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I (Art Donnelly @ SeaChar.Org) am spending two weeks (Jan 13-26th) in the Santos region of Costa Rica. I am here at the invitation of a local organic coffee growers co-op and Arturo Segura , to help develop a biochar stove project. This will initially target the health concerns of the large migrant coffee picking population, which enters Costa Rica each year. Respiratory disease is the leading cause of death, among children in this population.

I wish I was a better story teller, because nothing I know how to say can give you a full idea of how magical this last few days have been.  Thankfully much of this activity is being filmed by Majo and Carlos Herra of Educators W/O Borders , for inclusion in their film series : The Bio-Diesel Diaries. After a non-stop round of  field interviews , presentations and stove demonstrations, we were prepared for our biggest one day event:
On Thursday, we (Arturo, Caroliena, Benjiman, Majo, Carlos and I ) went to San Insidero. After a drive over the pass to the Caribbean side of the mountains, we arrived at the coffee processing facility of Pablo, the man who started the Alliance of Organic Coffee growers in CR. Like everyone here he was very gracious. We set and drank coffee and talked for a couple of hours. We have their total support for this project. Then we drove back up to the top of the mountains. We were headed to Providencia, a tiny town that is now within the borders of the Quetzal National Park. Carlos and Majo, were driving “Chosky” their cooking oil powered, 4-wheel drive Suburban.
We stopped at the Ranger station and left Arturo’s car there. We then drove “Chosky” the 45 min. in to Providencia on some awesomely narrow and rutted dirt roads, at one point fording a stream, because the tiny little bridge there seemed incapable of holding our weight. We stopped and drank from the river, that is suppose to be the cleanest natural source of water in the world. This is the high Cloud forest, it is home to the wildest collection of life you can imagine. Tree sized ferns that only grow there and in Jurassic Park… y mas y mas…
Waiting for us in Providencia were not only the locals ( I had already met the Mayor Don Edillo and Juan, owner of the only restaurant/bar/school house) but also our friends Jonathan and Tatto, owners of Santos Tours and their current group of students. 12 Aus. and Kiwi college students) That evening Arturo and I did an hour presentation on biochar and the stoves, including powerpoint; for approx 35 local residents and the students. All that practice has paid off and Arturo and I are getting our timing down. At the end, after a lively Q&A session, we literally got a standing ovation from the audience. I slept that night up on the hill in the coffee plant rows and woke on Friday morning at sunrise to the loudest most diverse chorus of bird songs I have ever heard. At 7:00 we gathered the students, several locals, our film crews and lots of curious kids at Don Edillo’s. To build 15 TLUD stoves. ( We have renamed them Estfufa Fincas or Farm Stoves)
You have to understand how we sourced our amazingly, funky collection of materials. Arturo and I or Tatto and I cruised the Santos region, dumpster diving, climbing fences, stopping at garages etc… to find the stuff we needed. We proved a point, which I hope we will not have to prove again: you can do this anywhere: CHEAP!
Mission accomplished; from 7am until 4pm we worked as a team. We problem solved around our lack of some tools , which I had considered essential, we improvised to fit the materials and we made it work. Don Edillo, finished first and could not wait to fire up his creation. At about this time we received a surprise visit from a group of UNA (Univeridad Nacional)
and Gov’t people. They got the story, saw the first few stoves get fired and left very impressed. Remember this is, at this point a totally  grass roots effort.  The ISV Aus., students, who are primarily working on building a class room, were so into this experience it was hard to get them to take lunch.
Of the stoves produced, 5 go to local families in Providencia, 5 go to pickers in the Providencia area and 5 will go pickers here in the Santa Maria de Dota area.
On the drive out, our efforts were blessed: a mating pair of Quetzal birds flew across the road in front of “Chosky” and landed in a tree beside us. We hit the brakes and climbed out for a better look. We startled the male, he flew a couple of trees down the road, his tail like a rainbow; but the female sat and puzzled over us from her perch on a high branch.
Tomorrow I will have the great honor of bringing one of the stoves to the casita of Don Alberto and his family. They are Nugabe,  migrant pickers from Panama and it was he and his family, who joined us on Arturo’s porch that first evening: for a stove demo, hot chocolate and some lovely guitar playing. Don Alberto’s family cooks on a three stone fire, both here and at home.
I only have 3 days left and much to do. Including meeting with a couple of women from San Marcos, who are interested in setting up a woman’s owned and run stove producing workshop!
We have gathered a great deal of local support for this project. Now we don’t say if, we say when. We don’t say try, we say do.

Mas pronto,


Art Donnelly