After centuries of heavy deforestation, Peru is undertaking a campaign to reforest the highlands with 60 million trees – an act that not only helps prevent the terrible flash floods that plague the tree-less mountains, but also hopes to make a small dent in climate change affecting the country.
The Incas were never great lovers of trees, in fact they cut down forests on the far Amazonian slopes of the Andes, as did other civilisations such as the Chachapoyas, to build their monumental stone cities. But nor did they have a European thirst for the reckless annihilation of nature, as to them the earth was sacred.
Since the Spanish undertook huge efforts to Europeanise the indigenous, a culture of environmental destruction has reigned in Peru. Knowledge that you might think fairly obvious – that the existence of forests prevents landslides and flash floods, and that over-logging would cause forests to disappear and push people deeper into poverty as a result – was lost thanks the rural population’s forced de-education. Even today forests are being destroyed.
But in order to reverse this trend the Ministry of Agriculture is continuing a campaign to plant trees, some 60 million of them, across the Andes.
In the district of Pomacancha, in Jauja, Junín, for example, 4000 trees were planted over 3.5 hectares, including eucalyptus, pine, and others. The program also consisted of education initiatives for local rural communities.
In the entire region of Junín during 2009 as many as 4 million trees were planted, bring the total, including those planted in the 2008-2009 initiative, to 100,000,000 trees nationally.
The tree planting program is expected to continue in 2010 and beyond.