Student News

Panama #5: Planting Perennials

Heather Brown – March 16, 2018

Madeline Richmond (’18) and David Chen (’20) describe partnering with students at a local school to plant sustainable crops, after a day continuing their research project.

Today we continued our research project. We dug more plots in random areas of the land. The weather was a lot nicer today than yesterday. When we first arrived, there was a rainbow right at the end of the driveway, and we knew it was going to be a good day. There was a slight breeze throughout our time in the nursery and light rain showers. We also got to try the fruit of the cocoa; you suck this sticky stuff off of it, but don’t eat the seeds. After we finished our research, we travelled up the road a few minutes to the community where we assisted in re-planting in a garden that was built by the group last year. When we first got there, they fed us rice with a traditional Panamanian soup to put on top that had vegetables and chicken; it was amazing like all of the food here. There were also twelve children who attend school in the community, and they assisted us in planting in the garden. We played “duck, duck, goose” with them in Spanish to help them feel more comfortable around us; they were very shy and spoke little English. It was important that we help them plant because of our “man power” and the fact that most of the crops we planted were to be eaten after nine months of growth. We were amazed to see that one of the trees we planted can be regrown by cutting off a single branch and replanting it in the ground. The task of planting was not difficult, but the soil was dry and hard to dig in the heat. We hope the perennials we planted today will be more self- sustaining than the annuals the group planted last year.

With our help, the kids created a trench that was in the shape of a snake. It would reuse the ‘grey water’ from the kitchen sink, and the water would help the plants around it grow. The most rewarding part of the day was being able to interact with the little children. Most of the kids do not speak English, so the language barrier was a little tough, but it was amazing to see how successful small interactions with hand gestures were. At the end of our time there, we enjoyed a soccer game with the kids. It was so much fun to see how excited and interested they all seemed. The kids taught us a lot more than just how to plant.

Instead of riding back to the facilities, we hiked back. It was still hot and we were tired, but it was definitely worth the experience. Luckily, the only “scary” thing we encountered was a snake, but thankfully, “Red and black is a friend of Jack”—it was harmless. Overall, our fourth day in the jungle was tiring, but very insightful.