All life needs water as it is the world’s most precious resource, fueling everything from the food you eat, to the cotton you wear, to the energy you depend upon. Freshwater habitats such as rivers and watersheds are home to an incredible proportion of the world’s biodiversity. Watersheds provide valuable ecosystem resources including: filtering and recharging wells and
Climate events, population growth
Protecting fresh water cannot happen alone, and
One of the organizations that CRUSA supports is Restoring our Watershed, ROW, which focuses on restoring the watershed around the Nandamojo river, on 29,000 acres of land on Costa Rica’s northwest coast in the province of Guanacaste.
Educational programs developed by ROW helped the residents of Guanacaste to better understand the impacts to their land and vegetation following the 7.6 magnitude earthquake near Nicoya in September of 2012. Changes needed to be made because the entire peninsula shifted and rose several meters, damaging water wells and aquifers and creating water shortages in rivers that previously were full all year round. ROW provided training to restore properties into healthy and resilient ecosystems, by educating the residents about reforestation, and which species of trees and vegetation to plant in order to manage erosion.
The ROW organization is led by American environmentalists, Tom Peiffer
The objective of this organization is to ensure the long-term water resources through the use of vegetation that produces moisture and filters rain water along the Nandamojo basin, which extends from the communities of April 27 to Junquillal, in the province of Guanacaste. ROW also provides funding, so the residents can enclose and protect the reforested banks of the rivers from grazing animals.
Additionally, they encourage the planting of trees, because the trees create moisture and suspended water particles in the air. Then the water particles form clouds, and the moisture from the newly planted vegetation attracts clouds to form near the ground and then the rain propagates the new plantings.
As part of their work, the ROW environmentalists locate suitable trees and determine when and where to collect their seeds, and then germinate and plant them in the association’s Green House, where there are 5,000 plants of 20 different species. Some of the plants from the Green House are given to residents to plant on their own properties, and the environmentalists also plant some themselves in locations where new plantings are
Additionally, ROW encourages residents to plant vetiver grass for the conservation of soil and water. The vetiver roots are up to three times deeper than the height of the grass, and the roots allow water to infiltrate easily into the soil.
ROW is supported by donations, community activities, and grants from organizations like CRUSA and the Guanacaste Community Fund, GCF.
The GCF is a community foundation for
The following are several sustainable projects created and managed by ROW to help improve the communities around the Nandamojo river watershed.
Nandamojo Valley Chamber of Commerce – Founded as a way to unite the local residents, community organizations and businesses to participate together in projects for a sustainable future. In addition to the towns and villages within the watershed, the chamber’s area of influence includes the adjacent communities of Playa Callejones, Los Pargos, Playa Negra and Playa Avellanas. The chamber has grown to include 45 local businesses and community organizations.
Watershed Ecological Blue Flag Committee – The Ecological Blue Flag program is a national initiative aimed at providing incentives for the protection of water resources. The Nandamojo watershed was one of 26
Association Life Verdiazul – AVIVE – This project funded by the World Wildlife Fund, and works to monitor and protect marine turtles, especially the leatherback that is in danger of extinction. Now AVIVE is an independent non-profit organization that performs important outreach activities and environmental education within the local communities.
Save Monkeys Association –Is dedicated to reforestation, and the creation of biological corridors and bridges for monkeys over streets and highways in order to better harmonize development with the local population of Howler monkeys.
Friends of Diria – A group of concerned stakeholders from Santa Cruz organized themselves to protect the Diriá National park, which encompasses 5,400 hectares of primary and secondary dry tropical forests.
Bees For Trees – Provides loans for families to begin beekeeping operations and in exchange the landowners agree to reforest 10% of their land. The families repay their loans with honey that they produce and it is sold to pay for the costs of the reforestation. You can watch this short video to understand how the program works.
Riparian Corridor Project – This project was launched in 2015 to renew critical riparian forests along 13 kilometers of the Nandamojo corridors main channel stretching from the estuary to the community of Rio Seco. They mapped the corridor’s current vegetation, thermal uplift, and land tenure in priority reforestation areas to develop a strategy for restoration with appropriate species and plantings, utilizing profits from the Bees for Trees program to pay landowners an incentive for protecting and restoring riparian areas on their farms.
La Norma Reforestation Project – In 2017, ROW launched their largest reforestation project to date, through a partnership with Hacienda La Norma, where they took on the challenge of replanting a 30-acre cattle pasture, located in the foothills near the confluence of the Nandamojo rivers three main tributaries. The site is an important area for the recharge of aquifers and waterways, and the project began by planting about 700 tree saplings, using a mix of native species that provide multiple benefits for fauna, flora and the local communities.
ROW supports practical, hands-on education and is actively engaged in demonstrating sustainable land use practices and strategies, that the average resident can use to improve their land and in turn, the watershed. Currently ROW educational initiatives include the following;
- The Hojita Verde monthly newsletter, distributed via email and available in print at local outlets.
- Presentations and workshops that are given at local elementary and secondary schools as well as community events.
- A scholarship program that enlists high school students as environmental ambassadors.
- An internship program for college students so they can work together with Tom Peifer, an ecologist with over a decade of experience in neotropical permaculture, sustainable agriculture and organic gardening.
- Academic programs offered in collaboration with the University of Vermont, and the Yestermorrow Design/Build School.
- Programs in conjunction with the Sea Turtle Conservation Project to develop internships and volunteer opportunities.
For more information about educational opportunities, you can email the director of operations, Ann Marie.
The writer, Tom Rosenberger has lived and worked in Costa Rica since 1992 and from his travels throughout the country inspecting land and construction he has acquired a wealth of knowledge about living and doing business in Costa Rica. If you have questions and would like to contact Tom click here.