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Neighborhood trees August 20th, 2023 by

Vea la versi√≥n en espa√Īol a continuaci√≥n

Trees make a city feel like a decent place to live. That often means planting the trees, which help to cool cities, sequester carbon and provide a habitat for birds and other wildlife. But large-scale tree planting in a city can be difficult.

Cochabamba, Bolivia is one of many fast-growing, tropical cities. In the not-too-distant future, most of the world’s people may live in a city like this. Cochabamba is nestled in a large Andean valley, but in the last twenty years, the city has also spread into the nearby Sacaba Valley, which was formerly devoted to growing rainfed wheat. As late as the 1990s, the small town of Sacaba was just a few blocks wide. Now 220,000 people live in that valley, which has become part of metropolitan Cochabamba. The wheat fields of Sacaba have been replaced by a maze of asphalt streets, and neat homes of brick, cement and tile.

I was in Sacaba recently with my wife Ana, who introduced me to some people who are planting trees along the banks of a dry wash, the Waych’a Mayu. It was once a seasonal stream, but it is now dry all year. It has been blocked upstream by people who have built streets and causeways over it.

For the past 18 months, an architect, Alain Vimercati, and an agroforester, Ariel Ayma, have been working with local neighborhoods in Sacaba to organize tree planting. That included many meetings with the leaders and the residents of 12 grassroots neighborhood associations (OTBs‚ÄĒorganizaciones territoriales de base) to plan the project.

They decided to plant trees along the Waych’a Mayu, which still had some remnant forests of dryland trees, like molle and jarka. The local people had seen some of the long, shady parks in the older parts of Cochabamba. They were excited to have a green belt, five kilometers long, running through their own neighborhoods. Alain and Ariel, with the NGO Pro Hábitat, produced 2,400 tree seedlings in partnership with the local, public forestry school (ESFOR-UMSS). The local people dug the holes, planted the trees, and built small protective fences around them.

The trees were planted in January. In July, Ana and I went with about 20 people from some of the OTBs to see how the seedlings were doing. When we reached the line of trees, Ariel, the agro-forester, pointed out that the trees had more than doubled in size in just six months. Eighty percent of them had survived. But now they had to be maintained. It has been a dry year, and it hasn‚Äôt rained for five months. The trees were starting to wilt. Even so, Ariel encouraged the people by saying ‚Äúmaintenance is more important than water.‚ÄĚ He meant that while the trees did need some water, they also needed to be protected. It is important to reassure people that they won‚Äôt have to spend money on water. Many people in Sacaba have to buy their water. As we met, cistern trucks drove up and down the streets, offering 200 liters of water for 7 Bolivianos ($1).

The seedlings include a few hardy lemons, but most of the other species are native, dryland trees: guava, broadleaf hopbush (chacatea), jacaranda, tara, tipa, and ceibo.

Ariel used a pick and shovel to show the group how to clear a half-moon around the trees, to catch rain water. He has a Ph.D. in agroforestry, but he seems to love the physical work.

Ariel cut the weeds from around the first tree, and placed them around the base of the trunk, to shade the soil. The representatives from the OTBs, including a retired man, and a woman carrying a baby, quickly agreed to meet a week later, and to bring more people from each neighborhood, to help take care of the trees.

Ana and I went back the following Saturday. A Bolivian bank had paid for a tanker truck of water (16,000 liters, worth about $44). I was surprised how many people turned out, as many as fifteen or twenty at some OTBs. They used their own picks and shovels to quickly clean out the hole around each tree. Then they waited for the tanker truck to fill their barrels so the people from the neighborhoods could give each thirsty tree a bucketful of water. Ariel explained that a bit of water the first year will help the trees recover from the shock of being transplanted, then they should normally survive on rain water. The neighbors did feel a sense of ownership. Some of them told us that they occasionally poured a bucket of recycled water on the trees near their homes.

Ariel is also a professor of forestry, and some of his students had come to help advise the local people. But the residents did most of the work, and in most OTBs the trees were soon weeded and ready to be watered.

The people have settled in Sacaba from all over highland Bolivia, from Oruro, La Paz, Potosí and rural parts of Cochabamba. They have organized themselves into OTBs, which made it possible for Alain and Ariel to work with the neighborhood associations to plan the greenbelt and plant the trees. The cell phone also helps. A few years ago, people had to be invited by a local leader going door-to-door. At those few neighborhoods where no one showed up, Alain phoned the leader of the OTB, who rang up the neighbors. Sometimes within half an hour of making the first phone call, people were digging out the holes around each tree.

In the rapidly-growing cities of the developing world, many of the new residents are from farming communities, and they have rural skills, useful when planting trees. Their new neighborhoods will be much nicer places to live if they have trees. Hopefully, as this case shows, the tree species will be well suited to the local environment, and the local people will be empowered with a sense of ownership of their green areas.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Alain Vimercati and Ariel Ayma of Pro H√°bitat, and to all the people who are planting and caring for the trees.

Scientific names

Molle Schinus molle

Jarka Parasenegalia visco (previously Acacia visco)

Guava Psidium guajava

Broadleaf hopbush (common name in Bolivia: chacatea), Dodonaea viscosa

Jacaranda Jacaranda mimosifolia

Tara Caesalpinia spinosa

Tipa Tipuana tipu

Ceibo Erythrina crista-galli

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ARBOLES DEL BARRIO

Jeff Bentley, 20 de agosto del 2023

Los árboles hacen que una ciudad sea más amena. A menudo hay que plantar los árboles, que ayudan a refrescar las ciudades, capturar carbono y crear un hábitat para la vida silvestre, como las aves. Pero plantar árboles a gran escala en una ciudad puede ser difícil.

Cochabamba, Bolivia es una de las muchas ciudades tropicales de r√°pido crecimiento. En un futuro pr√≥ximo, la mayor parte de la poblaci√≥n mundial podr√≠a vivir en una ciudad como √©sta. Cochabamba est√° anidada en un gran valle andino, pero en los √ļltimos veinte a√Īos la ciudad se ha extendido tambi√©n al cercano valle de Sacaba, antes sembrado en trigo de secano. En la d√©cada de los 1990, la peque√Īa ciudad de Sacaba s√≥lo ten√≠a unas manzanas de ancho. Ahora viven 220.000 personas en ese valle, que ha pasado a formar parte de la zona metropolitana de Cochabamba. Los trigales de Sacaba han sido sustituidos por un laberinto de calles asfaltadas y bonitas casas de ladrillo, cemento y teja.

Hace poco estuve en Sacaba con mi esposa Ana, que me present√≥ a unas personas que est√°n plantando √°rboles a orillas de un arroyo seco, el Waych’a Mayu. Antes era un arroyo estacional, pero ahora est√° seco todo el a√Īo. Ha sido bloqueado r√≠o arriba por personas que han construido calles y terraplenes sobre el curso del agua.

Durante los √ļltimos 18 meses, un arquitecto, Alain Vimercati, y un doctor en ciencias silvoagropecuarias, Ariel Ayma, han trabajado con los vecinos de Sacaba para organizar la plantaci√≥n de √°rboles. Eso incluy√≥ varias reuniones con los l√≠deres y los residentes de 12 organizaciones territoriales de base (OTBs) para planificar el proyecto.

Decidieron plantar √°rboles a lo largo del Waych’a Mayu, que a√ļn conservaba algunos bosques remanentes de √°rboles de secano, como molle y jarka. La poblaci√≥n local hab√≠a visto algunos de los largos parques arboleados de las zonas m√°s antiguas de Cochabamba. Estaban entusiasmados con la idea de tener un cintur√≥n verde de cinco kil√≥metros que atravesara sus barrios de ellos. Alain y Ariel, con la ONG Pro H√°bitat, produjeron 2.400 plantines de √°rboles en coordinaci√≥n con la Escuela de Ciencias Forestales (ESFOR-UMSS). Los vecinos cavaron los hoyos, plantaron los √°rboles y construyeron peque√Īos cercos protectores alrededor de cada uno.

Los √°rboles se plantaron en enero. En julio, Ana y yo fuimos con unas 20 personas de algunas de las OTBs a ver c√≥mo iban los plantines. Cuando llegamos a la l√≠nea de √°rboles, Ariel nos dijo que los √°rboles hab√≠an duplicado su tama√Īo en s√≥lo seis meses. El 80% hab√≠a sobrevivido. Pero ahora hab√≠a que mantenerlos. Ha sido un a√Īo seco y no ha llovido en cinco meses. Los √°rboles empezaban a marchitarse. Aun as√≠, Ariel anim√≥ a la gente diciendo que “el mantenimiento es m√°s importante que el agua”. Quer√≠a decir que, aunque los √°rboles necesitaban agua, tambi√©n hab√≠a que protegerlos. Es importante asegurar a la gente que no tendr√° que gastar dinero en agua. Muchos habitantes de Sacaba tienen que comprar el agua. Mientras nos reun√≠amos, camiones cisterna recorr√≠an las calles ofreciendo 200 litros de agua por 7 bolivianos (1 d√≥lar).

Entre los plantines hay algunos limones resistentes, pero la mayoría de las demás especies son árboles nativos de secano: guayaba, chacatea, jacarandá, tara, tipa y ceibo.

Ariel usó una picota y una pala para mostrar al grupo cómo limpiar una media luna alrededor de los árboles, para recoger el agua de lluvia. Tiene un doctorado, pero parece que le encanta el trabajo físico.

Ariel cortó el monte de alrededor del primer árbol y colocó la challa alrededor de la base del tronco, para dar sombra al suelo. Los representantes de las OTB, entre ellos un jubilado y una mujer con un bebé a cuestas, acordaron rápidamente reunirse una semana más tarde y traer a más gente de cada barrio para ayudar a cuidar los árboles.

Ana y yo volvimos el s√°bado siguiente. Un banco boliviano hab√≠a pagado un cami√≥n cisterna de agua (16.000 litros, por valor de unos 300 Bolivianos‚ÄĒ44 d√≥lares). Me sorprendi√≥ la cantidad de gente que acudi√≥, hasta quince o veinte en algunas OTBs. Usaron sus propias palas y picotas para limpiar r√°pidamente el agujero alrededor de cada √°rbol. Luego esperaron a que el cami√≥n cisterna llenara sus barriles para que los vecinos pudieran dar a cada √°rbol sediento un cubo lleno de agua. Ariel explic√≥ que un poco de agua el primer a√Īo ayudar√≠a a los √°rboles a recuperarse del shock de ser trasplantados, y que despu√©s deber√≠an sobrevivir normalmente con el agua de lluvia. Los vecinos estaban empezando a cuidar a los arbolitos. Algunos nos contaron que de vez en cuando echaban un cubo de agua reciclada en los √°rboles cercanos a sus casas.

Ariel es tambi√©n profesor universitario, y algunos de sus alumnos hab√≠an venido a ayudar a asesorar a los lugare√Īos. Pero los residentes hicieron la mayor parte del trabajo, y en la mayor√≠a de las OTBs los √°rboles pronto estaban limpiados y listos para ser regados.

La gente se ha asentado en Sacaba de toda la parte alta de Bolivia, de Oruro, La Paz, Potos√≠ y zonas rurales de Cochabamba. Se han organizado en OTBs, lo que ha permitido a Alain y Ariel trabajar con ellos para planificar el cintur√≥n verde y plantar los √°rboles. El celular tambi√©n ayuda. Hace unos a√Īos, la gente ten√≠a que ser invitada por un dirigente local que iba puerta en puerta. En los pocos barrios donde no aparec√≠a nadie, Alain telefoneaba al dirigente de la OTB, que llamaba a los vecinos. A veces, media hora despu√©s de la primera llamada, la gente ya estaba cavando los agujeros alrededor de cada √°rbol.

En las ciudades de r√°pido crecimiento del mundo en v√≠as del desarrollo, muchos de los nuevos residentes vienen de comunidades agr√≠colas y tienen conocimientos rurales, √ļtiles a la hora de plantar √°rboles. Sus nuevos barrios ser√°n lugares mucho m√°s agradables para vivir si tienen √°rboles. Ojal√° que, como demuestra este caso, las especies arb√≥reas se adapten bien al ambiente local y la gente local sea empoderada para adue√Īarse de sus √°reas verdes.

Agradecimientos

Gracias a Alain Vimercati y Ariel Ayma de Pro H√°bitat, y a todos los vecinos que plantan y cuidan sus √°rboles.

Nombres científicos

Molle Schinus molle

Jarka Parasenegalia visco (antes Acacia visco)

Guayaba Psidium guajava

Chacatea Dodonaea viscosa

Jacarand√° Jacaranda mimosifolia

Tara Caesalpinia spinosa

Tipa Tipuana tipu

Ceibo Erythrina crista-gall

También en el blog de Agro-Insight

The cherry on the pie

Experimentos con √°rboles

La manera correcta de distribuir los √°rboles

Videos sobre el cuidado de los √°rboles

Barreras vivas para proteger el suelo

Las plantas con flores atraen a los insectos que nos ayudan

Medias lunas

Regeneración manejada

 

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