Tonight is the 59th meetup for Silicon Valley New Tech Meetup and we are very excited to be included in the lineup for the last meeting before SVNewTech turns five years old!
We would love it if you can make it out to Palo Alto to join us on Dec 7,2010 at 7pm. Details can be found here
If you can’t make it in person, we’re streaming it live starting at 7pm: Click here to watch us demonstrate the beta site to the SVNewTech attendees. It’s going to be super cool, Jim and Tamara are going to demonstrate the site and talk about ecoReserve.
We would love to get your feedback as well on the site, you can tweet about us, add your comments to the blog, or write on the Facebook wall.
Hope to see you tonight and receive comments and feedback from you.
We are very excited to be demonstrating our beta site to over 200 entrepreneurs, investors, bloggers and tech enthusiasts at Silicon Valley New Tech Meetup in Palo Alto.
ecoReserve to Present at Silicon Valley New Tech Meetup Dec 7, 2010
Silicon Valley New Tech Meetup has been running for over 4 years and has almost 6,000 members. It is a strong active group of web entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts. Every month there is a new line-up of hot companies.
We feel quite privileged to be selected as one of the hot companies presenting that night. We will be unveiling micro-conservation, the website that allows individuals to adopt their own piece of the rainforest and perhaps have someone adopt a reserve live that night. It’s really easy to do.
If you can’t make it you can watch it live as there will be a video and live stream of the event.
You can learn about ecoReserve, the online funding platform for conservation and be a part of the grassroots micro-conservation movement.
Colin is scheduled to speak about ecoReseserve at 5:09 pm Pacific Time. For more information about this independent TED event, you can go to the event site, where there is a full schedule of speakers. In addition, you can also purchase tickets to the afterparty, featuring Ozomatli, an exciting cross-cultural band from LA.
Mamoni Arriba was celebrating national holidays on November 3rd, which is the day when Panama separated from Colombia. The teacher, Denia Espinoza, organized a wonderful event where all the students got the opportunity to share poems and songs with their families and neighbors.
The only school located in Mamoni Arriba has 21 students that range from 1st to 6th grade. The teacher teaches all the different levels at the same time within the same classroom. If students want to attend Junior High they have to move from Mamoni Arriba.
The games started following the students performance. One traditional game that is commonly played during the national holidays is the “palo encebado”. This game requires a long tree stem. The bark from the stem is removed and then bathed in oil, water with soap, or some substance that makes it slippery. The stem is placed vertically attached to the ground and at the top of the stick is the price. To get to the price team members have to climb up the stem, by climbing over each other. The team that reaches the price first, wins!
We’re excited and honored to have been selected to present at TEDxSF for the ”The Edge of What We Know” event on Nov 16, 2010 at California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.
TED is a small nonprofit dedicated to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. TED believes in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and the world. They are building a clearing house that offers free knowledge and inspiration from some of the world’s most inpired thinkers and from a community of curious souls to engage with the ideas and each other
The theme for Nov 16th is very exciting and we are pleased to be included in the group of organizations that are pushing the edge right now and those ideas that are really “out there” that may change our world.
Colin Wiel, Founder & CEO of ecoReserve, will give a 3-minute talk. The event is sold out. Look for our video online afterward on the TED site!
On one of my visits to Mamoni Arriba, I met a woman named Siomara that is probably in her early 30’s. She asked me: “why is the volume of water in the Mamoni River less now then it was when I was a little girl?” Well, of course I did not know that the volume of the river was less now than before. This was only my second visit to Mamoni Arriba and I hadn’t learned much about the river. The first thing that occurred to me was the rain. I thought, “well, maybe it is raining less now than it did before”, but some of the local people seemed to disagree. Most people I know haven’t perceived any changes in the rainfall pattern. They did however, agree that the water volume of the Mamoni River is less now than twenty years ago. Although the rain subject should be investigated a little bit further, I started thinking about other alternatives for why this must be.
The Mamoni River
It occurred to me that I should focus of things that have changed in Mamoni Arriba. Well, it might be directly related to deforestation. As ecoReserve continues exploring the Mamoni Arriba area, it will be interesting to understand the historical and temporal patterns of deforestation and what drove them. Today, the most common land use practice in Mamoni Arriba is cattle ranching. Most ranchers from Mamoni Arriba that are my age (between 25-35 years old), belong to the second generation of immigrants that moved from the southern part of Panama into Mamoni Arriba. Once they arrived, they clear cut the land and burned it. Later, they planted exotic grass species to feed the cattle. I have to point out that this is an oversimplification of the immigration process but, in general terms this is what drove deforestation. One family in Mamoni Arriba today can have up to 140 cows. Each cow requires 1 hectare of land to graze. I don’t know how much the landscape has changed in the past twenty years, but my guess is that it has changed a lot.
Typical view outside the Mamoni Arriba reserve
The fact is that without trees, water can’t be storaged on the ground. Consequently, the water springs that typically form inside the forest are lost. I have been able to find many water springs during my hikes. I suspect we could find hundreds of them that eventually flow into streams that end up in the Mamoni River. One tree in the forest is so much more than a trunk with leaves. It is a living organism that storage water on the ground by providing space between its roots and the soil; its leaves provide shade that contains the humidity on the ground. In addition, when the ground water encounters a rock, it is forced out and filtered by the soil so that it is released unto the surface clean and sweet. When trees are lost, all of its effects go with them and the ground becomes dry.
I think Siomara’s question is interesting and we should look more into it. Either way, one of the most immediate impacts of ecoReserve in Mamoni Arriba is that we are protecting a significant number of water springs and streams that are used by the local people. To me, one of the most fascinating events during my visits was when I drank water directly from a stream. This simple act is something that I hope future generations will still be able to enjoy.
I will tease you with some anecdotes so that eventually you will have to come to Mamoni Arriba to make your own stories!
The man standing to the left of the Corotu tree (Enterolobium cyclocarpum) is of course, Arsenio. This photo was taken on Arsenio’s farm. The Corotu is a massive tree that farmers allow to grow on their farms because cattle love to eat its fruits. I particularly love to find this tree in the forest because like many legumes, it has tiny leaflets that allow sparks of sunlight to penetrate through the forest canopy.
On the photo below are some of Arsenio’s cows. It might seem odd that I am posting photos of cows on a website dedicated to forest conservation, but cows are an important part of the culture in Mamoni Arriba. Many people in the area are in the cattle business. They rear the calves and sell the cows in Chepo which is a town 2 hours from Mamoni Arriba.
The women in Mamoni Arriba make hats with fibers that are extracted from a local plant that is commonly known as Junco. This species grows along rivers like the Mamoni River. They collect the shoots from the Junco plant, dry it and extract the fiber to weave the hats.
For women it is very important to have a garden surrounding their houses. Florinda, Arsenio’s mom, has an extraordinary collection of orchids. Orchids are an epiphytic plant, which means that they live on top of other plants without hurting their host. Florinda also has terrestrial garden flowers including Hibiscus, Ixora, Roses, and Impatiens.
Before leaving, Arsenio offered some coconut water or “agua de pipa”. The coconut water is the clear liquid inside the young coconut fruit. It is sweet and refreshing. You must not be afraid of heights to collect the coconut fruit. You must also be skillful with the machete to remove the outer green husk.
I rode a horse for the first time in my life last Monday. I did not plan to go up the mountain on horseback, but as soon as I entered Mamoni Arriba I found Arsenio waiting for me with two horses. The name of my horse was Ardillo which in English means male squirrel. According to Arsenio, Ardillo looks like a white squirrel that he often sees in Mamoni Arriba. I don’t know if what he said was true but now I want to see that little squirrel. Arsenio told me to hop on the horse and I was very frightful. I asked him to give me a brief course on horseback riding so he said, “ride with confidence and a real horseback rider is the one that has fallen off a horse at least once.” I thought “Yikes!”
We started the trail where the Mamoni river meets the Espave stream. My goal was to make it to the lands of ecoReserve and to survey some of the plots for restoration. The trail was half an hour on horseback and half an hour by foot hiking on steep slopes. To reach the ecoReserve lands we had to cross several farms that are predominantly used for cattle ranching. Since it was early in the morning we stomped upon a herd of cows that were just returning from the milking parlor. I tried to count the number of cows but I stopped at twenty-five. There were many more.
Cattle’s ranching is the most common land use practice in the area of Mamoni Arriba. This land use practice has a high cultural value in many areas of the country. Cattle’s ranching is a problem because ecologically it is unsustainable since it requires direct forest clearing, introduction of exotic grasses for feeds, and deterioration of the soil. Ranching is not restricted to cattle since much of the pasture land in Mamoni Arriba is used to feed horses. Ranching is an unsustainable practice because farmers directly rely on expanding there land to increase the size of their herds. However, land is not infinite and eventually ranchers ran out of land and they go in debt among other issues. In ecoReserve we are working to restore some lands that have been directly impacted by cattle. We are also working on understanding the culture of Mamoni Arriba so that we can create alternatives to replace these forms of land use.
Arsenio and I made it to the ecoReserve land. Specifically, we made it to the spot where we want to start restoring. The spot was exactly on the ridge of the mountain. The view was amazing from this spot since it is surrounded by mountains fully covered with forest on one side and on the other side, the valley. The restoration spot gave me a lot to think about. I did my MS in restoration ecology so I was trying to bring together all the concepts I had used in the past to understand the terrain and the potential for its recovery. I became disturbed by the abundant grass “paja canalera” or wild sugar cane (Saccharum spontaneum). The “paja canalera” is a 3m tall exotic grass that was introduced by the Americans into Panama to control erosion along the Panama Canal watershed. As exotic species tend to do, it quickly became an invasive species that has spread all throughout the country. This grass is the enemy of all who try to use the land it has colonized including restoration ecologists and cattle ranchers. Yes, I was disturbed! Arsenio on the other hand was very calm.
We decided to start walking down our ridge to be restored, and into the Espave river when we heard a bird calling. The bird was a Chestnut-mandible toucan (Ramphasto swainsonii) or “Dios te dé” which means God give you. It was difficult to get close to it without scaring it away. At one point it flew straight into a Cecropia sp. tree and we got closer to it. Arsenio said to me that this was an important ridge for this particular bird species because they tend to stop here as they move from one side of the forest to another side of the forest. He also mentioned that the birds were very cautious when they passed through here because of all the dangers including predators and hunters. I thought then, “This is exactly why we should restore this ridge”.
We made it down to the Espave river where I got some waypoints with my GPS. The river was very cold and the water crystal clear. Arsenio found a spot along the river that was at least 3 m deep. It was outstanding! Arsenio directed me towards a place along the river with flat ground that we could potentially use to construct the nursery for restoration. Before I could make it, I was striken by the sight of a small frog that I had only seen in photos. When I saw this little frog I wanted to cry because it really was one of the most beautiful creatures I have ever seen. The frog is called a glass frog (Centrolene sp) because you can see their organs through their abdomen. I guess Arsenio realized I was not walking with him because he came back wondering what was wrong. I showed to him the frog and he helped me make a video. The sighting of the glass frog really made my day!
After finding the flat terrain along the river we began our hike back. For a while Arsenio was joking saying that he couldn’t find the horses. Finally, we found them and began a 2 hour horseback ride to meet his family. When I arrived they gave me a very warm welcome with delicious food. In the end, I did not fall down from the horse. I am not looking forward to becoming a real horseback rider.