Local Bahia Ballena – Uvita resident and tour guide, Noilyn Ramirez, wanted to bring wildlife back to her town and protect the nature around her. Along with a few other community members and spearheaded by the nonprofit, Geoporter, they started the Semilla de Ballena reforestation project. Over 100 people in the community have worked together to plant 850 trees so far — and over 100 people from the community have participated in the process. Noilyn is proud to be the project’s coordinator.
Striving to make their home better
“Where have all the birds gone? The sloths? What about the trees on the beach? Not to mention the beach?” she asks. Her concern for the wildlife and the lack of trees in Bahia Ballena – Uvita were what made her want to start a project like Semilla de Ballena, and it is now allowing her to ensure that the town remain a healthy and pleasant place for both animals and people. People, organizations, and businesses in the community have embraced the idea and the project is steadily growing.
When they started out in mid-2015, Semilla de Ballena was assisted by a local reforestation expert and participants collected seeds from local and native trees in the area. From over 1,000 seeds collected from five species, 500 seeds from three different species germinated into seedlings and then into trees ready to be planted. The three species are Manglillo, Sota Caballo, and Cedro Maria.
A collaboration between residents and visitors
From June to September last year, volunteers from travel groups visiting the area as well as local residents built a nursery to protect the seedlings as they grow into trees. The nursery was built on land donated for purposes for the reforestation project. The plan is to provide long-term protection when future seeds are collected, says Noilyn.
The rainiest month of the year in Bahia Ballena – Uvita is October and it can be really slow due to downturn in tourism. Semilla de Ballena decided to use the time to plant 1,000 trees (500 from seedlings they collected and 500 small trees donated by the electric company in town). They have been working with the park rangers at Marino Ballena National Park, who have allowed them to plant almost 600 trees along the beaches. They also planted trees along the stream bed of a recently dredged creekbed. So far around 100 people from the community have participated and 850 trees have been planted.
The Semilla de Ballena organizers are thrilled with the participation both from visitors as well as residents. “One local hotel sent eight of its employees down from the mountain to volunteer helping plant trees. Another local hostel sent its volunteers to help out,” says Noilyn.
Hoping to make a positive difference
The local supermarkets donated food and snacks and local tour companies and other local businesses have donated beverages, fruits, and other resources. What started out as a small idea and a desire to reforest the beaches, streams, and mountains of Bahia Ballena – Uvita, has turned into a community-wide project.
“As we care for these trees over the next five years, and continue to plant more, only time will tell if our efforts will have revitalized habitats lost due to development and protected our precious beaches from coastal erosion”, says Noilyn. Their actions suggest they are hopeful for the future, and continue to work hard to ensure its success!
Written by Anastasia Konstadinidis