Restoring our rainforest home: Sergio’s story from the Peruvian Amazon
Sergio Lopez, who works for Plant Your Future as the Programme Coordinator for Loreto, shares his experience of growing up in the rainforest and witnessing the devastating reality and consequences of deforestation, over hunting and climate change:
I grew up in the community of Varadero de Omeguas, a small village located on the banks of the River Itaya in Loreto.
For most of the year we’d walk to school, but during the wettest of times, when the river flooded, we would have to travel to school in canoes and it would take much longer. Back then, this only happened at one predictable time of the year, between January and March.
But now, the weather here in the Amazon is much more variable — heavy rains and flooding happen at any time of the year, and dry periods, when the temperatures are very high, are lasting much longer. This is causing drought which is drying up the streams, smaller rivers and wells.
It’s very worrying because when I was a child, these never dried out — there was water in them all year round.
One of the reasons they are running dry is because of deforestation. So much of the rainforest around where I grew up has been chopped down, affecting the hydrology of the area.
These extended periods of higher temperatures and no rains means families can’t grow anything. They’re farming communities so it’s a real problem. Reliant on artisan wells that are also running dry, families are having to walk very far just to collect water — it’s tiring and wastes time.
But the weather is not the only change I’ve seen.
I lived with my grandparents until I was 10 years-old and they’d talk to me about the importance of conserving the rainforest, teaching me how to look after the local wildlife.
I learnt from them that there were certain times of year we could and couldn’t hunt different species to ensure we protected them — their generation looked after the rainforest.
I remember walking to and from school as a child and I’d see animals – such as deers, tapirs, and snakes – along the way on the path. Some of these were actually pretty dangerous and we’d have to use branches from the trees to protect ourselves.
But now I don’t see any of those animals.
Sadly, with the population increasing so dramatically, and with people desperate to feed their families, the way our grandparents used to look after the forest and its animals has been forgotten, and people began to hunt regardless of breeding seasons. All the animals disappeared from around my community — with deforestation and no controls in place, there is nothing left. It makes me really sad.
When I was quite young and saw all this deforestation happening, I decided I wanted to try and be part of the decision making in the future.
I used to enjoy talking to the forestry professionals who would visit our community and I knew if I was going to grow up to protect the rainforest, I needed to study hard.
As a youth I was lucky to participate in a technical scheme with the ‘Spanish Association’ who were a non-profit that used to work around here to promote sustainable management of the rainforest. Learning from them really inspired me.
I’m so pleased that through working with Plant Your Future I have the opportunity now to do something for the communities where I grew up, for my country and for the world.
I want to make the most of this opportunity, sharing ‘my grain of sand’ with local families about how important conservation is. I use my knowledge and technical expertise to teach communities how much more profitable it can be to conserve and plant trees, rather than cutting them down.
My thanks go to all those who have supported Plant Your Future — so often low-income rural communities do not receive the support they need, but thanks to you, the families I am able to work with are gaining the skills to farm sustainably and improve their lives.