2012 Reports

2012 Index of Reports
Report 1: January – February
Report 2: March – April
Report 3: May – June
Report 4: July
Report 5: August – October
Report 6 : November – January (’13)

Field Report #1

Clay Plager-Unger
Planet Drum Foundation
January-February, 2012

This year three new revegetation sites have been created and are ready to plant with trees raised at the greenhouse. Trails were cleared with machetes and holes dug in anticipation of the rainy season which began, as it typically does, right around the beginning of January. Once the rains moistened up the soil, trees were delivered to the various sites and we started planting. One site (with 274 trees) is in the El Toro watershed, a large area with severe erosion problems.

Orlando selects trees to carry up the hill and plant at the El Toro revegetation site.
Hanna plants a tree. The trees are planted along trails which follow the contours of the terrain.
Elizabeth cuts a tree out of its bottle in order to plant it in the ground.
Elizabeth carries trees up the hillside in a recycled plastic bucket.
Hanna planting a tree on another trail at the El Toro site.

Another site for this year is a continuation of the site from 2011 at a property owned by Dr. Parra. He has chicken coops for egg production in the flat areas of his land, but is concerned about the lack of vegetation on the hillsides and wants to plant trees there in order to prevent mudslides. This year we continue to cover the hills on his land with 260 more native trees.

Volunteers from the Global Student Embassy joined us for a morning to assist in planting trees at the Dr. Parra revegetation site.
Elizabeth selects trees to carry up to the hill at Dr. Parra’s.
The hillside at the Dr. Parra site. Sparse vegetation shows the need to revegetate with native trees. The yellow flowers are Guayacan trees, a sure sign that the rainy season is commencing. The trails we cleared are visible. Volunteers dot the hillside as they plant trees as Orlando, at the top, looks on.
The view from the balcony of the Planet Drum apartment on a particularly rainy morning in January.
A flower burst open with the fresh rains.
Orlando planting trees along a trail at the Dr. Parra site.
A lizard hides out in a Ceibo tree that is growing at the greenhouse.

The third revegetation site for 2012 is at ‘El Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas’ (‘The Forest amidst the Ruins’) an inner city green area/park where Planet Drum has been planting trees for 10 years. This site, with 260 trees, is located in a section of the park that is still mostly devoid of large vegetation. Preparation for this site was started several months ago when we made trails and dug holes. Since then, some of the holes filled up with soil, so we spent a morning cleaning up the site again before delivering trees.

Elizabeth fixes up holes at the Ruinas revegetation site.
The view from the Ruinas hillside includes the houses of the Maria Auxiliadora barrio, a flowering Acacia tree, and chunks of concrete from previous structures that were destroyed during the mudslides of the El Niño phenomenon in 1998.
At the greenhouse, Alicia, Sam, Elizabeth and Ryan load trees into a rented truck to be delivered to the Ruinas site.
Neighborhood kids joined up with us to assist in tree planting at the Ruinas site.
Ryan plants a tree with a local kid.
Volunteers carry trees up the hillside for planting.
Elizabeth and a couple of helpers plant a tree.
In this area, a steep hill with very loose soil, the only existing vegetation are some grasses. Elizabeth and her help continue planting trees.
Sam and a neighborhood kid cut a tree out of its bottle for planting.
Local children planting trees at the Ruinas site.
Sam planting trees.
More tree planting.
Orlando shows some of the neighborhood kids how to plant trees.
Sam served up some refreshments to the group during a break.
The group takes a break from tree planting.
Local kids pose with the Planet Drum crew after a hard day of tree planting.
The children took some of the trees back to their houses to be planted there. We ended up giving away 180 trees to this community in addition to the 260 trees which were planted at the revegetation site.

Trees that are planted at our revegetation sites, as opposed to those given away, are marked with bamboo stakes so that we can locate and identify them, for example when we water them during the dry season.

Sam and Alicia split bamboo trunks to make the stakes that we use to identify the trees we plant.
Volunteers chop bamboo into stakes.

Long time friends and Planet Drum collaborators Jaeson and Gina Schultz organized a trip for James Haim of Cob Together, based out of Oregon, to visit Bahia and experiment with Cob construction in South America. They built a bench at their house in Bahia and an outdoor oven for the Bellavista community. Of course, Planet Drum got involved to learn about cob construction and help in the labor intensive work.

Alicia and Aaron prepare soil for the bench project.
James and the volunteers demonstrate ‘waddle and daub’ construction with bamboo on the high back of the bench.
Cob bench construction.
More cob construction.
The bench is almost done.
James, the Planet Drum crew, and local participants, pose for a picture with the completed bench project.
Orlando and James converse while working on the cob oven.
Planet Drum volunteers prepare batches of soil for mixing with rice straw.
A few of the community members got involved as well…
Putting the final touches on the oven.
James, the Planet Drum crew, and Bruce show off the cob oven we built in the Bellavista community.
The following day we found that one of the community members, nickname ‘Shark,’ had posted a warning to any potential vandals who might tamper with the oven project. Broken Spanish, translated to English, the sign reads: Sector: Organic Oven. Planet Drum and company organized. Thief who is caught will be brought to justice and turned over to the fishermen for shark bait. Thanks, Shark.
Planet Drum family and friends relax on the beach during the Carnaval weekend.

The 13th Anniversary Celebration of Bahia being declared an Eco-city was unfortunately, yet not surprisingly, small. Lack of support and organization on the part of the local government in recent times has given a feeling of emptiness to the Eco-city movement. The only visible signs of Eco-city activity are from individual organizations that do ecological work, such as Planet Drum and Cerro Seco nature reserve; the triciclos (eco-taxis) which are independently organized; and the half-hearted city effort to resuscitate the garbage separation program, which is currently underway. The Eco-city is suffering from a lack of initiative from local authorities, and Planet Drum is currently evaluating plans to inject some renewed spirit in the Eco-city movement through new urban-based bioregional projects. 

Despite all of this, Planet Drum showed up at the Anniversary Celebration with two truckloads of trees to give away.  We also hung banners and signs and had a strong group of volunteers. Pedestrians passing by the municipal building flocked to our stand to receive a free tree. Fruit trees have been by far the most popular. We have large quantities (six hundred to fifteen hundred) of three varieties of native fruit producing trees: Chirimoya, Pechiche, and Guayaba.

Clay, Orlando, and the Planet Drum volunteers show off and distribute free trees from the greenhouse to visitors at the Eco-city’s 13th Anniversary.

This past year we produced more trees at the greenhouse than ever before, over 5,000. However, due to a variety of factors, including low volunteer participation in October and November, we only were able to prepare sites for a small fraction of those trees. As a result, we needed to find new ways to distribute the remaining trees to more people and communities. Typically most of the trees at the greenhouse are reserved for the revegetation sites that we create.

I called up Ivan Aguirre, a good friend of Planet Drum, nature lover and one of the few level-headed politicians around. He agreed to help us deliver trees in his truck to communities beyond Bahia and Kilometer 8, all the way to Kilometer 20. In the past, Planet Drum has only worked with one of the numerous communities in the area to Kilometer 8. This year, with the help of Ivan, we have been able to give away trees in six different communities, including two repeat trips to communities that requested large numbers of trees. Residents were eager to receive them and promised to take care of the trees they were given. On the last trip we made, as we were arriving, three children walking down the road recognized us from a distance and held up their hands, signaling that they each wanted a tree. We stopped and handed them three trees to take to their houses.

Aside from the obvious need for restoring native vegetation in the area (there has been massive devegetation), there is clearly a large demand among the population for tree planting in the areas surrounding Bahia to Kilometer 8. Hopefully we will be able to continue and expand revegetation efforts in these new regions.

Talking with community members has also been helpful in identifying trees that are the most desired by the people. Among the most popular trees that were requested, that we didn’t have this year are: Mango, Limon, Guayacan, Cedro, and Balsamo. We will try our best to augment production of these species in the future.

Sam hands out trees to children from the back of Ivan Aguirre’s truck.
Unloading trees at the Los Caras community.
Orlando gives a demonstration of how to tree plant to members of the Los Caras community.
Ivan helps unload trees in the remote community of Las Delicias.
Alicia plants a tree at the Los Caras community.
Taking a break from tree planting with community leader Sebastian (Maxi).
Residents of Kilometer 20 show up to receive free trees.
Kilometer 20 residents carrying away their trees.
As we give away trees, more and more people show up.
Locals taking their trees.
A woman with her two Guachapeli trees.
Children and adults with their trees.
Sam helps pass out trees.
Orlando shows residents at Kilometer 20 how to remove the plastic bottle and plant the trees.
Orlando passes out trees at Kilometer 19.
Locals at Kilometer 19 arrive to receive trees.
Orlando gives another demonstration of how to plant the trees.
Orlando giving away more trees.
Delivering trees with Ivan to people at Kilometer 20.
A handful of trees were donated to be planted at a community health clinic.
Residents at Kilometer 20 come out to receive trees.
More people come for trees.
We delivered trees to a school to be planted by the students on the campus.
Unloading trees at Colegio Leonidas Plaza in Kilometer 20.

Meanwhile, it became apparent that this is an especially wet rainy season. It has been raining multiple times per week since early January, mostly at night, but occasionally during the day as well. Sometimes, the rain comes down quite hard. 

As of March, local residents are calling this the wettest rainy season since the El Niño year in 1998. Several towns inland from Bahia are completely flooded, and thousands of farms have lost their crops due to floods. In areas that aren’t susceptible to flooding, the rains have resulted in incredible plant growth, including crops, trees, and weeds. At the greenhouse we have led several weeding campaigns inside and outside to prevent the weeds from overgrowing the place.

Chris machetes clear the tall grass growing around the greenhouse.
Alicia machetes a trail that leads behind the greenhouse.
Ryan machetes weeds at the greenhouse.
We are currently producing compost from the organic waste collected at Hostal Coco Bongo, Jaeson’s house, the Planet Drum house, and the University cafeteria. Aaron cleaning the compost buckets.

We will continue to work on the revegetation project, as the rainy season progresses. Sites that have been planted will need to be weeded and soon we will begin to produce new trees for next year.

If you are interested in volunteering, please see http://www.planetdrum.org/volunteerbahia.htm on this website and get in touch at planetdrumecuador@yahoo.com , there are still volunteer opportunities available for the summer months and beyond.

Pásalo bien,

Field Report #2

Clay Plager-Unger
Planet Drum Foundation
March-April, 2012

It’s been the rainiest wet season that I’ve seen in my five years in Bahia. This has been fine for Bahia and the immediately surrounding areas, but other wetter regions (inland and to the north) have suffered greatly in the past few months from extreme excesses of water. Bear in mind that Bahia is part of Dry Tropical Forest and the “rainy season” is a relative term, which distinguishes this time of year from the dry season. But this year it did actually rain with regular frequency (multiple times a week), mostly during the nights, for a solid three months (January through March). April has seen less water and it appears as though we are now in transition into the dry season at this point. Fortunately, the ground still retains significant moisture that should last well into the dry season, particularly if we get a few drizzles here and there.

There was a large force of volunteers who stayed with Planet Drum during the past few months. Following the rains, they have petered out and now we are waiting for the summer months (June) for new arrivals to come. Thanks to Elizabeth, Ryan, Alicia, Sam, Aaron, Chris, Claire, Karolina, Jerome, and Nina for all of your hard work. It’s been one of the most productive rainy seasons we’ve had.

The final tree delivery trip with City Councilman Iván Aguirre. This year we made eight trips and distributed 1,694 trees with Iván.

Due to a series of unfortunate events, mostly related to a crippling water crisis at the Univeristy from August through December, a large portion of the trees planted at the University Catolica site from last year didn’t survive, so this year we replanted with new trees.

Alicia digs holes at the University Catolica revegetation site from 2011, where we replanted a huge portion of dead trees that were unable to survive due to a major water crises last year.
View from the revegetation site.
Short-term volunteer Peachy came to help us plant trees for a few days.
Alicia planting trees up on the hillside.
Elizabeth powers up the steep hill with a bucket of trees.

At the greenhouse, nearly all of the 5,000 trees that were produced in 2011 were planted and distributed. We have been cleaning up and organizing in order to produce new trees this year. Planting has started with a bang since Orlando found a couple of locations where baby Pechiches have sprouted on the ground below other larger trees. There are already about 500 little Pechiches growing nicely at the greenhouse, as well as a seed bed full of germinating Pechiche seeds. Additional seedbeds with other species will be planted in the coming weeks and months.

Jerome, Nina, Orlando, Claire, Elizabeth, and Alicia planting baby Pechiche trees collected in the field directly into bottles.
More transplating.
One of the two compost trenches that we have going ensures that this will be a productive year for compost.
Elizabeth waters the seed bed with Pechiche seeds. The Pechiche seeds are soaked in water for 3 days before being planted in the bed to speed germination.
Nina and Jerome clean up inside the greenhouse.
Alicia transplanting Pechiches.   Photo by Nina Gutmacher.
Nina transplanting.  Photo by Jerome Castellana.
The view from the cross that overlooks Bahia. This is the mouth of the Rio Chone estuary. To the left is the Pacific ocean, to the right the bay. The red arrow points out the Planet Drum apartment and office.  Photo by Nina Gutmacher.
A fisherman throws his net into the water in the shadow of the bridge. Fishermen can still catch crabs, shrimp and fish right next to the city.  Photo by Nina Gutmacher.
The sunset view from the beach wall. Some of the local surfers are visible trying to catch the last wave of the day.  Photo by Nina Gutmacher.
Orlando lightly waters the freshly transplanted trees.  Photo by Nina Gutmacher.
Orlando digs up baby Pechiche trees from a patio in Fanca. The trees are taken to the greenhouse and planted directly into bottles that were prepared beforehand.  Photo by Nina Gutmacher.
Nina transplanting.  Photo by Jerome Castellana.
More transplanting.  Photo by Jerome Castellana.
Jerome digs up a bucket of compost to mix into soil for the trees. Typical compost mix: one unit compost, one unit sand, one unit rice hills, three units dirt.  Photo by Nina Gutmacher.
Jerome dumps a bucket of rice hulls into the mix.  Photo by Nina Gutmacher.
Orlando and Nina take a break from macheteing clear the trees and trails at El Bosque en medio de las Ruinas.  Photo by Jerome Castellana.
Pre-colonial figurines from the indigenous civilizations that populated the central coast of Ecuador on display at the Bahia museum.  Photo by Nina Gutmacher.
Clay mixes up soil for filling bottles.  Photo by Nina Gutmacher.
The crew at the greenhouse.  Photo by Nina Gutmacher.
Orlando, Jerome, Nina, and Clay fill up bottles with soil.  Photo by Elizabeth Jahp.
Orlando, as usual, with a large smile on his face.  Photo by Nina Gutmacher.
A corral full of bottles with soil waiting for another batch of transplanted trees.  Photo by Nina Gutmacher.
Grandmaster volunteer, Elizabeth, after five months of volunteering!!! We’ll miss you!  Photo by Nina Gutmacher.

Pásalo bien,

Field Report #3

Clay Plager-Unger
Planet Drum Foundation
May-June, 2012

The rainy season has all but wrapped up, aside from a stray drizzle or light shower here and there. Windier weather, more over-cast days and less humidity are setting in, which is great for reducing the number of mosquitoes and makes for nicer temperatures at work. Yet the sun still comes out in force on occasion mid-day and reminds us that we are on the equator. I read that there was more rainfall during the rainy season this year than in 1998 which was the year of the El Niño phenomenon when there were massive mudslides. I also have a feeling that since it was a particularly wet rainy-season, we might be in for a moist dry-season and there’s a chance that we will continue to see a light drizzle or rain now and again. These weather patterns make for great revegetation.

The greenhouse in May. These trees are the first that were transplanted in 2012. They will be planted in 2013.
A seedbed of Guachepeli trees awaits transplanting.
A seedbed with baby Pechiche trees.
A seedbed with Ebano. In the background I am mixing one-part compost with one-part rice shells to prepare another seedbed which will be planted with Chirimoya seeds.

In May, we had an absence of volunteers so I took the opportunity to do some major cleaning and minor repairs around the apartment. Each room was completely vacated, swept from ceiling to floor (multiple times) and I even stained the floors. Repairs to the metal on a couple of the balconies were done and the metal on all of the balconies got a fresh coat of rust-resistant paint. Needless to say, the house is looking better than ever before, relatively speaking that is, since there’s always more work to do. But the difference is significant.

The balconies before they got painted.
A balcony after it got painted.
An old floorboard is replaced.
More floorboard work.
The woodworking maestro cuts replacement floorboards to size.
One of the dorm rooms just after staining the floor.
A stitched-together picture of the central room on the house.

During this time Orlando held down the fort at the greenhouse, making sure that the beds with seedlings stayed healthy and that the few trees that we have so far this year were watered. He also took a week’s vacation.

Planet Drum trees delivered to the garbage processing facility where they will be planted to help beautify the grounds – and simultaneously help prevent erosion.
Juan Jose is in charge of waste management and has quickly become a friend of Planet Drum. Here he unloads trees from the greenhouse.

The city has officially resumed garbage separation and recycling in the downtown area. This includes organic and inorganic waste separation and plastic, metal, and cardboard recycling. They have inaugurated the newly renovated waste management facility which includes the compost processing area and a new recycling separator machine (don’t ask me how that works). Friends close to the Mayor have informed me that the Mayor has requested that the facility be named after Peter Berg. The city even had a small tree planting campaign around the facility and Planet Drum donated a truckload of trees to the cause. Let’s hope that citizens jump on board to help separate their waste, though the schedule for collection is painfully complicated.

Dozens of sacks of chicken poop and sawdust are delivered to the greenhouse for composting.

Also, I got a call from an acquaintance that has a chicken coup. He offered to give us 50-60 sacks of chicken poop with saw dust already mixed in if we were willing to pick it up. I rented a large truck and drove over to collect it. We consolidated old compost in a second compost trench to make room for it all and then dumped it in. The compost was piled high (over a meter) and has been condensing noticeably since. Orlando discovered a trick where a machete is stuck completely into the pile and used as a thermometer to check if the compost is heating up. After a month of composting, the machete comes out scalding hot. Is there anything for which a machete can’t be used?

The compost trench where the chicken poop was dumped. The pile is already visibly decreasing in size, a good sign that it is composting.

In early June a fresh batch of volunteers arrived and got straight to work. They cleaned up weeds and fallen leaves at the greenhouse as well as macheted around the perimeter. Three seeds beds were exploding with hundreds of seedlings (Pechiche, Guachepeli, and Ebano) that were ready to be transplanted. Fortunately, we had a stock pile of already cut bottles and premixed soil. Bottles were filled with soil and trees were transplanted. But the stock pile quickly ran out, so more bottles were cut, more soil mixed and even more trees transplanted. Close to a thousand trees have been put into bottles where they will grow until they are ready for planting next rainy season.

Orlando and Jane trim the large leaves off of baby Pechiche trees that we are transplanting. The tree adapts more quickly to the transplant process with the leaves trimmed.
Ben digs up Pechiches from the seedbed for transplanting.

More seedbeds have been prepared and we planted two large beds with Chirimoyas, which are one of our most popular native fruit bearing trees.

The volunteers also went out to do some seed collecting and they gathered a bucket-load of Cascol seeds and Algarrobo. The Cascol seeds need to be removed from their shells, a labor intensive task that will take a little while before they can be soaked in water and then planted in the beds.

The volunteers continue to keep the greenhouse running full steam and will also begin checking the revegetation sites that we planted this past year to make sure that the trees aren’t being overgrown with weeds and hopefully thriving. If they need water, we might have to do some watering in the field.

Orlando oversees Kendall, Jane and Ben as they transplant Pechiche trees.
Volunteers crack open Cascol seeds at the house in order to remove the seeds for planting.

In other news, Orlando has gotten very involved with the triciclo (eco-taxi) associations and is helping them bring their paperwork up to date so they avoid hassles from authorities. I’ve been brainstorming how to help the triciclo operators and have been talking with friends related to the municipality on their behalf in an attempt to foment more support. This can be a painstaking task, but in the meantime I helped Orlando layout new ID cards for the drivers on my computer. The triciclos are a brilliant example of bioregional transportation and have never received any official support from the city, despite being one of the few eco-city features that has always been present. I’d love to see the city show some small measure of support for them, but unless you present a large-scale project and happen to find funding for it, it can be hard to get their attention.

Pásalo bien,

Field Report #4

Clay Plager-Unger
Field Projects Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
July, 2012

The dry season weather has set in solidly during the past month. Temperatures have dipped a tad, it’s a little windier and there tends to be more overcast days. The weather is very comfortable for working outdoors – even though when the sun comes out around midday it still scorches. And one of the best parts: the drier, cooler weather means fewer mosquitoes!

Recently transplanted trees at the greenhouse.
Trees in recycled plastic bottles in the expansion area of the greenhouse.

Since more definitive computer model predictions were released in early July, local media outlets have been publicizing that this year might see a return of El Niño. Current NOAA and other NINO34 computer models are predicting moderate El Niño conditions, even though it’s still a little early to know for sure. These computer models have difficulty predicting with high degrees of accuracy beyond three months. El Niño effects usually begin around December, hence the name (El Niño – the child – i.e. Jesus).

In 1998, Sea Surface Temperatures (SST) anomalies (changes in ocean temperature in degrees Celsius) for the NINO34 region reached 2.69 (actually in December 1997). In 1982, the El Niño phenomenon previous to 1998 that caused major damage in the region, SST anomalies for NINO34 reached 2.79. [http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/data/indices/sstoi.indices]

What the local media fails to realize is that nearly every year SST anomalies reach levels that scientists define as either El Niño (0.5ºC above average) or La Niña (0.5ºC below average) conditions. The mean SST anomalies for an ensemble of computer models for now (July 2012) through March 2013 hover around 0.8ºC above average. [http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/poama2.4/poama.shtml#indiceTitle]

In summary, SST anomalies are predicted to remain solidly in El Niño territory from now through at least next March and we will be experiencing El Niño related weather patterns.

Do local Bahia (and Ecuador) residents need to fear a repeat of the disasters that resulted due to the heavy rains in 1982 and March 1998? It may still be too early to tell, but current computer models suggest that an intense El Niño phenomenon is unlikely. Regardless, El Niño and La Niña are cyclical weather patterns and it is only a matter of time before peaks in these cycles result in extreme weather.

Also interesting to note, which I mentioned in my previous report, is that this past rainy season (January through April) saw more precipitation in the region than during the 1998 El Niño phenomenon. Additionally, the mudslides that devastated the region in 1998 occurred after only two weeks of torrential rains! Visible records of this devastation (mostly in the form of erosion) are abundant in and around Bahia. The effect on the psyche of the population is visible through the nervousness in which local residents absorb the recent news about the potential another El Niño this year.

Ben trims leaves off of baby Ebano trees that are being transplanted in order for the trees to adapt more easily to the transition.

Now, what is one of the best methods for controlling erosion and limiting extreme weather patterns in the long term? That’s right, revegetation!

Ben and Jane transplant Guachepeli trees.

This past month, we’ve been working intensely at the greenhouse. Several seedbeds were bursting with seedlings that needed transplanting. Hundreds of Ebano, Guachepeli and Pechiche were transplanted from the beds into plastic bottles.

In preparation for the upcoming rainy/planting season, we’ve been collecting, prepping and planting more seeds. Tierramonte seeds were collected, as were Algarrobo and Dormilon. Beds for these seeds were created at the greenhouse and the seeds were planted for germinating.

Jane, Orlando and Shubert collect seeds from a massive Tierramonte tree.
Jane collects Algarrobo seeds in Leonidas Plaza.
Jane and Adele prepare Dormilon seeds for planting.
The green plastic mesh on the roof of the greenhouse has completely deteriorated in many places.
Lucas and Michelle joined us for a morning of transplanting along with Jaeson and Gina’s three older children, Jazzy, JJ and Bohdi.
Kids and adults keeping busy with a variety of tasks at the greenhouse.

Also, we’ve begun working on what will be a major renovation of the greenhouse structure, which has served us well for over six years, but has been in an increasing state of disrepair. As such, nearly all of the bamboo will be replaced. The roof will be raised a bit to avoid the frequent head bumps that plagued the old greenhouse. Also, the roof material (previously green plastic) will be replaced with much more natural palm fronds.

Jane, Adele and Orlando unload bamboo.
Orlando saws bamboo to length.

This is a good time to be working on the greenhouse, because it is entirely empty, except for the seed beds. Once construction is completed we will be able to start filling it up with new trees.

Jasmin helps dig holes for the bamboo at the greenhouse.
Shubert and Orlando work on reconstructing the greenhouse frame.

So far, two truckloads of bamboo have been delivered and we have dismantled one half of the greenhouse. We are trying to keep the walls intact, where the green mesh still has a bit more life in it and won’t be replaced. Nearly all of the bamboo will be replaced. Some of the most damaged pieces of bamboo were already replaced last year.

We have also been doing major cleaning up of the grounds around the greenhouse, including burning some brush and weeds, which grow too quickly and compost too slowly and all the while create habitat for critters we aren’t interested in having around the greenhouse, such as snakes.

We invited some local plastic recyclers to the greenhouse to help get rid of all the scrap pieces that have been accumulating.

 We also had our first (at least in the five plus years that I’ve been with Planet Drum) Ecuadorian volunteer who stayed at the house—as opposed to day volunteers, of whom we’ve had many, of course. His name is Shubert, from Manta, and he spent three weeks, so far, working with us. One of Shubert’s motivations for volunteering with Planet Drum in Bahía was to be able to connect with the Bellavista neighborhood so that he can possibly set up a project with them related to healthcare through a local university system. Shubert helps us with our ecological projects in the mornings and during the afternoons develops his project with Bellavista. The necessary contacts were made and we are waiting to see if we will be able to take the next step, which is to introduce all of the parties involved and see if it will be possible to proceed with the project. More information on this as it develops.

Shubert, Adele, Orlando and Jane filling water jugs at the Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas revegetation site.

One last piece of work that we’ve done during the past month has been the commencement of watering the revegetation sites that were planted this past rainy season. We watered the site at El Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas. The trees are looking very healthy, but they clearly were happy to get a drink. I would estimate a survival rate of over 80%, which is great. Three other sites, at El Toro, Universidad Catolica and Dr. Parra, will all also need water in the coming weeks.

Clay packs up his belongings after a fruitful morning at the greenhouse.  Photo by Sol (Clay’s son).

Pásalo bien,

Field Report #5

Clay Plager-Unger
Planet Drum Foundation
August – October, 2012

Note: Click on photos for larger picture.

L-R: Clay Plager Unger, Keibo Oiwa, Flor Maria Dueñas

Keibo Oiwa, long time friend of Planet Drum and fellow collaborator in the original Eco-city movement, returned to Bahia for a short visit. The first time he was here in 1999, Bahia had recently suffered from massive mudslides due to heavy El Niño phenonmenon rains. Keibo was delighted to see how green and full of vegetation the hillsides looked now. 

In August, Planet Drum received a grant from Landcare Australia for greenhouse reconstruction. We immediately began purchasing new materials (mostly bamboo) to overhaul the entire greenhouse structure, which was in dire need of repairs. The old, green, plastic roof had completely deteriorated in areas and the bamboo supports were on their last legs. 

We decided to discard the green plastic in favor of a more natural materials, so the new roof was made from palm fronds. The walls will be made of smaller bamboo pieces, which will help keep out critters, stray chickens and dogs. Multiple truckloads of bamboo were transported to the greenhouse. Volunteers learned how to split and cut the bamboo into the pieces necessary for construction. The construction will take up to four months because we are working on other aspects of the Revegetation Project at the same time.

Adele, Zechariah, and Orlando cut bamboo for greenhouse construction.
View of the greenhouse with seedbeds full of seedlings for transplanting and volunteers preparing pieces of bamboo for rebuilding the greenhouse.
Zechariah works on the new roof for the greenhouse.’
Orlando, Zechariah and Adele reconstructing the greenhouse.
Zechariah sawing bamboo.
Orlando and Zechariah inside the greenhouse. The new roof style with palm fronds instead of green plastic mesh is visible.

Since it is the dry season (May-December), we have been watering at four revegetation sites which were planted during the past rainy season (Dr. Parra, Universidad Catolica, El Toro, and Bosque en medio de las Ruinas). Sites are watered at least once a month, preferably even more, but watering is very labor intensive and thus our ability to do so on a regular basis depends on the number of hands we have at any given moment. So far the trees at the sites from this year are looking really good and survival rates are high.

At the greenhouse there are several seedbeds (Algarrobo, Guachapeli, Cascol, and Guayaba) with a total of approximately one thousand or more seedlings that need to be transplanted. All of these seedlings need both plastic bottles and pre-mixed soil to be transplanted. There is a lot of work to do at the greenhouse.

For three weeks in August-September, a group of fourteen University of Oregon students along with a professor from the Planning, Public Policy, and Management Department traveled to Bahía to participate in a 3-week, study-abroad program called ‘Building Bioregional Communities.’ The course was a collaboration with Planet Drum staff and the students participated in Planet Drum projects, learned about Bioregionalism and studied Bahia’s bioregion. 

Along with field-trips and class discussions, the group got their hands dirty by assisting Planet Drum with field projects.  Students learned about the greenhouse and the revegetation process by visiting and working at several sites where we have planted trees.

University of Oregon students stop to pose in front of a Planet Drum mural in downtown Bahia. Photo by Gerardo Sandoval
UO students hiking around the Chirije archeological site and nature reserve.  Photo by Thomas Weaver
Rachel Sykes at Chirije with rolling Dry Tropical Forest landscape behind her. Photo by Thomas Weaver
Hiking through Chirije. Photo by Angela Biancone
Angela Biancone, Rachel Sykes, Emma Newman, and Erin Jacobson pose with Clay during the Chirije excursion. Photo by Gerardo Sandoval
Tour Guide Carlos talks to Emma and Erin on the beach at Chirije.
Carlos explains how the indigenous people made large water reservoirs in the ground to collect water during the rainy season to last through the dry season.
The museum at Chirije is literally at the archeological site where the pieces were found.  Photo by Angela Biancone
View of downtown Bahia and the surrounding hillsides where Planet Drum has been planting trees for the past ten years.  Photo by Thomas Weaver
The UO students take the Isla Corazon mangrove tour.
Visiting one of the largest nesting colonies of Great Frigate birds  in the world.
The class also visited nearby permaculture and organic farm Rio Muchacho. Co-founder Dario Proaño explains permaculture techniques at the elementary school that is run by the organization.  Photo by Gerardo Sandoval
UO students help pick apart cacao beans to make chocolate at Rio Muchacho.  Photo by Thomas Weaver
The group poses for a photo beneath an enormous strangler fig tree at Rio Muchacho.
Ceviche for lunch at the beach of Punta Gorda nature reserve.  Photo by Angela Biancone
Adam Tirella, Amelia Botteron, Matt Huber, and Rachel Sykes hanging out at Punta Gorda. Photo by Angela Biancone

At the greenhouse they helped turn compost, mix soil, cut bottles, transplant hundreds of trees, water and weed. Out in the field, they macheted clear trails and trees at the revegetation sites. They also helped water three of the four sites from this past year. I would estimate that during seven days of working with Planet Drum, the group completed between one and two months’ worth of work due to their high levels of motivation and the sheer number of students.

UO students help fill bottles for transplanting trees at the Planet Drum greenhouse.
UO students transplanting trees.  Photo by Gerardo Sandoval
Mike Vincent transplanting Chirimoyas.  Photo by Gerardo Sandoval
Angela Biancone carrying water for the trees at the Universidad Catolica revegetation site.  Photo by Gerardo Sandoval
Planet Drum volunteers help to mix soil.
Professor Gerardo Sandoval talks with Amelia while Thomas Weaver, Erin, Matt, and Haley Smith transplant trees.
Steven Richter and Matt help turn a huge pile of compost.
More bottle filling at the greenhouse.  Photo by Gerardo Sandoval

The course was a big success and all of the students had a fantastic time. Plans are already being put into place for another course next year and we are exploring possibilities for expanding to other universities to participate.

The University of Oregon group visits Bahia’s waste water treatment facility. Photo by Gerardo Sandoval
Professor Gerardo soaks in the view from up on the hill overlooking the ocean in the Bellavista community. Photo by Thomas Weaver

Since the student group left, normal volunteer work has resumed. We continue to water sites, repair the greenhouse, and prepare more materials for transplanting trees. We are currently in the process of organizing two (or more?) different groups of adolescents who will visit the greenhouse and help us transplant seedlings. In preparation, we are collecting bottles, cutting them, and mixing soil. Hopefully this trend can be sustained—groups of students, locals, and others visiting the greenhouse and help transplant. That way, we will be able to increase production at the greenhouse from its current level of approximately 4-5,000 trees annually.

Adele, Orlando, and Zechariah collect three-liter plastic bottles from at Bahia’s garbage separation facility.

There has been a significant increase in requests for trees from local communities, organizations, and institutions, and the current goal is to match these requests with increased greenhouse production and to lead revegetation workshops when  distributing the trees to teach local residents revegetation (and bioregional) practices.

Planet Drum’s first official intern, Hari Khalsa (one of the students who participated in the UO study-abroad program), is working hard on a ‘Dry Tropical Forest Revegetation Manual’ which will be an easily accessible instruction manual for how to revegetate Dry Tropical Forests with native species. The guide will explain how to make a low cost greenhouse, compost, collect and propagate seeds, select sites and plant trees. It will also contain useful information about bioregionalism that is directly applicable to communities and the region. Our plan is to create more strategic alliances with other ecologically minded people/organizations and assist them and the environment by helping revegetate the Dry Tropical Forest and spreading Planet Drum’s bioregional vision at the same time. The Revegetation Project is evolving to another level of productivity and it is exciting to see.

Planet Drum’s first official intern, Hari Khalsa, will spend three months working on everything from the Revegetation Project, to volunteer coordinating, and community outreach. This is Hari at the Chirije lodge. Photo by Thomas Weaver

Hari is also helping to create three new internship positions: volunteer coordinator, bioregional community outreach leader, and field researcher. Keep an eye out for more information about these positions.

Maestro Chi-chi fixes old floor boards as part of a major fixing up of the Planet Drum Apartment.

In the upcoming months we will be working hard to wrap up the greenhouse reconstruction, plant more seeds, transplant seedlings, and also begin preparations on new revegetation sites. The volunteer situation, which has been a little slow over the past few months, appears to be picking up and even though the house is filling up, we are always looking for more willing hands. If you’d like to participate in the projects, please visit http://www.planetdrum.org/volunteerbahia.htm 

Pásalo bien,

UO students took a weekend excursion to Puerto Lopez and got to go whale watching and visit the Machalilla National Park. Photo by Hari Khalsa
Dolphins off the coast of Puerto Lopez. Photo by Emma Newman
The view at Los Frailes beach, part of the Machalilla National Park. White markings on the cliffs are actually guano patches from colonies of Blue-footed Boobies. Photo by Emma Newman

Pásalo bien,

Field Report #6

Clay Plager-Unger
Planet Drum Foundation
November 2012 – January 2013

Field Report

There have been a number of developments related to the Planet Drum projects here in Bahía in the past few months. In November, we received a visit from Judy, Planet Drum Director, her daughter Ocean, and grandchildren Florence and Stellie. While they were here, Bahía unveiled a plaque honoring Peter Berg and the work that he was done here with Planet Drum. There was also a beautiful ceremony where the Mayor and Patricio Tamariz spoke about the impact that Peter created by working for so many years in Bahia. It was a moving morning where the fruits of Peter’s labor were celebrated by the city of Bahia. The plaque has been installed at the entrance of city hall and was unveiled by his daughter and grandchildren.

Judy receives a memorial plaque and flowers from Dr. Carlos Mendoza, Bahia’s mayor.
Judy gives a speech and Clay translates.
The audience for Peter’s memorial ceremony.
From left to right: Florence, Stellie, Ocean, Judy, Carlos Mendoza, Patricio, and Clay in front of the plaque dedicated to Peter.
Close-Up of the plaque.
Patricio gives a speech while a slideshow of Planet Drum photos rolls in the background.

Also in November, Orlando’s daughter, Nicole, who was a Planet Drum Bioregionalista, was chosen to be profiled for a national television program that follows young Ecuadorians lives and their interests. Nicole decided that she wanted to shoot a segment for the program at the greenhouse, so we spent an afternoon there rehearsing lines and filming parts of the greenhouse work that Nicole found most interesting.

Nicole films a segment for an Ecuadorian television program at the greenhouse.

In the office, a second Rufford Small Grants Foundation donation will help us advance the Revegetation Project. We’ve committed to producing at least 8,000 native trees in the greenhouse for 2013 and will be working more directly with regional communities, organizations, and international groups. PD’s goal is to become the headquarters for Dry Tropical Forest revegetation in the province.

A friend from San Clemente takes a truckload of trees to plant with local residents and school kids.

A  Revegetation Manual has been created with extensive help from Hari Khalsa, an intern during the Fall 2012. The Manual has 24 pages, is in English and Spanish and has numerous illustrations. It explains in detail the entire revegetation process, from seed collecting, to greenhouse construction, to site selection, planting and maintenance. It also provides an introduction to bioregional perspectives, including examples of sustainable, local business ideas and practical methods to put bioregional theories into practice. We will be able to include copies of the Revegetation Manual with the trees we distribute thanks to support from the Rufford. Digital copies will also be available on the website. As much as possible, we will accompany tree distribution with workshops about tree planting, bioregional ideas, and revegetation techniques.  2013 looks to be an exciting year for Planet Drum’s Revegetation Project!

Hari works on a mural, which was one of the many projects she undertook while interning with Planet Drum.
The brand new Revegetation Manual.

In field work, volunteers were watering and maintaining revegetation sites from last year as the dry season gave way to the rainy season in early January. Also, there has been lots of work at the greenhouse to keep tree production up. Bottles were collected and cut. Seeds were collected and prepared. We have a huge collection of Tamarind seeds, which is always a very popular tree. We are also gathering a large collection of Guachapeli seeds, which has a fantastic survival rate. Orlando says that this year lots of people are asking for Algarrobo trees, so we will have to boost production at the greenhouse.

Planet Drum remove Guachapeli seeds from their shells for storage.
Trees at the greenhouse.

As the seasons change, so does our work schedule. We no longer have to water  in the field and can focus energy on the greenhouse and planting trees in the field. Planet Drum donated a large number of trees to the Global Student Embassy (GSE) group which is headed this year by long time Planet Drum partner Ramon and his GSE counterpart, Lucas. They are leading a tree-planting campaign on Ramon’s family land at Punta Gorda. 

GSE students help out for a morning at the greenhouse. Here they prepare Guachapeli seeds.
GSE students cutting bottles at the greenhouse.
Ricky and two GSE students fill bottles with soil for transplanting trees.

Planet Drum accompanied GSE on one of their tree planting work days. We helped make trails, dig holes and plant trees in the heart of Dry Tropical Forest. Since GSE was unable to plant all of the trees that were delivered to the site, Planet Drum will be paying them a second visit to ensure that the trees are properly planted there.

Wyeth from GSE explains to a group of students the differences of some of the Planet Drum trees that they will plant at Punta Gorda Nature Reserve.
Planet Drum spends a morning assisting with GSE tree planting at Punta Gorda.

As is typically the case, the rains began in early January. They have been light rains, mostly in during the night, with an occasional drizzly day here and there. We’ve yet to have a hard rain yet, which is actually a good thing, since the lighter rains allow for better penetration into the soil. On cue, Guayacan trees have flowered with their beautiful yellow flowers, Ceibo trees are sprouting bright green leaves, and the red flowers of the Acacia tree have come out. Everywhere, patches of brown are turning into green.

A view of the inside of the greenhouse.

Community members from Bellavista and acquaintances of Planet Drum have been requesting trees from Orlando, who has been distributing them as necessary. Now that we have the Revegetation Manuals, we will schedule tree-planting workshops in the areas that will receive trees.

It’s an exciting time of year and we have a solid group of volunteers who are helping enormously with the Revegetation Project. The greenhouse is in spectacular shape and we are excited to be distributing trees to the region.

Pásalo bien,

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