A Quiet Coup in the Kingdom of Grass: Regrowing Yarinacocha’s Rainforest

Ruben Sergio Rodriguez dreams of planting a forest he has never seen before. Having only ever traveled two hours outside of his small village of Santa Clara, he has lived surrounded by a sea of grass, never knowing the intact rainforest of his ancestors. But since he began apprenticing at Alianza Arkana’s nursery, he’s been leading the charge on recreating that forest. With the guidance and training of Alianza Arkana volunteers Janeth Jaramillo and Yugo Feather, he has been instrumental to the development of the local nursery.

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“When I started, I knew nothing about nurseries, but even in the short time I’ve been here I’ve learned so much: how to plant, transplant, and source seeds; and record and organize the whole process.”

It’s only been a month since they first broke ground on nursery construction but the site is already bursting with life. Everything was built from the ground up on site, the structure and all the bins and tables within it.

“Janeth always talks about how the nursery is a system where we direct the flow of energy,” Rodriguez explains as he packs sachets full of soil mix. “There are many elements at play here that together yield the strong, healthy plants we want.”

The work is not without its hiccups. “One of the biggest challenges has been getting materials to the site,” says RubenJaramillo. “Every time it rains, the road turns to mud and nothing can get to or from town.” In fact the whole site is completely dependent on rain. Without ground water irrigation, the site is a maze of swales on contour. Seedlings are fed from a rainwater catchment system that, especially during the dry season, can sit at precariously low levels.

“This whole process is really one of tough love. In a nursery system, one has to really be discerning of the success potential of the plants you are working with so that you don’t waste resources on seedlings that are weak or malformed,” notes Feather. This is a recipe for resilience, both for individual plant species and the site as a whole.

Similarly, training in Rodriguez is essential for creating resilience within the local indigenous communities, as he  will be the one maintaining the nursery long after the Baby cacaovolunteers cycle out. His ability to transfer his knowledge to fellow community members and disperse the young plants will greatly affect how all of Yarinacocha transitions into food & economic security within an agroforestry context. “If my community can use these resources to organize and unify around diversified permaculture projects, we will be stronger as a people and a culture.”

Feather looks beyond the human focus: “The most important thing to remember is that this was a rainforest. How do we get there again?”

Posted by Janeth Jaramillo and Yugo Feather, Alianza Arkana volunteers,  Tuesday, 16 September 2014

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