Bordering Astillero is the protected and highly significant Chacocente Wildlife Refuge, one the largest fragments of tropical dry forest left on our planet. This area is under several pressures from the communities that live in and around it including the poaching and killing of sea turtles, illegal harvesting of wood and iguana eggs, and uncontrolled cattle.
Our ecology programs provide education in ecosystem preservation, restoration and agroecology practices. We’re working to produce long-term benefits from nature, creating new resources and entrepreneurial value while protecting the environment.
The Brigada Ecologica is our extracurricular youth rangers program for students in El Astillero. The program involves weekly classes at the Casa Congo headquarters where students learn citizen science and take part in local conservation efforts alongside MARENA (the local environmental government body).
The Brigada Ecologica are also mapping the biodiversity of El Astillero and the Chacoente Wildlife Reserve. This involves collecting and recording samples of trees in urban and natural areas, and assisting Casa Congo scientists with local data collection
The Brigada Ecologica students have taken a course in turtle conservation and join the Casa Congo team in annual protection efforts and data collection during mass nesting events.
The Casa Congo team regularly assists MARENA with local conservation efforts, including tree planting in the Chacocentre and beach patrols to prevent turtle poaching in Autumn.
Agroecology plays a fundamental role in regenerating biodiversity and creating resilient communities. The soil in Astillero is typically sandy, and does not yield a high amount of food. As a result, the local community are dependant on imported and packaged food that is not only bad for our bodies but increasing the amount of plastic pollution in town.
Through agroecology, Casa Congo aims achieve five core goals: growing soil and community resilience, protecting seeds and biodiversity, developing food sovereignty and sharing traditional and ecological wisdom. Our program is focused on regenerating the soil and food resources of El Astillero so that people can eat cheaper, healthier and more sustainably.
Our agroecology apprenticship program provides cash in hand for single mothers as they gain agroecological skills in the Casa Congo garden. We then support them with the funds, resources and knowledge to begin gardens of their own once their apprenticeship is completed.
Our outdoor classroom garden, the "Aula Verde" consists of a syntropic agroforestry garden which builds healthy soil and creates a diverse forest system. The garden also includes allotments for the Brigada Ecologica and other community projects.
We are developing sustainable water management solutions in our garden. Banana circles, evapotranspiration gardens and sand filters are techniques that prevent the runoff of polluted water into the ocean, instead treating this water as a resource in a closed loop system. Not only does this help the garden grow faster, it reduces health risks and prevents flooding.
The Casa Congo seed and soil bank is a resource for community members to get access to a diverse and growing collection of organic and native seeds for use at home. We support them to remove manure off the streets and create fertile soil through vermiculture (worm farm) techniques.