Saturday, June 28, 2008

Burning Saint Lucia's Rain Forests and Hills for Charcoal

Here is a excellent photo I took as I was heading up a valley hill for a site visit to Anse La Verdue to visit one of the rabbit project sites. You can see the charcoal making pit here, notice how much of the surrounding vegetation was stripped to make this charcoal.

With the downturn of the economy and escalating food prices people are turning back to stripping the rain forest and valleys of Saint Lucia for small trees and brush to create charcoal. The charcoal is used for home cooking and is extremely popular for barbecuing and use with traditional coal pot cooking.

A good Charcoal burn can earn someone 1200-1500 EC. Compare that to working 6 days a week at one of the resorts where your take home pay is only 1300-1500 EC a month and you can see why this can be a lucrative alternative income. Ladera Resort would be an exception to this with them treating and paying their employees well, in fact Ladera employs Saint Lucian's in top management positions, an example I wish other resorts would follow more often.

Here you can see Mango season in in full effect with delicious mangoes dropping to the ground to rot.

A view of the Charcoal burning pits from the other side of the valley.

Long term the effects of stripping the rain forest and hills of trees and low laying vegetation is increased flooding, landslides and erosion. The other effect in this stripping is the removal of a natural filtration system for the rain. Most villages take their water supplies directly from the waterfalls. The dense forest material acts as a natural filtration system removing pollution and other elements. To make matters worse the rain is picking up the charcoal residue from the pits and clearings adding that to the drinking water. Playing the devils advocate, charcoal is commonly used for filtration so whether this is harmful to the drinking water is unknown.

I have noticed a DRAMATIC increase in the charcoal burning since the oil and food prices has skyrocketed. If you drive from the capitol Castries down the west side of the island to Soufriere you will see some of the burning pits are next to the road, I know of six that can be seen.

We also have charcoal burning happening in the Canaries Rain Forest now, typically a one acre area is cut down and stripped to the bare earth with the large and small trees and brushwood being burnt slowly in smoldering dirt pits for charcoal. Afterwards dasheen/taro is planted for two seasons until the soil is stripped of its minerals and the rain forest grows back recapturing the land until it is stripped again. It used to only occur in a few instances but not I can count at least 8 new areas where this is happening in Canaries Rain Forest valley.

Here is a shot in the rain forest of an area cleared for charcoal and dasheen/taro planting.

A good shot facing into the rain forest hill.

Here is another area that has been stripped, you can see the charcoal pit below.

Take notice of the bags of charcoal ready to be picked up to be sold in the villages and Castries.

A pristine shot of the rain forest as a reminder of the precious resource that it is.

I am neutral on judging anyone on this, I just want to show the reality of what is happening.

It all goes back to economics.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Peace Corps Online Resource Drive through Skydrive.

After a lot of discussion with Landon, Nick, Aaron and myself about the lack of ability to share our work with other PCV's I have taken the initiative to set up a Skydrive account through Microsoft. Ps Thank you Microsoft!

The purpose is so that we can maintain some sort of institutional memory for all Peace Corps Volunteers that work in Saint Lucia. This will allow us to share valuable materials and experiences to help volunteers so they do not have to reinvent the wheel with some of their work. Each volunteer will be able to create a folder to store documents they would like to share with other PCV's. For example:

School lesson plans
Brochures made for community events, street parties and special events
Summaries of your work experience. (Description of Service Statements)
Contact Lists
Funding Agencies

The Skydrive account is island specific because we have to limit the amount of people who have access and we only have 5GB of storage. Were going to test it for a while to see if it proves to be the incredible tool we think it will be.

I am hopeful that this idea can spread throughout Peace Corps so their is more continuity between volunteers. Skydrive will allow knowledge and experience to be shared to make us all more productive and efficient. It makes perfect sense especially when you consider how much Peace Corps stresses knowledge and skills transfer to the people we work with. It is the logical next step to make it possible for that to happen volunteer to volunteer.

All my best,

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Ladera Resort has donated $10,000EC to Creole Pot and Canabelle Soap

Success! Canabelle is receiving $7000 which will be used for infrastructure purchases to improve the soap making process.

Soap Making Demonstration for Ladera Resort and Father Raj.

A part of that money is being used now to fix the toilet and provide running water, one of the requirements to receive licensing from the Saint Lucia Bureau of Standards. When this is accomplished one of their officers will come down for an inspection. Upon certification Super J/Juliens the largest grocery chain on the island says they will carry the soap. This is huge..thank you again Ladera. We also hope to begin working with Ladera to produce a smaller soap for their guests that will be the same price equivalent of their current guest soap. We plan to improve it by offering a special recipe designed by them using their choice of natural ingredient's like glory cedar, hibiscus flower, and aloe. It would also have the hotels logo on it. This would be a huge step towards working with all the hotels to turn Canabelle into a major income and employment generator for Canaries village.

Here are videos and pictures of the demonstration and tour of Canabelle Soap that we provided for Eustace from Ladera, Father Raj the Parish Priest, and our Community Development Officer Mahal.

Peppermint being added during the mixing stage. See Father Raj and Mahal our new Community Development Officer for the area.

Tina and Halley Cheering on the demonstration.

Soap being poured into a mold to dry. See Eustace from Ladera on the right side.

Cyrillia cutting the soap with a hand scraper.

Demonstration of Soap Cutting Process Step One

Demonstration of Soap Cutting Process Step Two

Final Step, assembling the soap boxes.

Creole Pot also received $4000EC from Ladera this will be used to purchase tables and chairs for the street party following one of the major recommendations of Ti Kaye resort to improve the event so guests can participate.

I am currently working with Mrs Edwards to organize a thank you reception for Ladera and its staff at Moon River. We will be inviting out local rep, supporters and media down for this event with the hope of giving Ladera press for their charity. We also hope to get media exposure for Creole Pot and Canabelle and the Moon River reception grounds in Canaries.

For me, this is cherry on top of an amazing Peace Corps experience. Thank you to all the people that have made this possible. Thank you Mr Hooper, Eustace and Tina for your help on this!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Canaries Kids Art Camp

I let this post slip by, it was one of the more enjoyable events that I helped facilitate. I had the pleasure of having Nick Klinger aka (Big Dog) and Megan Hawks aka(KANSAS) and her friend help us.

A group shot with everyone. (click on any pictures to enlarge them)

Basically the National Insurance Corporation of Saint Lucia has a community development branch called the National Community Development Foundation that provides some funding for supplies and 4-5 staff to help put on a training camp for the youth of selected villages through the summer one week at time. The goal is to provide training in the arts and foster the development of analytical skills through the game of chess.

It was a wonderful, stressful, fun, stretching experience. (did I mention I am terrified of little kids)

The Kids with Nick's paper airplane competition.

A shot with me and Big Dog with all the children.

Nick doing paper mache with the kids.

A video of me embarrassing myself trying to teach the kids a camp song called, "Little Bunny in the Woods".

Big Rabbit Hopping, yeah I am terrible with camp songs. Favorite line "Pet your big rabbit!".

Nick doing the Sponge Bob Square Pants Song, see those natural, great parenting skills Emily, good stock. Marcy, sorry baby you have a lot of work ahead of you:)

Elmers Glue in the eye, now before anyone says this is cruel:) I was just recording to show them making paper mache and a gust of wind came along.

The Children learning to play chess.

Video of Nick doing a paper airplane competition.

Hawks helping them paint the school wall.

Popsicle stick picture frames, using beans, glitter, crayons, you name it.

Video of the Girls painting and placing beans on their Popsicle sticks.

The boys learning to share.

Who is that little girl on my head :)

A well deserved nap after a week of children, and I told Marcy I want to have 3 kids some day, I must be crazy! :)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Canaries UK Association "Doing so much for Canries Village".

The Canaries UK group is the HARDEST working development group I have met and that is a tremendous compliment.

They have been helping Canaries for over a decade now, I shot some videos of them working and interviewed some of the members with the goal of showing Canaries the great labor and passion they have for their village while living in England. This all took place at the fund raiser dance for Canaries called, "St. Lucia vs Dominica DJ Sound Off".

Simon, Norma Jude(Ass. Sec), Bernie St. Omer (Trustee) and Olicia Jn Charles ( PRO) thats from L-R..

Greenage's Message to Canaries

Uril's Message to Canaries

The event was held at a school with members collecting door fees in the front and other working in the back serving food and drinks. It was an amazing event put together with professionalism and planning that is to be admired.

Working hard behind the counter.

A packed dance hall.

Lia working hard pouring those drinks

A video of the Canaries UK Group in action working hard behind the counter.

Simon on organizing the event.

Mike asking me if I need a tasty beverage.
The Canaries UK Association set up demonstration table to show Canabelle Soap.

One of the great Patriarchs of the Canaries UK Association, Contance Mathurin (Simon's brother-in-law).

Simon's Message on the UK Group Working Hard.

Marcy and Mike showing their Saint Lucia pride.

I get the flag and Marcy as my soon to be wife, who could ask for more :)

The two Patriarchs. (Contance Mathurin with Leo Albert)

Simon's Message from the Association to Canaries