NICARAGUA – Can a Village Grow a Country?
ABSOLUTELY! And I’ll explain in just a bit. But first – a few thoughts on my recent trip to Nicaragua.
As you probably know from reading our blog, 1Stove is partnering with two nonprofits in Nicaragua: El Porvenir and Seeds of Learning.
El Porvenir does reforestation and builds more efficient cook stoves. Seeds of Learning builds schools. Both are outstanding organizations, have been doing great work for years and graciously took time to travel with me to a number of their current and past projects in rural Nicaragua.
Over the past 25 years I’ve traveled fairly extensively in many parts of the world, but seeing the reality of the massive deforestation in rural Nicaragua stopped me in my tracks. Without adequate forest cover, average daily temperatures are higher, drought conditions are more prevalent, ground water levels are lower, wildlife struggles to survive and people struggle to find firewood, shelter, building materials and most importantly, food.
Plus, a landscape barren of trees reduces opportunity. The opportunity for kids to have adventures exploring hidden pathways in the dark environs of a healthy forest. The opportunity to discover hidden wildlife – something it’s hard to do when there are no forests. The opportunity to walk silently in a quiet, sheltered environment surrounded by giant friends offering a variety of fruit and other goodies.
Healthy forests were an integral part of Nicaragua’s natural environment for most of history. Now, large contiguous stands of healthy forests are the exception. Traveling to the various project sites of El Porvenir and Seeds of Learning (SOL) found us driving for hours over extremely rocky dirt roads. And for miles, as far as we could see, the landscape was dry and dusty with the only vegetation being scrub plants and a few small trees. Providing pasture for cattle seemed to be the driving force in cutting what few stands of forest remained. Ironically, once the trees were cut, there was little or no shade for the cattle to find relief from the sun.
Our goal at 1Stove is to help families in Central America have better access to some of the basic amenities in life that we often take for granted. Our focus is on planting trees, building schools and providing families with clean cook stoves. Seeing the reality of the destructive effects of deforestation for families and the environment in Nicaragua has only solidified my conviction that our goals at 1Stove are on the right track.
Goals are important and necessary, but how does one move from the abstract of written words to the reality of actually achieving those goals?
Well, as trite as it may seem, you start by taking one step at a time – or in this case, by planting one tree at a time.
So, here’s my recipe.
-native hardwoods for cover, soil stabilization, firewood and building materials
-grafted fruit trees that will produce fruit in two years and help generate additional income for families
People – A group of families willing to work together to reforest their lands and revitalize the area’s watershed.
Forester – A professional forester to help guide the work
Funds – to pay for the seeds, plastic bags (containers for the seeds) and ongoing training on the care and feeding of the seedlings
Demonstration Plot – to show villagers what is possible with a healthy and productive forest
Mentor – Mentor and Demonstration Forest. Meet Alvaro, a creative, passionate wildly wonderful individual who has planted 2000 trees on his 15 acres. Alvaro has made a veritable Garden of Eden (eating) from a previously barren plot of land. In fact, he’s been so successful that he now has a small grove of coffee plants, numerous fruit trees, has brought a spring back to life that now gushes with fresh water and has helped rejuvenate a small creek below his property that helps provide water to seven small villages downstream. When walking among the trees on Alvaro’s land, it’s cool and breezy and if you want a snack, you simply walk to a Citrus, Guanabana or Avocado tree for food.
SO! We have all of the ingredients except for the funding. We have 90 families in a small village ready to plant. We have the forester. We have the mentor – Alvaro – and we have the demonstration forest – Alvaro’s 15 acres of Paradise.
Visit a demonstration forest to see what’s possible. Plant during the dry season, tend the seeds while they grow into healthy seedlings (with help from the coming rains), then plant at the top of hillsides to best protect watersheds. After planting, check on seedlings regularly to ensure their continued growth and protection from gnawing critters.
Then, sit back and watch with amazement as once small seeds become a healthy forest producing food and products for all.
Next year, plant even more trees on surrounding lands.
Eventually, replant all of Nicaragua.
Note that in Nicaragua, or any severely deforested area, “one tree” may by necessity, be a metaphor for a “group of trees” necessary to help reclaim an entire watershed. In this case, the 90 families in this small village will plant 15,000 trees in 2011. Five families from this same village last year planted about 1000 trees and some, the Brazil trees, are already more than 8-10 feet tall.
Cost of all ingredients for year one? $11,200. Benefits to families and Nicaragua? Priceless!
So, can a village grow a country? Can this one small village in rural Nicaragua in the Matagalpa Mountains, be the catalyst to replant Nicaragua? My vote is yes. Every journey begins with one step and every forest begins with one tree. And every reforested country starts with one forest. The seeds are waiting…
If you would like to help with this project, I invite you to visit our website at www.1stove.org to make a donation through PayPal to help start the planting. Also, if you would share this blog post with your friends on Twitter and Facebook and other social media sites, we would be more than delighted.
Help us make this effort a TREEmendous success! If 1120 people each gave $10.00 we could get started!
One Step – One Tree – One Miracle!