News for March, 2015


By Elliot Blumberg 25 March, 2015

Gathering wood to convert into biochar. We used three truckloads in all Unloading gives a better perspective at the amounts we were dealing with. James uses diesel and kerosene to get the ‘starter package’ ready. And we’re off! The pile took ~3-4 hours to burn all the way through. Even from a distance of 7-8 meters, the flames radiated heat too intense to stand. Fun fact: There is a way to produce biochar without releasing CO. Rob from Ceiba uses water to stop the biochar from breaking down further. All in all, we got about a cubic meter of biochar. A good day’s work!

March is the transition month from the dry to rainy seasons here in Panama. As it so happens, seasons are changing for Earth Train and her many partners and friends in the Mamoní Valley Preserve.

You may remember a post from last September outlining our strategy talks with Ceiba Forestry and Rainforest Capital for bolstering an ecologically-sustainable economy in the Mamoní Valley. If you don’t remember, feel free to read here.

Ceiba returned this month to further our joint vision for a Mamoní Valley Preserve that lives on the cutting edge of ecological restoration, biocultural renewal and socially positive enterprises. On this visit, we lit the match on biochar and got Ceiba’s nursery going with a cubic meter of the fertilizer-on-steroids.

It’s backbreaking work, from harvesting to loading and unloading the lumber; burning the industrial refrigerator-sized pile; shoveling, crushing and bagging the char; and all of this is compulsory before even mixing and burying the product for fertilization! Thankfully, James Rob, and Christian from the Ceiba crew successfully passed the torch to the local employees, who will be producing the black gold en masse to jumpstart the nursery, which is one exciting part of our collective vision for the MVP.

Oh how the second-hand trembles onward!

Ananda School Visit

By Elliot Blumberg 16 March, 2015

The group hike to the Guna Yala lookout. The girls’s hike to the Madroñito falls. Everyone plays in the water near a fallen tree. Look out below! Snapping photos of a peculiar seed pod. A beetle matches the patterns on one of our hiker’s shoes. The valley provides picturesque photos. We almost missed this walking stick bug! Nature’s spiral Planting in the garden. A couple of chaperones move a boulder to complete Ananda Falls. Ananda students and teachers working hard together to carve out a tier for relaxation. Moving the dirt from point A to point B. Mark and Giuseppe pose with a couple of the Ananda crew. Standing over their creation. (Special thanks to Mark even though he’s not in the photo!) A refreshing dip in the nearby waterfalls after a hard day’s work. Will insect jewelry be the next big thing? Drawing with elementary school students in San José. Kicking around the soccer ball. A San José student smiles as he gets a ‘tattoo’ from an Ananda visitor. A local poses for a shot of her face art. A raptor surveys its domain. Can you identify this bird?

There’s nothing more satisfying to an Earth Train staffer than the presence of well-rounded, respectful students within the thatched roofs of Centro Mamoní. We’re sad to see the spirited scholars of the Ananda Living Wisdom School fly back to their California community this week.

While they were here, the students experienced the draw of Panama City, trekked through the rainforest in the Mamoní Valley Preserve, visited multiple communities in the valley, and coasted out to visit Colón.

From the base of Centro Mamoní, the eight participating students and four chaperones went on three hikes and visited two communities. In San José, the Ananda crew presented gifts to the local students, kicked around a soccer ball, and painted. In La Zahina, everyone played with kayaks in the water. Of course, no visit to the MVP is complete without checking out Junglewood Falls, where the girls swam in the cascades and baked in the sun on the hot rocks.

Most importantly, the Ananda crew showed world-record work ethic. Thanks to their help, led by Earth Train’s own Mark Knetsch, Centro Mamoní’s recreation area looks better than ever. Soon we’ll have both a seating niche carved into the hill above the pool and a humble (but beautiful!) cascade flowing into the pool itself. She doesn’t look like much yet, but say hello to the newly christened Ananda Falls!

A big thanks to all the hard-working ladies of the Ananda Living Wisdom School; we hope to see you all (or maybe the boys) again.

OJEWP Comes to Centro Mamoní for a Workshop on Climate Change

By Kael Shipman 1 March, 2015

Earth Train was honored to receive a group of young leaders from the Organization of Emberá and Wounaan Youth of Panamá—OJEWP—for a climate change workshop developed in collaboration with our Leadership and Guide Program. Twenty indigenous youth plus five community leaders came to Centro Mamoní for a weekend intensive on climate change, its global and local significance, and how they can lead the way to changing behaviors through a rediscovery of their own cultures' traditional ways of managing and respecting natural resources.

As part of their workshop activities, participants interviewed a number of families in the rural Mamoní village of La Zahina. They then compiled their findings and presented to the rest of the group on such topics as the local economy, land and resource management, and the role of spirituality in daily life.

This workshop was funded in part by a grant from the Alstom Foundation, through Earth Train's Leadership and Guide Program. It also served as a gateway to the recruitment of more Leadership and Guide Fellows—outstanding young individuals who will be offered a spot in our program to receive training in community leadership through eco hospitality.

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