The Restorative Forest of Guayraloma
Asociación de Productores de Semillas y Alimentos Nutricionales Andinos, Mushuk Yuyay, Cañar-Ecuador (
The Restorative Forest of Guayraloma is a 13 hectare project in the Andes of Ecuador. In 1969, the local cooperative planted eucalyptus trees to curb erosion. These trees have depleted the soil, removed moisture, and contributed to erosion. After evaluation, the farming association chose a multifaceted agroforestry solution to replace the trees with native plants to augment biodiversity, enrich soils, increase biomass and soil organic carbon as well as to enhance income producing activities. Agave products will be improved, apiculture will produce honey and improved pollination, and native grasses will support grazing native camelids. The site will also be used as an education center.
The primary objective is to improve soils and water retention by restoring the ecosystem to a native environment and remove invasive species. This is a project directed by an association of smallholder farmers, Mushuk Yuyay which is democratically administered by men and women of the community. Biodiversity will produce healthy soils, income generating products and store irrigation water for crops at lower elevations. These plants will remove carbon from the atmosphere and add it to soil as well as improve biomass and water retaining ability. A baseline of SOC will be established with periodic readings to measure success over the decades. Native agave and cacti retain water and hold soil. Native bushes add nutrients, such as nitrogen. The SDGs that apply are interrelated and interdependent.
Mushuk Yuyay membership, leadership, and responsibilities are equally shared among men and women. Land is held in common and administered for the benefit of community members. Agave products, honey, improved pollination, increased water reserves, and grazing land increase economic stability and food security. This project helps provide stable economic futures for youth. Native bushes and agave add nutrients and carbon and increase biomass for climate change mitigation. Training in apiculture, agave cultivating, group dynamics and marketing.
This project will proceed a hectare or two at a time over an 8 year period, but the effects will endure for generations into the future. First, there were planning workshops with the Association membership and community members, as well as local government agencies. Next universities were called to consult about product development and technical issues. Now the timetable for implementation has begun. An area was cleared of eucalyptus trees and agave was established. As the agave grows, the plants are evaluated and uses planned. Other native plants will be established. The association members have attended evaluation and planning sessions. Resources and methods are under consideration to measure a baseline Soil Organic Carbon level inside the project area. Periodic SOC reading will be taken to determine progress over the years. Biomass and soil moisture will be monitored and measured over the years. When broom plants produce flowers, the beekeeping will be established as a community effort with training for farmers who will establish hives on their property. When it is determined sustainable, camelids will be introduced for controlled grazing. Efforts are being made to find funds from local governments and NGOs. In the meantime, community members are contributing time and tools to work groups to transform the area. They also participate in meetings, planning and training. Farmers will take the experiences of the project to their small family farms. Mushuk Yuyay leaders are consulting with university and government technicians about expanded collaboration as the project grows.
The project is just beginning implementation. The association is more aware of the current problems, though we haven’t measured this change. The plan is the result of community participation. The decisions made are based on agreements reached fairly by young and old, male and female, working together. The Mushuk Yuyay leadership has selected agave plants, and the association has formed work crews to begin work. Because of COVID-19, large crews cannot work closely together, and visits by experts had to be postponed. The community is waiting to take the next steps. This project will impact the farming community for years to come through improved irrigations, pollination, and products for the markets. Farmers will implement methods learned at the project site. Changes will be felt increasingly over several years, becoming more pronounced each year. The environmental impact will grow over generations. Carbon, biomass and water retention will be measured and recorded to determine change.
Preparation and beginning this project is enabled by the deeply held spirit of community that facilitates collaboration. Men, women, young and old work together as equals. The association has also spent years building relationships with education institutions on all levels, all levels of government, local and regional businesses, and religious organizations. People on all levels have agreed to collaborate with Mushuk Yuyay on this project. Financing is a constraint, and it is hoped that this can be partially overcome by the goodwill of people involved in the agencies and institutions. Most of the work can be done by community volunteers.
Restoration comes before sustainability. Once the ecosystem is restored to its natural condition, it can be sustained with minimal care. The native bushes, trees and grasses will support the animals that live there. The community members will care for the agave that stores water, the flowering bushes that support bees, the grasses that hold the soil from erosion. The grazing animals will fertilize, but more organic fertilizer will be added where needed. Numbers of grazing animals will be monitored. Soil Organic Carbon will be measured as the project converts areas from eucalyptus to native plants and will continue to be measured throughout the future. The restoration of this site should take 8 years, but the site will of benefit to the local water supply, the Amazon water cycle, and the atmosphere for generations to come. Once this restoration is complete, with the lessons learned, the project can be replicated in local and regional Andean environments to support the SDGs it addresses.
COVID-19 has slowed down collaboration and progress on this project considerably. Mushuk Yuyay had expected to move much more quickly, but work groups had to be smaller and the scope of the project narrowed. The workshops and planning sessions have been postponed. Only a few agave plants were transplanted, and very few trees removed. The leaders of the project have not been able to meet with technical advisors from the university and government agencies. There have been telephone conversations and email for exchanging ideas and gathering information in preparation for the time when activities can proceed full scale.
SDGS & Targets
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Deliverables & Timeline
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