In La Prusia, Nicaragua, fortunes can dwindle or swell depending on which way the wind blows. Finding a new source of firewood to prepare food is a bonanza in the short-term. If fortune brings in sufficient moisture during the country’s rainy season, the baked earth blooms green, but if rains persist, the earth grows unstable and slides into new configurations, unmoored by tree roots and vegetation that once held it fast. If the wind dies down, the population shields their eyes from the sun, searching the horizon for dark clouds. When drought singes the land, the gusts that persist carry upon them choking red dust instead of the sweet aroma of new life.
Marco, a member of the reforestation cooperative in La Prusia, has seen his community’s fortunes twist and turn as the winds change direction. “It is difficult to obtain firewood to prepare food due to the lack of trees in our community,” he says. “[Having cut down so many trees in the past], the soil is easily eroded by heavy rains.” Even with all the open soil, the lack of rain over the last three years has made the earth stubborn. “In my experience,” he says, “the crop [yield] is not the same as in the past. [Once], one acre of land produced 2,000 pounds of beans, but now it produces 800 to 1,000 pounds [at most].”
Along with other community partners in La Prusia, Marco has helped plant 2,200 new trees to reverse their collective fortunes. “Caoba,” or mahogany trees, offer a new resource for construction materials, and its sturdy roots to repair the soil. “Teca,” or teak trees, boast durable, water-resistant wood to build strong exteriors for homes and other structures with natural insect-repelling qualities. Moringa trees grow rapidly and sprout small, rounded leaves packed with an astonishing amount of nutrition to be used as food and medicine for residents of La Prusia. Each of these trees are renowned for their hearty nature and incredible rate of growth, and will be a renewable resource for generations to come.
“For me to plant this tree,” says Marco, cradling a sapling his his hands, “it means a lot. I am planting it for my grandchildren, so they will have a better environment.” The reforestation efforts in his community will benefit 1,114 families. “We will not only plant these trees, but we must take care of what we are planting, because people who are good to trees will find good shade to cover them.”
Soon, the wind that blows through La Prusia will carry on it the scent of budding growth and the promise of blooms to come.
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