My third year abroad is full of wildly unexpected discoveries. This is a year of exploring, questioning and tangibly experiencing the theories that have previously captivated me. This is a time for acting upon my dreams and passions. Promoting conservation is a part of who I am, so when I discovered that the reforestation charity ARocha has a project on the Peruvian north coast, I found myself itching to investigate. Leaving my home in the Andes, this is what I found.
In March 2019, I made two separate visits to A Rocha Peru’s Dry Forest Reforestation Project in Pacasmayo, La Libertad. As a Christian, I was drawn by the charity’s ethos of conserving the natural world entrusted to us by a loving God, through the empowerment of local and international community members. For A Rocha, Christianity and sustainability are inseparable.
The sandy roads leading to Cañonçillo Nature Reserve and Tronco Prieto Woodland revealed the project’s holistic developmental approach; involving many strands of Peruvian society. This collective protection and reforestation of Algarrobo woodlands protects a myriad of plant, animal and reptile species; many of them critically endangered.
One of the principal causes of Algarrobo deforestation is due to illegal charcoal production. It serves as a cheap fuel source for subsistence farmers, as well as being a preferred flavour-enhancer in traditional chicken restaurants, or Pollerías. In response, A Rocha provides education to villagers about the trees’ importance in combating desertification, introduces sustainable forestry practices, and provides Fuel-Efficient stoves to locals. These stoves consume less charcoal and allow smoke to escape from kitchens. This combined result reduces labour time in firewood collection and improves the household’s overall respiratory health. Furthermore, by planting fruit trees around farmers’ paddy fields and encouraging the production of highly nutritious Algorrobina jelly, A Rocha diversifies farmers’ income sources by providing a sustainable alternate usage of the Algorrobo tree. Their front-line conservation approach simultaneously improves the livelihoods of local communities.
Furthermore, A Rocha’s liaison with existing conservation cooperatives in Cañoncillo Nature Reserve and with the San José local authority, has enabled them to secure further recognition and protection of Algarrobo forests. Engagement with local government is critical, as they provide the land leasing to protect and increase the capacity of Dry Forest reforestation. Moreover, local government possess the authority to contest unsustainable charcoal usages in the Pollerías.
Finally, the project implements cutting-edge international reforestation technology. Forest Hidrosorb: potassium-based polymer recently invented in Germany, significantly increases the trees’ absorption and retention of water. With the majority of seedlings elevated on sand dunes, their frequent demand for water has proven a challenge for the project. A Rocha’s experimentation with this polymer has significantly increased the success rate of the trees’ growth, disease resistance and overall survival. Furthermore, by using a garlic-based spray, they have also been able to significantly improve the seedlings’ plague resistance in their earliest stages of growth.
This multi-faceted conservationist approach has produced impressive results. Following the successful completion of twelve hectares of newly reforested Algarrobos in Talara, Piura, ARocha’s Pacasmayo project has already exceeded their intended target; reforesting 5.95 hectares with 586 seedlings, whilst equally providing ten sustainable ovens.
This interweaving between education, conservation and community development sets the charity apart. So often it can appear simpler to focus on short-term, individualised goals on either human or environmental development. However, by using Community reforestry as a tool to improve local livelihoods and sharing their educational prowess to shape the future of conservation, ARocha ensures that they remain at the forefront of providing long-term, holistic; faith-based solutions to the environmental challenges faced by our globe.
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