Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Site Assignment!

This is it, the big news I´ve been waiting for over the past few weeks. Last night Luis Estrada, our project manager, took us all out to dinner at a nice buffet and handed us each a packet of information containing our site location, a brief description, the other volunteers in the area, the people and agencies in the area we will probably be working with, and a list of possible projects that the community has suggested or asked for, or simply might be applicable in the area.

The large majority of my group is going to the mountainous areas in the western part of the counry. This is the greenest, coolest part of Honduras and has the most cloud forests and wildlife and things of that nature. It also has the greatest potential for ecotourism projects. One person is going to Olancho, the huge department in western Honduras with a lot of warmer, drier, less mountainous wilderness and very few people. A couple more people are going to a national park right near Tegucigalpa, but well away from the crowds.

I´m not going to any of those places. I´m going to Choluteca, the department in the very south corner of Honduras against the Gulf of Fonseca; the hottest, driest place in the country. I was reading about the region in a travel guide which actually mentions my aldea, Agua Fría, and it specifically mentions how unusually lush and oasis-like it is compared to the surrounding area. Also, because it´s up in the mountains it should be relatively cooler than the lowlands nearby. Still it´s only at 600m elevation (compared to most PAM sites which are usually more like 1200; the highest peak in the protected area is only 1000) and will probably be pretty friggin hot.

The good part is that it sounds like I will have an interesting community with lots to do. There will also be another volunteer from my group, Tim, stationed in an aldea only 2 km away, which is nice because otherwise I would be literally halfway across the country from the next closest volunteer in my training group.

The truth is, I actually wanted to go to Choluteca (that or Olancho) and I don´t give a damn how hot it is. And my suggested projects sound really interesting. Here are some highlights from the assignment description package:

Site

¨Agua Fría is a small village of approximately 1000 people within the municipality of El Corpus, Choluteca. The inhabitants of Agua Fría are primarily poor subsistance farmers working with corn, beans, and coffee.

The landscape around Agua Fría is extremely mountainous, with forested areas surrounding the community. Located at the foothills of Cerro Guanacaure, Agua Fría is a verdant community where everyone makes a living out of growing basic grains, vegetables, and coffee. Cerro de Guanacaure is a protected area that produces most of the water consumed by Choluteca inhabitants as well as for many of the surrounding villages. Some of the threats for the park are the shifting agriculture and cattle raising in the foothills. The weather in Agua Fría is hot and dry. The rainy season is very uncertain, but people expect it around May each year.¨

Nature of your Project

¨......below are some needs that have been identified as possible collaborations in Agua Fría.

-> Determine what kinds of activities you can support in the local elementary
-> Identify opportunities to delimit and fence off the major microwatersheds within Guanacaure Protected Area, developing agreements with the landowners within Guanacaure that specify proper land use practices.
·Develop a micro-watershed management plan for the community´s water source through a participatory strategic plan to implement sustainable micro-watershed management practices.
· Based on identified community interests and watershed restoration needs, support the establishment of tree nurseries for production of trees for community arborization, firewood, fruit trees, upper/recharge zone watershed reforestation, and other agro-forestry purposes.
· Train individuals and interest groups in proper micro-watershed delimitation or boundary setting and land use.
· Design and promote an educational program for the community that addresses the micro-watershed´s role in daily life, the importance of delimiting and protecting it, as well as proper land use.
· Plan and conduct educational field trips for interested individuals to share learning experiences related to micro-watershed management.
->Promote the ideal of integrated farming as a mean to reduce the family´s vulnerability to losses due to low production in a given crop or to the lack of markets. Integrating production also means that the family will be able to eat better by diversifying its diet.
· Promote ideals that integrated production begins with the family where each member should have equal opportunity to participate in the decision-making and production processes.
-> Develop and support crop diversification and alternative production activities for the community.
-> The Maestro en Casa program has requested your support to impart some English and sciences classes. Please talk to them and find out what exactly they need and see what you can do to support them.¨


Some of these things are stock PAM stuff and are probably in everybody´s site description package (I even left out a fair amount of the suggested activities because they were repetetive or banal, like ¨assess site security¨) but some of them are pretty specific to me and my site. For example, all the stuff about their watershed and the Maestro en Casa program. I´ve definitely been telling them how interested I am in both watersheds and education.

There are a couple other news items that bear mentioning. First, we had our final Spanish interviews on Monday. This isn´t the kind of thing that usually happens to me, but I got unbelievably nervous and locked up and basically botched the interview beyond belief. Regardless, they moved my final level up to Advanced Low, which I´m convinced is partly the result of talking with my Spanish teachers as well for their opinion. Based solely on the interview, I could probably be moved back down to Intermediate Medium and medically diagnosed with mental retardation.

The other piece of news is that I will be gone from Thursday through Sunday on Site Visit, wherein we´re all going to our newly learned sites to learn what we can and possibly use that info to get advice from Louis Estrada and our trainers during the last week of training. So that should be awesome. Our ¨site counterparts¨ (the people who will be my our main contacts in the community at first, and possibly later as well) is coming up this afternoon and we´re going to have dinner with all of them.

That´s about all I have for now in this regard. We´ve all been really excited about this and talking about it a lot amongst ourselves and with the business group. Dad, I know you wanted to get Vilma´s number again but I´m doing this in the computer lab at the training center during because I´ve had zero other time, and I´m not going to have time to fetch it right now. I will try to get it to you on Monday..... sorry. :/

6 Comments:

At 12:26 PM, Anonymous Banana said...

Congrats on getting your assignment Gabe! I will tell Sam about it when I talk to him in a few days :)

Hey, just checkin, did you get my package? I hope it got there by now...let me know if the kids like their books!

Hugs,
Anna Banana

 
At 6:40 PM, Blogger pineconeboy said...

Anna,

I´ve had like 3 packages sent to me, at least one almost a month ago, and none have arrived. :/ I´m beginning to think they´re not even going to get here before I head off to my site, which would really suck. I really appreciate it though, so thank you very much... even if it never comes. :)

 
At 7:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gabe,
Wow! I'm really excited for you with your assignment! It sounds like such a great fit for you! Sorry about your interview...it's nothing really...you'll loosen up within the first week of having to communicate daily in your own place, I'm sure. It's all about the need to say what you need to communicate..somehow it all comes out right.
Can't wait to talk to you next week, after your visit to the site.
Love,
mom
Will try and locate Vilma's number and send it to dad. Haven't sent your Leatherman because of reports of things not arriving. Should I try anyway?

 
At 8:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gabe,
Can't find Vilma's number. Please send ASAP so we can get our good byes in before you are more remote.
Found an interesting site in regard to your area by googling it. Long report on former work in the area as a combined effort among Honduras, Salvador and Nicaragua. Will send address when I go back to that page. The name of the project is PROGOLFO
(Proyecto Regional Conservaciones de los Ecosistemas Costeras del Golfo de Fonseca). Sound familiar?
mom

 
At 4:44 PM, Blogger pineconeboy said...

Mom,

I wouldn´t bother much with PROGOLFO or whatever the heck. I´ve already started to suss out the active organizations in my area, because finding and working with existing groups is a big part of my work. Also that sounds very regional and I´m going to be working with local ones.

 
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