Kids Learn about Water Conservation and Water Security

In 2014 Earth Links, musical duo ZunZun and Raindancer Media released their third Music Video in a series that covers Watershed Awareness, Water Science and Water conservation.

The music videos, H2O Go with the Flow, in English and Spanish, are a fun and effective way to learn about water science and water conservation through Movement and Music.  They are wonderful in the classroom or at home with the family.

Have a kid who wants to help other kids out? After talking with musical duo ZunZun, who work with school children on water conservation and watershed education, we came up with some suggestions for children who want to help communities that need clean, safe water: fundraising for water projects in communities suffering or at risk of water insecurity.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

According to the Millennium Project, 2.4 billion people worldwide live in water-scarce regions, children would be responding to a vital need. Fundraising for these projects (building a well, for example) can be fun and informational: a group of kids or a class can put on a dance marathon or other event. These projects would preferably be specific, at a village or community level and costing less than $1,000 to complete, so that children at one school could take responsibility for raising all the money needed to complete the project. Young people would have the experience of making a real and lasting difference in the lives of other children and their families. The water projects would be identified and managed by a respected nonprofit nongovernmental organization (NGO) that specializes in helping communities develop sources of inexpensive, simple to maintain, community-controlled water.

Our initial research found the following list of NGOs working globally on water projects. We welcome suggestions for other nonprofits doing good work in this area.

  • Drop in the Bucket is an organization that is often mentioned as well run, effective, and welcomes donations by school children.
  • Globalwater has a website that includes stories about students getting involved and their successful fundraising, including ideas for creating fundraising events.
  • The nonprofit a child’s right puts children’s water needs front and center.
  • Philanthropedia has extensive lists of organizations doing water projects and gives recommendations for each organization based on a survey of experts, organizations such as WaterAid, Water for People, IRC (International Water and Sanitation Centre), PATH (Program for Appropriate Technology in Health),, iDE, and WASH Advocacy Initiative. Please see their excellent website for more details and links. Some of these NGOs are religious, and some do not necessarily focus on water, though they often provide water, sanitation, and hygiene projects as critical parts of more comprehensive, community development projects.

Kids Love Soccer and Getting Plastic Out of the Environment

This spring, the kids at Westlake Elementary School in Santa Cruz California made a meaningful connection with another group of kids in Mexico, donating their used soccer shoes and other equipment to the boys and girls who participate in the Azulita Project. This is an innovative program in Los Llanos, Guerrero, Mexico, that combines soccer and getting discarded plastic out of their communities. We at Earth Links have been working with Azulita since the summer of 2011 and we’re excited and pleased that the bond between Santa Cruz and Los Llanos is getting stronger.

Azulita has found a very creative way to get kids involved in recycling plastic and other positive activities. In exchange for collecting plastic bottles from local roads and rivers, the children earn participation in a soccer league. Shoes and uniforms, as well as English classes and art projects, are part of the deal. The plastic is collected, bundled, and recycled in Ixtapa, and the money earned is used for soccer equipment and school supplies. Six small towns are part of Azulita and they all come together on weekends for exciting tournaments and environmental activities. Lots of fun is had and tons of work gets done! The beaches and endangered turtles benefit along with all the communities. (You can read more about Azulita here and at their own website.)

Azulita Kids and Westlake Kids, Summer 2012

Westlake teacher Liz Smith volunteered to oversee the soccer shoe drive and then to deliver the equipment to the Azulita Kids. Over about six weeks, Westlake students enthusiastically piled up all kinds of soccer equipment for the kids who participate in Azulita’s soccer league. Liz reports that her own children Ryan and McKenzie, who attend Westlake, each “did a presentation to their class explaining the recycling program and the environmental impact on Mexico and the whole coast in general. Students brought in shoes and we ended up bringing almost 50 pairs, plus lots of shin guards, socks and jerseys!”

Once the equipment was gathered, the Smiths and other Santa Cruz families took a trip to Los Llanos to meet Erwing Rodriguez, who runs the program, and the Azulita kids themselves. The kids had a chance to meet and play together. Liz told us that “for our children, it was a highlight of the trip!”

Access to Maple Creek Park is a Reality!

Thanks to work of the Whatcom Land Trust and Whatcom Parks Department, Maple Creek Park is now the place that Earth Links and our Board of Directors envisioned it could become. Although it took several years of planning and negotiations, our dream of transferring the property from Earth Links to an entity that would protect it in perpetuity has been realized. Local residents and visitors have a place of refuge — as do the salmon, wildlife, and the forest itself.  The small town is buffered from the effects of clear cutting to north and the public has access to a critical connecting trail path in the Maple Falls Glacier Trail (PDF) that will eventually link Mount Baker to the coast.

The Whatcom Land Trust has maintained and enhanced the integrity of the ecosystem with their conservation easement and the park is part of their education program for young stewards: see their wonderful brochure (PDF) and test your knowledge! A bridge now provides safe access for the public and the parks department helps to make the forest land a safer environment for everyone. Congratulations!

View Maple Creek Park in a larger map

System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in the News

SRI (background) vs. traditional planting

Earth Links is excited about the work the new nonprofit SRI Global, Inc., and SRI Rice at Cornell University are doing. In 2012, we are looking forward to working with both groups to develop education materials on SRI rice production in Latin America, with an emphasis on producing training materials for farmers. These farmers range from small land owners producing for personal consumption to large land owners that will need access to methods of production that involve mechanization of planting and weeding.

The wider spacing of seedlings in SRI

With the growing projected gap between world food production and the estimation of need of 9 billion people in 2050, we believe SRI has an absolutely critical role to play in bridging that that gap while contributing to the health of the environment and to farmers. SRI allows for an increase in yield that can be substantial, an up to 90% reduction in seed purchases, and a possible reduction in methane gas emissions. Importantly, SRI can significantly reduce the amount of water necessary for irrigation, the costs associated with this water, as well as reducing the impact on the environment that agricultural water can cause.

Here is a selection of resources published between June 2010 and January 2012 that illustrate the production increases and water savings possible for farmers growing rice with SRI techniques. (All of the resources below have been gleaned from the SRI Rice website at Cornell University.)

  • SRI in East and South Africa (youtube video): overview of positive personal experiences with SRI
  • Here is an excellent slide presentation on the science behind SRI.
  • The more academic scientific work being done on SRI, though, is just as interesting. Check out this special issue of Paddy and Water Managementfocusing on SRI, edited by Norman Uphoff and Amir Kassam ( Volume 9, Number 1 / March 2011).

    SRI plants (left) versus traditional plant (right)

  • For-profit companies are recognizing the benefits of SRI rice’s sustainability: Lotus Foods was an early proponent of the environmental benefits of SRI.
  • In fall 2011, the First International Workshop on the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in Latin America and the Caribbean was held at Earth University in Costa Rica. Click here to see a report on the conference.
  • Following on the momentum generated by the Costa Rica conference, a workshop was held in Havana, Cuba in December 2011 to explore how Cuban rice production might further benefit from SRI methods. Like much of the world, water resources in Cuba are scarce: 47% of the total water used for agriculture is consumed by rice production alone, a critical situation indeed.
  • Some areas in the world are aiming for 100% of rice production to be SRI.
  • Jim Carrey has become a major supporter and spokesperson for SRI. His contribution has been both as a high-profile educator and as a financial supporter of innovative projects. LINK
  • In the popular press worldwide, news of SRI’s water savings, increased yields, and increased income potential for farmers is more and more regularly appearing in print. There are many examples on Cornell’s excellent SRI website, which is organized by country and makes for interesting reading.
  • In Kenya, farmers are adopting SRI techniques and going on to successfully train other farmers. This is a very interesting process, which can accumulate rapidly. Click through to Cornell’s SRI website for more detail on this inspiring story of how early adopters of SRI are spreading SRI all over Kenya.
  • In Afghanistan, farmers have been applying SRI methods for rice cultivation in two districts of Baghlan and Takhar provinces, as part of the Participatory Management of Irrigation Systems (PMIS) project. The project is part of the larger government-led Panj-Amu River Basin Program (PARBP), which is funded by the European Union. A field day and exposure visits between the two areas provided opportunities for the farmers to discuss their successes and problems with one another. According to measurements taken in the field, the average results clearly show a net improvement in SRI yield compared to the yield with the traditional methods. See Cornell’s SRI website for more details.

For those wishing to closely follow SRI development, click through and like Cornell’s Facebook page or subscribe to their Twitter feed.

All photos are of SRI rice in Cuba, taken by Rena Perez.

Plarn: Getting Plastics out of the Environment Through Crafts

As friends of Earth Links may know, we get excited about new ways to educate people all over the world about recycling, especially when it comes to plastic bags. Recently, we’ve been researching plastic bag weaving in preparation for a couple of projects in Nicaragua and Mexico, and we found a wealth of tutorials, both written and in video format, for turning plastic bags into yarn (amusingly known as “plarn”) and thence crocheting, knitting, or weaving it into all kinds of useful things. Let us know in a comment if you have any further ideas, especially ideas for salable items.

Plarn! As the website DIY Life says, how fun is “plarn” to say? Very fun!

One of the best tutorials out there is yarn maven Jana Trent’s extensive illustrated how-to guide, available here. Also useful are the links that CraftingA Green World has gathered on how to weave plarn (that is, to create things with plarn without knowing knitting or crocheting).

Instructables also has this tutorial for a yarn and plastic mix, though it could be adapted to use only plastic.

If you’re looking for inspiration for what to make, check out the UK crafting website Craft, which has oodles of links to various projects all over the web, especially for knitting and crocheting. There are over 700 plarn items for sale on the boutique site Etsy, which could also give you ideas for projects.

Azulita Project

Earth Links, Inc. is proud to support Azulita, a locally run community organization based in the pueblo of Los Llanos, Guerrero, Mexico, 39 km north of Zihuatanejo.  Azulita focuses on promoting environmental conservation and community health through youth programs and sustainable organic farming education at the Azulita School, among many other projects.

Azulita’s great strength is the way it combines education, activism, and youth sports programs: in Los Llanos, people have historically burned their trash – before Azulita, there was little-to-no recycling. Azulita teaches the kids about how toxic burning plastic trash is and how simple it is to gather all those plastic bottles for recycling, which Azulita then takes to the nearest recycling center in Ixtapa.

Erwing Rodriguez Ibarra hands out awards at a soccer match. June, 2011.

In Azulita’s afterschool programs, kids collect plastic bottles that would otherwise be burned or wash into the ocean (Los Llanos is near the Gulf of California coast). Azulita’s website tells the story:

Our strongest response has been from the local youth who wanted to form a soccer team. They began a weekly community clean up and have picked up well over 200 bags of plastic in the last 6 months. In return, our project collected donations to provide the funds for their uniforms and league dues. Under the leadership of Erwing Rodriquez Ibarra, the kids remain committed to the project and participate in weekly cleanups.

Erwing and the kids began making recycling containers out of used plastic bottles. The design modeled others that Pato had seen in Guadalajara, Mexico. We continue to make these containers and share them with neighboring communities.

In support of the Los Llanos kids soccer team casino online real money (and Azulita’s recycling program), Earth Links has collected donations of soccer shoes in kids sizes (volunteer travelers Lisa and Mike Decorte will deliver them to Los Llanos in July 2011).

The Tecuanes (Jaguars) of Los Llanos. June, 2011.

Azulita and the kids are expanding the recycling education project to six nearby small towns, each of which will have a kids soccer team, forming a league. As part of this goal, Azulita would like to get their own plastic compactor/baler, which would both increase the amount of recycled material that could be stored, make it cheaper to transport to the recycling center, and increase the amount of money received. Again, Azulita’s website explains the problem:

The most challenging part of rural recycling is temporary storage of the collected plastic and a reliable source to transport it to the recycling facility. We need a motivated individual willing to approach the distributers themselves to see if they could help with a deposit incentive or a collection program. Currently in Mexico, the recycling plants are subsidized by Coca Cola® and they pay ~1peso/kilo for recyclable plastic. Without a plastic press, usually the cost of gas, trash bags and the use of a truck are equal to the payback for the plastic. Therefore, this project has to be subsidized by donations.

Azulita will continue working on expanding their recycling program and welcomes ideas and donations from their local community and from well-wishers in other countries.