Sunday, December 8, 2013

Black Coffee and Bosques

Taking a little walk around campus at lunch

There is nothing like waking up in Costa Rica. The sun rises shortly after 5am, I cannot for the life of me sleep in past 8 and whenever I walk out the door in the morning I get a boost of energy. The sunshine is warm on my face, the breeze fresh on my skin, and with sounds of the beautiful birds singing I can't help but to smile. As I make my way down to the centre of campus I turn around. Is the volcano showing its' face today? Often it is lost behind the clouds, and the first time I saw the volcano's peak, I was slightly alarmed and fascinated that it was smoking! Although I have learned it is completely normal that is releases gases. 

The Turrialba volcano on my way to work
The cool air engulfs me as I enter the Wallace building. I was a bit nervous on my first day, what if I don't understand them? What if they don't understand me? What if I am not the right person for the job? My nervousness quickly dissipated as I was warmly welcomed by the other Cuso volunteers, introduced to many people in the building and shown to my office. Within an hour I had been asked several times if I drink coffee, a simple "si" seemed easier than explaining that I prefer tea, but I sometimes drink coffee in the afternoon. I learned that 9am was the office coffee time and they drink their coffee black, so there I was, drinking black coffee and conversing in my broken spanish. Two weeks later, I must confess I am slightly addicted to the stuff. 

I have been spending my time getting to know CATIE itself, the work that it does, as well as the current needs and priorities of the Model Forest. I think my work here will be very rewarding and a rich professional experience. I have already attended two meetings and done a field visit. What I have pieced together from these meetings, as well as the piles of books I have been wading through, is that there are three current priorities for Bosque Modelo Reventazon (ABOMORE).

1. Increase local and regional visibility of ABOMORE
This is the fun part! I am hoping to create a quarterly newsletter, as well use other media sources to improve the visibility of ABOMORE in the region and in the International Network. 

Click below to view a video that does an excellent job explaining the value of Model Forests and how ABOMORE has facilitated cooperative land management in the region. 
 VIDEO Collaborative Land Management in the Bosque Modelo Reventazon

My office!

2. Catalyze & coordinate the Corredor Biologico Volcanica Central Talamanca (CBVCT) 
I am still a bit fuzzy on how I will feed into this process, but the meeting I attended with this group was very interesting. Essentially the CBVCT is working in the region (the area in grey) to increase the connectivity between two national protected areas. This central region is home to 169 mammal species and 889 species of vertebrates. The northern zone is of particular importance for the entire Central American region, as it is critical to the breeding of the jaguar. The difficulty they are having is participation, some members are very active, others, not at all. So it sounds like my job will be herding cats in the right direction. 

Map of the Central-Talamanca Volcano Biological Corridor 

3. Continue to facilitate and support activities of the Consejo Forestal (Local Forest Council)
 ABOMORE has been a big proponent behind this group. It is somehow linked with the Ministry of Conservation (yes! Costa Rica has a national ministry of conservation! I feel like there is so much Canada could learn from here). But essentially this group's work compliments that of the Biological Corredor (I think), as they work to improve forest cover in the region and work closely with small-land owners and agricultural producers. The challenge here is capacity and a local market for wood. It is essentially an agro-forestry project. If there was a market for wood products and a way that these small-land owners could organize themselves to make it profitable to selectively harvest trees, then it would promote tree planting and thus increased forest cover in the region. I think that the Eastern Ontario Model Forest's certification program could be a very useful example for this project. Scott, I may be bothering you soon! 

The last part of my job is to stay in the loop with the Ibero-American Model Forest Network (RIABM). They are very eager to build a closer relationship with the Canadian Model Forests and find ways to increase knowledge transfer. Already I can see that there are several similarities between the Canadian Model Forest Network (CMFN) and the RIABM with regards to projects and governance challenges and questions. 

Next week I will be attending a conflict resolution course, which should be very interesting, Wednesday being a field day where we will discuss a contentious hydro-electric dam proposal in the area.

   Many more stories to come! Posts about Christmas and Food to come in the next couple of weeks!
Friday was the post-graduate Phd Graduation

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