Thursday, 31 January 2013

Role Call: Our Inspiring Venturers. Nuestros Ventureros Inspiradores

We know you are all probably wondering how your loved ones are getting on out here since they arrived at Raleigh Costa Rica and Nicaragua's Fieldbase, as you can imagine with 160 volunteers it is a little bit tough to get everyone onto the blog... but we thought we would try! Here is Expedition 13A and our Venturer Role Call - our inspiring young people:

Aqui en Fieldbase, estamos concientes de que van a estar pensando en como estan sus queridos desde que llegaron a Raleigh International. Como pueden imaginar, con 160 voluntarios, es un poco dificil poner las fotos de todos en el blog... pero hemos tratado hacerlo! Aqui esta el equipo de 13A, y nuestro de pasaje de lista de Ventureros - nuestros jovenes inspiradores:

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

And so it begins... 13A here we go!

Today is Day 1 of Venturer Induction and we are incredibly excited that 119 Venturer volunteers aged 17 to 24 have arrived at Raleigh International's Costa Rica & Nicaragua Fieldbase in Turrialba, about 2 hours east of the capital San Jose. 

Expedition 13A has begun and we have welcomed individuals who are dedicating themselves to working with people from around the world, inspiring, developing and challenging themselves; working in partnership, learning to build sustainable communities and conserve the environment. 

Firstly last night saw a cooking competition between the HCVs and the PMs at Fieldbase, amazing teams making empanadas:

Judges, taking their jobs very seriously

And so to Day 1 of induction - lots more pictures to come, but it has been a crazy busy day for our Fieldbase team here as i'm sure you can imagine. Today has been a round robin of admin, ID shots, swimming assessments, moving into the new 'hotels and resorts' (more explanation to come in next the few days!) but everyone is happy and an incredible group of young people have taken today in their stride, even though they were exhausted and jet-lagged. The Venturers have thrown themselves wholeheartedly into the beginning of their expedition.

More to come soon, we have got an amazing video of everyone going up tomorrow, so stay tuned...

Spilling the beans: the threat to coffee and livelihoods

Coffee is the world's favourite beverage and the second-most traded commodity after oil. In 2009/10 coffee accounted for exports worth an estimated US$15.4 billion, when some 93.4 million bags were shipped, with total coffee sector employment estimated at about 26 million people in 52 producing countries. [1]
Coffee beans in Siares, where Alpha 8 will be building a pre-school

You are probably having a coffee whilst you read this, or have had a couple of cups to get you through the day? Now consider that those beans are currently under threat in Central America from a fungus called ‘roya’ affecting many of Raleigh Costa Rica and Nicaragua's partners and the communities where we are working.

In the Nicaraguan villages of Siares and Arenilla, where on Expedition 13A we will be working with local communities to build a preschool and a housing programme, many coffee farmers have been affected by ‘la roya’. It has already caused losses of more than $100 million in Nicaragua and warnings have put Costa Rica at threat of losing up to 30% of their crop yield.
UCA San Ramon is worried that ultimately debt will cripple the coffee growers in the region

‘Roya’ or rust fungus (Hemileia vastratrix) affects the leaves of a coffee bush until it completely dries the plant. This fungus is spread by contact from one leaf to another. It began to spread due to a lack of preventive measures and the effects of climate change, including high temperatures and drought, according to experts, government officials and industry sources.

Nicaragua is looking at $200 million in investments to renew its coffee plantations according to preliminary industry figures. While 'roya' is plaguing the whole Central American region the worst hit have been Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, with the latter two standing to lose the most as coffee is their main export. It represents $519 million, or 18 percent of exports for Nicaragua. The fungus has hit 30 percent of Nicaragua's 128,000 hectares of coffee, prompting the government and the industry to seek funds to help 35,000 growers. What makes matters worse is that many of the farmers are small-scale farmers who depend on coffee for their livelihoods.  When their coffee crop fails it has much more serious consequences.
Angie and Sacha, PMs in Arenilla working on a building programme during 13A, discussing the issues facing the region

When we spoke to our project partners, UCA San Ramon (a fair-trade coffee cooperative working in Matagalpa), they told us that the farmers are really worried as coffee prices are low, which combined with low harvests means that many farmers may end up in debt when they can’t pay off their loans. The outlook for next year isn’t any better as replacing the affected coffee trees will take three years, so instead many farmers are looking to diversify their farms by planting other crops.

So next time you are in the shop buying some coffee, remember that by buying fair-trade, you are supporting the most-vulnerable farmers and through the fair-trade premium supporting the social development of their communities. 

References: 1) International Coffee Organization (ICO) (2012) Trade Statistics. Accessed 2012 Aug 17.

p.s our Venturers have arrived - a very excited group are setting up their new homes as we speak - we will be bringing you an update asap with all their news and goings on!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The first of our Venturers have arrived: meet 13As Fabulous Ticos and Nicas

The HCVs met the Volunteer Manager Team with a conga line

En cada expedicion de Raleigh Internacional, sea en Borneo, India, Tanzania, o aqui en Costa Rica & Nicaragua, estamos privilegiados a tener Ventureros de los Paises Anfitriones (Host Country Venturers/HCVs). Durante la Expedicion 13A, estamos emocionados de tener 14 Costarricences y 4 Nicaraguenses. Keiner, el coordinador de los HCVs, era el mismo un HCV hace un par de anos, y trabaja sin parar para encontrar gente joven de America Central quien quiere hacer una diferencia en su medioambiente y conocer mucha gente de muchos paises diferentes.

On every Raleigh International expedition whether Borneo, India, Tanzania or here in Costa Rica & Nicaragua, we are privileged to have Host Country Venturers (HCVs). During Expedition 13A we are excited to be welcoming 14 Costa Ricans and 4 Nicaraguans. Keiner the HCV Co-ordinator who himself was an HCV a couple of years ago, works tirelessly to find young people from Central America wanting to make a difference to their environment, challenge themselves and meet many new people from many different places in the world.

Nuestros HCVs han llegado, y son/Our HCVs have arrived and they are:

Ignacio, Alejandra, Job, Luis, Adriana D, Adelina, Daniela, Berny, Jeannina, Esteban, Roger, Henry, Victor, Adriana C, Nathalia, Gina, Maikel and Nelson

Introducing the HCVs
An incredible entrance singing and dancing
El equipo entero de los Ventureros estaran llegando a Fieldbase el miercoles 30 de enero - les avisaremos tan pronto como hayan llegado, pero con la diferencia de la hora, puede ser el miercoles por la noche para ustedes si estan en europa. Estamos con muchas ganas de comenzar la Expedicion 13A!

The entire team of Venturers will be arriving at Fieldbase on Wednesday 30th January - we'll let you know as soon as they have arrived, although with the time difference it may be Wednesday evening for you if you are in Europe - we can't wait for 13A to get underway.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Protecting the Environment and Unbelievable Treckers

Our guest bloggers have told you all about their PPVs for the community phases but today Clive, Louise, Sarah and Clare will tell you about planning projects in Carara, San Lucas Island, The Treks and Cabo Blanco.

Guest Blogger Louise - Alpha 4 Carara National Park
Carara means place of the crocodiles

We left cloudy Turrialba and greeted sunny hot Carara National Park. We were met by Osvaldo who is the park's administyrator. Osvaldo speaks no English, so our group turned to our wonderful multi-talented Marisa who is not only a great doctor but great at speaking Spanish. She expertly asked our multitude of questions, poor Osvaldo wasn’t quite prepared for this super keen group of ladies and his main answer was ‘tranquilo, tranquilo’, (turns out this means be calm), another word to add to our ever increasing Spanish vocabulary!
Beautiful rainforest, our trail will be running underneath this incredible canopy
PM Emma illustrating one of the trails that Alpha 4 will be working on

He took us to our accommodation for the first phase - a disused former ranger station - where we will be falling asleep to the sounds of the rainforest, pretty exciting! However, for our visit, we spent two nights in Osvaldo’s house, what a lucky man! Whilst sitting outside the house we were amazed to see a huge iguana happily strolling along a branch and a white faced capuchin monkey swinging from tree to tree. We thought it couldn't get any better, but we were wrong...

We were taken into the rainforest to wander around the trails that the Alpha 4 will be improving in Phase 1. As we wandered Osvaldo would stop to point out ants busy carrying leaves at least 5 times their size, an agouti sat chilling out in the undergrowth and a scarlet macaw up in a hollow in a tree guarding the egg it had laid. Later on we even saw an anteater scaling a tree, even David Attenborough isn’t that lucky in a day!

Another beautiful illustration from Emma

We are really excited about meeting our Venturers, sharing this stunning place with them and improving the trails so that the visitors can access this magical place too, bringing in much needed economy to the park to sustain the rangers, protect the park from poachers and ensure the loss of biodivesity is reduced. Pura vida!

Guest Blogger Clare - Alpha 5 San Lucas Island

A derelict prison on an uninhabited island might not be everyone's first choice of accommodation  but nevertheless myself and PMs Sally, Paul and Kate rocked up to San Lucas Island on Monday for a project planning visit. Within minutes of arrival by boat (the only way to get to San Lucas) we began to realise just how exciting a Raleigh project this was going to be. 
Clearing and cleaning San Lucas for Alpha 5

Until 1992 San Lucas person housed some of the most notorious criminals in Costa Rica. As well as the prison a small community farmed on the island and the wives and children of some of the inmates, low security prisoners and ex-prisoners who despite having been released preferred to remain on the island rather than attempt to assimilate back into society. The island is now being transformed into a wildlife refuge, but despite the jungles' attempts to reclaim many of the abandoned buildings, litter, rusted metal, barbed wire and debris create significant hazards for the wildlife. Furthermore the rangers also hope to turn San Lucas into a tourist attraction in order to provide an income to maintain this unique environment and educate about bio-diversity.
San Lucas journey

Half an hour into our visit we had already seen flying fish and pelicans over the surrounding seas. A few hours more and we had seen a troop of howler monkeys, lizards and a snake slithering off into the undergrowth (non-venomous our ranger assured us). Inspired, we set about visiting and planning some of the projects Raleigh would be undertaking. Our project teams will be continuing some of the cleaning work that was started by previous expeditions, removing years worth of scrap and litter and recycling where possible. Another significant problem the island has is poaching, currently rangers struggle to move quickly to different parts of the island if they suspect a poaching vessel has landed. Expedition 13A will be building an access trail through the jungle from one beach to another to help the rangers tackle this threat more effectively.
Paul, Sally and Clare setting up comms

Talking of beaches, San Lucas boasts numerous sandy shores (risk assessing these was a particularly arduous task which we bravely undertook). Crabs, hermit crabs and monkeys in the coconut palms lining the beach added to our fast growing list of wildlife sightings. That evening we sat on the jetty and watched the sun set over the sea, a beautiful aspect which our teams will have every evening. After a good nights sleep, only partially disturbed by the monkeys echoing through the jungle, we left the isolation of San Lucas to return to Fieldbase. 
Risk assessing, tough work
Sunset in San Lucas

The history of the island, the cells with decades of prisoners graffiti, the array of flora & fauna which Raleigh will be helping to conserve makes San Lucas a truly fascinating project. Bring on 13A!

Guest Blogger Clive - Alpha 6 Cabo Blanco 
Sunset at Cabo Blanco

After a day of travelling we finally arrived at the beautiful nature reserve of Cabo Blanco at the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. There we were greeted by Francisco (or Chico) the Head Ranger of the park. Cabo Blanco is an absolute reserve and only a limited number of tourists are allowed in. This means that the majority of the reserve is untouched and the wildlife is truly abundant in this beautiful place. Almost too abundant, during dinner that evening we shared the dining room at the Ranger Lodge with a 2m boa constrictor which was chased from the room with a broom. 
Liz beautiful photography
A well deserved rest for Clive and Zoe
During the day we saw and heard howler monkeys, saw iguanas fighting and a coati patrolling around the lodge. The project is to construct a circular path through the jungle to allow better access for tourists. This will mean a lot of hard work, or “trabajo muy muy duro” as Chico put it, to move the raw materials up from the beach. We are very lucky to have been granted permission to build our own “luxury” accommodation in the form a of a jungle camp in this very special place. That will be our first job when we return with our group of venturers in a weeks time.
Calling Fieldbase to share their experience

Guest Blogger Sarah - Unbelievable Treckers 

The infamous Don Martin dropped us off early evening in Barbilla enough time to organise a place to camp on the edge of the National Park and a guide for the following day (courtesy of Marco) thankfully Scottish Colin, our honorary Spanish translator successfully negotiated a place to stay and a guide. Minor issues over prices were smoothed over with a quick call to trusty Fieldbase and Alphas 1 to 3 learn to always read the small-print first in their trip notes.

Sarah, Colin, James and Gemma

Alpha Girls set up the tent in the community centre to perfect our tent erecting technique while the alpha boys made a delicious dinner of rice and pork (flavouring!) and frijoles, finished off with a delicious and well deserved hot chocolate. Logistical aspects like purifying water were sorted and lights were out at 8pm (rock stars). A 4am wake up call and a splendid nights sleep were met by Marco at the Escuela as we all understood but The bringing back of the key was lost in translation but Alpha 3’s James happily walked back to the community centre to sort the problem out – what a guy.

James, Sarah and Gemma

Our first day of “proper” walking was lead by Roberto, a quiet local guide, a 27 year old who wore wellies (we are sure his patience began to wane after shoe change two of our river crossing) and carrying a tiny bag without any water or food to our knowledge. We had our whale sized hump backs, map and  enthusiasm to boot, not sure that Roberto was that convinced we were going to make the 2 day trek in 1!
As daylight crept in at 6am, we used the satphone then off right into the jungle, like 4 oblivious ants carrying their homes into what felt like the wilderness. Thick mud, steep climbs and descents kept us entertained and challenged us. Our aim was to fit 2 days into 1 so 11am was lunchtime and we had thankfully reached Ernestos house, a welcome opening into the jungle. Here at the small dwelling we filled up on water, sat down in the big green space for refried bean paste and crackers – delicious, no shortage of nuts and fruit and biscuits either.
The legends of Alpha 1
The second half of the day a.k.a day 2 – was more exhausting uphill back into the jungle. The sun breaking through the enormous trees and shafts of light making it through the leaves, it was relentless uphill, slippery and boggy, mud like we had never seen before each hour broken up with energizing nuts and biscuit stops. Fuelled to the top we made it to the clearing, the trees parted and we got more views of the jungle canopy more importantly we were overlooking the indigenous village of Valle Escondido (which means hidden valley), where we saw in the distance Casa Anquilla- where we were camping for the night. By 3pm all Alphas were very proudly catching 40 winks on La Plaza. Dinner was the piece de la resistance – salty cheesey pasta with veg, chickpeas and tomato sauce. A splendid hot chocolate to end, a fantastic feeling of utter achievement with two days done in the time of one. And another world record… bed time of 7pm – marvellous.
 2 days of trekking in one - a well deserved rest for Alpha 3
Late start of 6.30am, our goal today was to reach Rio Pacuare where Don Martin was to pick us up. Another tough uphiller, meandering rivers and slippery downhiller in the glorious Costa Rican sunshine we made or target fifteen minutes early. The corner shop of Bajo Pachare provided Alphas 1 and 3 with the best coca cola we’d had for a long time.  Muchos achievement all round. Bring on the trekking proper!

An amazing 5 days out on PPV (Project Planning Visit) for all. I hope you have enjoyed our guest bloggers - more from them and their project communications officers during phase. Thank you so much to everyone who has been reading the blog so far, for your support of our team and all that we are trying to achieve. Venturers arrive on Tuesday - here we go!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Salsa Burns

It has been a crazy few days at Fieldbase, after we all returned from 5 days on our Project Planning Visits, we needed to clean (ourselves and our kit), write up our project plans, risk assessments and casevac plans - but don't worry with our paperwork done, we made sure we had a bit of fun too - welcome to Expedition 13As induction into salsa and celebration of the great bard of Scotland with Burns Night.

Salsa Night
Keiner the HCV Coordinator and local Costa Rican showed us how to salsa
Salsa faces
Greg and Lou had it down (great salsa faces too)
Some salsa flair from Helena and Shane

Burn's Night at Fieldbase
We are incredibly lucky to have Scottish PMs on 13A and Colin and Marie who were amazing ambassadors for bonny Scotland - hosting a night of haggis, poems, hialirty and ceilidh dancing (you have never seen so many sweaty but suprisingly coordinated people in one place!) 

Our running order for Burns night

Vanessa gave us a speech: Preparing the Immortal Memory with her support crew of SLD

Address tae the Haggis by our eminent host Colin (that is a towel kilt yes) and a poem he wrote about the PMs and a mouse who was sadly effected by Millenium Development Goal 7: loss of biodiversity and therefore his home:

To a PM (Mouse?)

Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beasties,
O, what a panic's in thy breasties!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering gossip!
I wad be laith to rin an' salsa with thee,
Or sing murd'ring Bohemian Rhapsody!

I'm truly happy man's dominion,
Has built this random social union,
An' breaks that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At us, thy poor, earth-born PMs,
An' fellow-mortal friends

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin! 
It's silly stinking clothes are strewin!
An' nowhere to sleep or clean, O' mattress dream!
An' bleak January's winds ensuin,
Please baith yer smelly bits clean! 
Thou saw the field laid bare an' wast,

An' weary Venturers comin fast,
An' crying their under tarp,
Thou wouldnae live - Till crash!
all our parties long past
Nada will we hiv.

That wee bit heap o' rash an' stubble,
Has cost thee mony a sneaky cuddle!
Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble,
Leaving all behind us, life or love,
To thole the Costa Rican heavens above,
Flying here like pastey white doves!

Still we art blest, compar'd wi' them 
The present has toucheth thee: Och if I backward cast my e'e.
On projects all we'll be!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
Pura Vida!

It was then over to Marie to Toast the Laddies:

Marie giving 'em hell - we beat them (female blogger!) go 13A Ladies

Colin and 40 VMs attempting to strip the willow
Gay Gordons
Elegance, grace and the Dashing White Sargeant 
It was very confusing
Sarah and Liz
Denise embracing her inner lassie
Team ceilidh - an incredible evening - the Scots definitely know how to have a good partay