Sunday, September 6, 2009

An Epic Panamanian Adventure

We just completed our first trip to Panama this summer. From August 9th-16th a group of nine of us flew to Panama City and then made our way to Granja San Jose Arriba, a farming cooperative in Gatu, Veraguas. Over the course of the trip we accomplished a lot and had a great time doing it. For a week we stayed with one of the families and got to experience real Panamanian life. They were super-hospitable keeping all of us for the week, feeding us, and providing ridiculous amounts of fresh fruit and coffee. Over the course of the stay we began an infrastructural development project for the community farm. In the past years their farm has been devastated by the strong winds of changing weather patterns. This has greatly affected their livelihood as sustenance farmers, and poses a yearly threat. Through the construction of a wind-solution to prevent crop destruction as well as a rancho (solar crop-drying area, crop storage, silo, meeting space, kitchen, bedroom and tool shed) with necessary facilities and increased capacity we will help the families achieve financial stability and create future opportunity. After thoroughly exploring the site, hours of conversation with the families and a few coffee-fueled late nights we were able to finalize a design. It incorporates a short-term and long-term wind-solution, which will prevent crop devastation and loss, and a new facility that will help to improve the farm’s profitability, creating a long-term investment in the future of their community. During the site visit we also engaged in a few construction activities. We competed in a block making workshop, helped to construct a latrine, and built a preliminary solar-drying facility. While there we also got to experience everything from Jungle hikes to swimming in waterfalls, and of course the occasional snake. After a great experience, we began the intense off-road journey to the main road and headed back to Panama City. After exploring Panama City everyone returned safely to the US. And now we begin the next part of the project - the construction phase.

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