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Esperanza de los Campesinos // Fundacion Comunidad // + CCNY


Tiered Bamboo Watch Tower in El Alto, Panama by Yaqub Aisaa and Mario Joya - one of the proposals for the El Alto bird tower. Find additional ideas and designs in 'Final Research Proposal Files' section below.



Robust healthy forests are diverse with plants, wildlife, people, and organisms are all interdependent on one-another to thrive and flourish. Many of our tropical forests are under threat from land-use changes - primarily from conversion of forests to agricultural land that produce commodities such as soy, palm-oil or conventional (sun-grown) coffee, or to clear room for cattle pastures to sustain the global beef industry. 


Preserving and restoring forests is important when addressing climate change as forests absorb and store carbon: One widely cited 2017 study estimated that forests and other ecosystems could provide more than one-third of the total CO2 reductions required to keep global warming below 2 °C through to 2030.


In order to support healthy forests, we need to support the human communities who protect and live in those forests, which we can do by purchasing forest-friendly products that provide income opportunities beyond the default ranching and industrial agricultural products. 


Shade-grown coffee is one such commodity: It can be cultivated in the understory of a managed forest system and is beneficial to soil and wildlife.

Shade-grown coffee can be slower to cultivate, which is why it is often more expensive than conventional coffee, but the positive long-term environmental benefits are significant. 

To further support farmers cultivating  shade-grown coffee and to encourage other farmers to make the switch, Landscape / Architects and Sustainability students at City College New York along with Modest and  Fundacion CoMunidad in Panama, propose additional activities which can generate income for farmers through the framework of  ‘regenerative’ eco-tourism: tourism that encourages reforestation in tandem with tourist activities. 

Our proposal would bring NY bird enthusiasts (Audubon) and agro-enthusiasts (various CSAs), to farmers in the farmer co-op ‘Esperanza de los campesinos’, primarily through home-stays with member farmers who cultivate shade-grown coffee. In addition to fair wages from coffee-products which we aim to connect with CSA’s in NYC, farm-stays in proposed tree-houses would provide supplementary income in addition to supporting regional building traditions.  

To attract more birds - and delight visitors - we propose to intensify and diversity vegetation along forest edges, live-fences (that delineate agricultural fields) and riparian zones, choosing bird-loving plants that can also be used for material purposes. Additional benefits from these plantings would include eco-system services such as carbon sequestration, pollinator support and soil rejuvenation, which in turn would benefit coffee crops. 

The proposal also includes an 8 mile long walking circuit from Santa Fe to the Bird Tower in El Alto and back to Santa Fe, where hikers can choose to spend a night through the home-stay program, have a meal or rest (and view wildlife), along the way.  The circuit connects to several other trails..

The decision to focus on home-stays was based on recent community feedback stating that, ‘foreigners owned many of the top places to stay’ around Santa Fe. Home-stays would famers the benefit of giving visitors a unique experience where they can stay in tree-dwellings, be served home-cooked meals and experience rural Panamanian life. 

James Ankerman has provided a step-by-step guide to building the proposed treehouse. If interested in the guide, please get in touch!

Below you’ll find tidbits from our work, followed by our completed research and various proposals within the project framework.




The coffee CSA would be a subscription program where New Yorkers invest in stabilizing the edges bordering forests, agricultural fields and riparian edges through purchasing organic coffee from farms of the Cooperative la Esperanza de los Campesinos. In return for a yearly subscription fee the CSA members will receive seasonal coffee delivers that are reflective of contribution (some seasons it will be less, others it will be more), as well as an opportunity to stay with in the CSA members tree-house complex.

The tree-house stay provides members the opportunity to experience the benefits of continued support through seeing the increased biodiversity, birds and wildlife along forest or agricultural edges, as well as the opportunity to spend a day volunteering on the coffee farms partaking in activities such as edge restoration, soil building and coffee harvest.



The 'vegetation intensification' along with resting areas and bird-blinds, would be prioritized along riparian zones, live-fences and along forest edges, particular where vegetation is sparse. 

Riparian buffers (edges of rivers) and live fences can:

  • Filter excess nutrients, sediment and pesticides from runoff, improving drinking water and reducing water treatment costs. 

  • Control erosion and stabilize stream banks, and reduce flooding on cropland and downstream communities. 

  • Protect native plant species, attract pollinators and provide habitat for wildlife.

  • Absorb and store atmospheric carbon. 

  • Help conserve scenic and recreation areas. 



Robust live-fences can act as windbreaks, protecting crops from future intense storm events. Recent research suggests, that over the past 40 years hurricanes in the North Atlantic region have been intensifying: the number of hurricanes reaching categories 4 and 5 has roughly doubled since the mid 1970’s. People, structures and livelihoods are at increased risk. 

Windbreaks however, can soften the impact - the taller the trees - and thus the thicker the windbreak ‘fence’, the greater the protection provided. 


In addition to connecting NY agro-enthusiasts to Panama, there’s opportunity to connect to birding groups, in NYC: According the findings of the US Fish and Wildlife, more than 45 million people watch birds around or away from their homes.  This was  according to the preliminary findings of the 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation produced by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, joining other wildlife watchers in contributing a total of nearly $80 billion to the U.S. economy.

The existing NY and Panamanian Audubon Society could help facilitate bird tourism to Santa Fe, through already established networks and infrastructure, connecting birders to the farm and tree-house stays. These farm-stays would be situated along existing roads which we propose become part of a larger walking loop around Santa Fe and El Alto. 






Annie Scott Halaburda

MLA (Landscape Architecture)

Partnering with Community Supported Agriculture in NY. Edge restoration. 

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Michael Yoken

MLA (Landscape Architecture)

Coffee Co-op research. 

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James Ankenman

MA (Urban Sustainability)

DIY Tree-house construction kit. 


Mia Nicer

BFA (Design and Sustainability).

Community building through educational programs, Agricultural restoration systems. 


Mario Joya

M.Arch (Architecture)

Team A: Tiered bamboo bird watching tower with connective private viewing structures. 

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Yaqub Aisaa

B. Arch (Architecture)

Team A: Tiered bamboo bird watching tower with connective private viewing structures. 


Anthonio R Roye

B. Arch (Architecture).

Team B: Bamboo bird tower with lower viewing platform. 

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Diana M Barreto

B. Arch (Architecture)

Team B: Bamboo bird tower with lower viewing platform. 


Klaudia Harizi

B. Arch (Architecture).

Bird Nest: Conceptual tower design. 


Marim Marie

B. Arch (Architecture).

Woven Tower: Conceptual tower design. 

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Gilenny De los Santos

B. Arch (Architecture).

Santa Fe Community Center.

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Moonjung Jang (Amy)

B. Arch (Architecture). 

Team B: Bamboo bird tower with lower viewing platform. 


Kelvin Guzman

B. Arch (Architecture).

Termine Stands: Multi-purpose Gathering areas. 

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