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From the Conservation to the Revitalization of Puerto Rico

Hurricanes Irma and María caused drastic changes, and Para la Naturaleza was no exception to these new conditions. In the blink of an eye we went from conservation to recuperation. We are now revitalizing the ecosystems and communities that were affected the most.

The contributions of our donors, the help of our volunteers and the dedication of our team made and keep making possible the recovery of forests, bodies of water, and human communities in Puerto Rico.

You were an essential part of this change and today we are happy to share with you how your commitment has turned into concrete actions.

Reforestation

According to a study published by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Hurricane María caused the death of 31 million trees on the islands of Puerto Rico.

In response to this event, we expanded our five nurseries to launch a reforestation program that will give us a unique chance to reintroduce native, endemic and rare species.

With the support of citizens and organizations, we have planted 70,000 trees in the past two years of which over 34,000 have been planted in 2019.

Expedia visited Puerto Rico to support reforestation efforts.

JetBlue visited the Marueños community in Ponce to plant 37 cacao trees in their community orchard, a local agroecological project founded in 2012.

We also thank UPS, L’Oreal, Alight, Citibank, McConnell Valdés, AT&T and T-Mobile for their collaboration and support to our reforestation efforts.

50 girls and boys that are cancer patients and survivors make their dream come true by planting native trees in Dorado

“To all families that will participate in this planting of native trees that will become a new forest, we remind them that with this gesture you are making space to welcome new lives. We hope you experience the noble presence, the beauty and the strength of your children by taking care of this place and watching it grow.”  

– Fernando Lloveras

The first study on the short-term effects of hurricanes María and Irma on forest birds of Puerto Rico

The scaly-naped pigeon and the bananaquit are considerably less detectable after the hurricanes. Another important reason to plant trees!

For those of you who are passionate about Biology, you can read the complete study here.

The United Nations Forum on Forests observed that trees could reduce greenhouse emissions in around 15 gigatons of CO2 for the year 2050. That would be enough to reduce warming to below 2° C -- the objective set out by the international community in 2015. Fossil fuels today emit 36 gigatons of CO2 each year.

Agroecology

The agroecological movement in Puerto Rico is admirable. Families, communities and younger generations are coming together to build a new agricultural model that integrates the conservation of nature as part of its economic development.

Come Taste the Change

Come and enjoy a dinner made entirely with local ingredients while you support the agroecological movement in Puerto Rico.

From recovery to revitalization

$289,000

A historic donation by Rotary International is giving the agroecological movement in Puerto Rico a big push.

“It’s about agriculture that works in alliance with nature, about living in harmony with the earth. It is up to us to support agriculture models that respect the fundamental resources on which we all depend. This is vital to ensure the durability of agriculture over time, so that future generations can live in harmony.”

Salvador Coleman – Agroecol0gical Project Coordinator, Para la Naturaleza 

Communities

Caring for an ecosystem is a collective effort. The role of communities is crucial.

In recent months, we have been collaborating with more than 30 communities.  During the process, we have learned and walked with them to find ecological solutions for the challenges they face.

 

Five communities become stronger with the inauguration of new resiliency centers

Juan Domingo en Acción
Metro-Center

Comunidad Toro Negro
North

Taller Salud
Metro-Center

Primera Iglesia Bautista de Barranquitas Complete
Metro-Center

Primera Iglesia Bautista de Rio Piedras
Metro-Center

The Pan American Development Foundation and the PepsiCo Foundation join efforts with Para la Naturaleza to establish new resilient centers with solar energy and rain catchment systems in ten communities. PADF joins additional supporters of this initiative, including PRxPR, Plaza del Caribe, Voices for Puerto Rico, Hispanic Federation, the Dorothea Leondhardt Foundation, Center for Disaster Philanthropy, and Boston Foundation.

Mapa Madre: A coalition to protect bodies of water

In the past two years, we have collaborated with five communities that neighbor the Manatí river basin. This coalition has come together to protect this body of water.

Para La Naturaleza and Rainforest Trust come together to acquire 112 acres

The area is located between the Ulpiano Casal Protected Natural Area and the Carite State Forest. By conserving this territory it is possible to connect two protected natural areas, while restoring ten acres of land. This restoration will improve the habitat of at least ten endangered species. The protection of this land will safeguard the water supply for more than 200,000 people residing in the Metropolitan Area.

Education

Children, families and partners experience the transformative power of nature with the aid of our interpreters and friends.

Planting love and commitment in our schools

“I loved the experience of working in the orchard and of having a project that we could leave for other children so that they can enjoy what we made and continue to improve it.”

-Juan, Participating Student

Thanks to the support of the National Recreation Foundation, the students of the Inés María Mendoza School in the community of Caimito dedicated after school hours to restore a vegetable garden that was devastated by the hurricanes.

Transported through time

“I came with great respect and I leave with friends, love, and learning.”
– Gala Rodríguez Belén, a young participant of the Immersion Workshop sponsored by The North Face.

For five days, 20 young people of the ages of 8 to 12 years camped in the grounds of the San Juan Waterworks.

ANTIGUO ACUEDUCTO
Proclaimed a historic treasure in 2015 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, this construction dates to the second half of the 19th century.

Thirty years of work flourish in the 30th edition of Feria Para la Naturaleza

Even more to share:

Listen to the conversation of our president Fernando Lloveras with journalist Benjamín Torres Gotay.

We launched our new podcast. Subscribe to Ecotono on your mobile phone.

Follow us on social media and learn how your support continues to strengthen the ecosystems and communities in Puerto Rico.

Two Years Post-Maria Para La Naturaleza Has Planted 70,000 Native Trees With The Help Of 7,000 Volunteers

With the goal of planting an additional 680,000 in the next five years

Recent data reports by the Institute of Tropical Dasonomy/Forestry in 2017 indicate that Hurricane María caused the mortality of 30% of trees after passing through Puerto Rico. According to a study published by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the atmospheric event caused severe damages and the destruction of 31 million trees in the archipelago.

After the passing of María, Para la Naturaleza established a comprehensive program for massive reforestation, Habitat, which aims to plant 750,000 native and endemic trees over a period of seven years. It has also developed initiatives in support of agroecological farmers and for the surrounding communities within the organization’s natural protected areas.

Just two years after Hurricane María, some 70,000 native and endemic trees have already been planted and maintained with the help of 7,500 volunteers, organizations, schools, municipalities, federal and state agencies.

An important part of the Habitat program is the maintenance of the trees planted to ensure their survival. Together with volunteers, the staff of Para la Naturaleza provides monthly maintenance to these plantings and replaces trees that have not survived. So far, 80% of the plantings have been successful.

The native species that are mostly planted are:  capa, capá blanco, capá prieto, cedro, malagueta, péndula, cordias, uvas playeras y guaraguao.

These and other species grow in the five nurseries that the organization maintains within its visitor centers at Cañón de San Cristóbal in Barranquitas, Hacienda la Esperanza in Manatí, Hacienda Buena Vista in Ponce, Jardín Botánico in Río Piedras, and Cabezas de San Juan in Fajardo.

In addition to these nurseries, another eight have been created in different public and private schools in collaboration with the community so that they are able to use them as orchards and harvest foods for their personal consumption and to sell occasionally at local markets.

There's still a lot to do

Much help is needed to reach the goal of planting 750,000 trees. Therefore, the organization created the Ciudadanos  Botánicos (Citizen Botanist) program where volunteers are trained by internal and external experts to work on the areas of tree identification, seed collection, reforestation, education, volunteer outreach and data entry.   

There are 58 Citizen Botanists in different communities, including the island of Culebra and soon there will be one in Vieques.

The Citizen Botanists will lead the field outings with other volunteers to collect seeds. Others will lead groups during planting or nursery maintenance activities, while some will educate and recruit volunteers for Habitat program activities and support the organization’s staff to enter and monitor information in the database.

“Citizens and communities are a key component of the Habitat program. With the financial support of several foundations, we have identified 30 communities close to our Natural Protected Areas to establish 30 resilient centers outfitted with solar panels, batteries and water collection and purification systems, so that communities have a space to go in case of a future emergency or climatic event. Eleven of these centers are already in the hands of the communities and the others are near completion,” commented Fernando Lloveras San Miguel, President of Para la Naturaleza.

Various centers are located in Ceiba, Naguabo, San Juan, Maunabo, Vieques, Culebra, Barranquitas, Loíza and Guaynabo.

Another result that most impacted Puerto Rico after the passage of Hurricane María was the lack of food available for daily consumption, as Puerto Rico imports about 85% of its food. With this challenging reality, agroecological farming is essential for food security and to care for the soil and water resources.

The crops of local farmers were affected by the passing of hurricanes Irma and then María. Para la Naturaleza provided 75 grants to help farmers stabilize their farms and recover their losses associated with the disaster. Currently, Para la Naturaleza is working with foundations to be able to provide additional grants. As part of the boost to the agroecological sector, Para la Naturaleza plans to offer a series of workshops for farmers on agro-business, farm management, operations and finances.

“We need to unite as citizens to protect nature and support its revitalization. It is about the future of many vulnerable communities and life in many ecosystems. We must all contribute by demanding the collective changes that are necessary to deal with the climate crisis and adopting the behaviors that will allow the regeneration of the planet”, added Lloveras San Miguel.

For the next few years Para la Naturaleza will continue mass reforestation efforts to reach the target of 750,000 trees, as well as the recruitment of leaders and volunteers who want to join in the protection of the planet to foster an ecological culture in Puerto Rico.

Rotary International: An unprecedented economic contribution

After the hurricanes hit Puerto Rico in 2017, the Rotary International Club from the state of Georgia saw an opportunity to contribute to the recovery efforts and began to work toward funding a grant that could contribute financial support. Rotary International granted $289,000 for this initiative.

The project sponsored by Rotary International, and with additional support from PRxPR, is designed to create a major impact on the farming community. The goal is to use these funds to rebuild the infrastructure of agricultural projects while contributing to the training of farmers in sustainable practices. The initiative will help solve a wide variety of needs of projects on diverse scales: from family orchards to 20 acre farms. We expect participants to train others in soil, water, and biodiversity conservation practices so that the project is self-replicable and has a long life. The impact of this initiative has the potential of being felt across several generations.

What is sustainable agriculture?

Sustainable agriculture must guarantee world food security and, at the same time, promote healthy ecosystems while supporting the earth, the water, and other natural resources. To be sustainable, agriculture must meet the needs of current and future generations of their products and services, to ensure accessibility, the health of the environment and social and economic justice.

Source: http://www.fao.org/sustainable-development-goals/overview/fao-and- post-2015/sustainable-agriculture/

Cultivating love and commitment in our schools

As part of our mission, we recently worked hand-in-hand with six Instituto Nueva Escuela public schools to build projects that inspire young people to connect with their ecosystem. At the Inés María Mendoza School in Caimito, a group of students worked after school during a semester to restore a vegetable garden that was affected by the 2017 hurricanes.

The after-school program is an educational workshop for the students. Thanks to the funding provided by the National Recreation Foundation, children from six schools in different parts of the island participated in similar projects.

Along with their parents and teachers, young boys and girls worked on building four planting beds and two butterfly farms. They learned about small scale agriculture — from identifying adequate plants for their available space to ensuring constant crops. The crops will be consumed in the school cafeteria and will be sold to raise funds for the school.

The future of Puerto Rico and the wellbeing of our surroundings lie in the hands of our youth. Judging by the work of love done by all these students and the fruits that are yet to come, we are confident that we have a bright future ahead of us.

Young boys & girls connect with nature in the Immersion Workshops

For five days, 20 young people of the ages of 8 to 12 years camped on the grounds of the Piedras River. This Immersion Workshop offered during the summer allowed these children to disconnect from technology for several days and reconnect to their natural surroundings. Through unique and fun experiences, participants were given the opportunity to appreciate and value nature. In upcoming years they will all have the chance of participating again as environmental leaders and continue sharing the immersion experiences in nature for youth. Workshop participants are from neighboring communities in Río Piedras, Barranquitas, Cidra, and Gurabo.

Some activities included visits to the San Cristóbal Canyon in Barranquitas and the Río Piedras tree nursery. Participants were able to get to know the characteristics of these ecosystems while learning to identify, plant and care for native and endemic trees.

For the first time, 75% of the food consumed by the workshop’s participants came from 18 local agroecological farmers. This work was possible thanks to La Unitaria Común collective, who prepared some 630 plates of food for the 30 people that were part of the workshop.

For the second time, the event was sponsored by The North Face Explore Fund, established by The North Face company. Their mission is to support programs that foster outdoor activities for youth and grant them the resources needed for them to be ambassadors of nature.