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Los Cipreses: an analog forest takes root

Los Cipreses: an analog forest takes root

At the beginning of this year, we were interested in establishing an analog forestry site in Costa Rica’s capital of San José, the new location of the IAFN’s secretariat office since August of 2013. This site would allow us to show the functioning of the analog forestry methodology and the development of an analog forest to colleagues, organizations, and institutions. What we didn’t realize at the time was the rich tapestry of relationships that such a project would weave together!

Thanks to the Watersheds and Biological Corridors Program of the San José Municipality, we had the opportunity to meet the community of Los Cipreses in Barrio México, a few minutes away from the city centre. The site borders on the Río Torres, one of the main tributaries of the Tárcoles River, which drains much of the solid and liquid waste of Costa Rica’s central valley.

In this context, the Los Cipreses site, cared for by a community that stands out for its organization, unity, and the strong will to improve their quality of life through their efforts, presented itself as an invaluable opportunity. With the endorsement of the committee of the local development association, and the unconditional support of Gerardo Aguilar, we initiated an ambitious project: to restore three hectares of forest in the middle of the city, and next to a highly contaminated river.

Area of a recent landslide in the Los Cipreses neighbourhood in San José. Photo: Kitty Garden

Area of a recent landslide in the Los Cipreses neighbourhood in San José. Photo: Kitty Garden

This urban river contains an abundance of disheartening elements: trash that is tossed away by some individuals, used grey and black waters, rainwater runoff, and areas of erosion and landslides. The site has also served as an occasional hiding place and stomping ground for unsavoury characters. But the site’s beauty is undeniable. That’s why the community decided from day one that what they wanted from reforestation in the area was a return of the old colours, smells, and sounds. The analog forestry design focused on trees with colourful flowers and sweet smells, as well as species that would attract birds.

Initial map of the restoration area in Los Cipreses, San José. Map courtesy of  San José municipality

Initial map of the restoration area in Los Cipreses, San José. Map courtesy of San José municipality

The first year of the reforestation project covered 1.5 hectares of the site (see map), covering areas with some existing trees, and others that had become overgrown with elephant grass (Penicetum purpureum). Controlling this invasive grass has been a major task, especially since the control methods have been manual, without the use of agrotoxins. The idea is that as the tree canopy provides more and more shade, this invasive species will be crowded out and eventually eliminated. The following is a list of the species planted in July of 2014, the first planting:

Common nameScientific nameUse in analog forestry design
UrucaTrichilia havanensisLocally native species
MoringaMoringa oleiferaMany medicinal and food uses
Corteza amarillaTabebuia ochraceaNative species, flower
Cortéz NegroTabebuia impetiginosaNative species, flower
CirríMauria heterophyllaNectar, flower
SacuanjochePlumeria rubraNectar, flower
JacarandaJacaranda spFlower
GuanacasteEnterolobium cyclocarpumStructure, arts and crafts (seeds)
DamaCitharexylum donnell-smithiiFlower
Lluvia ChinaKoelreuteria sp.Flower
NogalJuglans sp. Fruit for birds
SotacaballoZygia longifoliaSoil retention
MalincheDelonix regiaFlower, structure
Zacate de limónCymbopogon citratusMedicinal, soil retention
Agroecology workshops aimed at increasing local food security in Los Cipreses. Photo: Eduardo Aguilar

Agroecology workshops aimed at increasing local food security in Los Cipreses. Photo: Eduardo Aguilar

As a complementary initiative, with the cooperation of the Programa Bandera Azul Ecológica Los Cipreses (a local environmental initiative) IAFN has also actively participated in efforts to encourage food security with local families. Training modules for urban agroecological production have been developed, with Eduardo López; and as a part of this effort, we have constructed a simple but functional nursery which can store plants for distribution to home gardens, as well as serving as a germinator and storage area for new species to introduce into the analog forest area.

Nursery construction in the analog forestry site, Los Cipreses, San José. Photo: Eduardo Lopez

Nursery construction in the analog forestry site, Los Cipreses, San José. Photo: Eduardo Lopez

Inter-institutional collaboration has been key, as well as the involvement of the community and the drive to see a small piece of the Río Torres watershed in a better state; connecting wildlife and strengthening ties to the land. Thanks to all those who have formed part of this common effort, we’ll see you in 2015!

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4 Comments

  1. Emperatriz Ordeñana

    Los felicito por impulsar estos proyectos y apoyar a estas comunidades comprometidas con su entorno, es un ejemplo que debía tomarse como modelo y ser reproducido a fin de tomar medidas antes de que sea demasiado tarde.

  2. ronald esquivel gonzales

    los felicito estos proyectos son los que me dicen que no todo esta perdido y nos da fuerzas para para que nosotros y nuestra organización no bajemos los brazos agroecotur boca del rio san carlos Ronald esquivel

  3. CHIKY SABORIO

    El Río Torres !!!Vive!!!, mientras exista gente como ustedes hay esperanza de que los Ríos Urbanos sobrevivan al concreto y a la miopía de los humanos, cegados por la ignorancia y el desprecio a la naturaleza.

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