We are committed to empowering biocultural leaders.

Special Announcements

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New Career Opportunities Available with Earth Train

Check out our career opportunities page for more details about our career opportunities for General Manager of Centro Mamoní, Homesteader and Site Host, Director of Rural Community Programming and Outreach, and Biocultural Designer/Builder positions available now! Deadline for all applications is April 10th, 2015.

Grit PDF Cover

Earth Train's Grit and Leadership Challenge, now open for applications

High schoolers, don't miss your opportunity to participate in one of two "Grit and Leadership Challenge" sessions, co-hosted by Earth Train and EarthED at the Mamoní Valley Preserve in July and August! Click here for more information.

Our Mission

Earth Train is dedicated to promoting biocultural renewal—that is the practice of creating sustainable communities and institutions in harmony with nature and enriched with biological and cultural diversity.

Earth Train accomplishes its mission through:

  • Peer-to-peer teaching
  • Peer-to-peer networking
  • Cross-cultural and cross-generational coaching and mentoring
  • Experiential learning
  • Creating learning organizations
  • Cultivating biocultural business

Our Vision

A world where human values, enterprise and habitat are in harmony with nature.

Recent News

Biocharred

March is the transition month from the dry to rainy seasons here in Panama. As it so happens, seasons are changing for Earth Train and her many partners and friends in the Mamoní Valley Preserve.

You may remember a post from last September outlining our strategy talks with Ceiba Forestry and Rainforest Capital for bolstering an ecologically-sustainable economy in the Mamoní Valley. If you don’t remember, feel free to read here.

Ceiba returned this month to further our joint vision for a Mamoní Valley Preserve that lives on the cutting edge of ecological restoration, biocultural renewal and socially positive enterprises. On this visit, we lit the match on biochar and got Ceiba’s nursery going with a cubic meter of the fertilizer-on-steroids.

It’s backbreaking work, from harvesting to loading and unloading the lumber; burning the industrial refrigerator-sized pile; shoveling, crushing and bagging the char; and all of this is compulsory before even mixing and burying the product for fertilization! Thankfully, James Rob, and Christian from the Ceiba crew successfully passed the torch to the local employees, who will be producing the black gold en masse to jumpstart the nursery, which is one exciting part of our collective vision for the MVP.

Oh how the second-hand trembles onward!

Ananda School Visit

There’s nothing more satisfying to an Earth Train staffer than the presence of well-rounded, respectful students within the thatched roofs of Centro Mamoní. We’re sad to see the spirited scholars of the Ananda Living Wisdom School fly back to their California community this week.

While they were here, the students experienced the draw of Panama City, trekked through the rainforest in the Mamoní Valley Preserve, visited multiple communities in the valley, and coasted out to visit Colón.

From the base of Centro Mamoní, the eight participating students and four chaperones went on three hikes and visited two communities. In San José, the Ananda crew presented gifts to the local students, kicked around a soccer ball, and painted. In La Zahina, everyone played with kayaks in the water. Of course, no visit to the MVP is complete without checking out Junglewood Falls, where the girls swam in the cascades and baked in the sun on the hot rocks.

Most importantly, the Ananda crew showed world-record work ethic. Thanks to their help, led by Earth Train’s own Mark Knetsch, Centro Mamoní’s recreation area looks better than ever. Soon we’ll have both a seating niche carved into the hill above the pool and a humble (but beautiful!) cascade flowing into the pool itself. She doesn’t look like much yet, but say hello to the newly christened Ananda Falls!

A big thanks to all the hard-working ladies of the Ananda Living Wisdom School; we hope to see you all (or maybe the boys) again.

OJEWP Comes to Centro Mamoní for a Workshop on Climate Change

Earth Train was honored to receive a group of young leaders from the Organization of Emberá and Wounaan Youth of Panamá—OJEWP—for a climate change workshop developed in collaboration with our Leadership and Guide Program. Twenty indigenous youth plus five community leaders came to Centro Mamoní for a weekend intensive on climate change, its global and local significance, and how they can lead the way to changing behaviors through a rediscovery of their own cultures' traditional ways of managing and respecting natural resources.

As part of their workshop activities, participants interviewed a number of families in the rural Mamoní village of La Zahina. They then compiled their findings and presented to the rest of the group on such topics as the local economy, land and resource management, and the role of spirituality in daily life.

This workshop was funded in part by a grant from the Alstom Foundation, through Earth Train's Leadership and Guide Program. It also served as a gateway to the recruitment of more Leadership and Guide Fellows—outstanding young individuals who will be offered a spot in our program to receive training in community leadership through eco hospitality.

The MET Meet the Guna

The largest group of outsiders to ever visit the mainland Guna village of Cangandi made its way there this month. A group of 40+ made up of MET students, teachers, and Earth Train team-members hiked over rainforest and abandoned asphalt for a day of back-breaking work, connecting with Guna children through art, a breathtaking dip in the nearby river, and culminating in the renewal of Earth Train’s official agreement of collaboration with the village and local Sahilas.

This visit was part of the Metropolitan School of Panama’s visit to Guna Yala as hosted and coordinated by Earth Train. The crew embarked on a 4-day adventure that exposed them to many facets of Guna Yala - some of which are rarely, if ever, experienced by tourists.

Guna Yala is undeniably beautiful, but signs of climate change marr the landscape and remind us of our impact on the environment. We stayed for three nights on Asserdup, a miniscule Guna island that is showing signs of erosion on the sea-facing side. The nearby Gardí Islands get inundated with floods due to rising sea levels; many communities face a difficult decision of whether or not to move to the mainland. Students discussed climate issues and took part in cleaning the island on which we stayed.

In addition to environmental and biological messages, MET students witnessed some of the most outstanding aspects of Guna culture - the celebration of the Guna revolution in 1925, and a coming-of-age ceremony in full swing, among other things. On the Gardí island we visited, murals of famous Guna leaders of the revolution plastered the walls along with paintings announcing “LONG LIVE KUNA YALA” and “90 YEARS OF FIGHTING.” Children performed dances, played indigenous flutes, and shook maracas. Local students dressed up as colonial police in a dramatic and outlandish reenactment of the cultural and physical oppression that the Guna endured, leading to their revolution. The crew even toured a local museum and learned how to make winni - beaded Guna bracelets.

On the mainland, students saw firsthand the difficulty of living in a remote location. Cangandi is at the top of a precipice with incredible vistas of the valley below, but what they have in beauty, they lack in resources - most notably potable water. The easiest access is to ride a boat through a canal left from American occupation and then hike for over an hour across an abandoned airport tarmac and through the rainforest. Suffice it to say that the village’s location doesn’t lend well to importation. Despite these speed-bumps in logistics, the hospitality could not have been more thorough. In anticipation of the students' arrival, the village prepared dozens of smoked fish and piles of boiled yucca. We enjoyed a bit of Guna singing and spent time with the students coloring, building chairs and preparing classrooms for the upcoming school year. Finally, the kids played in the river, jumping from banks into the deep water.

Some of the most important questions asked on the trip are too complex to answer in a single blog post: as a society, what can we learn from the Guna and vice versa? How do their lives and ours differ? How can the Guna improve their quality of life without sacrificing their indigenous roots? Students pondered this and more as Earth Train staff charged them with finding the answers over the course of their careers and lifetime.

A Different Kind of Carnaval

Carnaval: a wonderful excuse to take off work, walk or ride downtown, crack open a beer, dance and get sprayed in the chest by a firehose. If you’re a parent or enjoy peace a quiet, it may be the excuse you need to get out of dodge for a few days until the noise and parties blow over.

In any case, we’re sure you won’t be surprised to learn that some Earth Train staff and company enjoyed Carnaval from the gorgeous green perch of Centro Mamoní. It could have been either the gorgeous surroundings, exhilarating hikes or the personal concert from Panama’s incredibly talented Yomira John, but in any case, smiles plastered the faces of everyone there. Check out some of the highlights of our hike to La Madroñita in these photos.

MET Students Savor Nature at Centro Mamoní

Last week, 34 students from the Metropolitan School of Panama mounted the road from Las Margaritas through the rugged terrain of the Mamoní Valley, landing at Earth Train’s own Centro Mamoní.

As always, biocultural leadership and renewal were front and center in our itinerary. Our drive through the valley gave us an opportunity to survey the borders between barren pastures and primary forest and reminded us of the need for sustainable development and balance between our need for food and the global need for biodiversity. Our trip leaders mirrored this lesson on several hikes, where we saw the separations between primary and secondary forest, took notice of several endemic species, and reminded ourselves that it would be over a century before speciation in the secondary forest on one side of the ridge we hiked reached the same level of the primary forest on the other.

Equal to conservation on our priority list is fun. The students enjoyed a dip in the white water at Junglewood Falls, hikes to pristine mountain waterfalls and workshops that gave them leadership and team-building skills.

Students constructed star domes and boats with bamboo, gaining teamwork experience and a lesson in the properties of natural building materials. They participated in the ancient Embera and Wounaan art of body painting using ingredients from the rainforest and also learned about Centro Mamoní’s closed-loop agricultural system. Some even baked and ate all-natural pop-tarts with ingredients found in the rainforest.

This upcoming week, MET students will explore Guna Yala and learn loads more about biocultural renewal in Panama. Onward and upward, MET!