Forty years ago, a community in Tavaí, Paraguay started noticing changes to their natural environment. Trees were being razed down for export, used in coal production, or cleared to make space for large monocultural plantations. Later, a coal production facility was installed near Tavaí, with subsequent increases in local deforestation. This lead to a change in the local climate and increased the vulnerability of the ecosystems to pests and diseases.
After experiencing the consequences of rampant environmental degradation, Lucila Torres, a Tavaí community member, together with her local women’s organization the District Association Tavaí Pora (DATP), joined forces with the Fundacion Religiosos Para La Salud (FRS Paraguay) to seek funding and technical support from the GEF Small Grants Programme partmership programme with UN REDD called Community Based REDD+ (CBR+). CBR+ is an initative that supports community-level projects that complement the UN-REDD National Programmes. Lucila, FRS, and DATP wanted to establish a forest nursery, replace fallen trees and reforest the area.
With support from CBR+, Lucila, DATP and FRS Paraguay launched a project to restore the local environment and improve human health in Tavaí. The project emphasized social inclusion and women empowerment through the construction of a community tree nursery and by training them on agroecological production, and how to make organic pesticides. By learning how to sustainably manage their local resources, the participating women were guaranteed a source of income in the long term. With support and guidance from CBR+, DATP also held workshops on gender equity and marketing training.
"One of the reasons that led us to choose a nursery was that almost all the trees had been cut down in our community. We decided to take charge of replacing them even though we were not responsible for their disappearance, because that brought about climate change and diseases. The forests give stability to the climate and give shade, fruit, oxygen, and also serve as firewood. Its usefulness is immense." said Lucila.
Now, the nursery produces 13 native varieties of fruit and non-fruit bearing trees, including Guayaibi, lapacho, Inga guazu, Peterevy, Yvyrapyta, Yerba mate, Guatambú, Kurupa’y, Timbó, Aguacate, Peach, Orange, and Tangerine. Approximately 44,000 seedlings have been produced in the nursery, and 22,060 seedlings have been planted on farms by the project beneficiaries. In addition, the first 170 beneficiaries received seedlings to implement agroforestry on their farms. By co-planting the seedling trees with their agricultural crop, the women increased the resilience of the local ecosystem and, as a result, the crops’ resistance to pests and diseases. The participating women now grow organic crops both for consumption and sale.
The further scale the results, once a group of beneficiaries are fully trained and has gone through the project activities, a new group is ready to go through the same experience. With their new knowledge and agroecological management tools, the women are going to local schools organizaing workshops and teaching students. Through this exposure, the participants learn that their local actions are not isolated and that together, they have a global impact.
***This story was adapted from a story by Paraguay UNDP, published on the 14th of December, 2017 and edited with help from Ingrid Villalba (UNDP) and Norma Ramos (GEF SGP).