2017 a fruitful year has concluded. The association of communities in water conservation (Liga CUENCA for its acronym in Spanish) met to celebrate the end of the year. A series of bonding activities, a reflection video, a farewell of Nectandra Institute's administrator Luis Villa and introduction of Pablo Richard, and last, an excellent dinner were part of the “Liga's” event last December 13th, 2017. Liga CUENCA unites communities' water management associations in the upper Balsa River watershed to among others, promote the protection and conservation of the water resources for current and future generations, through education and Communities Water Management Associations strengthening.
A successful tree measurement photo monitoring of Ocotea's farm property of Asociación Fuente Administradora de los Mantos Acuíferos del Cantón de Alfaro Ruiz (AFAMAAR) Zarcero's Water Springs Administration Asociation, one of Nectandra Institute's partners and beneficiary of the Eco Loan program.
The rainy season started its ending process here at the occidental region of Costa Rica's Central Valley, Zarcero, San Ramón and Naranjo among others towns. As part of the ecological interest that the community water management associations compensates Nectandra Institute for the Eco Loans provided, this month was not the exception and several community members of several properties under forest regeneration process conducted forest monitoring activities. Pueblo Nuevo, La Palmita, Laguna and Palmira are only some of the numerous communities that partnered with Nectandra Institute to pursuit Cloud Forest Conservation and assuring sufficient and high quality water to these communities.
Some of our interns, Guillermo and Theresa, finished their great work with Nectandra Institute, both were courageous and hardworking team members, special thanks to them, Nectandra Institute will always be grateful with you.
A presentation on “Finca Sembrando Agua” (water growing farm) took place at Naranjo's Liceo Experimental Bilingüe by FEDAPRO (Federación de Acueductos de la Zona Protectora el Chayote) along with Nectandra Institute. Finca Sembrando Agua is one of the many examples of a water management community, known as ASADAS that purchased land with Nectandra Institute Eco Loans fund in order to protect and regenerate the forest near the water springs. Some students of this high school won a scholarship from EDUNAMICA, a local NGO that requires the students to do some work for the environment among others; in this case, the mentioned farm was subject of many improvements activities, including tree planting, conducted by these students. The enthusiasm was such, that non-scholarship beneficiary students signed in for future activities like these. Here is a drone footage video of the farm that flew over last May, 2017.
Now in its 10th edition, New Culture of Water Month is a multi-event, annual celebration created by Nectandra Institute in order to raise awareness for conservation of forests and protection of water resources. This is achieved through a series of educational, artistic, recreational, and cultural activities, including the inaugural celebration, the New Culture of Water Queen Pageant, featuring candidates wearing dresses made from recycled materials, and the CRECER competition, which tests the ecological knowledge of teams of students from several of the watershed's different grade schools in an academic decathlon-type format.
Using a drone, Nectandra Institute staff obtained aerial footage of Finca Tulio, a 24-acre property recently purchased by the community water management association of Las Brisas. Finca Tulio was one of the last “missing pieces of the puzzle” needed to bridge the gap between lands that are already protected. Soon, the vegetation will start to regenerate giving rise to an emerging forest, both naturally and with help from the local community. It was purchased with the purpose of increasing the forest that protect Las Brisas' source of drinking water. It is commendable to see this community's initiative and the efforts being made to preserve and ensure high quality water for current and future generations.
New Nectandra Institute volunteers from University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) are doing their internship with us. For three months, U.S. students Teresa and Andrew will assist us with our stream water quality monitoring project and also help document the progress of the emerging forest on eco-loan financed properties. During the past four and a half years, over 30 young volunteers, including 14 through USAC, have provided invaluable support in advancing the Institute's mission of cloud forest conservation through education, scientific research, and watershed stewardship.
Several of Nectandra Institute's community partners organized and carried out tree planting activities at their respective restoration lands this month. Our partners oftentimes recruit school children, company employees and other groups of people to participate in forest restoration efforts. This month's tree planting events were no exception, as a team of 70 representatives from Liga CUENCA and CoopeAlfaroRuiz helped plant over 250 trees on three different properties purchased by eco-loan recipients.
Using the Institute's new drone, staff obtained aerial footage of Finca Ocotea, a 250-acre property purchased in 2009 by a local non-profit conservation organization. It is the largest property to date acquired with eco-loan assistance. The drone's aerial photographs allowed us to get information on some of the land features, including a small area of previously unknown wetlands We shared the short video with the nonprofit organization during its annual general assembly and highlighted some of the more interesting drone footage.
NI staff worked together with members of the Pueblo Nuevo water association to map the trails on 150 acres of protected land acquired with an eco-loan. The trails are the primary access to springs that supply clean water to Pueblo Nuevo residents. NI provided GIS technology to create accurate maps of the paths. The Universidad Técnica Nacional will help install interpretive signage to prepare the trails for public education visits.
Our staff biologist prepared and placed several dozen experimental “seed bombs” in a difficult-to-restore area of the first property purchased with eco-loan. In this 27 acre large property, severe erosion and compacted soil in some places slow forest regrowth. Aggressive exotic grasses also inhibit native seeds germination. The seed bombs contain a mixture of 100-200 native tree species seeds embedded in adobe enriched with nutrients, then shaped into balls ten centimeters across. The balls are planted in the restoration plots with the expectation that viable seeds will germinate in enriched adobe designed to promote the growth of the emerging seedlings.
School children from the community of San Antonio de Barranca joined Nectandra Institute staff on a field trip to a protected property purchased by the town's water management association in 2011 with eco-loan financing. There are freshwater springs on the land that provides potable water for the people of San Antonio de Barranca. Previously a farmland, the property is now covered in shrubs on its way to being a forest again. The children learned about the forest's important role in protecting springs and rivers, and they were able to see firsthand where the water they use in their homes comes from.
Nectandra Institute and the water management association for Angeles Norte and Alto Villegas organized the year's first tree measuring outing. Almost 30 residents from these two communities volunteered for 4 hours, measuring trees planted on an 27-acre piece of land that the water association purchased almost ten years ago thanks to an eco-loan from Nectandra Institute. Of the sample of trees measured in 2014, 9% had grown beyond 3 meters in height. A year later, that number increased to 22%. And in 2016, 26% of the trees that were measured stood at least 3 meters in height. The results for 2017 are still being tabulated.
Megan O'Brien and Reaghan Murphy, students from the University of Louiville and the University of South Carolina respectively, began volunteering with Nectandra Institute. Our latest University Studies Abroad Consortium volunteers will work on the classification of the macroinvertebrate specimens collected during the first three months of the year from various locations along creeks and rivers in the upper Balsa River Watershed. Each stream sampling point will receive a water quality score based on the mix of insects found there. Reaghan and Megan will also assist with other projects, such as monitoring forest restoration progress on protected lands acquired by our community partners with eco-loan assistance.
Using GPS and GIS technology, staff members of the Nectandra Cloud Forest Garden and Institute worked together to create detailed visitor/maintainence trail maps of the reserve. Nectandra Cloud Forest is a key component of the Institute's education program, serving as a 158-hectare outdoor classroom for teaching young and older members of our partner communities, as well as the public in general, about the rare cloud forest ecosystems of the tropics and all their biological diversity and ecological importance.
Local youths volunteered once again to work alongside Nectandra Institute staff in the collection of aquatic macroinvertebrates in creek and rivers of the upper Balsa River Watershed. We have been monitoring these organisms twice a year since 2009 in over 20 stream locations. Some of these organisms are known to be tolerant to organic pollution, while others are not. Each stream sampling point is given a water quality score based on the mix of insects found there.
Students from Texas A&M University studying abroad in Costa Rica paid a visit to the Nectandra Cloud Forest Reserve. In recent years, Nectandra has seen an increase in visitation by groups from U.S. universities. The staff of both Nectandra Institute and Nectandra Reserve welcome the opportunity to teach visitors about the important reasons for tropical cloud forest conservation, including protection for biodiversity and for nature's provision of environmental services, such as clean drinking water to local communities.