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Stibrawpa Association

Rural Economic Development
Cultural Development
Indigenous Territory

Helping to mitigate climate change, conserve the soil, protect the forests and care for Mother Earth is supporting the Bribri people. We are the ethnic group of Talamanca, Costa Rica.

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Raise those Palms!

This is a project for the management, conservation, and sustainable use of native palms in the vicinity of La Amistad International Park, PILA. It is an initiative that promotes the biodiversity of the rainforest and the indigenous identity of the Bribri people. The project is led by the Bribri families of the Stibrawpa indigenous association, in the community of Yorkin, Bratsi district, in the canton of Talamanca, in the southern Caribbean area of Costa Rica.

Ancestral Technology to Cool the Planet

The use of uko (geonoma congesta) and kuk (triarteagigantea) palms in the construction of roofs and walls of Bribri houses is ancestral, however, in recent years PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and/or polycarbonate roofs in indigenous houses have been gaining ground due to the practicality and accessibility of the sheets. These are easily found in all hardware stores in Bribri, the main administrative and commercial center of the canton of Talamanca.

Suita Palm on Trend Due to Heat Waves

However, the high temperatures that have been recorded both in Talamanca and throughout Costa Rica - as a result of climate change - have put on alert the indigenous population of the canton, who are again betting on native palm fiber roofs for use in their homes. But these palms, which grow wild in the forests, are not eternal, and their uncontrolled use and management could, far from promoting tradition, put an end to a millenary indigenous practice.

Palm Roofs or Roofs of Death?

The native uko and kuk palms have several virtues: they can last more than 10 years, they are impermeable to water, they cool the interior of houses and they are biodegradable, that is, once they complete their cycle, they serve as organic matter for soil nutrition. Likewise, and no less important, palm roofs are harmoniously incorporated into the landscape and become true ecosystems, serving as hosts for fauna and microfauna, such as bats, lizards, insects, and the most unimaginable pollinators.

On the contrary, PVC and/or polycarbonate sheets, although they protect families from the rain, raise the temperature inside homes to unbearable levels and take more than 1,000 years to disintegrate naturally in the environment. And their manufacture requires solvents considered carcinogenic, such as methylene chloride and dioxins, highly toxic substances that are among the most persistent organic pollutants known to science.

The construction of roofs with Suita leaves is a millenary ancestral technique based on indigenous wisdom and cosmovision.

Palms for Reforestation

In this context, the project Raise those Palms aims to plant 2,000 native palms on the banks of the Yorkin and Tscui rivers, as well as in the cocoa production plots of the 40 families that make up the association. Each of the families will ensure the production and plantation of50 uko or suita palm (Geonoma Congesta) and kuk palm or also called chonta(Triartea gigantea) in Spanish.

The purpose is to propagate and harvest the palms in areas of secondary forest, without touching the primary forest anymore. At present, to obtain these palms, Bribri families must walk long distances into the mountains, where the plants grow wild. “If people continue to take the Suita out of the forest uncontrollably because of the heat, there will be destruction and we will run out of Suita”, warns Bernarda Morales, president and founder of Stibrawpa. Another of the traditional palms to be reforested is the Chonta palm, which, unlike timber trees such as the Laurel, grows well within the cacao plantations, regenerating and nourishing the soil and providing organic matter to the cacao plantation.

Preserving Tradition… and the Forest

Morales confirms that the idea is not to touch the forest, nor alter the natural dynamics of the ecosystems of the mountains. With this project they hope that the new generations that are forming families, building houses, will become aware of the importance of preserving the rainforests for the sustainability of the culture and cosmovision.

Stibrawpa's families have integrated and well-designed production spaces where they incorporate ancestral techniques such as intercropping fruit and timber trees, and the assembly and rotation of crops. In their plots of between 1 and 2 hectares, they cultivate at levels ranging from the upper canopy to the lower canopy, shrubs and undergrowth. In their plots it is common to find an average of 50 to 60 different crops, including medicinal plants, grains, tubers, timber, and fruit trees such as cacao and organic bananas for export.

Stibrawpa is an indigenous association made up of 40 families of Bribri origin settled in the community of Yorkin. Led mainly by women, the organization was created with the aim of promoting their culture and protecting the life of the rainforest.

Raise those Palms for Improved Income

The Project for the management, conservation and sustainable use of native palms will undoubtedly contribute to the promotion of Bribri culture and traditions, to mitigate the effects of climate change and cool the planet; but also, to improve soil nutrition and fertility; to promote pollinators, fauna, and microfauna for the benefit of crops; and to improve and diversify the income of families in Yorkin. Just one bundle of uko or Suitaleaves for example, with an approximate weight of 30 kilos (2 mats), could cost around $38 in the market. A considerable sum if you estimate that the construction of a small hut takes at least 40 bundles of leaves.

Join the Reforestation

The estimated budget for the implementation of the project is $20,000. This amount covers the planting of the palms by seed, the irrigation and care of the seedlings by the families and their subsequent installation in the final space. The Suita and Chonta seedlings will be propagated by the families using the seed planting method. After a month of germination, the plants will be kept for another 6 months under the families' protection until their final planting, one month later. The reforestation project will last 1 year, which is the estimated harvesting time of the palms. Of the total number of seedlings to be installed, at least 20% will be timber trees such ascedar, laurel, cachá, manú and almond trees.

Join us, support our project of reforestation of the jungle with native palms and endemic timber trees. Your donations will help us conserve the rainforest and the biodiversity that depends on it, including our own species. We wantless PVC roofs in our rainforests and more palm roofs, through sustainable management and use for the biodiversity of our forests, rivers, and groundwater, less plastic and more life, it is possible, if we act together!

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