Posted: December 8, 2011

Name: Gerardo Avalos
Position: Center Director
Location: The SFS Center for Sustainable Development Studies, Costa Rica

2011 was the year in which SFS in Costa Rica reached 20 years of existence. These are times in which we reflect upon the things we set out to do, and evaluate what goals were reached now, and what goals will be left for the future. It is important to look back and reflect on our achievements and shortcomings, what lies ahead, what needs to improve and be done.

This year, our Center had the new experience of building constructed wetlands to filter the gray water produced by different buildings. In addition to the one built for the SAM house and interns, we also constructed filtering systems for the house of the Center Director and the kitchen. A constructed wetland for the dormitory is still in a blue-print stage. It is very likely we will build it in the spring.

One of the highlights was the achievement of the Rainforest Alliance Certification as a sustainable farm for the production of mangoes and oranges. The certification is improving many aspects of the Center’s management and academic program, now being a part of our academic curriculum. The calculation of our energy footprint, our record keeping for community outreach, and many farming processes were the direct result of this certification.

We need to continue improving and our goal next year is to make the farm organic and integrated, to continue increasing farm production in the garden, and to recycle organic matter (the Center acquired 3 pigs and many chickens that now use our surplus of organic matter). We are taking many steps in farm integration, and future students will be more engaged in every step of the way.

In the fall semester, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of SFS in Costa Rica. Our three professors organized talks for the community, and with the help of Tirimbina Biological Station, we delivered a workshop on bats for the community. It was a blast! Experts from Tirimbina came to SFS and gave a lecture and showed live bats captured at the Center. Children and adults enjoyed it and learned many cool things about the important ecological roles played by bats (of which 113 species happen to be in Costa Rica).  The next day we got a lot of telephone calls and thank-you messages and more requests for lectures next year.

Eugenia Cordero Smith from Tirimbina giving a lecture to the community on bat ecology at the Center in Costa Rica.

And finally, just yesterday, we inaugurated our soccer field. This was a lengthy and complex process to overcome many logistic and cost-related problems, which now are over. The field is dedicated to Macho (or Ernesto, our farm worker) who put in many hours filling holes and planting grass. It will be called the “Macho soccer field” (our students loved the idea!). In addition, we provided an acknowledgement to our Site Manager, Marvin Vargas, who helped to complete the field by looking for contractors, figuring out how to make progress with little resources, etc.

What you see below is the result of over one year of continuous work from staff and students solving many aspects of the field, like field expansion, working with the surface to make it better, etc. The field is completely surrounded by a net, which also has a roof, making it impossible for the soccer ball to get lost. I am writing this news completely sore after playing with students and staff, and scoring (what they tell me was…) a very good goal (however, I “allowed” four as a goalie… darn!). This soccer field doubles as a volleyball court. Our students and staff are thrilled! It has been a very fine addition to our Center.

In summary, we leave 2011 with a strong sense of accomplishment. We serviced over one hundred students in our programs this year, and hopefully have inspired the lives of many young, bright, and energetic students, as well as staff and communities, along the way. Happy holidays!

Macho soccer field at the Center in Costa Rica.