Playa Potrero Garden Project, Part 1

Written by Alexandra Carelli

After a few weeks of discussions and planning, we finally got the OK yesterday to begin a community garden project in the village center. The garden will be a great opportunity to teach the kids about organic gardening, permaculture techniques, composting, recycling, and taking care of the earth.

While Costa Rica, and all of Central America for that matter, is traditionally an agriculture based economy, at this point most communities have been pushed into the tourism sector and as a result the earth around them suffers. Not only do tourists from the developed world come baring unchecked levels of garbage, but as the people themselves adopt practices from industrialized nations they become disconnected with the environment and increasingly rely on unsustainable products.

Trash, landfills, and pollution are a massive problem in Central America. There are no major recycling facilities, so what little materials make it to the sparse recycling cans, end up being dumped in the landfill like everything else. Recycling and proper garbage management in general are “new” concepts in Costa Rica that are still only being purveyed at the grassroots level.

The real culprit here, is plastic. In some of the most beautiful areas in Costa Rica, such as Nosara, there are massive landfills filled with towers of plastic bottles, wrappings, and packaging. The plastic doesn’t even begin to decompose, and thus in the rainy season is catches water and creates stagnant breeding grounds for mosquitoes and disease. In Nosara, the landfill is in the process of being closed down due to it being declared a public health hazard. Because people in Central America throw their toilet paper in the trash instead of the toilet, the stagnant water is met with human waste and landfills become major breeding grounds for e.coli and dengue fever. Sadly, cases of these fatal diseases are reported in large numbers around the landfills.

Anyway, back to the garden. Some of these problems, can be prevented with a little bit of education. My hope is that by teaching basic lessons on these subjects we can keep a few plastic bottles out of the landfills, make the center of Potrero more beautiful, and raise awareness of the importance of taking care of the earth.

The first order of business is to clean the site of the Garden-to-be. The area that we will be “beautifying” is currently, well, a complete and total wreck. It is littered with the loathed plastic bottles, bags, old fans, twisted metal and any other random bit of waste you can think of. In short, it’s gross. But, Meradith and I are getting a team of volunteers together on Friday to re-vamp the area and I have a feeling that we will be in good shape after clean-up day. We will keep you updated as things progress!

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