Grieving mum plants forest for her children
After being hit by tragedy, discover how Ana Saavedra planted a forest of hope with support from her community in the Amazon rainforest
In 2012, Ana and her husband Alex set-out to realise their ambition to transform their degraded farmland into a thriving agroforestry plot.
Before now, they’d always logged the rainforest, burnt the land, and planted a monoculture of crops. This was how everyone they knew farmed.
But year-after-year, their crops became increasingly unhealthy and before long they failed completely. They were forced to abandon their land and log more of the rainforest.
Sick of being trapped in this vicious cycle that wasn’t earning them enough money or food to provide for their children, Alex looked for a way out.
Despite the risk of trying something completely new, with no safety net to fall back on, Alex was the first person in his village to trial a progressive and sustainable way of farming.
Working side-by-side, Alex and Ana planted 800 native trees on their land, with expert support and guidance from the Plant your Future (PYF) team. They grew lime trees, avocado plants, and star-fruits along with native and endangered timber species, like the rare mahogany tree.
Alex and Ana were pioneers, adopting a new and prosperous approach to agriculture within a deeply traditional farming community. Neighbours soon followed their example, learning from their experience and knowledge. Before long, other families in the community were farming in this new way that worked with nature thanks to the Plant your Future programme.
Just two years later, Alex was suddenly killed in an accident as he was walking home one evening. Ana was left with the responsibility of managing their land and bringing up their children by herself. Weighed down by grief, she couldn’t manage. Her thriving agroforestry plot soon became overgrown with weeds and the plants began to die.
Forester and PYF team member, Sergio Lopez, was devastated by what had happened to Ana and checked in on her every chance he got, reminding her that the community was there to support her.
When Ana felt strong enough, Sergio organised a ‘minga’ for her – a beautiful tradition in Peru where neighbours come together to help one another. For Ana, they spent three days working on her land to get on top of the weeding and pruning the trees — all while benefiting from the technical advice and direction Sergio was able to provide. In return for their free labour, Ana provided the group with food and drink as a thank you.
After this support from her neighbours, Ana found the strength to continue what she’d started with Alex. Last November, she planted huasai palm trees and is excited by the future promise of selling huasai berries to supplement her income. Throughout the year, Sergio has helped her to maintain and optimise production from the older fruit trees, by applying fertiliser and organic pesticides. In the long-term, she’ll be able increase her income though sustainable timber harvesting.
Ana now wants to plant more trees in other degraded areas of her farm. She loves bringing the forest back and seeing the wildlife return. One day, she hopes eco-tourists will visit her. Ana said:
“My motivations for working with Plant your Future are twofold. On the one hand, to help the environment, whilst on the other hand I’m earning an income for my family.”
You can support more families to reforest their land in the Amazon through the Big Give Christmas Challenge, when every donation will be doubled until 12pm (UTC) on 8th Dec 2020.
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