A trip to Colombia

Mar 03, 2020 | written by:

A Treedom team member visits a project

Shilpa Gulati, Corporate Partnerships Manager on the D-A-CH market, recently made her first trip to one of our projects. After team members such as Ciuffo, our content manager, of course our forestry managers and then last year also Camilla and Cecilia visited a project, it was now Shilpa’s turn to see our daily work up close. 

We sat down with her and asked her a few questions about what she saw: 

Have you been to Columbia before?

It was my very first time visiting Colombia. Despite going there for vacation, I wanted to take the opportunity to also visit our project in one go!

Colombia is a very green country and the landscape is impressive as it offers everything from mountains, beaches, beautiful islands and even rainforest. Moreover, the people are really friendly and I could practice my Spanish!

What was the motivation to see the project?

First and foremost, I wanted to get a better idea of what we do on site. Of course I know much about the projects and trees, farmers and our partners, but seeing it in person and being able to even plant some trees and visit the tree nurseries myself took it to a completely new level. I got to meet some farmers, speak with them and spend time with our project patterns - I saw where the tree plantings are taking place and how it really works - and this definitely helped me gain a much better understanding of our work. I definitely feel as though I can be even more precise and confident when talking about Treedom to our clients.

What was the first impression when you got there?

To get to the project, you first have to take the motorbike for 1h to Machete Pelao, which was an adventure in itself. From there you have to hike for an hour through the jungle; and then you finally reach the project. My first thought was: "Oh it's really green here and there are so many trees!”. So, naturally, I asked myself, why we plant trees despite it being so green already. The reason: In the past, this area was the home of many coca farms. The soil was completely destroyed and full of toxins, and the rainy season changed. In order to make the ground fertile again, fight soil erosion and increase the amount of rainfall, trees are needed - so our forestry managers decided that this area was very suitable to make long-term improvements and changes.

What impressed you the most?

The people behind the projects - talking to the farmers and learning more about them and their everyday life. I met Jesus, Pastor, and Antonio, as well as other farmers, and learned more about them. Jesus for example was a motor taxi driver in the past, but as it's a dangerous job, he decided to quit and plant trees instead. He loves planting trees and being surrounded by nature. On top of that, he even earns more money than before. It really touched me when they thanked me, meaning Treedom, for financing the tree plantings. This showed me that we really make an impact. Although I talk about all this in my daily life at work, this was a very magical moment. I was also impressed by the other farmer, who's name I can't remember anymore: He knew exactly when each and every single tree was planted, photographed and geolocated and visited last - and of course, how to best care for every single one. He has an incredible memory!

Was something unexpected/different from what you thought? What was something you didn’t expect to see?

Even though I know that we work in small agroforestry projects and not forest-projects, I expected to see the trees being planted in the same area, but in reality they are being planted all over the place -  between other existing plants and trees, in large fields and with sometimes much and sometimes little space between them. Why that is the case? Because, for example, some of the trees have to be planted in the shade, with only a little bit of sunshine and where they’d have enough space to grow. Additionally, the quality of the soil has to be taken into consideration, as it varies from spot to spot. Something else that surprised me was that the fact that farmers go the trees every two weeks in order to check if the growth is going according to plan, or if other plants intervene or prevent the optimal development. Michele, our project partner from Environomica, then told us a great quote that stuck with me until today: "You have to take care of a tree as you have to do with a child!"

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