Tropical forests everywhere are under threat, and here is a chance to restore what's been lost. While serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama (1999-2001), I had wonderful experiences working with indigenous groups, including the Wounaan of eastern Panama. In the 20 years since my service ended, large stretches of the tropical forest in Darién Province (above) have been cut, burned, and cleared--much like what is happening in the Amazon today. Unfortunately, these degraded areas will take decades or centuries to recover without human intervention (below).
Thankfully, Francisco Cabezón and his family are eager to restore whatever they can, and plan to replenish 50 hectares (123.5 acres) of deforested land in Darién Province with native trees. Francisco is a skilled artisan, who makes sustainable artworks from tagua seeds (a.k.a. vegetable ivory), in addition to serving as a church leader in the Wounaan Evangelical Christian community. Examples of Francisco's work appear below:
As you can see, Wounaan culture maintains a strong connection to nature, which is why it is essential to help indigenous communities restore their lands. There are no better environmental stewards than the people who have lived in these regions for millennia. In addition, Francisco's family has recently seen challenges; his father recently died in a bus accident, and he and his wife just welcomed a new child into the world (baby not pictured; he was just born, and his wife is still in the hospital). This project will help this family gain the strength that they need to realize their goals.
Funds for this campaign will support the Cabezón family's efforts to restore 50 hectares (123.5 acres) of deforested land, and replenish the lush forests that the Wounaan call home. Money will be invested in the local community, in order to pay the workers who will help clear non-native grasses, vines, and weeds so that new trees have a chance to grow. These workers will also plant the seedlings, which must be done by hand and rudimentary tools. As is the custom in Panama, helpers will also be provided with food that is cooked by local women and men (below). Some foodstuffs and planting materials will also need to be transported into the work area, with the attendant costs of shipping by boat (roads are inaccessible during the rainy season).
The Amazon crisis is currently catching everyone's attention, but we cannot forget about the environmental disasters that have come before. Reforesting Darién Province in Panama will help reverse climactic trends and serve as an important carbon sink, as well as help protect regional biodiversity. Due to its location between two continents, Panama has some of the world's highest levels of biodiversity, and this project will help ensure that it retains this recognition. Now is time to take action! Please contribute, and please share!
- George Eastburn
- Mark Eastburn