Restoring a balance between man and nature

Plan de Arbolado
Selva de Urundel: Urundel-Salta Municipality’s Suburban Tree Planting Project

Restoring a balance between man and nature Tree planting project with native species

A project of the Urundel community, in collaboration with Selva De Urundel REDD+, governamental and private institutions

In the north of Argentina, in the department of Oran, province of Salta, the Municipality of Urundel is located, a town of approximately 5,000 people neighboring the Selva de Urundel REDD+ project. This area known especially for its proximity to the Yungas, has witnessed the change of the landscape that the Argentine Republic has suffered. What was once a native forest, today are scattered areas of deforestation and degradation, the result of unsustainable agriculture, lack of regulation, illegal logging, fires and, without a doubt, the lack of environmental culture.

“We would like to return Urundel its trees, in addition to turning it into a tourist visit center, embellishing its entrance route, with a tree of lapachos, we have tried before, but we have lacked resources"

- Reyna Castro and Haydee Valdéz members of the Urundel community

Through Participatory Action Research (PAR), coordinated by Dr. Ana Ovejero, a problem and a solution have been identified: reforest the 5km of entrance to the municipality of Urundel with pink Lapachos, native trees of the region, a species symbolic of the Guarani indigenous communities that inhabit the area.

To propose it, it is the community of Urundel who hopes to recover the landscape, improve the microclimate of the area, create shaded spaces for recreational activities, attract local tourism and awaken the environmental awareness of the inhabitants of Urundel.

It is the first time that such a project has been reported. Although Selva de Urundel REDD+ exists to protect native forests, there was no community-led reforestation project with native trees in the area, which is why, with the collaboration of the municipal government, we will work together to achieve the objectives of the project.

RECAVAL is born

In the municipality of Urundel, environmental awareness represents a constant challenge. Open-dumps, the burning of urban solid waste, the lack of recycling, are common practices that degrade the environment.

Isolated attempts to address these problems show that without community involvement, change is not possible. There was no environmental organization led by the inhabitants themselves, and many claimed to have never had access to training, incentives, or resources to undertake conservation initiatives.

Aware that the only way for an environmental project to work is if it is promoted, devised and led by the community that lives in that environment, interviews were conducted among the neighbors in order to listen to their problems and proposals.

It was then that Reyna Castro and Haydee Valdéz, two women from the community of Urundel, proposed to reforest the entrance of the municipality with trees that are not only native to the area and therefore respond to the adversities of the climate of Urundel, but also bloom majestically in the months of September and October when they reach adulthood.

The project presented needed approval from a technical perspective. With the help of the Selva de Urundel project, and after an analysis of technical feasibility by Forestry Engineer Ezequiel Balducci, Reyna and Haydee got in contact with Juan Manuel Silisqui, environmental engineer, who later, together with agronomist Mariano Beltrán, would play a fundamental role. Their task was to transmit knowledge, train neighbors and assist them in the formation of a local environmental group with autonomy.

Reyna and Haydee visited Jujuy, where Mr. Silisqui managed a nursery, it was there that RECAVAL, the first environmental organization in Urundel led by its own inhabitants, began to take shape and acquire technical knowledge.

The objective of RECAVAL was clear: to reforest the entrance of the municipality of Urundel, to achieve this it would be necessary to establish how to do it.

The Collaboration with Selva de Urundel REDD+ and the Municipal Government

Once the environmental organization was established, it was necessary to establish goals that could be measured to determine the success of the project.

At the suggestion of Forestry Engineer Balducci, it was determined that the duration of the project would be from 2022 to 2029, the time necessary for the trees to reach maturity.

Likewise, the need for close collaboration between the community, the local government and private institutions was identified. The key roles of each project participant were defined as follows:

  • RECAVAL environmental organization: in charge of the implementation of a local native nursery for the production of lapacho seedlings, with the advice of professionals proposed by Selva de Urundel REDD+.
  • Municipality of Urundel: in addition to authorizing the planting of trees on the shoulder of the entrance road to Urundel, it would support the planting and care of the trees.
  • Selva de Urundel REDD+: would provide the necessary technical support and contribute with the necessary inputs for the realization of the project.

Collaboration between these actors would be key to achieving the project’s objectives and using the “Arbolado” project as a springboard to foster environmental awareness in the community.

The Stages of the Project

In quantitative terms, the project aims to germinate, plant and develop 2,500 trees of Lapacho rosé (Handroanthus Impetiginosus) over 7 years, with the possibility of integrating other native species as the project progresses and the feasibility can be demonstrated, this with the aim of further enriching the sector and especially biodiversity.

-Fighting the Drought-

In 2022, the RECAVAL organization achieved the germination of 500 seedlings after a seed collection. However, they faced an immense challenge: an extreme dry season that hit all of Argentina, leaving half of the country in drought. This period stood out as one of the 18 driest since 1961. Despite these adversities, 300 seedlings are now taking root along the internal provincial route of access to the municipality of Urundel.

To face this problem, collaboration with the local company CAISSA (Compañía Agrícola Industrial Salteña SA) and Selva de Urundel REDD+, will be necessary, since in the short term it is expected to coordinate the formation of a native nursery in lands with better access to water, to avoid the loss of specimens.

Next steps

The project, divided into 5 stages, will continue in the following years with the germination of new seedlings, their planting in the final place, and the continuous care and monitoring of the trees. The dissemination of the project will also be promoted, and work will be done on the technical evaluation of the project through specific indicators.

At the same time, it is expected that the inclusion of the community will increase. An established purpose is to achieve collaboration with the primary schools “Virgen de la Merced”, and “Francisco Nuestro Papa” as well as secondary school no 5044. To participate in the project through the adoption of a tree, promoting its care (always under the custody of professional advisors) and, above all, respect for the trees.

Beyond the planting of trees, the project seeks to raise awareness among the population of Urundel and its neighboring municipalities on environmental issues. Creating links with other environmental projects, such as Selva de Urundel REDD+ project, aims to generate positive and sustainable change in the community. This effort not only addresses current problems, but also lays the groundwork for a greener and more conscious future, providing strategies for action that will lead to change.

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