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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Reforestation III: Saving the planet, one tree at a time

Any well-grounded person would agree that saving the planet is a goal beyond our reach. No one reading this blog controls enough resources to dream of something so big. But it is not beyond our reach to plant a tree in a place that once was a forest and could again return to the wild.
Gapforce volunteers planted dozens of trees in a reforestation plot. Photo Pablo Somarriba.
For most folks in most circumstances, several factors inhibit their capacity to make a lasting contribution, however small, to the forests as they rapidly vanish before us. We all recognize that the issues facing our forests are far greater and more complex than simply taking a sapling and sticking it into the ground. Resolving the fundamental issues behind the disappearance of trees from a site is almost always difficult or impossible. Planting trees in a rapidly deforesting world may be of no more benefit than that of Sisyphus rolling a rock up the hill.

reforestation in Nicaragua
Volunteers work among trees planted earlier, already reaching some six meters height. Photo Pablo Somarriba.
Our reforestation activities aim for a high survival of trees to reach maturity, by taking a series of steps to get stakeholders interested, involved, and committed. GAIA reforests lands inside the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, through commitments from the individual landowners, or when land is not privately held, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment and the municipal authorities. Our contribution to the forest cover within the protected area is relatively small, with a total of some 8,000 trees planted to date. Many of these trees have survived and some have already reached at least eight meters height, and howler monkeys have been observed climbing in them, demonstrating a very important level of success.

environmental volunteer
Gapforce volunteers taking care of saplings in the garden. We grow trees from seeds harvested from the forests of Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Photo Psblo Somarriba. 
There is another good reason for conducting our reforestation project. Others see what we do, and little by little, people begin to appreciate the value of their own energy and effort in a collective force to save the wild areas in Nicaragua. Teachers and their students from schools come to participate, adding their efforts, of a a few hours or a few days, to bring more wild nature habitat to this area. Individuals and even families come and spend a day, a week, or even a few months as reforestation volunteers.
Seeds are gathered in the forest, and then processed by hand, as part of the reforestation activity. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Spending a couple of hours once in a while to make the world a better place is not just an idea among the foreigners here. Our own neighbors have become environmentalists. When we organize a tree-planting activity, some neighbors want to be involved. Nicaraguans are increasingly finding ways to make their environment greener and cleaner.

Tree seedlings are planted in reforestation plots during the rainy season. Photo Michael Lowery
Seeing the reactions of so many people toward reforestation convinces us that growing, planting, and caring for trees is one of the best ways we can work in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. We feel validated by the people who join us and we think they do, as well.

Reforestation volunteers process seeds and share good times together. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
It is easy for one who visits Nicaragua to think that people are pessimistic or indifferent to environmental matters. We have found quite a different reaction from the Nicaraguans who live in and around Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Many people want to be involved, to have their desire for a green nation to be taken into account. The following photos show how locals came to help plant trees with us. 

A new reforestation area is getting its first trees, with collaborations including GAIA, Cooperativa Ebert Silva, MARENA, and members of the local community. Photo Pablo Somarriba. 
On a recent day in the 2017 rainy season, we carted trees into a new reforestation plot, and the local population joined in to lend their effort. The first trees were placed in the ground in an area that has resisted the return of forests for years.
Members of the local community in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve prepare holes for planting seedlings. Photo Pablo Somarriba.
There was a time when people seemed more pessimistic and skeptical of any request for help from the government or any group for effort in environmental protection. Today, however, more people think they can make a difference.
Park guards and the community prepare the site for planting trees. Photo Pablo Somarriba.
The idea that physical work such as planting trees is not for women, is pretty much a thing of the past, as well. Women participate in all kinds of activities in the local community. To see women digging and carting trees is not at all unexpected.
Trees are on their way! Photo Pablo Somarriba.
You can help to save the planet, one tree at a time, too. Just like the people in these photos, you can help to plant trees and make monkeys and other wildlife have bigger and better habitats, while protecting the water of Laguna de Apoyo. If you would like to be an Eco-Warrior Volunteer, please contact us.

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