In the Outreach partner communities of Khirusilla and Jatun Pampa in Bolivia, residents are taking advantage of their government’s incentivized efforts at reforestation. Since 2009, the hillsides have grown more populated with eucalyptus and pine trees as locals have seized on the opportunity to plant hundreds of new trees which promise to increase their income, improve their soil, and bolster their chances for futures made bright by something other than unobstructed sunshine.
Eucalyptus grows sturdy and straight, thriving easily in land free of botanical competition for nutrients. After a few years, trees can be harvested and used as reliable support beams for the roofs of local homes, the skeletons of greenhouse walls, and makeshift bridges for river crossings. The branches are perfect for firewood in traditional stoves, and anything left unused can fetch a fair price at market to provide extra income. In Khirusilla, residents have requested 6500 trees for 2016, to be divided among local families. Currently, nearly 100 families in Khirusilla have benefitted from reforestation and the attached incentives.
In Jatun Pampa, residents found that thriving pine trees offer not only lumber, firewood, construction materials, and a chance to earn extra income at market, but make an ideal habitat for a welcome stowaway: plentiful, edible mushrooms. The fungus on the base of pines is “a product that grows while the people can do their other work,” says Florencia, an Outreach field manager indigenous to Bolivia. The mushrooms grow quickly and are easily harvested by hand, dried, and sold at market, requiring virtually no input from residents.
Alongside all the benefits above, the trees conspire with their adopted land to create hospitable microclimates in which warm-weather staples like corn can grow, providing yet more bounty for those willing to invest time and effort in reforestation. This year, in the community of Jatun Pampa, locals have received 2,200 pine trees, or 110 pines for every resident. Similarly, in Khirusilla, 2,620 new pines have been awarded — that’s roughly 123 pines per person!
Norberto, a community partner from Jatun Pampa, looks out at the landscape once covered entirely by grasses shivering in the constant wind, now punctuated with bursts of deep green that endure year-round. “In our communities,” he says, “we do not have money to give to our children. But in 20 years, these pines will be the legacy I can leave them.” Like counting rings on a tree, with each passing year, the circle grows larger until a vital, healthy thing stands uncontested and harmonious with the forces that might otherwise conspire to consume it.
It’s as if the land cannot wait to share itself. The smooth, bottomless blue of the Bolivian sky sprouts a fringe as trees along the hilltops nibble into its perimeter. The texture makes for a firmer fit for the seam joining heaven and earth; the wind lacing through it like a needle and thread, holding it all together.
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