Sapling guardians. This is what the group of women who fight against climate change and restore land like to call themselves. They are in the foothills of Mendoza, in the Upper Mendoza River basin, and are part of the collective Sumá Nativas.
By 2021, the UN established the theme “Restoring our Earth”. Many of these actions are led by women with three strategic objectives: the active participation of women, the integration of their concerns and their perspectives in policies and programs related to the environment; and the establishment of methods for evaluating the impact of development policies and environmental in women.
In the mountain town of Potrerillos, in Greater Mendoza, are the guardians of seedlings. They are a group of women who created the first community workshop and nursery that it started working last February.
The Sumá Nativas project is made up of 70% professional women, students and specialists dedicated to the task of regenerating soils and seek to promote safe, respectful and equal work spaces, with diverse and broad participation, inspiring women’s leadership.
In addition to people from the community, who have an active contribution to the project, public and private institutions have joined: The Nature Conservancy, IADIZA and IANIGLA, both executing units of CONICET, the Cricyt Foundation, from science; and Cervecería y Maltería Quilmes, as part of the private sector. This is how it began to settle a local community team, in which there are currently women “guardians of seedlings” and fieldwork volunteers.
Upper basin of the Mendoza River. The group of environmentalists who restore land works there and are part of the Sumá Nativas collective
How they protect plants
One of the activities was the community production of seedlings of native species and since they have not yet built the nursery, the neighbors offered to take care of them until they were finally planted next spring.
The team is made up of four guards. His dedication is to water the seedlings, check them to confirm that no pests attack them and keep them safe now that the cold has started. “The guardians share photos and questions about how their seedlings are progressing,” says Clara Pissolito, a Natural Resources engineer who is part of Sumá Nativas. Soon more seedlings will be made in conjunction with the Cristóbal Colon de Potrerillos school and its guardians will be the boys and girls who produce them.
Most of the plants generated by the project are in a nursery loaned for this activity, which belongs to the IADIZA (Argentine Institute for Arid Zones Research) and is used for research. An agreement is in process with the El Plata Social Club, in the town of Las Vegas, in Luján de Cuyo, where the community nursery will be built that will continue with the production of native plants.
Another batch of plants is guarded by the guards and a guardian of seedlings, who collaborates with the women. Some of the species that are reproducing are: Prosopis flexuosa var. Depressa (carob), Senecio subulatus (romerillo), Grindelia chiloensis (honeyed), Adesmia pinifoli (yellow wood), among others. They have about 3000 seedlings.
The project promotes job creation for the inhabitants of Potrerillos. They bet that with the construction of the self-sustaining community nursery, women can work on soil restoration and develop an enterprise that allows them to have their own livelihood: produce and sell native plants to boost the development of the local economy.
The impact of climate change on the mountain range
Engineer Pissolito explained the consequences of climate change in the Central Andes (Mendoza and San Juan). “The average temperature has increased by 1 ° C in the last 50 years, that is to say about twice the world average. To this is added a sustained decrease in rainfall. In the last 10 years the accumulation of snow has been close to the half of the historical average, which has generated a strong decrease in the flow of the rivers, “he said.
The lack of water affects both the ecosystems and the irrigation oases of Cuyo. And, according to the engineer, it is an extreme situation of damage to flora and fauna that has no precedent in the historical records of the last century.
Mendoza mountain range. The Club of the plant keepers. They work in the town of Potrerillos, in the foothills.
Vanesa Vazquez, Sustainability Manager at Cervecería y Maltería Quilmes adds: “As members of the Mendoza Water Fund, we decided to support this initiative individually and independently, developed jointly with The Nature Conservancy. And thus move forward with our contribution to the process of ecological restoration of the basin within the framework of our Conserve Water platform. “
“Without a doubt – Vazquez continues – the Water Fund will play an important role in the strategic plan that we are beginning to define with lines of action oriented towards the implementation of solutions based on nature and efficient use of water to contribute to Safety. Water in the region ”.
The nursery as a community project
In this initial stage, the project consists of two main legs, on the one hand, the restoration of 15 hectares by planting native species, erosion control tasks and exotic species, and on the other hand, the construction and consolidation of a community nursery with a genus that will continue with the production of native species for various purposes.
So far, much of the survey work in the affected area and the initial tasks of seedling production have been carried out by an interdisciplinary technical team, while members of the local community and those interested in nursery and native plant reproduction participated in the two workshops. community.
There were more than 30 people in each one. Neighbors, as well as volunteers from other towns, participated in the management of the spaces to carry out the workshops, in surveying tasks and as guardians of seedlings. The planting of native species in the affected area next spring will be a community event.
The process of designing the community nursery is beginning in conjunction with the local community. At the moment exchanging ideas among the about 20 interested parties through virtuality and hoping that the conditions allow us to meet to finalize the design and acquire the materials.
The nursery will be built on the premises of the El Plata Social Club, which already functions as a community space, where the climbing workshop and the La Leñera community radio also operate.
On the other hand, Cervecería and Malteria Quilmes are working on an awareness campaign that involves the community, in coordination with the Municipality of Luján de Cuyo to generate a commitment in the development of sustainability, provide economic value, take care of the environment and stimulate a positive social impact on the well-being of the community.
Vázquez (Cervecería y Maltería Quilmes), clarifies that these 15 hectares are the initial step, since the project still has additional resources granted by the World Environment Fund to restore up to 130 more hectares.