So there I was at this house on the edge of the jungle off of the river. It was a 40 minute extremely eventful (10 people in a tiny boat) panga ride from Bluefields. The property was really nice, like an off the grid living dream come true. Anyways, we chopped down some coconuts and drank the water inside. It was delicious but moments later I realized I had to utilize the, um, facilities. The outdoor baño was actually quite nice. It was clean but had two large elevated holes, underneath which you could not see. I had to choose one and went right. During this time I happened to look over into the hole opposite the one I chose and something was emerging… BATS! That is right, bats were emerging from the baño. I remained still as three flew out and around my head before flying upward toward an opening in the ceiling. Luckily I had gotten my rabies vaccines before departing Florida and, to be honest, they were actually cute, the bats. This was just one of the many adventures I had the pleasure of going on during my first week with blueEnergy.
The home we were visiting is actually Centro Ocupacional de Prevención y Reinserción para Adolescentes y Jovenes (COPRAJ). A local couple founded COPRAJ as a multi-faceted solution to at risk youths from Bluefields. In addition to building skills, crafts, music, and family, the youths are taught the valuable skill of permaculture farming. This type of farming is holistic by design, considering the natural interactions of plants and animals and working with them to yield bountiful harvest whilst maintaining the integrity of the land and preventing the monocultures that are too often found with traditional farming and agriculture. Waste is actually not waste at all – it is a resource. We learned this firsthand at another site visit to FUNCOS.
FUNCOS is a larger scale permaculture farm situated just at the edge of Bluefields. We did not have to take a panga to get there but did arrive via the back of a truck with rails (such a fun ride). We were greeted upon arrival and taken around the farm to see the way in which the plants were situated so as one would provide shade to another that required it, for example. The main event at FUNCOS was the composting demonstration. The farm composts all leftover plants and food and, as an added bonus, collects manure from local residents and smaller farms that produce it (no waste indeed). Once the compost becomes ready, the farmers at FUNCOS fill small bags with it and plant baby trees and plants. These plants are either sold to generate funds or are donated to other farms. We set off to work on filling bags with compost and planting small citrus trees following – it was definitely dirty work but we were all proud to lend a hand.
Speaking of permaculture farming, blueEnergy has their very own permaculture garden that I was given the option of learning about and actively participating in during my downtime. I am so excited to learn the techniques and should be starting relatively soon.
The aforementioned site visits were, predominately, focused on permaculture and organizations that blueEnergy works with but we did take a few trips round the city of Bluefields to see some of other aspects of blueEnergy’s involvement in the city. The first stop was a mechanized well that was integrated into a local school. The well provides the children with safe, potable water and is an extreme asset to the students and staff’s health and hygiene. A nice young gentleman gave us a demonstration as he cranked up the well and got himself a clean drink of water. The mechanized well is important as so many around the city are “hand dug,” which leaves them open (literally) to all sorts of contamination. If the wells are not dug deep enough they can become contaminated with human waste from nearby latrines. If the wells are not protected, hosts of contaminants (to include dead animals) can infiltrate the water along with runoff and pathogens. We were able to see a hand dug well, a completed mechanized well, and a mechanized well in progress wherein we were given the rundown on how the machinery works and necessary depths to which one must drill. Preventing contamination regardless the well type is key in sanitation and hygiene. Dry latrines, such as those developed by blueEnergy, are a way of doing so. The human excreta is confined from contaminating local water sources. We were able to visit the home of a blueEnergy dry latrine recipient and it was quite impressive – clean, lacking odor, and efficient. The family said that they have two containers and can go 18 months before having to replace just one.
This is just the beginning of the blueEnergy adventures but it is nice knowing that no matter where we go or how tired we are, the amazing ladies in the blueEnergy kitchen always have a delicious creation awaiting us.