Trees for Bolivian farmersTrees for Bolivian farmers

10 July 2019 11:57
Trees for Bolivian farmers

BAM’s tree planting project has passed the 110,000 mark. We’re getting closer and closer to reaching our target of 150,000 trees! After our previous update on the Ugandan leg of the initiative, we are now putting the spotlight on Bolivia. This is the country where, together with Trees for All and ArBolivia (arbol is Spanish for ‘tree’), we are planting another 50,000 trees.

Located in the heart of South America, Bolivia is a country of extremes, with the highest international airport in the world on a windy, barren mountain plateau (El Alto near La Paz, at 4,061 metres) and the luscious rain forests of Amazonia in the lowlands. Right where these two areas meet is the location of the #BAM150 tree planting project, near the village of Rurrenabaque. The village is also known among backpackers as a gateway to the tropical rainforest. It is here that 60 farmers and their families are working towards a better future for their children through #BAM150.

Crop rotation

Instead of only growing crops, as is the local custom, farmers taking part in the project are learning to combine agriculture and livestock farming. The downside of the existing monoculture is that it eventually leaves the soil depleted, causing the farmers cut down trees in the adjacent forest where the soil is still fertile. ArBolivia shows them that crop rotation replenishes the soil and trees can prevent erosion while contributing to soil fertility, and also how trees and crops can make an excellent combination.

Coffee and cocoa beans

Part of the newly planted trees will be harvested by the farmers as construction wood, either for their own use or to be sold to the wood processing industry. In addition, they are planting fruit trees, both for the fruit and for the shadow they can throw over the cocoa trees and coffee bushes that the project provides to generate further income.

ArBolivia staff on their motorcycles pay regular visits to the farmers so they can share their insights on their business and agricultural methods, such as the previously mentioned crop rotation and the suitability of different crops for their specific soil conditions.

The first trees are in the ground

In the final months of 2018, preparations for the project began with the collection or purchase of seeds and cuttings. The plan was to start shipping trees and coffee bushes from the nurseries in February 2019, at the start of the rainy season. This had to be delayed however, as torrential downpours flooded the roads in the region. In the meantime, the rivers have done their job of clearing the roads of the excess water, and tens of thousands of trees and bushes have found their way to the farmers and their families. The planting is now in full swing!