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Palo Santo, The Sacred wood that soothes your soul

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EcuadorianHands commitment to preserve the habitat of this holy tree, of sweet, woody, citrusy and minty aroma, that makes your body good!

Looking back at all the work carried out over more than 10 years, reaffirms our commitment to caring for the environment, and working with the native communities of dry tropical forests of Ecuador.

We are not the traditional company that manufactures products and has an environmental program that activates every once in a while, as a marketing strategy developed by an advertising agency. On the contrary, we dedicate ourselves to caring for the forests and beaches, home to the (Bursera graveolens); that is our mission! Our financing comes from the sales of the products that we make derived from Palo Santo and other handcrafted items of a sustainable origin, We are convinced that the best legacy that we can leave to our children is love, emotional intelligence, and a planet where they can live; to achieve this, it is necessary to reconnect humanity in a harmonious way with nature.

Reforestation Project of the Palo Santo (bursera graveolens) in Ecuador

Do you imagine what Palo Santo would be like in 40 or 50 years? Will it keep its delicious aroma and medicinal properties? Join us on this journey, where we are going to explore to get into the ancestral knowledge and mysticism, which revolves around the sacred wood of the Bursera Graveolens.

To begin this tour, we must understand what a Tropical Dry Forest of Ecuador,  habitat of our dear friend.

The dry forest is one of the most threatened ecosystems due to the ease of fragmentation associated with anthropogenic activities, such as monoculture crops, unregulated settlements, indiscriminate felling of trees, pasture for animals, among other traditional unsustainable extraction practices. In Manabí, this ecosystem is home to a large number of species, being the Bursera Graveolens the 2nd in ecological importance.

Did you know that the Palo Santo tree naturally dies after 30 years? And only after 2 to 4 years of being laid in the forest, it generate the essential oil that we love so much? It is in vain to cut down the tree to try to speed up this process, it is useless! This means that the Palo Santo products that you consume today are approximately 50 years old!

Half a century ago, the composition of the Ecuadorian rural areas were different: fewer inhabitants, virgin forests, free flora and fauna, balanced ecosystems where species developed harmoniously, true paradises where the Palo Santo generated the sacred aroma that you enjoy in your home to heal your soul.

In general terms, the conservation of these ecosystems implies the knowledge and evaluation of the species-behavior that lives on the surface of the forest, and the design of mechanisms to determine the possibilities of use, conservation, and/or regulation.

And it is precisely for these reasons that we came up with the great idea!

Restore a primary forest, reforesting it with native species, to serve as a pilot project to replicate it in different dry forests of Ecuador. In this way, we contribute to the preservation of the mysticism and medicine the sacred aroma of palo santo kindly provides us.

And so, the Forest and Vegetation Protector (BVP) “ElArtesan-EcuadorianHands” is born. A tropical dry forest with an area of ​​50 hectares, located in Joa-Jipijapa. An area where we have developed our first reforestation and environmental restoration actions, linking the native community, the university, NGOs, and the Ecuadorian government.

Many doubts approached us, where to start? Unfortunately, we are unaware of any other private initiative in Ecuador that has carried out this type of activity in tropical dry forests, and by not having an example to imitate, it made the road more complicated. Our first goal was to plant 5,000 trees in the winter of 2016. The first rains of winter are appropriate for such activities.

The tours that we had been carrying out in the forest for more than a year to prepare the Comprehensive Management Plan (PMI, by their initials in Spanish), gave us the guideline to follow. We carried out an inventory of what exists in the forest, and established actions to prevent, mitigate, and mend existing environmental impacts in areas where the mortality of forest species is high, due to the anthropogenic activities indicated above. Follow-up, evaluation, and monitoring plans for flora and fauna were also included.

palo santo powder

By the end of 2016, the Ecuadorian Environment Ministry officially gave us the Palo Santo Forest Harvesting license. Two years later, we made the official submission of the documentation to the Provincial Directorate of the Ministry of Environment - Manabí, so that the 50 hectares in Joa are declared as "Protective Forest and Vegetation"; to be part of the national forest inventory. It was vital to work in coordination with the national government in order to achieve the sustainable development we seek.

Another fundamental player in this journey is the native community, with whom we have learned to work in a sustainable manner with the natural resources, respecting the dry forest ecosystem, not cutting down the sacred tree, and correctly collecting it. We even lent them 15 of the 50 hectares that make up our forest, so that they can be planted with corn. This short-cycle agricultural activity was allowed for a couple of years and strengthened our cooperation ties. Currently, these lands have already been reforested with 4,000 Palo Santo trees since 2019.

"What is not documented, does not exist"; I think we all agreed with that statement when we outlined the project’s goals and strategies. We were aware that until then, there was almost non-existent information about the Bursera Graveolens, and that the link with the academy was necessary. During COVID-19, we paused reforestation activities and dedicated ourselves to developing studies, together with the academy, obtaining scientific support to continue caring for the sacred wood and the ecosystem where it develops.

In conjunction with students of the Department of Agriculture from the University Laica Eloy Alfaro, Manabi (ULEAM), we developed several scientific investigations about the dry forest composition; bursera graveolens is one of the species that contributes the most to reducing the carbon footprint.

In addition, that same year, together with the students of the Agronomy Department of the Technical University of Manabí, we reforested 1,500 Palo Santo trees (bursera graveolens), with the planting technique called "la Mancha", which consists of planting a tree inside from an area that has bushes or other crops, trying to locate it in a place where it can receive the sunlight.

At the beginning of 2021, we worked on a new Program for the "Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Natural Heritage" of Palo Santo, in conjunction with the German Cooperation (GIZ). Where the location of permanent plots was established for the analysis of the composition of flora and fauna of our forest, through electronic technological tools, such as tablets and laser distance meters that allowed obtaining data from the field with greater precision and accuracy for later analysis.

All the implemented programs are intended to improve the conservation of the protected areas and the sustainable use of biodiversity in Ecuador. In this specific case, it is the study and conservation of Palo Santo and the ecosystem in which it develops. It is surprising the unsubstantiated nor contrasting comments that circulate on the internet, where they affirm that Palo Santo (bursera graveolens) is endangered, and also invite people not to consume their products.

palo santo soap

Last inspection by the MAE in the Palo Santo forest to obtain the protective forest declaration

The bursera graveolens is NOT endangered in Ecuador. The real threat, as noted above, is unregulated anthropogenic activities. For example, the Joa-Jipijapa forest has suffered invasions and damage to some reforested areas, where their intention to plant and initiate aggressive deforestation has been evidenced, destroying years of work and scientific research. We have entered many times accompanied by the police to defend the living nature of the forest. It is a continuous education job.

It is important to point out that these types of actions have been carried out by people outside the area. The majority of the native families live from the collection and sale of logs from Palo Santo and other products from the dry forest. Thanks to the educational campaigns taught in this project, they are each time more committed to caring for this living ecosystem, where life develops and that with much love and effort we have decided to protect and care.

Learn about the uses and benefits of Palo Santo

In summary: The real threat to Palo Santo bursera graveolens and dry forests is precisely to stop consuming their products, since many native families live from them. By not finding outlets, they will simply begin to deforest it to use the land with short-cycle crops, such as corn, peanuts, or another activity that economically aids them. Simple!

All this has inspired us to continue making wonderful things. At the end of 2021, we started with the creation of a new greenhouse located in Santa Marianita-Manta-Ecuador.

This nursery is made in a sustainable way with guadua cane, and allows us to house around more than 3000 Palo Santo trees.

Here we will take care of them for a while until they are ready to be reforested in different areas of the Manabí province, just as we did in Liguiqui, one of the beaches in Manta city, where we donated 50 trees and planted them together with the Manta municipality.

Additionally, we signed an agreement with the Technical University of Manabí, where Agronomy students participated in the construction of a new seedbed. In this space we will be able to germinate new plants of Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens), Pepito Colorado (Erythrina velutina), Ceibo (Ceiba trischistandra), and other native species of the dry forest and continue with our restoration mission.

Palo-Santo-The-sacred-wood-that-soothes-your-soul

A new forest, a new challenge!

At the end of December 2021, we developed a reforestation day with students from the Technical University of Manabí, in a new forest, where we are replicating the successful model implemented in Joa-Jipijapa. This 15-hectare area is located in San Eloy-Montecristi, a true lung on the border of Manta and Montecristi, close to the foothills of the well-known “Cerro Montecristi”. On this occasion, we planted 500 trees, previously prepared in our greenhouse.

Usually, we develop reforestation practices at the beginning of the winter season, taking advantage of the first rains. Winter in Ecuador lasts between December and May, limiting access to the forests.

  • Before starting to reforest, we proceed to explain how to plant a Palo Santo tree properly, so that none of these little trees are damaged or die.
  • Depending on the size of the root, a hole will be made to bury it completely.
  • A little water will be placed from the stem to the root, if you have a newspaper, soak it with water, in order to feed the little tree, during the first days of its plantation.
  • We will place the small tree in the hole and plant it. Once the tree is planted and is firm on the ground, with our foot, we will compact the soil in order to eliminate the air from the hole. If we leave air inside, it might cause the roots to rot.

The most beautiful act that we were able to experience in this reforestation was the visit of baby Fabrizio, son of Fabrizio Vera (President of EcuadorianHands), who along with his father planted his first tree. Although he is still too young to have a notion of what was happening, it was important, because as his father said: “You are never too young to plant a tree, teach your children to take care of the planet. The future is today!"; We must be an example for the new generations and take care of our environment.

Currently, we have reforested more than 11,000 trees in various areas of Manabí. Each reforested tree will have its own identification plate and will be georeferenced for constant monitoring. By the end of January 2022, our goal is to reach the amount of 11,500 reforested trees in Manabí-Ecuador.

Help us to continue restoring forests! When purchasing any Palo Santo product or Panama Hats, you are supporting us to continue financing our Ecuadorian-Dry-Forest restoration program to continue caring and preserving the sacred aroma of this mystical tree, which is good for your body.

#PaloSantoDoneRight.

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EDUCATIONAL PROJECT:

ECOPLAYAS LLÉVATETUBASURA, OUR BEACH-CARE EDUCATION PROGRAM

WE EDUCATE THE YOUTH OF MANTA IN ENVIRONMENTAL CARE. AIMING FOR SUSTAINABLE CITIES

USES AND BENEFITS OF PALO SANTO

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