STORIES FROM THE FIELD
The Family of Don Sebastian in Chucalibal
When AIR first met Don Sebastian almost ten years ago, he was curious but skeptical about intentionally planting trees. He told us, “Trees are a nuisance to be cut for firewood or to make room for crops!” But he admitted that his crops had been smaller and smaller, and that mudslides were more frequent—and he liked the idea of new stoves for his extended family.
Fast forward to 2019, and what a transformation! Don Sebastian now has more crop yields, he “gave back to the forest” his steepest field of corn which had been collapsing into mudslides. His community has not experienced mudslides even when the rains were heavy, and he loves the beauty of the trees.
Best of all, Don Sebastian turned his AIR tree nursery into a thriving tree business. He recognized that his home was at the intersection of three highways, and he could advertise on calendars. They now sell 40,000 tree seedlings each year—they earned so much the first year, they installed an irrigation system and expanded the nursery (photo). His sons no longer wish to immigrate to the US for jobs, because they are managing the family business.
Always eloquent, Don Sebastian wrote “Hasta el ultima dia de mi vida, plantare arboles y trabajare en los bosques. Porque cuando muera, en cada arbol quedara mi legado.” “Until the last day of my life, I will plant trees and work in the forests. Because when death comes, in each tree will remain my legacy.”
Don Juan Estepan Family
Don Juan Estepan and his wife joined a new reforestation group in 2008, in the village of Paraxaj, Comalapa, with 12 other people. They created a tree nursery and received valuable training from AIR’s technician, Don Miguel Lopez who travelled 11 kms by motorcycle on a dirt road every 8 days from San Martin Jilotepeque.
Thanks to AIR’s technical advice, the group has now transplanted all the trees of the first three years of the project from the nursery onto the steepest terrain. This terrain is the most suitable for reforestation, protecting the group’s families from mudslides and cover their firewood needs with much less environmental impact. On the 4th year of the project, the group sold half of their nursery production since they had fully reforested their own land.
But Don Juan realized that there was still a need to promote reforestation locally. Thus, he decided to work in partnership with another family and carry on with the nursery but this time for commercial purposes. For the following two years, they managed to produce 40,000 trees for sale and thus covered the total cost of the nursery without AIR’s support. Moreover, with the help of Don Miguel who visited monthly, they managed to sell their production, generating even more income that improved the livelihood of both families. They are an example of local economic development and environmental vision, demonstrating what it is to care for our mother nature.