Planet Earth: Our Loving Home
 
Planting New Trees in Colombia: A Breath of Fresh Air for the World (In Spanish)      
Today’s Planet Earth: Our Loving Home will be presented in Spanish, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai.

Halo enthusiastic viewers, and welcome to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. Colombia is renowned for its forests which cover approximately 60% of the nation. Forty percent of this cover is Amazon rainforest. These magnificent green areas, release massive amounts of fresh oxygen, and act as the lungs of our Earth. They also provide a home for a highly rich biodiversity, with 10% of the entire world’s species being found in Colombia.

However, since the early 1980’s, deforestation of the Amazon rainforest has been a serious issue in South America, with tens of millions of hectares being cleared every year, primarily for producing grazing land for livestock or farmland to grow animal feed.

Such deforestation has resulted in massive habitat loss for wildlife, widespread soil erosion, and changing weather patterns. In addition, the burning of rainforest is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, and the resultant spread of soot to the glaciers in Antarctica has enormously sped up their rate of melting.

Sadly, these tremendously damaging human activities have accelerated global climate change. Thankfully in Colombia an exciting new shift has begun, and seedlings from native trees are being planted in several parts of the country to restore the magnificent forests.

On today’s show, we visit Usme, a small town that is part of the Capital District of Bogotá, to learn about one such program. Ananias Arebalo is a forest biologist who works with the Agricultural Technical Assistance Unit (ULATA), a project sponsored by the Usme mayoral office.

His job is to grow tens of thousands of native seedling trees and deliver them to local farmers, schools and suburban dwellers for planting. Let’s join Mr. Arebalo on a tour of the nursery, and find out more about the indigenous trees grown there.

Now we are here at the communal nursery La Requilina. And here we are in an area where we are creating a micro- laboratory for the supply of native forest species. These species are grown here and are transported to the site where they will be planted in order to restore the areas that have been affected by man and sometimes by nature itself.

Here we have made a seedbed. It is covered like this to prevent damage from some birds and to avoid the direct impact of water. This is a “Multishade,” a mesh that regulates the falling of water and also regulates the sun, so that the seedbed doesn’t dry out, and stays moist.

Here we have a few Salvio seeds. We have some seeds of a bush tomato and we have some forest species of Chicalá and double Caper. Here in this one, we have the plants already more developed and they have germinated. They are starting to come out. We can see the little seedlings. This is a seedbed of Aliso. This Aliso is used for the recovery and conservation of streams and reservoirs.

These plants come out when they are about 10 centimeters. Here is the Curuba. It is now ready for transplanting. So, when the plants have reached a height of about 30 to 50 or 60 centimeters, they are suitable for delivery.

According to the species, it takes three to four months from the time we plant to the time of transplanting, according to the kind of plant, because there are some species that are slower growing than others. And then from transplanting until it is ready to be taken to the planting place, it also takes approximately five to six months.

This is an Alder plant. It is six months old. And as we can see, it is about 50 centimeters. Then it is suitable to plant, the ideal time for planting. Here we have another species named Mortiño. This, as I said, must be between 30 and 40 centimeters. This one is 30 centimeters; therefore it is suitable for planting.

Around here we have another species. This is an Arboloco. It’s also used for the recovery of streams, a very good tree. It grows fast, it's tough. So it is an ideal tree for this type of thing. This one is the famous, large leafed Laurel de Cera. It’s a slower growing tree. It has been a year already since it was transplanted. This plant material is suitable for dry lands, more arid, it can be used for the recovery of soils and other things. Here we have a fruit tree. It is one of the few that remains to be delivered.

This is the famous Papayuelo. These trees were transplanted about eight months ago and these are also suitable for delivery. This is the famous Juco or Garrocho. It is widely used because of the birdlife. It is used to make the biological corridors, the green fences, to make interconnections to be able to care a little more for the wildlife, yes? The birds and all those things. So, this is highly valued for that, because in addition to flowering, it bears fruit that provides for the birds.

In addition to growing the seedlings, the staff at the Agricultural Technical Assistance Unit also provides information and assistance to the people receiving the trees.

Currently, these plants that we see here are ready to be delivered. These deliveries are made through a technical visit where we carry out a review. We give the technicalities about which species are suitable and can be planted in the region, in the farm or the place that the user requests.

So for example, if I am requested by a farmer to deliver 10 Alisos, or 100, I go there and visit him. If I see that it is viable to plant Alisos there, we plant it. Otherwise, we recommend another species.

These species are distributed more or less at one year old, about 30 or 40,000 seedlings to the surrounding areas of the rural town of Usme. And we do a follow up after the planting, to tell the farmer or country people how to do maintenance so that they are taking care of them.

The planting of these tender little seedlings will provide many benefits to Colombia. They will help to restore the lush forests, provide homes for wildlife, and keep the precious soil intact. But the ULATA project has one more objective.

The basic objective that we seek is the production of oxygen. We have some areas of native forests which, due to agricultural and livestock practices, have been damaged. What we hope is to re-colonize those areas with these native plants, teaching the producer about tree planting and the preservation of native materials, because here there is a culture of planting introduced species like pines and eucalyptus, which are not friendly to the environment due to their high consumption of water to stay on the site.

These species that we have here are species that are efficient in the usage of water resources for the areas where they will be planted. They are very efficient species because they are native. And they are compatible with the environment and the areas where we are working.

In addition to supporting reforestation, the Agricultural Technical Assistance Unit also promotes organic, sustainable agriculture.

Here we have a little orchard demonstration where we see that we have chard. We have some onions and leek. They are in the process of harvesting. There we had cauliflower. We had broccoli. And here we have the marigold. And this plant helps to ward off insects. This is called clean agriculture. We do not use any insecticides or any fungicide.

In this case the plant itself helps to protect the onion and the chard and other things that we have planted right there from the insects that may harm them. So that is why marigold is there at the site, planted with that purpose, in order to protect, to keep away some insects that can cause harm.

Here we have spearmint. Spearmint also has a purpose for being in the orchards. It also serves as a repellent for insects. And it is an aromatic plant, also used as a medicine and aromatic. So this plant is also distributed to the farmers to have in their orchards.

Colombia has a very mountainous terrain, and as the elevation changes, different types of vegetation must be planted.

Here we have a very important plant in the highlands. It is a plant that is found from 2,700-2,800 meters high and reaches to 3,200-3,500 (meters). It is called the tree-grape. It is a plant that is used for the conservation of soils and plains.

So we also produce it here to deliver to farmers to try to restore some arid areas of the highlands, for the restoration of the arid places of the highlands of the sub-plains. This other little plant is a peach, this is a plant used for the protection of watersheds. It is also found between 2,600 and 3,200 meters high.

Another exciting, constructive change is sprouting up in Colombia! With equipment and training donated by the US government, as well as assistance from the Colombian military and government, farmers in the La Macarena region are transitioning from growing coca leaf, the plant from which the drug cocaine is derived, to cultivating nutritious crops such as plantain, yucca and papaya.

One such farmer, Mr. Jorge Elias Benjumea, a 46-year-old father of three, explained that even though his income has decreased, his quality of life is better, as he stated, “Coca is a plant that can make you a lot of money, but also gives you a lot of headaches. Everything is different now, more peaceful; I go to bed at night with no worries.”

Supreme Master Ching Hai has often spoken about the importance of trees, and the need to be grateful for their life-giving presence, as in a videoconference with Supreme Master Television staff in November 2008.

We are living in the grace of a super being called the Earth. That’s why the aboriginal people, they call her “Mother Earth,” and very respectfully because they can see it. Sometimes they can communicate also with the Earth’s spirit or with the mountain. So the mountains can talk to you. The trees will tell you.

So walk the Earth with awe and respect. Look at the trees with love and reverence. Touch the plant with gratitude and admiration. Everything around us is from the Divine and is a part of the Divine; not just human beings, not just animals. Be reverent with all things.

Many thanks Ananias Arebalo and Diego Alberto Deaza and the rest of the staff at Usme’s Agricultural Technical Assistance Unit, as well as all the farmers, schools and locals for your efforts to restore the beautiful, life-giving forests in Colombia. Your work is bringing a breath of fresh air into our world, and bettering the quality of life for all Colombians. We are grateful and wish you much continued success in the greening of your nation.

For more information on Usme’s Agricultural Technical Assistance Unit (ULATA), please visit www.humanas.unal.edu.co/cyco/ulata-usme

Thank you for joining us today on Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. Let us always appreciate the resplendent beauty of our world.

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