On the morning of Friday June 2, the Azuero Earth Project kicked off their 2017 Watershed Restoration Program with a pre-reforestation event. Five of the seven participating landowners in the Los Santos region attended the event. The day’s agenda provided helpful information regarding plant and animal biodiversity, physical evidence of reforestation success, results of past programs, conversation space for program participants to talk with each other about their budding reforestation efforts, and Q&A about maintaining reforestation parcels in Azuero.
The program participants met the AEP staff for morning coffee and pastries at the Pedasi office, where they viewed a presentation on past reforestation efforts on the Azuero Peninsula, current national reforestation efforts, and toured AEP’s tree nursery. Before driving to an area of reforested land to witness the results in-person, this presentation established a solid foundation of understanding. Participants asked questions about topics ranging from the national Alliance for a Million Hectares, of which the Azuero Earth Project is a member, to specific tree species they found in the nursery, adjusting their reforestation plans to incorporate new and interesting species discovered at AEP.
After meeting at the office, the group reconvened at the nearby property of Vernon Scholey to tour his reforested lands. The tour was led through two distinct areas of land with different growth patterns. First, the group trekked up hills where horses grazed between young trees. Next, the program participants ventured down into an older plantation area, now thick with undergrowth, where the loud cries of monkeys could be heard from the trees.
Jairo Batista, AEP’s Organic Garden and Tree Nursery Coordinator, expertly outlined the changes resulting from reforestation and the accompanying regeneration of various plant species. The participants observed how native species can develop over time, witnessing how biodiversity adds to the value of a property. For the landowners, the tour of the planned land development kindled ideas and questions about the viability of implementation on their own properties.
Participants were able to voice their ideas, questions, and concerns in a meeting with Scholey, the landowner. Scholey has been dedicated to reforesting his land for many years, and was able to field questions and clarify processes for the interested participants. This question-and-answer session provided both a personal connection and informative resource for the prospective reforesters.
At the same meeting, participants shared their personal plans, reasons, and hopes for reforesting their land. Showing their commitment to the program and their engaged participation, these local landowners explained the species they hope to plant, the usefulness of new tree species on their farm, and their logistical concerns. Trees bearing edible fruit were particular favorites among the participants, and many expressed their wish to protect the environment and mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change and biodiversity by reforesting their land.
The event concluded with a lunch and permaculture tour at the nearby Eco Venao. The permaculture tour provided a look into the use of land to compost organic material and regrow native species for their productive capacity. Having observed the diverse benefits of reforestation and sustainable land management, the participants had much to consider as they returned home.
Friday’s event was a precursor to AEP’s exciting season of reforestation and regrowth that will plant around 5000 trees across Los Santos this rainy season. Hand in hand with collaborators such as current allies Prince Bernhard Nature Fund, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and American Forests, AEP continues to partner with community members who are interested in reforesting their land. If you would like to see more native fruit trees outside your window, are interested in sustainable land management, or are simply curious about compost, come visit AEP. Only you can make the decision to change the way we manage land on the peninsula. But never feel that you have to make that decision alone — AEP will help you take your next steps on your journey toward sustainable living!
Article and photos by Sarah Metzel