Training Eco-Tourism and Natural Resources Experts
GUATEMALA CITY, (Tierramérica).- The Ministry of Education of Guatemala will inaugurate 23 technology institutes to train experts in areas including ecological tourism, water resources management and forestry.
Two institutes will be opened during the 2004 academic year, says ministry spokesman Conrado Monroy, explaining that the secondary-level degrees are to train technicians in tourism and eco-tourism, and will be available in the departments of Petén, Quiché, Izabal and Quetzaltenango.
"Degrees will also be given in food processing, electronics, mechanics, and management of water and forest resources," Monroy told Tierramérica.
"We hope that thousands of youths will graduate in technical areas related to the environment and tourism, and will be able to help the country escape underdevelopment," he said.
Protection for Cayos Cochinos
TEGUCIGALPA, (Tierramérica).- Honduran environmentalists hope to promote scientific research and eco-tourism in the bay of Cayos Cochinos, on the Caribbean Sea, declared a natural marine monument in December.
Official protection would help preserve the area's ecosystems, including the coral reefs -- among the world's most beautiful --, says Adrián Oviedo, of the Cayos Cochinos Foundation.
Consisting of 11 small keys, or islets, the bay has awakened interest among international conservationist groups, like the Avina Foundation of Switzerland, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Honduran lawmaker Virgilio Umanzor, a sponsor of the protection measure, told Tierramérica that pressure on the area's natural resources threatens to severely damage the reefs, and harm the associated flora and fauna.
Kids Take a Closer Look at Bats
SAN JOSE, (Tierramérica).- More than 550 primary school children from the Costa Rican capital, from Sarapiquí, in the north, and from Guanacaste, in the northeast, will study the lives of bats through a program to begin in February.
A course on these flying mammals is part of the environmental and biological education the schoolchildren receive as part of an initiative of the National Museum, La Tirimbina Biological Preserve, the Simón Bolívar Zoological Park, and the Guanacaste Conservation Area.
The class on bats promotes policies for protecting a beneficial species that people kill out of ignorance, biologist Karla Barquero, of La Tirimbina Preserve, told Tierramérica.
There are 110 species of bats in Costa Rica. These mammals control pests, distribute seed, and pollinate plants and trees, such as the valuable marañón (Ocotea endresiana), important in the diet of rural communities.
Producing Organic Beef
MANAGUA, (Tierramérica).- Ranchers and slaughterhouses in Nicaragua are promoting the production of organic beef, low in fat and cholesterol, from cattle that are fed only natural grasses.
The plan, launched in 2003, does not require a high level of training or technology, but does call for strict management of pastures and the elimination of feed processed with chemicals, Juan Tijerino, head of the Nuevo Carnic slaughterhouse, told Tierramérica.
Thirty-six Nicaraguan ranches have received certification for natural pastures, and cattle-raisers plan to dedicate 525,000 hectares to this end.
Nicaraguan organic beef has already made successful inroads on the U.S. market, and is to be introduced in Europe and Japan.
The project has the support of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture and the Cooperative League of the United States
More Palm Oil, Less Coca
BOGOTA, (Tierramérica).- The presidential advisory council for Plan Colombia, an anti-drugs initiative, approved two projects for growing palm oil trees in the department of Norte de Santander, aimed at replacing illegal drug crops and to benefit 714 rural families.
The authorities are financing palm oil plantations in the northern departments of Magdalena, Bolívar, Cesar, Nariño and Santander, with an investment of almost 20 million dollars.
The objective is to convince peasant farmers to voluntarily substitute illegal plantations of coca (used to make cocaine), poppies (used for opium and heroin) and marijuana.
Some 2,000 small farmers have set up 21 associations of palm growers to promote the cultivation and marketing of palm oil and its byproducts.
With 150,000 hectares planted with these palms, Colombia is the Latin American leader in palm oil production, and fourth in the world.
Recycling Fish Waste
LIMA, (Tierramérica).- A Peruvian farming community on the Pacific coast, 800 km north of Lima, is manufacturing a new type of fertilizer, using fish remains and other waste, previously dumped at sea by the local fisherfolk.
From 160 tons of marine waste, that would otherwise pollute Santa Rosa cove, the local residents produce 80 tons of what is known as "icthiocompost".
The idea for the project came from biologist Lila Suárez, who convinced rural leaders to use fallow land to dig two recycling pits with a capacity to hold 300 cubic meters.
The fish waste is transported from the beaches and dumped into the fermentation pits, to which rice hulls and other plant waste is added to promote microbe activity, converting the mass into biological fertilizer.
Politics Behind Space Program
SAN FRANCISCO, (Tierramérica).- The announcement that the United States will establish a lunar space station by 2020 and use it as a base to reach Mars is seen by critics as a political move by President George W. Bush to boost his chances for re-election in November.
"The main challenge is whether the U.S. public is willing to make a long-term commitment to human exploration beyond Earth orbit, and thus whether there is the political will to provide the resources to accomplish this objective," John M. Logsdon, director of the space policy institute at George Washington University, told Tierramérica.
A trip to the red planet could take 18 to 30 months, round trip, and it must be determined "whether, and how, humans can make that long journey," said Logsdon.
More than 90 percent of the budget for the first five years of the new space initiative will come from the shifting of existing funds of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), which will mean the reduction or elimination of other projects.
Sea Turtle Symposium
SAN JOSE, (Tierramérica).- More than 1,000 researchers from 70 countries will gather in Costa Rica from Feb 22 to 29 to debate the current state of sea turtles and the measures necessary to prevent their extinction.
The 24th International Sea Turtle Symposium is being organized by the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment and Energy, the International Sea Turtle Society, and Conservation International's Center for Applied Science.
"We will analyze how sea turtles can provide local populations with more income, such as living tourism resources, rather than consumer goods that are becoming increasingly scarce," Marco Solano, head of the Inter-American Convention on the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles, told Tierramérica.
Some endangered turtle species that nest on the sandy beaches of the Americas include the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), the 'caguama', or loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and the carey, or hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), prized for its shell, which is used in handicrafts. *Source: Inter Press Service.
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