«We don’t need to clear the 4 to 6 percent of the Earth’s surface remaining in tropical rain forests, with most of the animal and plant species living there.»
Volunteers and Researchers:
We said goodbye to our group of volunteers Emillee Hernandez (Canada), Alexie Rudman (USA), Nainika Lamba (India) all studying at McGill University in Montreal Quebec. Here is their explanation of what they accomplished and the experiences they had!
«We are a group of independent researchers from Borderless World Volunteers, a Canadian non-governmental organization founded by McGill University in 2003. The organization focuses on empowering students to implement sustainable development projects with grassroots NGOs from around the world. Every academic year, money is fundraised for trips lasting from six to eight weeks in the summer. The students are divided into focus groups ranging from education to health; from disability to women empowerment.
This summer, Alexie, Emillee and Nainika make up the environment group. We all hail from different countries: Alexie Rudman is from Rhode Island, USA and is a recent graduate of McGill with a major in international development and a minor in environment; Emillee Hernandez comes from a small town in Ontario, Canada and is currently entering her third year in environmental studies; and Nainika Lamba is from Deli and Bombay, India, entering her third year in accounting and information systems.
This July we were very fortunate to have worked with Cloudbridge Nature Reserve, an organization passionate about environmental conservation, education and protection. We have seen for ourselves the outstanding reforestation projects they have achieved; thats is, converting abandoned pasture land back to the species-rich forest it once used to be. When we were not working on planning and implementing our projects, we had the opportunity to plant and maintain trees. By walking the trails with a machete in one hand and a bag of saplings in another, we encountered forests that were grown and primed for full regeneration, thanks to the reserve’s efforts.
As for our projects, we implemented two: a socio-environmental survey and a salsa project.
The purpose of this survey was to investigate a variety of environmental topics and their impact on the local community of San Gerardo de Rivas. This research was also used to follow up on surveys conducted by previous Cloudbridge researchers years ago. We asked questions regarding the town’s perception of conservation of the environment, nature reserves, recycling, foreign land ownership, the future of ecotourism, and environmental policies. Although our sample size was small, we collected quite interesting data that may be useful for the reserve itself, future researchers, governmental bodies and local organizations. Of these findings, one the most significant topics was not even questioned in the survey. Many locals had major concerns about the increase in drug activity and delinquency, its potential cause being the improved accessibility into town due to the influx of tourists. Another major finding was the community’s perception on the most severe environmental problems. We presumed there would be a heightened concern for deforestation but most locals ranked waste to be the most problematic. We discovered that there had not been a garbage pick-up for six months because the closest dump in San Isidro had been closed down due to the rapid expansion of the city. These findings and more are imperative for governmental bodies and local organizations to take note of and solve. This data will be published for the public in the near future through Cloudbridge’s Research Library.
Salsa Project: «Salstenible»
When we began communication with Tom Gode, manager and project director of Cloudbridge, he provided us many ideas for a project to implement: from the creation of a medicinal plant garden to the documentation of edible flora in the cloud forest. But one idea stood out the most—the implementation of a conserve-making business in which local woman would gain additional income by selling salsas. Tom noticed that the local tiendas only sold imported salsas and that there was no such business for locally made salsas—a commodity that would surely attract the tourists that pass through town. Moreover, he took note of the amount of wasted tomatoes that were deemed unsellable due to their imperfections or overripe quality. Thus, a business using these tomatoes would reduce agricultural waste while at the same time aid local women in generating extra income. In San Gerardo de Rivas, women mostly adopt the role of the full-time housewife and do not generally become involved with business initiatives such as this. We have been told that any idea related to monetary profit has been quite appealing for the community. From this basis, we knew that the salsa project had a high degree of potential.
When we arrived, our idea for a salsa market did not go exactly as planned as women were more interested in the concept of conserve-making as opposed to a full business start-up. Moreover, we were unable to find affordable jars to contain our salsas that were within the project budget. As a result, we were able to amass a few recycled jars from the local recycling center thus giving our project title, «Salstenible», an even greater emphasis on sustainability. Not only did our idea entail the sustainable use of unsellable tomatoes, but it also used recycled jars that provided points towards San Gerardo’s Bandera Azul, a symbol of the community’s environmental projects and actions. Ultimately, our team was able to teach about a dozen local women the process of conserve-making through a workshop. It went quite well! Every woman left the workshop with at least one full, sealed jar of salsa as well as inspiration for the business idea we proposed. We left the nature reserve with kitchen utensils, project guidelines, and a business plan in hopes that a future local would be inspired to continue it when the interest for the salsa business resurfaces.
Our Borderless World Volunteers Environment team is so grateful to have conducted these two projects and work with Cloudbridge Nature Reserve. Without mentorship from Cloudbridge staff, fellow volunteers and community members of San Gerardo, none of these projects would have come into fruition. The reserve and its surrounding town has taught us many things about how to properly care for the environment. Things that we, up north, should contemplate more often. The natural environment is something that must not be taken for granted. It is initiatives and mindsets similar to that of the San Gerardo community that have the ability to mitigate environmental problems, and ensure healing to the planet we call home.»
To learn more about our experience at Cloudbridge, follow our blog:
To learn more about Borderless World Volunteers, visit the link:
Anna and Christian – England
«We volunteered at Cloudbridge for two months. During our time here we conducted a short research project into hummingbird feeding behaviour at a particular site on the reserve, as well as joining in on the volunteer day every week. We thoroughly enjoyed every moment of our time in the reserve. It is very beautiful, especially when the mist rolls into the valley giving the forest a magical feel. We woke up feeling lucky everyday! The birding is also incredible and we managed to spot and learn about quite a few species that we had not seen before.
Our research into hummingbird feeding behaviour was a wonderful opportunity for us because we are both wildlife enthusiasts, although our backgrounds are not in biological research. Observing hummingbirds was not a hardship at all, especially as we were also observing them in a stunning location! It was such an enjoyable part of our time on the reserve and will be remembered fondly for the rest of our lives.
The volunteer days were always fun, worthwhile and pretty tiring! There is such pleasure to be derived from planting trees and feeling like you are making a real contribution to the reforestation project at the reserve.
Overall, our experience has been phenomenal. The beautiful scenery, wildlife and lovely people make Cloudbridge a special place to spend time in. Thank you Cloudbridge!
Anna and Christian, from the UK»
Jon and Page from the US are on a year long travel adventure. They stopped at Cloudbridge for 1 month and helped out as volunteers. They did numerous tasks such as tree planting, gardening, working in the welcome centre, and helping with any other day to day work that came along.
Where Are They Now:
Its nice to here that some of our previous volunteers from earlier this year have managed to secure other research projects.
Andrea Tang has been accepted for a 3 month internship at the Alouatta Sanctuary rehabilitating and studying mantled howler monkeys on the Batipa peninsula in Panama
Ellie Tahkar accepted a job in Nicaragua working with Hawksbill sea turtles in the Padre Remos estuary.
Good luck to both of you girls. Hopefully all of these experiences will give you a good base towards a career in biology!
Climate Change Actions
Frank Spooner, the manager at Cloudbridge attended the Climate Reality Leadership training in Miami at the end of September. We now have 3 climate leaders at the reserve. Doing presentations and talking to visitors will hopefully help others gain some kind of understanding of this complicated issue and encourage others to take action.