Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Reforestation 2016

Text by Nadia Mondini and photos by Dawn Liberto (unless otherwise noted)

On June 24, we had a special day at Pop Wuj: reforestation day in Llanos del Pinal and Xecaracoj.

Tree planting is one of our main environmental projects. Although we plant in several other communities, in Llanos del Pinal and Xecaracoj especially reforestation complements the safe stove program. Pop Wuj stoves are designed not only to prevent smoke-related health issues, but also to save more than 50% of firewood: in order to reinforce this step against deforestation, during the rainy season we plant tree saplings on lands owned by new participants in the Safe Stove Project and families in the Scholarship Program.

Every year, reforestation gathers Pop Wuj staff, students, teachers and volunteers, safe stove and scholarship families, and children from the Family Support Center for a day of work and fun out in the green of Llanos.

Even after two hours of dividing trees up by families and organizing trees into boxes according to their destination on Wednesday afternoon, Nadia is excited for reforestation on Thurdsay morning! (Photo by Elizabeth Barnes)
Saplings wait downstairs to be loaded into a chicken bus for their trip to Llanos del Pinal. (Photo by Elizabeth Barnes)
We partnered with 14 families, all of whom received five trees to plant by their houses, and 7 of whom also received trees planted on other properties used for firewood or farming.

Pop Wuj teacher Alberto shows a group of 5- to 9-year-olds how to plant their saplings. Kids of all ages helped with planting, from the 2-, 3-, and 4-year-olds in the youngest class at the Family Support Center to the teenagers who participated in the FSC last year and aged out.
FSC participants show off their saplings before planting. This year we planted a mix of pino blanco, aliso, and ciprés (white pine, alder, and cypress), all species that do well in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. 
This year, we were able to plant 275 saplings belonging to three indigenous species, as well as one eucalyptus tree for each family, very appreciated for its medicinal effects. Since we had to reach different patches of land, we split up into four groups. I joined the last group, which went the furthest and consisted of a funny mix of children, adolescents and the women owning the land.

Everybody was in a good mood, laughing and telling “bromas” (jokes). Our chicken bus took us high up the slopes of Santa María volcano in a beautiful drive across corn, bean and onion fields. When we reached our destination, everybody helped cleaning the lands from shrubs and weeds and digging little holes for the young trees. It was a challenging task, but together we made it, and finally left the lot with its share of young trees waiting for some afternoon rain. After a well-deserved banana and orange snack, we then went back to the lowlands in a fun pickup drive altogether.

Evelyn peels plastic wrapper off a sapling with care not to damage its fragile roots. (Photo by Elizabeth Barnes)
For me as a relatively new intern at Pop Wuj, reforestation day was a highlight. It brought together such a lot of different people, all having fun, all learning from each other, and all contributing something to our common effort for a small step against deforestation and firewood shortage.

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