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.
Oct 9, 2014

What...Failure is a Feat?

Kiki Biological Corridor - Planting Day
Kiki Biological Corridor - Planting Day

Failure is a feat. It’s so true; we’ve learned this at La Reserva Forest Foundation and we’re proud to share our story, especially if it can help another non-profit realize what a valuable experience it is to “fail”.

Our first reforestation projects were informal affairs. We would collect funding to implement the projects by holding a local annual fundraiser. Our first project was a one-kilometer long biological corridor adjacent to La Reserva forest preserve in northern Costa Rica. We were able to plant the project in June 2008 because we collected the funds by throwing a party featuring live music, a silent auction and Mexican cuisine. That was the Kiki Corridor project.

In 2009, we had a big barbecue that included rides on a sailboat in the local port on Lake Arenal with live music and dancing. This time our goal was to fund a project that included three separate areas owned by the same man, a foreign resident here in the lake area. Two of the properties were local in Sabalito and Rio Piedras, while the other was in the Pacific coast community of Paraiso near Playa Junquillal in Guanacaste. We reached our fundraising goal and planted all three properties between June and October 2009, a total of six hectares and 6,000 trees.

One thing should be added here for the purpose of this “failure” story…up until now, we didn’t have any formal agreement or contract with the landowner. We didn’t see any reason for it since the people we were working with were personal friends or neighbors.

As with all of our projects, we maintain the trees for two years after the initial planting to keep them free of vines and grasses. After two years, they’ve usually developed enough to shade out the surrounding vegetation and be left on their own. We completed this maintenance on all three properties from 2009 to 2011, investing substantial amounts of time and funding in the travel, maintenance and wages paid to the crew. One day in 2011 the landowner called us to say he’d brought a “forest engineer” to look at the properties and the “engineer” was horrified with the native species we’d planted. He told the landowner that there was no timber there of any financial value, and that he’d be better off removing the “useless” trees and replacing them with more valuable timber tree species. And you know what? That’s exactly what he did. He cut down the beautiful, native trees we worked so hard to find, raise, and plant in order to establish a diverse forest restoration project – the kind that LRFF is so famous for today.

As difficult as this experience was, we’re grateful because this “failure” led to an airtight contract that we now enter into with all landowners. We sign the contract with them on the same day we pay them for the trees in their nursery and before we begin the planting. The most important clause makes the landowner responsible for the safety of the baby trees, e.g., no spraying of agro-chemicals, no damage to the trees due to broken fencing, livestock, etc., or the landowner is required to reimburse LRFF for the damages. This contract has been tested and proven valid with law enforcement officials and in the courts these past 3 years. You can read all about it in this recent post from May 2014, “Continuing Care for Communities and Forests”.

So you see failure can equal success. Always remember that the crises in our lives are actually the opportunities the universe is bestowing upon us to learn and improve. We’ve planted over 70,000 trees since this story took place, and we continue onward and upward daily.  

Fundraiser Barbecue in Costa Rica for project
Fundraiser Barbecue in Costa Rica for project
School children planting in Sabalito 2009
School children planting in Sabalito 2009
Planting day in Rio Piedras, 2009
Planting day in Rio Piedras, 2009
Police enforcement of LRFF contract, 2014
Police enforcement of LRFF contract, 2014
Sep 25, 2014

A Great Example

Local Jardin de Ninos w/Papa Loco at LRFF reserve
Local Jardin de Ninos w/Papa Loco at LRFF reserve

The “Engaging Minds: Planting Trees, Inspiring Youth” project is a great example of the incredible ancillary benefits that reforestation efforts can deliver while bringing together collaborators from all over the world to support a common cause. “Engaging Minds” isn’t just about planting 800 trees after all – it’s also about the critical services that those trees provide to people (like sequestering and storing carbon), the food and shelter they offer to native fauna (like sloths), and the amazing educational opportunities that planting projects can offer to local people.

The last point is especially significant for “Engaging Minds,” because this project integrates children from the local elementary school, Jardin de Niños, in every step of the project. Students will attend a presentation about LRFF’s work and the importance of Costa Rica’s forests before helping in the collection, care and planting of seedlings. Not only will students learn some valuable lessons about conservation and ecology, but as the future policymakers, users and caretakers of Costa Rica’s forests, the students’ involvement is also critical for the sustainability of reforestation projects countrywide.

Microsoft’s YouthSpark program recognizes the importance of providing young people with these fundamental educational and life experiences, providing funding to projects like “Engaging Minds” to support the training of youth around the world. This means that when you donate to projects like this, your dollars will go even further thanks to matching funds provided by Microsoft.

Our experience with students has only reinforced this important relationship between youth and conservation. At another of our project sites this past July, we set out with 50 children from a local elementary school and planted over 150 trees in just 45 minutes. Their enthusiasm was contagious, and we can’t wait to get back in the field to provide local youth with another planting opportunity.

For these reasons, when you contribute to “Engaging Minds,” you’re helping to support one of our favorite types of projects here at La Reserva Forest Foundation… and we think it’s one of your favorites too! Since we posted this project just three months ago, we’ve already received 11 donations and over $900 in funding. This means we’re well on our way to our $2,048 goal!

However, we still need your continued help and support to get this project fully funded so that the children of Jardin de Niños can have a hands-on educational experience and just one more piece of Costa Rica’s valuable tropical forests can begin to recover.

Happy students planting their nursery
Happy students planting their nursery
Receiving a tree at La Reserva field trip
Receiving a tree at La Reserva field trip

Links:

Sep 22, 2014

16 Trees in 1 Minute

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

LRFF has planted over 8000 trees in the past two months. We have confidence that soon we will be planting this project, "Reforesting the Deforestation" as a sequel to our latest success. Here's an update of our planting activities...who, where and how...don't miss the video link!

On the final day of planting "For The Monkeys", last of the Strack Transportation sponsored projects, we invited the student body of the Jardin de Niños in Delicias de Upala  to help us plant the last 150 trees. Gretchen, Jimmy and I arrived at the school early and we all marched down the street from the school to Elias Cruz's farm, about 50 meters. We picked up Octavio at the local police station, who wanted to be a part of the planting. 

The regular planting crew had a tough time digging the 150 holes fast enough to keep up with the kids distributing the trees and planting them. We also had 16 trees to plant, purchased by residents of the Commune Utopia in Second Life. We marched to another area of the planted corridor that had been set aside for the 16 trees and that's where the 16 trees planted in 1 minute video comes from. 

Santiago works for Elias on both his properties. We planted portions of both one in Chimurria and the other in Delicias, Upala. During the nursery growing and subsequent planting his wife, Trina, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Santiago was very proud of the fencing and planting work he was instrumental in. He was Jimmy's right hand man. Trina passed away two days after the children finished the planting in July. Gretchen caught the magical moment when a beautiful butterfly landed on Santi's arm and didn't want to leave (see photos).

Daniel Spreen, President and Co-Founder of LRFF/CR, was unable to participate in the planting or pre-planting activities due to a serious illness. There were shovels and plastic boxes that we'd left out in Delicias the final day because they were still needed by the planting crew to finish up. Two weeks after the last trees were planted Dan felt well enough to travel and we went to recover the equipment and plant four trees for another resident and follower of LRFF in Second Life.

Jimmy and Yamileth planted trees for Brugos, we loaded up and all left one last time on the most excellent road trip back home to La Reserva. Most excellent because of the amazing landscape. West between the narrow valley between two massive volcanoes, Miravalles and Tenorio, then south on a well traveled dirt road to Tierras Morenas and Lake Arenal where the La Reserva Forest Foundation is headquartered in Costa Rica.   

The perfect ending to an amazing journey...from our first meeting with Matt Strack 1 1/2 years ago to the climax of actually getting all of his trees in the ground (9500+). Thanks to all of you and to you Matt for believing in LRFF and taking responsibility for the GHG emissions your businesses activities generate.  

Tree planters heading o
Tree planters heading o
Octavio with three planters
Octavio with three planters
Passing out trees to waiting hands
Passing out trees to waiting hands
Women planting, HOT
Women planting, HOT
Santiago with friend in magical moment
Santiago with friend in magical moment
One more tree planted
One more tree planted
Hard work hauling trees to plant
Hard work hauling trees to plant
Daniel, making a comeback
Daniel, making a comeback
Jimmy and Yami planting Brugo
Jimmy and Yami planting Brugo's trees

Links:

 

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