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Reforestation & Lodging in Venao Panama
The Eco Venao Reforestation Project sits in a 140 hectare (346 acre) farm.

One of our most optimistic goals is to establish a diverse natural forest cover within a financially viable framework. We hope to recoup some of our costs by harvesting exotic species, leaving a beautiful native forest. If we can prove this works, then we believe we can convince our neighbors to give it a go.

We are lucky enough to have a 17 hectare piece of secondary forest within Eco Venao – a 30 minute horse ride from the lodge. We always enjoy taking visitors to see this magical place.

A brief History

As little as 60 years ago, the region was heavily forested to make way for pastureland. Only around 5 % of the native dry tropical forest survived. The remaining pastureland is heavily degraded – this can be easily seen from the helter-skelter terraces on the hills all around. As dry tropical forests are now the rarest of the major tropical ecosystems we are very dedicated to restoring this invaluable habitat.

Forest and Ocean/Bosque y Oceano
Pacific Forest
In just 5 years the Eco Venao Project has reforested over 30 hectares of land and we are still going strong. In 2009 we have almost doubled our planted forest – we planted over 20,000 trees. With the impressive natural regeneration that we are seeing, things are going to look quite a bit greener before long!

The Eco Venao project was first assisted by PROREINA, a research, education and outreach program led by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Yale School of Forestry. We have since teamed up with local native species reforestation specialists, Pacific Forestry. We have supported environmental research and education initiatives in the area.

As our plantations have grown there has been a notable increase in forest wildlife. Monkeys appear to be thriving and the blue morph butterfly is back. Today our five year old plantation looks like an established forest and can be seen from the beach and far beyond. This forest is now over 30 feet tall with trunk diameters of up to 12 inches (30 cm). Its very encouraging stuff!

How we plant

We have incorporated radical experiments and trials in our reforestation effort to help find ways to restore the native eco system quickly and affordably. Such experiments include: intensive tight-grouped plantings, wider spaced plantings, differing clearing and pruning schedules, seed dispersal and variations of species mixes.

Native Forest
Native Forest
Species selection in our plantations has focused on combining varieties that are known to be used by foraging animals, pioneer species and fast growing trees. In recent years our plantations have focused on buffering riparian zones and connecting dispersed forest fragments. We also hope to encourage natural regeneration by clearing competing brush from young native trees.

Reforestation in this part of the world is not without its challenges. The extreme climate, with its extended dry season followed by heavy rains makes successful reforestation problematic. Fire breaks need to be cut and maintained annually as neighboring cattle farmers often burn their pastureland.

We plan to add more information on our reforestation project soon – watch this space.