The first project being taken on by Connecting the Roots is a rewilding project located in the heart of Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula - an area of outstanding natural beauty and environmental significance, yet also a region ravaged at the hands of the cattle industry.
With the help of Enter Gallery - a Brighton-based art gallery, we are hard at work on our Pilot Programme, where we are trying out our rewilding methods on a two-hectare plot of land, with the view to expanding this to the surrounding region once successful. The ultimate aim of the project is to rewild 10,000 hectares of biological corridor that stretch between Diria National Park and the Pacific Ocean.
Enter Gallery have pledged £100,000 over a maximum of 10 years to fund this Pilot Programme. As a business that deals in prints and deliveries all around the world, Enter Gallery cares deeply about the steps they take as a business to offset their environmental impact.
Since May 2021, Enter Gallery has sent £20,000 to the project, below is a summary of progress so far...
Pilot Programme Progress Report
NURSERY AND SEED COLLECTION:
A significant part of the initial £20,000 has gone towards building the on-site nursery required for the project to succeed. The nursery is where all of the seeds are cultivated in preparation for planting.
The nursery was built over a two month period, between May and June 2021. The funding allowed for raised beds, and special net screens on the ceiling, which afford greater control over sun filtration into the nursery. To ensure the nursery was built to the highest standard, the team sought the guidance of Bolivar Jimenez – a local engineer, and specialist in building nurseries.
Since the nursery has been complete, 500 seeds and baby plants have been collected from the existing forest and from around the finca. Of these 500 seeds, 100 have already germinated in the nursery. Once mature enough, the resulting plants will be planted around the site as part of the rewilding project, or will be distributed to farmers in the local area for them to rewild their own land.
ESTABLISHING A WATER SYSTEM:
Enter Gallery’s funding has also helped the team take the first steps towards establishing a water system, which will connect the mountain’s natural spring to the nursery. The system will be set up so that the water moves with the help of gravity, rather than power.
So far, the Pilot Programme have invested in a 1000 litre water tank to store the water, a pump, and tubing. To complete the full installation of the water system, the team will need to buy another water tank and additional tubing.
Between the end of May and August 2021, 400 trees have been planted onsite. The species planted are all native to Costa Rica and include Cedar, Ron Ron (a flowering tree that’s part of the cashew family), Cocobolo (a tropical hardwood), and Cortiz Amarillo (a timber tree). The trees were sourced with the help of ICE Group – Costa Rica’s 100% green electricity company, who support planting initiatives across the country.
All trees have been planted strategically – not only to give them the best chance to grow, but also to achieve key objectives of the rewilding project. These include stabilising previously unstable land, and helping to naturally eradicate invasive species which currently threaten to have a negative impact on the success of the project.
An example of one such invasive species is Cow Grass – a species of grass from Brazil, which has long roots of 3-4 metres. If left to its own devices, Cow Grass will steal valuable water from the new trees, and away from the endemic species on the mountain that the team are fighting to save. Cow Grass is difficult to get rid of – you either use chemicals (which goes against the ethos of the project), or you gradually deprive the grass of what it needs to grow. As the newly-planted trees grow, the Cow Grass will be left in the shade and will eventually die out.
Each day, the duo working hard on the project spend the morning tending to the seedlings in the nursery, and then the afternoons clearing the grass around the newly-planted trees to ensure they have the best chance to flourish.
To aid the growth of the trees, seeds and plants, compost has been created from natural organics materials found around the finca, i.e. leaves, natural fallen branches, grass, and anything that falls from the trees. Multiple piles have been set up around site to afford easy access to all the planting areas.
Enter Gallery’s investment also went towards conducting the first topographic study of the land. Having the site mapped out will allow the progress of the project to be monitored efficiently moving forwards.
Over the next few months, the aims of the project are as follows…
BUILD OUTDOOR TERRACES:
The team will create outdoor terraces where the small plants from the nursery will be moved to so that they can continue their development in a beneficial environment, leaving the nursery for germinating the more delicate seeds. In addition to building the terraces, the water supply needs to be extended to reach them, and shades need to be installed to ensure the plants are not killed by the strength of the Costa Rican sun.
COMPLETING THE WATER SYSTEM:
The team aim to complete the water system. The next step is to buy pipes and another water tank, so that water can be pumped from the original tank to another tank, and then back to the nursery using gravity. This needs to be done before November, when the heavy rains stop. They will also install a solar panel on the water tank in the next three months.
DAILY MAINTENANCE AND COMPOSTING:
Composting and clearing the land around the plants and trees are two of the most important elements involved in helping the trees to flourish, and protecting Enter Gallery’s investment. Therefore, priority will be given to this daily maintenance to give the rewilding programme the best chance of success.
CREATING A BEE CORRIDOR:
The team plan to mill two mature Mellina trees, which are another invasive species originally from Asia and are currently harming the eco-system by poisoning the land. Once they have cut them down, they will use the wood to build with, crafting such things as shelves, boxes to carry things in, and hives to be used for keeping bees. Additionally, the team wish to buy the type of flowers that bring bees to the site. The plan is to plant them around the trees, around the nursery and the terraces, creating a bee corridor that will help pollinate everything on site.
An official map of the site will be located, outlining where everything has been planted, so that monitoring will be more efficient moving forwards.