In honor of Earth Day (April 22) and World Fish Migration Day (May 21), the Rivers and Forests Alliance held our first Festival RAFA 2022 for Conservation of the Pacuare River Basin, from April 22 to 24. The event was a huge success, from the Conservation Summit on Friday the 22nd, to a day of community rafting on the Pacuare on Saturday the 23rd, to our reforestation event planting 1,500 trees on Sunday the 24th to reforest the Pacuare river basin and the Barbilla-Destierro Biological Corridor.
It is estimated that 1/3 of the world’s river basins are being depleted, and water scarcity affects half of the world’s population and 3/4 of irrigated land areas. The Pacuare River is one of Costa Rica’s most iconic free-flowing rivers. It winds 136 km through a densely forested river basin dotted with rural towns and indigenous Cabecar communities until it flattens out and is surrounded by large-scale agricultural farms before reaching the Caribbean Sea.
This majestic river, renowned by whitewater paddling enthusiasts worldwide, is why we brought together conservation and civic organizations, local and national government authorities, academic institutions, international entities, and rafting tourism companies to unite efforts to protect and preserve the Pacuare river basin. Our festival slogan is “United for the Pacuare River Basin.”
“A collective and collaborative effort is required for successful co-management of river basins that guarantees ecosystemic flows of the river. Regardless of social and economic position, values, and beliefs, we all depend on fresh, clean water and the goods and services that freshwater ecosystems provide. Protecting this precious resource requires understanding, openness, transparency, and a collective will,” said Summit keynote speaker Laura Benegas, head of the Department of Watersheds, Water Security and Soil at the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE).
Thanks to the generous partnership with the Municipality of Turrialba and Mayor Luis Fernando León Alvarado, the Festival RAFA 2022 Pacuare Conservation Summit was held on April 22 at the Turrialba Municipal Theatre. There were 55 people in attendance, including guests from the U.S. and France, and a visiting delegation from Turrialba’s sister city of Pfaffenhofen, Germany.
The all-day event featured high-level speakers, including:
- Turrialba Mayor Luis Fernando León
- Laura Benegas of CATIE
- Roberto Salom, director of Panthera Costa Rica
- Roberto de la Ossa, director of the Alianza Nacional Rios y Cuencas de Costa Rica (Costa Rica National Alliance of Rivers & Watersheds)
- Carlos Sandi, head of the Forestry Farm at EARTH University
- Eyder Fonseca, regional coordinator of the Barbilla-Destierro Biological Subcorridor – Jaguar Initiative committee and official at the Barbilla National Park
- Carolina Saénz of the International Institute for Wildlife Conservation and Management (ICOMVIS) of the National University of Costa Rica
- Christian Golcher of the Water Resources Center for Central America and the Caribbean (HIDROCEC)
- Denielle Perry of the School of Earth and Sustainability at Northern Arizona University and the Durable River Protections Coalition
- Cabecar indigenous leader Florita Martinez of the Nairi Awari Cabécar Territory Development Association and Sula Yawala Women’s Association
- Ricardo Valverde of the Costa Rica National Alliance of Rivers & Watersheds.
“One River, One Family” Community Rafting Day
Thanks to an extraordinary collaboration between multiple rafting companies, raft guides, and kayakers, 88 people rafted down the majestic Pacuare River on April 23 as one family! The event invoked the spirit of our founder and was pure “Rafa Gallo style.”
Under a bright blue sky and hot tropical sun, 13 rafts and seven safety kayakers paddled safely down the river, celebrating the Pacuare’s splendorous beauty of rainforest, waterfalls, and wildlife. The lunch stop was at the former Rios Tropicales Lodge, now under new ownership as the Rios Lodge.
We thank the following companies for their support with guides, kayakers, rafts, and equipment: Amazing Vacations Costa Rica, Costa Rica Rios, Excitement Costa Rica, Mariposas del Pacuare, Movimiento Pro Rios Costa Rica, Pacuare Outdoor Center, Rios Adventure Travel, and Team RAFA.
Reforesting the Pacuare River Basin
Our three-day Festival RAFA 2022 finished on April 24 with 70 volunteers planting 1,500 native hardwood trees in recovered pastureland to create the beginnings of a new forest. The Gallo-Jimenez family permanently conserves the reforested land above the Pacuare River near Bajo Tigre.
In October 2021, just across from this new reforestation site, 75 volunteers planted nearly 1,000 trees in the Rafael “Rafa” Gallo Forest to commemorate his conservation work for over 35 years to restore the rainforest in the Pacuare River Valley. Farm staff will care for the saplings in both plantations for the first three years of the trees’ lives to ensure a high survival success rate.
We are especially grateful to these groups for volunteering their time and labor to help us plant trees: Group 10 of Santo Domingo, Heredia of the Costa Rica Association of Guides and Scouts, members of the Barbilla-Destierro Biological Subcorridor – Jaguar Initiative, JACANA community organization, Pacuare Outdoor Center, Wildsense conservation organization, Rios Lodge, Liquid Spark Marketing, Movimiento Pro Rios Costa Rica, and Wonderland Apothecary Gardens.
We thank Mariposas del Pacuare for a delicious lunch provided to everyone. And we give a big shout-out to the guys from Team RAFA who helped us organize the tree planting and pre-dug most of the holes to plant the trees!
Festival RAFA to be an annual event
We plan to hold our Festival RAFA for Conservation of the Pacuare River Basin yearly in April. We hope you will join us in 2023!