Our programs target local communities, mainly through rural water associations and community organizations in the region. Relying on the urgency to protect our sources of clean water, our strategy is to stimulate and support communal efforts leading towards scientifically sound conservation practices within and around the San Carlos River watershed. Given the cloud forests’ role as a critical source of clean, freshwater, we hope to rally people around biodiversity conservation by simultaneously enlisting their help with watershed restoration.
Our action plan involves grassroots style community outreach and environmental education coupled with hands-on conservation and restoration work. Through an innovative loan mechanism (see Conservation) and training program on the theme of water, we hope to recruit and involve as many communities as possible to join efforts in forest restoration and conservation. Our programs range from “Movies Nights” with open forum for the membership, to more technical workshops tailored to water management association leaders and administrators. The goal is to advance understanding of the close interdependence between clean water, healthy watersheds, and the forests that play a vital role as groundwater recharge zones. It is also worth noting that where we work, the endangered montane cloud forests, have the highest biodiversity on Earth.
Through our free C.U.E.N.C.A.S. (Spanish for watersheds) Workshop Series, representatives from community water management association governing boards gain a practical understanding of the water cycle and watershed hydrology, environmental law, water quality analysis, and the principals of water management. Participating water management associations are from Nectandra Institute’s priority service area, the Balsa River watershed, a subwatershed of the San Carlos River basin. Each community-run association administers and provides water to the entire community. Each member water user has a vested interest in protecting the health of the water supply.
Nectandra Institute works with various organizations in the watershed communities. For example, we assist women in the formation of V.I.D.A. (Spanish for life) Clubs, organizations involved in local environmental initiatives, such as recycling campaigns, trash clean-ups, tree planting projects and other educational programs, to stand shoulder to shoulder with water management boards, generally comprised by men from the community.
More recently, we’ve started to bring youth into the fold by expanding on a practice originally developed by a local water management association, that of each community sponsoring a youth water management board. The purpose of these groups is to get the young people of the communities interested in water issues as early as possible and ultimately prepare them for the time when they take over management of their local water supply.
Younger children from local schools are invited to participate in “Wild Visits” to learn about the wild fauna and flora of the Nectandra Cloud Forest Garden & Preserve. In the photograph on the right, Nectandra staff ranger Manuel Solis demonstrates casts of puma and jaguar paw prints he took at the preserve to school children from the Balsa River watershed.