August 20, 2022
For seven years, PROBIOMA-PROBIOTEC has managed to establish a link between agroecology and forest conservation and restoration. This link has become a priority objective after the socio-environmental disaster brought by the 2018-2019 fires in Chiquitanía, in the Bolivian Amazon. Large areas of forestland were burnt and hundred of local communities were devasted: their lifestyles and food supply depended on forests, which provided food, generated water and regulated the climate.
The Covid-19 pandemic worsened an already fragile situation and increased the risk of communities isolating themselves, in order to protect their people from the disease. Under these conditions, PROBIOMA-PROBIOTEC started to support ecological home gardens and forest restoration in the Chiquitanía. The ecological gardens proved to be the best response against the pandemic. It provided locally grown healthy and nutritious food that strengthened their immune system and reduced people moving outside the community. The restoration of the forested areas, however, was still unsolved.
To tackle the issue, PROBIOMA and GreenMarked decided to set up a plant nursery at PROBIOTEC’s agroecological center in San Luis (Santa Cruz de la Sierra) to grow local tree species and transfer them to the Chiquitanía communities. Planting forest species, fruit trees and medicinal plants may recover part of the lost biodiversity and contribute to the long-term wellbeing of the communities. It can also help local producers in recovering and strengthening that traditional vision of forest management and care.
Fig. 1: Tree planting activity at Portón community in Chiquitania. Author, August 2022.
Mainly determined by deforestation, one of the greatest challenges of the project is water scarcity. The forest restoration process had to be accelerated to take advantage of the first rains of August, which can consolidate the newly transferred plants. The first 75 forest trees (tajibo and mara), 145 fruit trees (achachairu, pacay, acerola cherry and orange) and 380 medicinal plants (mint, rosemary, oregano, peppermint) were planted in small-scale forest patches.
With the help of local nurseries from the Chiquitanía, some forest seeds and seedlings were collected and grown locally, thus accelerating the process. The process is also expected to become sustainable when the incentives from GreenMarked and PROBIOMA-PROBIOTEC will stop. Even after the project touch-down, the communities will have a diversified pool of forest seedlings that will allow them to continue the restoration process independently, following their management decision and as long as necessary for the conservation of their forest.
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Cover image: A view of the citric fruits orchard at the agroecological center of San Luis, Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Bolivia). Mark L. Miller, January 2022.
Preview image: Tree planting activity at Portón community in Chiquitania. Author, August 2022.