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La Amistad Biosphere Reserve (RBA)

La Amistad Biosphere Reserve (RBA)

The ‘La Amistad Biosphere Reserve’ is a biological reserve shared by Costa Rica and Panama. The Costa Rican sector was added to the list of World Heritage sites in 1983 while the Panamanian sector was added in 1990. The site is also referred to as the Biological Corridor of Talamanc or Cordillera de Talamanca-La Amistad-Parque Nacional La Amistad.

The Parque Internacional La Amistad (PILA) was created by Resolution 21-88 of September 2, 1988. The area covers 207,000 hectares, one of the largest protected area in the world. It is located in the provinces of Bocas del Toro (97%) y Chiriquí (el restante 3 %) in the western section of the country. al occidente del país. The Parque Nacional Volcán Barú was created on July 24, 1976 with an area of 14,300 hectares. The Reserve also includes other protected areas and areas set aside for indigenous peoples.

The activities carried out in the Reserve seek economic and educations alternatives, the strengthening of bi-national coordination and the support for monitoring activities focused on the state of biological diversity.

The Panamanian sector is formed by the following management themes:

Protected Areas This consists in areas, land as well as ocean waters, in an area totalling 270,151 hectarues. These areas are :

Parque Nacional Volcán Barú (14,300 h)
Parque Internacional la Amistad (207,000 h)
Lagunas de Volcán, wetland, (143 h)
San San Pond Sak, wetland, (16,125 h)
Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos (13,226 h)
Reserva Forestal Fortuna (19,500 h)

There is a cushion in three of these areas for a total of 300,517h. There is a an unprotected section covering the rivers Chiriquí Viejo, Caldera, Los Valles and Fortuna to a height of 1200 meters.

Bosque Protector de Palo Seco
The area of the proposed reserved areas for the Naso y Bribri tribes

A transition zone refers to an area where practices are changing to be more protective of reserved areas to which they abut. These are 1. Province of Chiriquí: all the areas adjacent to cushioning zone to an altitude of 1000 meters. 2. Province of Bocas del Toro: areas adjacent to the BPPS to an altitude of 100 meters above sea level.

Since its creation the Parque International La Amistad has been under the control of the Panamanian government of Panama. The agency in charge is ANAM (Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente). The con servation objectives are:

1) Protect a significant sample of the biological diversity of one of the richest zones in terms of fauna and flora. All other remaining areas in Panama have already been significantly altered.

2) Protect the watersheds of the rivers Teribe y Changuinola, assuring stability and and characterists necessary to take advantage of its potential for hydroelectric generation, considered the best in the country.

3) Maintain a natural and stable environmental setting that assures social, cultural and economic development. Diminish the risk of flooding and guarantee the continuity of agro-industrial activities in the areas adjacent to the provinces of Chiriqui and Bocas del Toro.

4) Promote scientific investigation and the natural and cultural legacies of the areas.

5) Develop eco-tourism.

6) Encourage bi-nacional cooperation in protecting and managing natural resources.

The people living in these areas primarily earn their living from farming. Since 1930 farmers have greatly influenced the environment with the harvesting of trees, and the production of coffee, vegetables and cattle. These activities have stressed the now protected areas, causing the government create s Parque Nacional Volcán Barú y Parque Internacional La Amistad.

There are more than 12 zones of the region recognized by the Holdridge life zones system, including:

1) mountain rain forest 2) high humidity mountain forest 3) lower mountain rain forest 4) lower mountain high humidity forest 5) lower mountain humid forest, 6) pre-mountain rain forest 7) high humidity pre-mountain forest 8) high humidity tropical forest y 9) a life zone not indicated by Tosi (1971), but which has been recently confirmed by the literature, sub-alpine rainy moor.

The life zones of the highlands are located on the foothills and peaks of the Talamancan Corridor and Volcan Baru. The intermediate zones are found on both coasts. In the lower elevations there are life zones characteristic of lower elevations. In some cases the sequences does not adhere to this general description due to the precipiations, cloudinessw and wind direction.

The contribution of numerous scientists are based upon the location, environmental conditions and the varieties of species in a given area. In Panama there are 2 bio-regions, 7 eco-regions and three mangrove complexes that contain four types of mangroves.

Studies have indentified eight conservation objectives that target the most threatened by human intervention, as follows:

natural pastures, large mammals, high altitude cloud forests, oak groves and moors, forests that transition between cloud forests and lower elevation tropical forests, high altituide humid zones, endemic species, migratory species, and aquatic ecosystems.
La Reserva de la Biosfera La Amistad es un conjunto de áreas naturales protegidas compartida por Costa Rica y Panamá, el sector costarricense del parque fue inscrito en la Lista de Patrimonios de la Humanidad en 1983, y el sector panameño en 1990. Este Sitio Patrimonio de la Humanidad Transnacional es mencionado como Cordillera de Talamanca-La Amistad/ Parque Nacional La Amistad.

El Parque Internacional La Amistad (PILA) fue creado por la Resolución de Junta Directiva 21-88 del 2/9/88, con una extensión de 207,000 has, es una de las unidades de manejo más grandes del sistema de áreas protegidas. Está ubicado en la provincia de Bocas del Toro (cerca del 97%) y en Chiriquí (el restante 3 %) al occidente del país. En tanto el Parque Nacional Volcán Barú fue creado por decreto ley del 24 de julio 1976 con 14,300has.

También la zona de influencia, incluye otras áreas protegidas y las reservas indígenas. Las acciones que se llevan a cabo en este sitio prioritario se han venido realizando en coordinación con grupos de base con el fin de encontrar alternativas económicas y educativas, fortalecimiento de la coordinación binacional y apoyo a actividades de monitoreo sobre el estado de la biodiversidad en la región.

Esta reserva del lado panameño esta formado por las siguientes unidades de manejo.

Áreas Protegidas

Esto consiste en 6 áreas e incluye, áreas terrestres así como marinas. El total de extensión es de 270,151has.

Parque Nacional Volcán Barú (14,300has)
Parque Internacional la Amistad (207,000has)
Humedal de importancia internacional Lagunas de Volcán (143has)
Humedal de importancia internacional San San Pond Sak (16,125has)
Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos (13,226has)
Reserva Forestal Fortuna (19,500has)

La zona de amortiguamiento consiste en tres áreas con una extensión aproximada de 300,517has. La sección no protegida de las cuencas altas de los ríos Chiriquí Viejo, Caldera, Los Valles y Fortuna hasta una cota de 1200msnm.

Bosque Protector de Palo Seco
El área de las Propuestas comarcales Naso y Bribri

La zona de transición se refiere al área que se esta en un cambio de prácticas amigables a las áreas protegidas y compatibles con ellas. Y estas consisten de dos zonas. 1. Provincia de Chiriquí: todas las áreas adyacentes a la zona de Amortiguamiento (Zona de Vecindad) hasta una cota de 1000 msnm. 2. Provincia de Bocas del Toro: áreas adyacentes al BPPS hasta una cota de 100msnm.

Desde su creación el PILA ha estado bajo la responsabilidad de manejo del Estado de Panamá. De tal forma la Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente es la entidad encargada de velar por la conservación de este sitio. Los objetivos de conservación del PILA son los siguientes:

Proteger una muestra significativa de la diversidad biológica de una de las zonas más ricas en fauna y flora que aún permanecen poco alteradas en la República de Panamá.
Proteger las cuencas hidrográficas superiores de los ríos Teribe y Changuinola, asegurando su estabilidad y calidad hídrica para el aprovechamiento de su potencial hidroeléctrico, considerado el mayor del país.

Mantener un marco ambiental natural y estable que asegure el desarrollo socioeconómico y cultural de los pobladores aguas abajo, disminuyendo los riesgos de inundación y garantizando la continuidad de las actividades agroindustriales que se dan actualmente en las áreas aledañas de las provincias de Bocas del Toro y Chiriquí.

Promover la investigación científica y la investigación de la herencia natural y cultural existente en el área.

Aprovechar el potencial turístico del paisaje natural inalterado, así como de sus componentes biológicos.

Estrechar los lazos de amistad y aunar los esfuerzos binacionales en materia de protección y manejo de recursos naturales de los pueblos hermanos de Costa Rica y Panamá.

Las poblaciones aledañas al PILA son comunidades dedicadas principalmente a la producción agrícola, las cuales han influido grandemente al cambio de uso de suelo a partir de 1930 con la extracción madera, posteriormente con las prácticas agrícolas, con la producción de café, hortalizas, además de la ganadería. Estas actividades han ejercido presiones en las áreas naturales, por lo cual el Estado panameño crea los actuales parques nacionales Parque Nacional Volcán Barú y Parque Internacional La Amistad.

En la región hay nueve de las 12 zonas de vida reconocidas en el sistema de clasificación de Holdrige para Panamá: 1) bosque pluvial montano, 2) bosque muy húmedo montano, 3) bosque pluvial montano bajo, 4) bosque muy húmedo montano bajo, 5) bosque húmedo montano bajo, 6) bosque pluvial premontano, 7) bosque muy húmedo premontano , 8) bosque muy húmedo tropical y 9) bosque muy húmedo tropical y 10) una zona de vida no indicada en el trabajo de Tosi (1971), pero que ha sido recientemente confirmada por literatura, la de páramo pluvial subalpino.

Las zonas de vida de tierras altas están ubicadas en las cimas y estribaciones superiores de la cordillera de Talamanca y el macizo del Volcán Barú. Las zonas de vida intermedias se encuentran en ambas costas. En los sectores de menor altura, en el área regional se encuentran las zonas de vida características de tierras bajas. En algunos casos las secuencias de aparición de las zonas de vida no se apega a esta descripción general, debido al efecto de los patrones estacionales de: Precipitación, nubosidad y fuerza y dirección de los vientos.

Contribuciones de numerosos científicos y el cual se basa en: la localización geográfica, condiciones ambientales y composición de especies de las comunidades. En Panamá se identificaron 2 bioregiones, con 7 ecoregiones y 3 complejos de manglar los cuales contienen 4 unidades de manglares. De estas categorías en el área regional están presentes una bioregión y 3 ecoregiones, además de un complejo de manglar con una unidad de manglar.

Mediante estudios efectuados en el área se han identificado ocho objetos de conservación dado que estos son los más amenazados por las presiones humanas en la zona. Los objetos de conservación se presentan a continuación:

Pastizales naturales, mamíferos grandes, bosques nubosos de altura, robledales y páramos
bosques de transición entre bosque nuboso y los bosques tropicales de tierras bajas, humedales de altura, especies endémicas, especies migratorias altitudinales, ecosistemas acuáticos.

How your coffee purchase influences the environment

How coffee is produced has a powerful impact on the environment, and where coffee is often grown makes this an extremely important topic.

In the 1980’s producers starting clearing their fields because growing coffee in full sunlight produces a higher yield and does so faster. However, not only does this require deforestation, which diminishes habitat and reduces carbon requestration, it also requires increased use of pesticides and fertilizers. These products, such as Round-up, damage the environment and threaten the health of workers.

Agro-chemical run off is a problem that threatens the health of water supplies and the fish population. Because the fields are deforested and the chemicals strip the ground of vegetation, there is more soil erosion. Not only is the erosion itself a problem, which is often met by adding more fertilizer to the soil, but the run off reaches streams, rivers or the water tables. These waters are consumed by downstream inhabitants, be they human or animal. Agro-chemicals that reach coastal areas in the threaten fish and coastal mangrove and other flora. Because coffee is grown in 16 of the 34 environmental hotspots in the world (see Conservation International, our buying practices have a powerful environmental impact.

Buying shade grown organic coffee means paying more money, although if it were the predominant product prices would likely be lower than current levers for shade grown organic coffee. Until or unless this happens, consumers are likely to continue buying products that harm zones critical to the environmental health of the planet unless they understand the effects of their choice.

The following organizations campaign for shade grown coffee: The American Birding Association, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, National Arbor Day Foundation.
Coffee production requires significant water, which can be reduced using proper methods. According to New Scientist it takes 20,000 liters, about 5000 gallons, to make a kilo, or 2.2 pounds of coffee. If there is plenty of water in the area, then this is not a problem but this water is contaminated and has to be properly treated. ADATA member APRE is doing just that in its new coffee processing plant.
La producción de cafe tiene un fuerte impact ambiental. Porque se produce la mayor parte del cafe en areas fragiles, éste es un tema de mucha importancia, y como consumidores podemos mejorar el medioambiente.

En los años ochenta, los productores empezaron deforester sus fincas de cafe para crecer el cafe en el sol. Cafe crecido en el sol produce más cafe y por eso los productores podrían ganar mas.

In the 1980’s producers starting clearing their fields because growing coffee in full sunlight produces a higher yield and does so faster. However, not only does this require deforestation, which diminishes habitat and reduces carbon requestration, it also requires increased use of pesticides and fertilizers. These products, such as Round-up, damage the environment and threaten the health of workers.

Agro-chemical run off is a problem that threatens the health of water supplies and the fish population. Because the fields are deforested and the chemicals strip the ground of vegetation, there is more soil erosion. Not only is the erosion itself a problem, which is often met by adding more fertilizer to the soil, but the run off reaches streams, rivers or the water tables. These waters are consumed by downstream inhabitants, be they human or animal. Agro-chemicals that reach coastal areas in the threaten fish and coastal mangrove and other flora. Because coffee is grown in 16 of the 34 environmental hotspots in the world (see Conservation International, our buying practices have a powerful environmental impact.

Buying shade grown organic coffee means paying more money, although if it were the predominant product prices would likely be lower than current levers for shade grown organic coffee. Until or unless this happens, consumers are likely to continue buying products that harm zones critical to the environmental health of the planet unless they understand the effects of their choice.

The following organizations campaign for shade grown coffee: The American Birding Association, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, National Arbor Day Foundation.
Coffee production requires significant water, which can be reduced using proper methods. According to New Scientist it takes 20,000 liters, about 5000 gallons, to make a kilo, or 2.2 pounds of coffee. If there is plenty of water in the area, then this is not a problem but this water is contaminated and has to be properly treated. ADATA member APRE is doing just that in its new coffee processing plant.

Land dispute and water rights issue

May 8, 2010

Lito’s confrontation

One of the problems facing Panamanians is the lack of land deeds. Most plots have conveyed within families but these days more are being conveyed outside the familiy. Therefore precise plots are necessary and are often lacking. The lack of registration also applies to easements, and this factored into a confrontation just the other day.

Our village, like many, obtain drinking water from sources originating at a higher elevation to take advantage of gravity to produce water pressure. There are very few holding tanks filled with electric pumps, an excellent choice in a country where electricity supplies are too often interrupted. When visitors from the Biological Corridor, part of ANAM, the enviromental agency, came to visit the other day they wanted to see the water font. To get there they need ingress through the land of the Aguilar family.

The visitors were refused entrance. There was a document signed in the 1970’s allowing the water committee to use the land but apparently there was never an easement granted. Thus the owners have to be forced to allow any access to the property until an easment is granted. This could take some time, and if there are any broken pipes or other problems, Santa Clara’s water supply is at risk.

Apparently the conflict turned ugly. Lito is very civic minded and energetic and perhaps is not always diplomatic. He seemed very upset when he told all this to Peg.

The mayor supported the landowner, for reasons I could not understand. But ANAM apparently has lawyers who work on these sorts of problems.

My current projects

One main project is the importation of 200 refurbished computers into Panama. There are at least two non-profit organizations in the U.S. that accept donations and then ship to sites in the US and abroad. Both have worked with the Peace Corps before. Nephew Nic in fact worked with some of the computers one of the organizations sent to el Salvador. There are three of us working on the project together with our sector director. I investigated the organizations and wrote the proposal, which eventually became a one page proposal to several potential funders after the sector director worked it over. He did a very good job on his end.

Then another volunteer, who is an experienced fund raiser, will work on the proposal in greater detail and she and I will hash is out and present it to the sector director. A third volunteer will arrange whatever training we are going to provide to end users. This is a $25,000-30,000 project.

Here’s a bit of the proposal, which is still being developed:

“While rural Panamanians have increasing access to cellular technology, poverty greatly limits their access to computers. The Peace Corps proposes to help reduce the disparity between those who can take advantage of the benefits of the information age and those who cannot, by providing computers and training to the economically disadvantaged in third world countries.

While the Panamanian government has made scattered efforts to help youth enter the information age by providing computers and even satellite internet access in some schools, they do not support community groups. These are very important organizations in Panama, recognized by the national government and international organizations that fund projects in Panama.

Peace Corps has supported its declared computer initiative by importing computers to Latin American countries such as Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, as well as many other nations. Now, Peace Corps volunteers living in the most under-served small communities in Panama have the opportunity to do the same, by providing refurbished computers to groups in up to 200 communities, with beneficiaries numbering into the thousands. As important as providing computers, Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV’s) will train recipients in computer use.

Given the rapid progress of wireless technology in Panama, members of these groups may be able to afford access to the services the internet has made available. An additional important benefit will be overcoming the extremely limited postal service in Panama. Communicating via email will replace long bus trips and hand-delivery of paperwork.”

This wording may not end up in the final proposal but it gives you one view of the project. Peg greatly assisted in writing the proposal. We are on draft 6.

My second major project is helping Adata develop a web page. Adata is the network of environmental groups in the Tierras Altas of Chiriqui, Panama. You can see the pages now but the site is not nearly complete. It is in English and Spanish. The goal is to educate English and Spanish speaking public and funding agencies about the highly sensitive and important ecological zone.

ADATA as well as this site are published using WordPress. I had to learn how to use this program, which was difficult. I am working with a local on the ADATA site, so the project can sustain itself.

My third major project is a two weekend training program for area environmental groups. I plan to see funding from the Panamanian government. I am working with a local group to plan the program.

Side projects are working on agro-eco tourism in our host community, helping get the computers running for the school, attending meetings of our local agro-environmental group hoping to find a way to help them organizationally and I will be doing medical translations in mid-April. There will be more such projects as time goes on.

A site development visit to Caizan

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Peace Corps Panama sends volunteers to potential new sites for future volunteers. They talk to locals to gauge interest and then send sector leaders (who are PC employees) to meet with the locals so they can explain the PC program and evaluate the community. If the community is appropriate and a future volunteer seems like a good match, the community gets a volunteer. March 20 was the second visit to xxxxx (location deleted) for this purpose.

About 15 people from the community came to the meeting in the hopes of getting a PCV. They have several projects and problems they would like help with. A group received a grant from the PAMBC, commonly called the Biological Corridor, an organization which helps protect this environmentally important zone. It does so in part by helping establish environmentally friendly businesses. This group has such a grant, The problem is they do not have a market for the trees they grew with the grant money. ANAM, the government’s environmental agency, suggested they might be able to sell the trees to the hydroelectric project which is right in town, and which is required to plant 10 trees for each one they remove. The group’s trees are ready to plant and there is no offer in sight to purchase the trees.

I would guess that the group started the nursery without ever talking to project management and if they did without getting a commitment. Volunteers almost always find that planning is given short shrift if it is given any at all.

Those present eagerly shared their complaints when asked, except for the 30 minutes when it was raining. Most roofs here are metal and when it rains hard no one can hear. I was wondering if there would be a meeting at all but finally the rain abated.

Towards the end there was some interesting discussion about how the community and volunteer would adapt to one another especially in the first three months when the volunteer is expected to live with host families. Food is a big issue and I explained that Americans do not have a rice based diet and many find the quantity and frequency of rice consumption to be overwhelming. Some might be vegetarian. To help avoid problems they were told not just to serve food but to ask the volunteer what he wants so the volunteer does not feel obliged to eat something they do not want. There was discussion about language, too and cultural differences. Panamanians are very indirect in their communications. We told them to be more direct with the volunteer if they can, since given the language barrier especially at first, it is very hard to decode subtleties.

This community has a housing shortage, as is common in the area. Their last application for a volunteer was not filled because there was not a dwelling the volunteer could rent. One of the locals is fixing something up for the new volunteer. This will be inspected before the volunteer arrives, as will the host families, probably by the regional leader, who is a PCV usually in their third year (you can choose to extend to a third year).

I came in part because I want to organize some training for the groups like this in the area, that number upwards of 15. All of either have projects they are running or would like to have one and they get no training in manangement skills, so their projects often do not perform as well as they could. In this case, no one has been paid for labor on the hope that the payment for their efforts would come when they sold the trees. Without a Plan B those trees are likely to die in the nursery, and you do not have a Plan B if you have never had a Plan A.

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