The Coast Part II - Bahía

We went to Bahía to stay for three days. Bahía is a city on the west coast, 20 minutes south of Canoa, that sprang up relatively recently.

That area of the coast is dry tropical forest, so now during the dry season, there is little rain, and the land is generally dry and brown, like American forests in the fall. In this area, as in much of Ecuador, much of the land area has been cleared, burned, and used for raising cattle.

Clearing forests is a serious problem because the soil is more easily washed away in a strong rain, which happens frequently in the rainy season. That’s one reason why mudslides are common here. And these floods and mudslides can wipe out entire towns in a rainy season, especially with extreme weather events like El Niño, when the storms are unusually intense. Not to mention the loss of species that comes with deforestation.

This is one example of how ruining ecosystems for short term economic gain, like cutting forests for cattle pasture, is ultimately not worth the money. The immediate profit is far outweighed by the damage done to the surrounding towns when massive floods and mudslides wipe out homes, infrastructure, and businesses. The natural environment is more economically valuable when it is preserved.

We went To Bahía because an organization called Planet Drum is based out of Bahía. Planet Drum grows trees to reforest devastated areas by the coast, planting up to 5,000 new trees a year.

We worked with them for a few days, using used plastic bottles as pots to grow tree seedlings that would later be planted on hillsides.

We talked with Planet Drum about the ecosystems, their struggles as an nonprofit, and their plan to create an ecological institute for students and volunteers from anywhere in the world to come study the ecosystems, biodiversity, and sustainable development. We hiked through the land they purchased for the future site of their institution.

We also visited the two local schools where Planet Drum runs a program to teach children about the importance of preserving the health of ecosystems and biodiversity. The kids gave poster presentations about everything they had learned during the year, which included pollution of the air, land, and sea, deforestation, loss of species, recycling, composting, and conservation.