10 October 2019

Universidad Mayor de San Simón steps up as an Afforestation Crusader

Between October 2018 and March 2019, the Universidad Mayor de San Simón (UMSS), through the School of Forest Sciences of the Faculty of Agricultural and Livestock Sciences, has been developing a set of forestry and silviculture actions in the Cochabamba’s Metropolitan Region of Bolivia. Committed to Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life on Land and Goal 13: Climate Action, the university’s initiative aims at combating forest loss and reducing the effects of climate change that has affected the region. 

The metropolitan region of Cochabamba is located on the south side of the Cordillera del Tunari and covers 7 municipalities. With a population of 1,322,100, the region was once considered the garden of Bolivia. Now, however, it has suffered from environmental degradation as a result of droughts, floods, water pollution, fires and the expansion of the urban area.

To reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss, the Universidad Mayor de San Simón has developed an afforestation crusade. To carry out the initiative and increase capacity building, several public institutions have joined forces, including the UMSS Forestry School, the Government of the Department of Cochabamba; the Mayor's Office of Cochabamba; the Mayor's Office of Tiquipaya; the Ecological Battalion "Martín Cárdenas", and the Technological Institute of Punata. The participation of these institutions made possible the provision of 20,334 seedlings of different species to be planted. 

Additionally, participating institutions organized training workshops to inform communities of the severity of the environmental problems plaguing the region. Faculties and administration units provided training to as many as 4,334 people on the technical procedures required by the afforestation crusade. This reach was further amplified by the dissemination of training materials through mass media channels like newspaper Los Tiempos, Radio San Simón, and Channel 11-TVU. 

The proposed Afforestation Plan was approved by the Honorable University Council of UMSS. Through the issuance of the respective resolution, the technical team at the School of Forest Sciences prepared georeferenced delimitation tasks for the proposed areas to be forested. The tasks delineated the finest details of the project, from the number of participants needed to the demarcation of points for the drilling of holes. Based on their provisions, the plantations were carried out by groups of students, teachers and administrators.

In the last step of the initiative, the Universidad Mayor de San Simón carried out research trials aimed at observing the evolution of the species after their plantation. Through the prioritization of 19 plots, causal damage to the mortality was observed. These results hold usefulness for the appreciation and monitoring of growth and yield of species. 

The afforestation crusade resulted in several findings. Firstly, the university concluded that municipal technicians must be included in the entire afforestation process, as their participation aides in the handling of any property problems that may arise on forested land. Additionally, it was found that it is necessary to acclimatize the seedlings before making their corresponding planting. Looking forward, the university is examining techniques for the irrigation of the plantations. It found that standard plant irrigation tends to be costly due to the amount of water and labor required to cover the area planted in the afforestation crusade. This problem is especially exacerbated during the dry season from May to October, particularly in the arid lands of San Pedro hill and Santivañez. Faced with this situation, Universidad Mayor de San Simón has been working on the implementation of plant irrigation by dripping technique, using low-cost recyclable material, such as plastic bottles and complementary material.