The jungle is totally still. The air is thick with moisture and every now and then a leaf falls from the tree tops, disrupting the tranquility. Cicadas and other unknown insects pepper the silence with their singing, occasionally joined by the birdsong. Thick vegetation covers the ground, Moss covered logs, huge vines winding their way to sunlight, ferns scattered anywhere they can lay spores. A small river divides the forest. Bamboo and other stalkish trees compete to be closest to the water. Bowing their branches to dip their leaves in the cool water. Tiny fish and tadpoles dart in and out from under the algae covered rocks. Within the incredible stillness the jungle seems to be breathing. Suddenly the stillness is broken. A man is walking down a centuries old path. His hair is shaved closely on the sides but the top is longer and stained red with acheote. Wielding a machete he effortlessly clears the leaves that have tried to reclaim the path. Following him is a string of students, All laden with backpacks and post diggers, reeking of bugspray and sunscreen, ready to spend the next three hours planting crop trees in the name of reforestation.
We have spent the past four and a half weeks living with the indigenous Tsa’chila people of rural Ecuador in a community called Bua. For four and a half weeks we have worked closely with families and community members to plant trees that not only will help the environment but also produce fruit and and wood eventually. The idea was’t to go into a forest that didn’t have room for a few more plants. The idea was to plant trees that would have multiple purposes. I like to think of it as reforestation through agriculture.
It is hard to believe that our time in Ecuador is over. It is even harder to believe that there is much much more to come.