Happy New Year, everyone! It is a little hard to believe that so much has happened in the last year. At this time in 2012, I was still in school working on my thesis. I invigilated exams and worked at a coffee shop. Going to the forests of Ontario and New Brunswick was a distant dream, and all I knew about the Dominican Republic was that it was on an island in the Caribbean. 2012 has been really good to me, and I hope to all of you as well!
In my correspondence with people back home, I am still asked, three months in, what exactly it is that I am doing on my internship here. I think that attests to both my poor record in communicating with people while away, as well as my failure to update this blog sufficiently. So, without further ado, here's a little taste of intern life in the Dominican Republic.
Most of our work has been in the area of documenting enda's existing projects in order to promote them to the wider community. Most of the existing documentation is very technical in nature – number of trees planted, areas under management, that kind of thing. Our work has been to promote some of the stories of the people involved in the reforestation project on the Model Forest website. We've also been working on a new design of the website, which we will have online soon. A big part of the website project has been training people to take over the website once we interns leave. This is a bit of a daunting task, since I have been learning this stuff more or less on the fly.
A secondary project for me has been working on an upcoming project that enda will be working on in the forestry sector. A bit of background: the Dominican Republic is in a special situation as far as forestry goes. Given its tropical, humid environment, a variety of valuable, quick-growing tree species are available. However, it is very difficult to obtain permission to harvest wood for lumber. Ever since the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo (1931-1961), there have been extremely restrictive laws around the felling of trees – it is sometimes said that a person would be punished more severely for killing a mahogany tree than for killing a person. The result of these laws has been positive on the one hand, since the Dominican Republic has been spared the massive deforestation that has afflicted some of its neighbours, most notably Haiti. However, it has crippled the local lumber industry, to the point that the Dominican Republic imports an immense quantity of wood for construction and furniture making. Since the supply of Dominican wood is so scarce, few sawmills have been able to operate in the country. Those that do mainly sell very basic products, such as untreated, green wood that few customers outside of the countryside would want to buy.
The project that enda has envisioned for the forestry sector is one that works with woodlot owners and small sawmills to upgrade their production – increasing the volume and quality of their product while maintaining a sustainable yield. Recently, I attended the first meeting of the newly-formed wood producer's co-op, and helped put together a funding proposal for some of the initial workshops. In the new year, we should be starting with new meetings and workshops, and working on business plans with some of the companies that are interested. Here, again, the work is a mix of things I am familiar with and things that I had never imagined myself doing, which keeps the work exciting.
As well, the new year should hold some more good old-fashioned environmental monitoring work, on forest plantations and some of the older agroforestry sites. We've put the fieldwork side of things on hold since early November because other projects took priority, so it will be good to get back out there soon!
In any case, that's the kind of thing that I've been doing for the last few months, and will continue into 2013! Once again, the very best to all for the new year!