Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Seeds

Las Alturas de Cotón is an old logging/coffee village at the foot of the volcanic Talamanca mountains. The town is at 1300 meters, so the air is crip and cool at night. It is not a tourist town. You have to have permission to enter. It is owned by an Estadounidense (gringo). When my bus entered the last gate there were only three of us left on the bus: the bus driver, his girlfriend, and me.

The town is very strange. There are 140 people that live there, most of whom are indigenous. Their electricity comes from a gasoline powered generator that only gives power from 5pm till 9pm. The land is adjacent to the Parque Amistad which is the largest protected area in Central America. The land that the town sits on is the largest privately owned forest in Costa Rica. The owner, Addison Fischer, is trying to make the town as sustainable as possible. They have a large reforestation project, planting 60,000 trees a year. He strongly prohibits any minerals or vegetation leaving the town, so the economy of the town solely relies on his aid, paying the 140 workers every month. The town has the feel of a tropical kingdom from some time long passed. Like I said, this town is strange.

We were first introduced to the town by Kathrin Lindell, the avian ecologist, whom we helped with the Earthwatch expedition. We met Fernando, the caretaker, who then invited us to come back this week to learn how they collect their seeds for their reforestation project. Since Brendan has gone back to the US, I went alone.

While I was there, there happened to be a woman´s workshop on building cob (clay, sand, and hay) houses. The class was being taught by Becky Bee, whose book we ironically bought right before we moved down here. I felt slightly akward because they were trying to have a completely isolated womens workshop, and I felt that I kept intruding. But they were all very nice women who were very interested in our project. They invited me to dinner everynight, and it was nice to have some gringas to talk to.

Yesterday morning, I woke up early had coffee and breakfast, and headed out at 8 with my crew of reforesteros. There were 4 of us: Roberto, the driver; Clemente, the tree expert; Carlos, his assistant, and me. They are all very campesino, so it was a challenge to communicate with them. They asked me how to say bad words in English, but there favorite thing to say was ¨beans and rice¨, which for some reason cracked them up. The first seeds we collected were Dantos. I thought we would have to walk through jungle to find them, but they were all on the road. We collected "un pichaso de semillas" (a shitload of seeds). The seeds of the Dantos are like big grapes, they taste sweet. Danto is a tropical hardwood that grows at higher eleveations. Apparently the wood is worth alot. We also collected Nogales (Nicaraguan black walnut) and Marías (another valuable tree for lumber).

I felt very lucky to be able to go there. It really is an incredible place. And I am so excited that we finally have our first seeds (probably over 1000). We will begin germinating them in May and then they will be ready to plant in 6-10 months. We already have our first reforestation project. We are going to be working with the coffee cooperative here, Coope Pueblos, to recuperate the Rio Salto, one of the main rivers in Aguabuena. As soon as I got back, I had a meeting with Walter from Coope Pueblos and Roberto Jiménez. They were very excited. They truly appreciated our efforts to help. It almost brought a tear to their eyes when they started talking about the changes that are taking place in "la mente de la gente". They feel that one of the most important aspects of the project is changing the consiousness of the people.

More later, I gotta go

Paz y amor

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