Alhajuela Project designed to protect Panama Canal basin

By: Juan Rafael Cortez Dean

A project carried out on Lake Alajuela (Madden Lake) by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) was not only to fight poverty, but to prevent illegal logging and deforestation in the Panama Canal basin.

JICA said that Panama “graduated” in the Alhajuela Project that now serves as a model for other countries of the region.

The Alhajuela Lake community project was coordinated with the National Environmental Authority (ANAM).

Takao Omote, JICA Resident Representative in Panama, praised the excellent results of the project, as well as the excellent economic indicators of Panama and the stunning changes in infrastructure.

Mr. Takao Omote, representative of JICA in Panama, during the forum on Lake Alhajuela.

Mr. Takao Omote, representative of JICA in Panama, during the forum on Lake Alhajuela.

The Japanese official’s statements came at the end of the ninth and final meeting of the Joint Coordinating Committee on the ANAM-JICA Alhajuela Lake Project.

On the previous day, representatives from both countries held a forum entitled “Experiences on the Alhajuela Lake Project”, presenting a balance of five years in the words of the producers.

The development was described as “successful” over five years by the Deputy Administrator of ANAM, engineer Bolivar Perez, the directors of the JICA and the Japanese Ambassador to Panama, Ikuo Mizuki.

The Project for Participatory Community Development and Integrated Management of the Lake Alhajuela Subwatershed brought together 14 groups of producers in the eastern sector of the Canal basin around Lake Alhajuela.

Producers developed activities of using compost, planting organic vegetables, hot peppers and creating nurseries and garden plots with their respective marketing activities.

Omate spoke of the possibility of continuing the project in other Central American countries such as Honduras, which recently sent several representatives to Panama to study the experience of Panama.

Engineer Eric Rodriguez, Project Coordinator of ANAM, stressed that the project “was a challenge, but there are still some outstanding issues which have been translated into a vision document of the groups.”

JICA Panama provided equipment, training, awareness to members of communities and contributed funds for the project to transfer production techniques.

Martin Mitre, engineer of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), reported that the groups benefiting from the Alhajuela project will be integrated into the Environmental Economic Incentives Program being conducted by the ACP. The Alhajuela project officially ends in July.

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