PUERTO RICO – Cafi Cultura Puertorriqueña Inc., a private educational non-profit organization best known as Cafiesencia, delivered this summer two important workshops on the island, targeting local farmers and landowners interested in expanding their economic opportunities in the agriculture sector.
These workshops are part of the State and Private Forestry Program initiatives to assist private forest landowners after hurricanes Irma and Maria. Through a cooperative alliance, SPF has given technical and financial assistance for Cafiesencia to develop management plans in farms and to organize workshops like the ones in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Along with SPF, Cafiesencia assess the health conditions of forests and private estates, identify potential problems and opportunities and recommend management practices. The group is also an important part of the joint chief landscape-scale restoration initiative to establish biological corridors and restore ecosystem functionality after the impact of a major hurricane in the Caribbean area. Cafiesencia provides rural communities of Puerto Rico opportunities to improve their quality of life and achieve economic growth through sustainable economic development of agriculture, tourism, historic and natural preservation, and education.
The first workshop was delivered in the municipality of Yauco. Members of Cafiesencia introduced the participants to the concept of Airbnb as a possible platform for economic diversification through tourism. The workshop, titled Airbnb, Tourism and Forest Stewardship for your farm, brought together experts in tourism and agronomy to inform the attendees about available techniques and resources to increase the economic activity in this region.
Mark Potterbaum, Airbnb “Superhost” and main coordinator of RecoRico.org, a tour company that implements ecotourism and social projects, made a presentation about the platform and provided recommendations to establish tourism operations on farms located in the mountainous area of Puerto Rico. In addition to Potterbaum, Félix Rivera Montalvo, agronomist and an ISA Certified Arborist of Cafiesencia, gave the participants insights on the Forest Stewardship Program.
This program is administered by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources of Puerto Rico in collaboration with the USDA Forest Service State and Private Forestry to promote the conservation, recreation and sustainable use of forests and natural resources in private land. The program provides land owners technical assistance to develop management plans for private forest land and recommends management practices to protect and enhance forest land and other natural resources together with sustainable uses for the forest. Over 56 participants attended this workshop, which was open to the public and free of charge.
The second workshop was delivered in the municipality of Maricao, at a local community center. On this occasion Cafiesencia partnered with Fundación Bucarabón, an NGO focused on assisting rural communities in Maricao with their agricultural and economical needs. Maricao is a low-income, small municipality very dependent on agriculture. During the workshops, participants were introduced to the following topics: Interpretation and Forest Management: Creating opportunities to connect people and nature; and A New Tourism Model: Sustainable and community-based, challenges and opportunities with conservation.
Attendees also learned about environmental interpretation, sustainable agritourism and opportunities for landowners and farmers in the coffee zone of Puerto Rico. The staff of Cafiesencia presented information about the forest stewardship program, forest management plans, and a description of benefits and opportunities landowners have when they opt to complete a Forest Stewardship Management Plan for their private forests. Over 40 participants attended this second workshop, among which were landowners, entrepreneurs and farmers. These workshops are an opportunity for local farmers to assess the attractiveness and value of their farms, as well as to identify areas where they can improve.