Jul 21, 2011

Panama Latrine Team

Mangrove forests in the Gulf of San Miguel, Panama.
In December of 2008, I began working for EcoLogic in Panama’s Gulf of San Miguel where 16% of Panama’s mangroves can be found; the area is rich in biodiversity and has an impressive scenic beauty. In the coastal zone, there are many established fishing communities, which depend on these mangroves and their wildlife populations to exist. Right now, EcoLogic is working in five of these communities: Río Congo, Punta Alegre, Puento Lara, La Puntita, and Arretí.

Part of our work involves coordinating community consultations where we hear from the local people about their lives and circumstances. Based on these consultations, we help them prioritize their concerns and jointly devise solutions to address their primary challenges. In the Gulf of San Miguel main concerns include access to clean drinking water and the effects diminishing fish stock in the mangroves are having on their livelihoods.  This is why our focus in Panama is centered on water, environmental cleanup, and strengthening community-based organizations devoted to the sustainable management of natural resources.

Community members building a composting latrine.
In Puerto Lara and Punta Alegre, we are developing a plan for watershed management and outlining steps to strengthen local water councils. In Puerto Lara, we are also establishing a tree nursery which will have the capacity to produce 10,000 seedlings a year for enriching and repopulating the nearby microwatershed. In Río Congo, we are building composting latrines which will reduce runoff and contamination of the mangroves. In Punta Alegre, all of the community stakeholders are coming together to identify a location where they can build a water aqueduct to provide safe, reliable drinking water to the community. The community has existed for more than 100 years without reliable access to clean drinking water.

In these two and a half years I’ve worked in Darién, I’ve been a part of these communities and their daily lives, and witnessed their joys and their sorrows. Their commitment to our collaborative projects and their desire to succeed is quite obvious because of all the effort and energy they put into all of the projects we’ve undertaken. I was honored that recently, in a community meeting in Punta Alegre, when all the various project partners were present, the water council president, Isidoro Zúñiga, specifically mentioned EcoLogic while thanking everyone for their interest and support. EcoLogic is having a significant and positive impact on the quality of peoples' lives in this area, and I feel proud to be a part of this important work we are doing.

- Yaira Allois Pino, Program Officer for Panama
Yaira is from Santiago de Veraguas, Panama. She works on EcoLogic's projects with our partner organizations in that country. 

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