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Who is Siembra?
And what do we want?
Siembra is a grassroots ecological organization whose purpose is to do whatever is possible to better the ecological ambiance around Lake Atitlan and it's volcanoes. We are made up of private individuals who have come together under this common cause because we believe that we can accomplish more as a group than as individuals. The only organizational costs are the wages of the forest ranger; none of the members of SIEMBRA benefits monetarily from our works. All monies collected are therefore earmarked 100% for our various projects.
Our main project was the creation of a Cloudforest Reserve. Before 1990, when the military had a base in Santiago Atitlan, nobody could go up on the volcanoes for fear of being mistaken for a guerilla and killed.
This was a terrible time for the people, but the forest actually got a chance to grow back for ten years. Before the war the volcanoes were able to provide the Population with whatever they needed. However, in the last 15 years the population has multiplied to the point that the volcanoes just can't sustain them.In 1990 a group of friends got together and started planning the direction to take. We settled on the cloudforest project after visiting the children's rainforest in Costa Rica. It's a project that was started by elementary schoolstudents, who put together their pennies and managed to buy up and preserve 25,000 acres of jungle. When we realized just how cheap the land on the volcano is and just how realizable our project was. So we just all pitched in, and that is how the SIEMBRA CLOUDFOREST RESERVE came to be.We also defined our priorities;1)To establish a refuge, preferably a fringe of lands extending from the top of the volcano to the lake, to provide a corridor for the wildlife. A) To protect the reserve by hiring a forest ranger. This person is also useful in imparting the SIEMBRA philosophy to the reserve's neighbors. B) To replant the areas of the reserve that had been chopped at the time we bought them. C) To establish areas and opportunities for ecological education for children and adults.2)To establish educational systems to educate the local population about their environmental problems. A)Making seedbeds of native trees in bags to distribute to the local population. B)Prepare Educational materials for the schools.C)Provide opportunities for the local population to participate in ecological actions.3) As part of our secondary projects, a program of ecological actions aimed at the general wellbeing of Lake Atitlan must be started.
A)The trash project
B)The stove project.
What has SIEMBRA accomplished?
Of course, the 40-acre park is the crown jewel of the SIEMBRA project. Every year we throw a fundraising concert and canvass the businesses for funds to keep the park growing. Inside the park are several areas where the trees were never cut. It's like standing in the mother's womb. Since the start of the Reserve project we have managed to replant the whole 40 acres in native trees, especially those trees that serve as food for the wildlife. The amount of wildlife that has decided to move onto the reserve is growing as the surrounding forest gets chopped. We now have several families of deer, raccoons, armadillos, micoleones, and ocelots living on the land. (Besides everything you don't get to see.) The birds are back too; wild turkeys, pheasants, eagles, and buzzards in addition to the hundreds of smaller birds.There have even been quetzals spotted on the Reserve.Last year we built a small, grass roofed shed so that visitors could get out of the weather and possibly even spend the night. There has been a stream of school kids that have been visiting SIEMBRA with their teachers. The local population is starting to think of it as their grandkids' park.Once a week the ranger spends the day in Santiago picking up trash. At first people thought he was crazy (why would anybody want to do that?), but slowly he has managed to gain the respect of the town; we have even started getting help from the Santiago Atitlan mayor's office; they have added a couple of guys to our ranger.From time to time we also sponsor "Trash Parties" in Santiago. What this entails is inviting the schools and other youth organizations to a big party on the beach. There is usually a local band, and we provide a small repast for everyone. The best part is the trash lottery; for every bag of trash that you pick up you get a lottery ticket. The prizes have all been donated by businesses in pana and by private people.
Everyone always has a splendid time and the ecological message is spread throughout the village. The last "trash party" we had all of the schools participating (about 350 people). The town looked great for a long time.
We are also active in a gas-stove project. This is a project to create a revolving fund to provide people with gas stoves. The average family in Santiago that cooks with wood spends about Q100 (about $16) a month. The same family will spend about Q50 if they switch to gas. The problem in the past has been the prohibitive price of the stoves and tanks. The stove project uses a formula whereby the people pay for their stove using the Q50 a month that they have saved by using gas instead of firewood. So far we have provided 67 stoves.
This year we have started sending ecological educational materials to the local schools. We have been donated these materials from various places and are coordinating with the teachers in Santiago so that we will see the greatest benefit from this project. Everything from posters to little educational comic books have been spread out to the schools. We feel that this particular project will end up being one of our most successful ones.Every year, just before the rainy season, we plant seedbeds with native and firewood trees, then we sit out on the road that heads up the volcano and give them away to anyone that wants them. Usually a farmer will plant trees if he's got them. There just doesn't seem to be anyone planting seedbeds.
Last year we gave away 4000 trees and planted another 2000 ourselves. This year the project was a little slow in getting started so we estimate that we will only have about 2000 trees altogether. Maybe we will have more help next year.
What can I do to help?
The most obvious way is with a donation. 100% of all monies donated to SIEMBRA go towards our projects; there is nobody making any money off of SIEMBRA except the forest ranger.
We have no hidden expenses.With more money we can expand the Cloudforest Reserve, and do more projects.Another way to help is to donate time to help at our ecological actions.
You could pick up some trash yourself.
Apartado postal 5
Santiago Atitlan, Sololá, Guatemala
Tele/Fax in Guatemala; (502) 7721 7329>