You might wonder what we do here all day. We admit, we were asking ourselves the same before coming to rural Bahia. Many expected that planting a tree cannot be that difficult and time consuming.
Expectation: You just dig a hole, put a seedling inside, cover it with soil and done. That’s it. Next.
Reality: Well… we could do it this way, but probably 99% of tree seedlings would not survive the next months and disease painfully.
Our Brazilian expert Isabel taught us a more sustainable, yet complex, way of tree planting.
Here is a short step-by-step description what we actually do during our project days and how we plant trees:
- At 7.30 am after a good breakfast with strong coffee we start for the 15minute walk to the field with the barrows, seedlings and tools over the shoulders.
- Some take a machete in the hand to clear the area from bushes, small palm trees and other vegetation. These plants growing on the degraded land unfortunately would not develop into forest by themselves. It would take decades for the rainforest to start re-growing naturally.
- Then, we measure the area to be planted. The patches are 20×40 meters and we mark lines every four meters.
- These lines are „opened“ by cutting away the grass surface – a very exhausting job.
- The next step is to turn over the earth with another tool to soften the soil – not really less exhausting, especially in the midday sun.
- Afterwards, we take a digger-like tool and make holes for tree seedlings every four meters
- Inside the holes we pour compost as a fertilizer and plant seedlings.
You see, only after several steps we finally plant the tree. Instead of simply digging a hole we overturned 800 square meters of degraded former pasture.
- Anyways, we are not done. The seedlings have to be covered with sticks and branches, which in the humid environment of Bahia quickly decompose to imitate the nutrient rich rainforest soil.
- Following, we plant leguminous, pineapple, banana and manioc for food, shade, and soil improvement. By the way, we don’t count these as actual trees planted.
- Then we cover more. Isabel says it is never enough.
- When you are done with the whole process, you go to the next area, measure it, put on the sweaty gloves and go again.
When we planned the project we expected to plant about 2000 trees – eventually we reach 600+. This may sound like a disappointment, however, our expectations have also been exceeded. It is a great and satisfying feeling to know that our work is sustainable!
Furthermore, it will provide food for the people on the farm and grow to a biodiverse and rich forest.
Just one last thing: now towards the end of the project we are facing the problem of continuing drought, caused by El Nino and accelerated climate change. So maybe we have to feed the little trees some water on their way to become a proud forest.