7-18 Belize Open Source Update

I recently spoke with David Dyck and Natalio Soliz, my contacts in Belize for the Belize Open Source place. When I was there last June, we decided to move forward with adding a fence to divide the back part into two pastures, clear more of the regrowth bush and plant more Humidicola improved pasture grass. We liquidated our cattle herd to let the new grass come in. We’d been disappointed in how the new planting had come in. But in our recent conversation, David indicated that while not great, it was better than he initially thought. He suggested we restock with a smaller number of cattle to use our existing pasture and then keep the smaller herd out of the one fenced pastures when we replant during the rainy season. Natalio sent me some recent photos showing the new fence:

and the condition of the grass:

These and his other photos are on Flikr at the album link below. They show the new fence dividing back into two pastures and the condition of the pasture grass. They also show the neighbor to the back’s place for their caretaker and our caretaker’s house.


Public Lab/citizen science

I’ve been involved with Public Lab (and Grassroots Mapping) since 2010, when I wrote to Jeff Warren after seeing the diydrones post showing his map of a settlement outside Lima, Peru. 

Public Lab is doing a Kickstarter campaign for aerial photomapping kits, from small lifting kites and balloons to the classic larger ones.

Jeff, Stewart Long, Mathew Lippincott, and others in the Public Lab community helped me learn simple aerial photo mapping techniques. 

They also helped me start a grassroots mapping program to map the 40-acre Belize Open Source – Sustainable Development (BOSSD) site at high resolution to support site development work and progress reporting, to make this methodology accessible to local landholders, to engage schools to develop capabilities for educational and community mapping and make an initial set of maps.

I’ve presented at Engineers Without Borders (EWB) workshops and poster sessions on Simple, Inexpensive Aerial Photomapping

In 2013, I applied these techniques at the BOSSD site and sessions at the August Pine Ridge RC school and Muffles College.

I’ve not been as active with Public Lab due to other priorities, but I am looking to get back to it.

CWC TVW Critique groups run year round

At our last meeting of the California Writers Club Tri-Valley Writers Branch this season, President, Patricia Boyle, asked me to speak about our STEM critique group.

I was happy to. As my members page indicates, in part:

Patrick D. Coyle journals and writes memoir and personal stories about travel and sustainable development. His short memoirTime of Your Life, won first place in Impressions, the Las Positas College 2015 anthology.

Other memoirs have been published in the Voices of the Valley: Word For Word, Encore, and First Press, California Writers Club Tri-Valley Branch anthologies (2015, 2013, and 2011); 4th Street Studio’s Livermore Wine Country Literary Harvest and Saturday Salon Literary Harvest anthologies.

I’ve been involved in critique since I joined the Tri-Valley Writers Branch in 2005 as a charter member. My good friend and mentor, Hector Timourian, led this group until he he handed it off. I picked up the responsibility to “clerk for us,” getting the announcement out to people about when the monthly meetings are coming up, letting people know who has submitted pieces, and showing up to facilitate the critique session discussion.

I’ve benefited from the feedback from others, reading the diversity of others pieces, and offering comments about what I liked, what gave me pause, and suggestions.

The monthly critique sessions also encourages me to write, to get a piece ready to submit for critique. I don’t like to be empty handed.

I joke with others that my only hope is that writing is a learnable craft.

We continue the STEM critique group through the summer.

I encourage you to write, to check out our CWC TVW branch, and to consider the critique groups as a way to improve your writing.

Last day at Belize Open Source site

Yesterday, first thing, I drove into Orange Walk Town to pick up my reconciled tax statement before Armin Cansino left for Belize City.

At 10:00, I met with Natalio Solis and Pedro Wall who is refurbishing our corrals and adding a chute to vaccinate or load cattle. I watched his crew as they worked.

We also discussed improving the little 12′ by 20′ wooden house that I put in as part of the first visitors accommodations for the Cleveland State University EWB chapter when they did the new classroom building for the school in August Pine Ridge.

I also need to add more facility improvements, so there is more “there” here. We talked about a new house, but in context of overall plan. Pedro cautioned about spending too much on improving the existing house vs a new one.

But good news, the hot water showers were working. They weren’t in December when I was here.

I walked the place, taking gps waypoints (WPs) and laying down a track.

I looked at cashews on trees, the first I’ve seen on our old ones planted in the 1970s and the new improved varieties in the orchard in the front.

Watched our caretaker add molasses-water mix to hay we’re using to get the cattle through the dry.

David Dyck, Natalio, and I made a workplan to sell the herd after we fix the corrals, add fencing for more parcels, clear and plant more land, fertilize, and restock when pastures are reestablished.
Today, I was able to meet with Osmany Salas who is always bristling with good ideas. Such a great citizen of Belize – always looking for ways to make things better. Lots to follow up on.

I also met Albert Burn, who knew my dad from back in the 1970s at Carver Ranch. He also knew the rest of the cast of characters too, from Jack Garden to Carlos Carmona, to Chester Cotter. He didn’t go into details but described the trouble Carmona made for my dad and the ranch.

Got my flight home upgraded to first class!

I’m in Houston, waiting to board flight to San Francisco.

Cashews and GPS track in Belize

The two screenshots from Google Earth show today’s route and a bit of yesterday’s. I caught water taxi to San Pedro at 3pm, then took a taxi to Mahogany Bay to look at their development using houses they prefab in Belmopan. 

I caught a ride back to town with Scott Fuson who showed me around Mahogany Bay. His friend, Mario, taxied us back. Mario also called and found me a room at Zen Belize.

Fred at Zen Belize was very gracious and deserves highest marks. 

I was able to met up for pizza with our old family friend, Francisco Bergen.

I booked a 7am flight on Tropic Air and Mario got me there in time. We landed at the municipal strip and Arjun taxied me to the water taxi parking lot via scenic route, I got a few photos of Belice City I will post later. Then up the northern highway to Orange Walk and out past August Pine Ridge to the Belize Open Source site. Our caretaker, Franco and I walked to the back. A few of the old cashew trees were still fruiting (and nutting).

Belize Open Source Sustainable Development

I’ll be traveling to Belize, Wednesday 5/31 and be there till mid-day 6/3/17. Since I’ve been in Nicaragua for the composting latrine project, makes sense to stop in on my way home.

Here are photos from my last stop in December 2016, after our Engineers Without Borders assessment trip for the water supply project in El Llanito, Nicaragua. These selected ones show me with one of the improved cashews in our orchard, the caretaker’s residence, and our “tiny house,” where I usually stay.In the background can see our shed which covers our 40′ shipping container and part of our corrals. I’ve also include a photo of our cattle.

Belize Open Source Sustainable Development is a work in progress.

In October 2006, I got response from CA Secretary of State indicating we were incorporated and in June 20008, got letter from the IRS with the determination that Belize Open Source – Sustainable Development is exempt from Federal income tax and we are qualified to receive tax deductable donations.

Here is a bit about the story on the property. As the background page indicates:

I went to Belize in ’74 to help my parents, 2 younger brothers, and my sister relocate to a land development project between August Pine Ridge and San Felipe. My sister, the oldest of my siblings, is 11 years younger than me.

Roy Carver, an American businessman, had a 24,000 acre property along the Rio Hondo River border with Mexico. My dad, who had managed ranches in Wyoming and Arizona, was hired to run the beef cattle operation.
I was 27 and met my wife in Belize. She was working in Belize City on a Canadian Aid Project to bring water and sewerage systems to Belize City. Almost as a lark I bought the 40-acre property down the road from the ranch. I thought it might make a separate get-away for us away from the rest of my family.

Microloan programs: In El Llanito and Los Alvarez Nicaragua and worldwide via Kiva

Yesterday, while visiting composting latrines under construction in Los Alvarez, Luz Dania, from our NGO partner Alcance Nicaragua, told me about a local community microloan program.

It started as pilot program in El Llanito using the eco-stoves project repayments to their own community based organization. Then they were able to get $5000 from Outreach International to expand the program. Loans are up to a maximum of $200 US, but many are much smaller. Loans are intended to address various problems and opportunities.

Applicants submit requests for review by a committee. They’ve made 39 loans and another 16 are being made for agricultural loans (as it’s now time for planting and seeding). Recipients pay 1% per month, but payments can be scheduled for a later time, for example when crops are harvested. The committee members really know the people in their communities so they can choose reliable people to loan to.

These photos show case where a family used their loan to add a new roof over existing rooms and an area at the back of their house and install new doors.

My wife, Kathy, and I have a portfolio of organizations we support. But based on my conversation with Luz, I want to focus on Kiva and microlending today.

Bill Clinton’s 2007 book, Giving, inspired me to consider how each of us can change the world. He takes the reader through the extraordinary and innovative efforts being made by companies, organizations, and individuals, to solve problems and save lives both “down the street and around the world.”

He urges each of us to seek out what, “regardless of income, available time, age, and skills,” we can do to help, to give people a chance to live out their dreams.

He writes of how people with modest amounts who are willing to contribute sometimes are often unsure their $25 or $50 will make a difference. Kiva, an NGO, has resolved that question in an innovative way by offering people a way to become microcredit lenders of as little as $25.

Clinton’s book and shout out for Kiva encouraged me to start loaning through Kiva on a monthly basis. I’ve been doing it since 2010 and it adds up. Most of the loans are attributed to team Belize Open Source Sustainable Development.

Here is an image of loans I made today, after a reminder from Kiva that I had a credit. Most of them are from repayments. I focus on women in Ag in Central America, but occasionally branch out. The adjacent chart shows the cumulative effect with 421 loans to date, and over $10.5k lent. It surprises me in a pleasant way.


Composting latrines construction is underway, traveling to Nicaragua and back through Belize

I travel 5/23/17 to Managua, departing 5/31/17 to Belize, returning to US 6/3/17. Here are few of the over 200 photos the Nica team has shared on a Whatsapp group.

Construction is underway with our NGO, Alcance Nicaragua, and our Masaya Rotary Club partner, for our Rotary/Engineers Withot Borders composting latrines project to do almost 90 more units with families in communities of La Prusia and El Tunel, near Masaya; and Los Alvarez and El Llanito, near the municipality of Santa Lucia.