began planting on Chino’s 3.75 hectares. They finished Chino’s farm on Wednesday and went to Isidro Acosta’s farm in Palenque Margarita and began preparing the area to be planted.
Thursday, June 9, 2011 – The team chopped with machetes the one hectare area of Isidros’s and began planting more than 1000 trees. On Friday they finished planting the last 400 trees. Daniel drove by to see how the trees were doing at the Mojica property, planted the week before. He took a photo and said he’s never seen trees doing so well.
Monday, June 13,2011 – The last property, Belmer Blanco Blanco’s, of ½ hectare will be planted. Fence must be built and an alley way for the cattle to reach the Rio Sol to drink but the team estimates they will finish the same day or early on Tuesday.
The maintenance of this first stage of the Rio Sol Biological Corridor project will begin in two months, August, and will continue for the next two years. Now we must go to work finding more participants and funding to accomplish the second stage of the project, another 21 hectares. Will you help us to.................
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