Planting the Living Fence

One of the beneficiaries hauling espadillo to his home.

Anelkas completed plot! The first plot of the project!

Mario, Anelka and another beneficiary plotting out the fence
Mario, Anelka and another beneficiary plotting out the fence

Written by Clare, Mariposa Intern.

I have learned that community development usually involves taking one step forward and two steps backwards. This has been the case buying the living fence. Let me say before I go on that without Ismael, this project would not be. Ismael is our go-to-guy for just about anything in the community. His connections have been invaluable to the creation of this project, and continue to be.

About a month or two ago when this project was but an idea, I had been going back and forth with Ramon and Franklin about where to find the espadillo and the measurements required. Unfortunately I was never able to see the finca suggested by Ramon, so I decided to look somewhere else.

So Paulette directed me to Ismael. He had been telling me for a few weeks about someone he knew in San Juan who sold espadillo. One thing to know about Ismael is that he is a busy man with many demands, so not for another two weeks were we able to go to the finca in mind.

Before going, Ismael had been in contact with some of the workers at the finca. Unfortunately, we were not given permission to cut the espadillo as the owner was out of the country. Ismael came up with the idea to get official permission from the town hall to cut the plant down. Franklin wrote us up an order and Ismael took it over. We discussed measurements and costs on end. Despite the order we issued, when we went over to see if they would cut it for us, they said that the finca’s owner needed to be there in order to make the cut. Back to square one. I felt discouraged and began to realize how difficult a task this might be, when Ismael bounced back and said something along the lines of, “Not to worry we will go somewhere else, I have a friend who has an espadillo finca in la Concha, and I will talk to him next week.”

So the following week Ismael once again, makes the exact same arrangements with his friend. This time it seemed for sure. The plan was to cut the espadillo on a Monday and Tuesday of the following week. We went on the Friday to double check that everything was set and of course, comes another bump in the road; the owner had already promised the espadillo to someone else! I came back to the Mariposa after a very long day at work, hoping that this would pan out. Paulette said I had the most disappointed look on my face. At this point, if it were not for Ismael, I might have given up the fight. I felt incredibly dependent on him and incredibly grateful at the same time.

Of course Ismael knew someone ELSE who had a finca, this time in Masatepe. At this point, Michael was set to come at the end of the week and I was getting anxious we would not have much ready for when he arrived. So off Ismael went to ensure the espadillo would be cut. Two days after Michael arrived we were off to pick up the fence and take it to Santiago. From then on, the whole day moved smoothly. The owners of the finca were incredibly generous, the workers worked quickly to load up all 3000 posts and Michael and I were given a tour of the finca to see the many fruit trees and coffee plants. The project was finally feeling like it was moving forward, and with perfect timing!

Last week we finished the fence on Anelka’s plot, the lady in the picture above. The first nine beneficiaries have decided to come together, with the efforts of Karin, the coordinator to help each other plant the fence. The plan is that each beneficiary will pay one person in the group 100 cordobas or roughly $5 as a motivator. Michael and I have noticed a few people that have demonstrated excellent leadership skills and great enthusiasm for the project. Michael and I were especially taken aback by Karin’s mother, Marta, who never hesitates to get her hands dirty or haul heavy buckets of water on her shoulders for hours on end in the hot sun.
I have learned so much in the last two weeks; how to create a trench, the processes of planting a shrub such as espadillo and the basics of organic composting, just to name a few. Ismael has hunted down someone in la Concepcion to build our compost boxes. At the end of this week Franklin will head to Santiago to train each family on the basics of composting, how to create a wormery, and on Friday the boxes will be delivered to each beneficiary.


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