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Osa’s Healthy Rivers and the Future of Water in Costa Rica

The Nation: http://www.nacion.com/vivir/ambiente/Ticos-agua-persona_0_1550044983.html

“Costa Ricans will have 65% less water per person by the year 2020”

March 22, 2016, Michelle Soto M.

 

Osa’s Healthy Rivers has been working to conserve the water quality in the Osa Peninsula.

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Figure 1. Group from The Gamba School monitoring The Gamba River, close to the Golf, May 2016.

This march in 2016, The Nation published an important article about the quantity and quality of water in Costa Rica, the critical theme in the work of Osa’s healthy river project, which monitors the quality of water in the river and ravines of the Osa Peninsula with the help of the participation from community groups. The article titled “Costa Ricans will have 65% less water per person by the year 2020”  shares the incredible news that each costa rican will use 19,000 m3 when in 1970  they used 55,000 m3. This critical decrease is due to all of the changes in the climate, the deterioration of the environment, and the growth in demographics. It is not only the quantity but also the quality of the water is diminishing, as Gueillermo Calvo of the Institute of Technology of Costa Rica show us in his two year experiment. He and his team of scientists took samples in the 10 river basins of the country, using the dutch index to measure the biochemical demand of oxygen, dissolved oxygen, and ammonia nitrogen in the water. They also measured phosphates, nitrates, turbidity and fecal coliform, this type of analysis also are carried out by the groups from Osa’s Healthy River Project.

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Figure 2. Members of Osa’s Healthy Rivers participating in a workshop in Osa Conservation’s Piro Biological Station, December 2015.

The results indicated a relationship between the population density and the contamination of water. They discovered that there was a notable exception with the Ricon and Tigre rivers on the Osa Peninsula, which do not have big populations around them but are contaminated by the produced pollution of fertilizers and human activity. Those two rivers are monitored usually by members of Osa’s Healthy Rivers, who monitor the state of the rivers in the time. Calvo’s experiment emphasizes the importance of Osa’s healthy river, not only in monitoring the rivers and streams of the Osa Peninsula, but also in educating and gain the participation of the members of communities in that region.  

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Figure 3. Group from the Piedras Blancas School monitoring in the Piedras Blancas River, April 2016.

Today, Osa’s Healthy Rivers monitors 10 rivers and includes 8 community groups monthly,  it is expected that this number will increase in the future with the interest and participation of more people. The members of Osa’s Healthy Rivers perform visual, chemical, and biological monitoring, measuring parameters such as dissolved oxygen, turbidity, nitrates, conductivity, temperature, pH and coliform bacteria. The groups also evaluates the biological health of the monitoring sites using an index to measure the diversity of the species of macroinvertebrates in the river. With the support of a coordinator, who assists a lot of the monitoring, the groups collect high quality data and learn how to analyze and communicate the results.

The last discussion in The Nation article emphasized the role that the trees play in the quality of the water. The roots of the trees maintain the water in the soil and trap contaminants and nutrients before they arrive at the rivers and ravines. A new direction for the Healthy Rivers Project will focus more on the aspect forests and planted trees on the bank of the rivers. The members of Healthy Rivers, with the support of Osa Conservation, hope to continue and expand their work around the peninsula. Monitoring monthly in the rivers, planting trees, educating our young and neighbors… Healthy Rivers is fighting against pollution and wear of the water of our region, which are so important to the human race and their own environment. Please help us in this fight!

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The Return of the Jaguar

The lush and enchanted forests of Piro, Osa Conservation saw the return of their majestic King of the Jungle after two long years.

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The Jaguar Is Back!

In the late hours of 23rd March 2016 the first images of this beautiful creature was captured on the camera traps on the Ajo trail. Since the last sightings of the jaguar on the camera traps here was back in 2014, his return is very exciting. Especially for the big cat programme and its researcher Tabea who ran out screaming “JAGUAR JAGUAR” when she was processing the data. With this hard evidence that the big cat was on Osa property and probably somewhere close by I suddenly had a strong desire to go hiking in the hope to witness this rare beauty of this endangered animal. So a few other volunteers and I planned numerous ‘jaguar hunts’ on most of Osa Conservation’s forest trails.

After two weeks and with more and more images capturing the jaguar on nearby trails we still had no luck finding him for ourselves. So being very unsuccessful at tracking the jaguar I decided to stop looking. I believed in the philosophy that if I stopped trying to find him, he would find me. And so with my new profound realisation, I carried on with my normal routines of morning and night sea turtle patrols.

Early last week a volunteer, Kate, and I were walking along the beach around 10pm after a rather successful turtle night patrol where Kate was able to see her first nesting Green turtle. We were still on the beach so we weren’t using our flash lights, there was only a slight glimmer of moonlight lighting up the beach ahead. Nearly 100 metres from the exit of the beach is Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 4.52.33 PMwhen I stopped. I noticed a large dark silhouette only five or so metres in front of me. Moving fast up from the ocean to the vegetation. I cry out to Kate “What was that?!” grabbing her arm and experiencing a weird sensation of all the hairs on my legs standing up at once. We stood in silence for a couple of seconds allowing our brains to figure out what our eyes had just witnessed, trying to conjure up different possibilities.

“It’s too big to be a dog….it is too small to be the water buffalo?”

We both turn our white lights on and scan the sand, hoping to not find anything and to accept being fools of our own imagination. Alas, we walked forward and discovered large, rounded big cat prints that had been prowling the beach ahead of us. By now all fear had disappeared or turned into pure amazement and adrenaline. Still in disbelief we thought it would be a good idea to take pictures of the prints for identification and to have as evidence of our encounter.

Once we were back at the station we were able to compare our pictures and measurements with that on the track board which gave us enough reason to believe it was the jaguar we had been searching for. Later that week we collected the images from the camera trap by the beach and we got 100% confirmation it was a jaguar that night.

Hopefully this particular jaguar will stick around for some time as it is a great sign that our forests are heathy and diverse!

It’s safe to say that my philosophy does work. If you are looking for something …Don’t look for it!

 

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Healthy Soil for Healthy Food

Bokashi: Improving the Soil through Solid Waste

By Yngrid Espinoza

In a time of unparalleled consumption, intensive agricultural production, mass exploitation of raw materials and countless other activities that advance ‘development’ – we in Costa Rica are generating an enormous quantity of solid waste daily. According to the University of Costa Rica, each individual produces a staggering 1.3 – 2.4 pounds of waste daily. 45% of this ends up in illegal dumps and approximately 50-60% of this waste is biodegradable material.

With this in mind, the vision of Osa Conservation’s Sustainable Agriculture Program is utilize organic waste to generate organic fertilizer for our farm. It is essential to consider the sufficient input of nutrients to the soil and rather than reply on external inputs (like non-organic and chemical fertilizers), we are working with bokashi. Bokashi is a Japanese word that means “organic fermented material ” and is a method that differs from traditional compost.

 

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Figure 1: production of bokashi at Osa Verde Farm

To prepare Bokashi, we add substrates from the rainforest soil to the organic waste in order to inoculate the waste with beneficial microorganisms that accelerate the organic microbial diversity, improve the chemical and physical conditions and maintain a healthy soil that supplies nutrients needed for crop development (Shintani, et al. 2000). In order to accelerate the decomposition process or fragmentation of the waste particles, we will be using a chipper.

In this way, soil nutrients are cycled through each growing season, taking advantage of waste that otherwise would end up in landfills. With this model we are using an integrated system of production with less dependence on external sources for nutrients and are more sustainable.

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Figure 2: diagram of nutrients in the soil

Healthy soil is vital to creating healthy food and we aim to demonstrate that farmers can create great, productive soil without having to purchase agricultural inputs that are damaging to ecosystems and to the health of wildlife and humans.

Sources:

UCR, 2011. Expertos analizan el manejo de la basura en Costa Rica. Información on line [http://www.ucr.ac.cr/noticias/2011/11/17/expertos-analizan-el-manejo-de-la-basura-en-costa-rica.html].

Shintani, 2000. BOKASHI: Tecnología Tradicional Adaptada para una Agricultura Sostenible y un Manejo de Desechos Modernos. Costa Rica 24p.