Reforestation is no small task, particularly in Patagonia. For starters, it’s a costly process. Each lenga tree (Nothpofagus pumilio) costs about $5 to plant. That might not seem like much if you’re only planting one tree, but multiply it by the thousands of trees that it will take to restore the devastated native forests in Torres del Paine and you’re looking at a hefty price tag.
But cost isn’t the only barrier. Lenga tree seedlings aren’t widely available and there are only certain times of year when they can be planted. And of course, once the seeds are finally in the ground, there’s still a long waiting period for the trees to reach maturity. The harsh Patagonian winds only extend this process. It can take 50 years for a lenga tree to grow 10 meters.
To boost reforestation funding and involve local youth in environmental stewardship, AMA Torres del Paine launched a school fundraising campaign in 2014. The campaign, titled 20 mil lengas para el Paine (or 20,000 lenga for Paine) engaged schools across the Magallanes region of Chile in a fundraising competition. Students raised money by selling coupons equal to the cost of one replanted tree to their family, friends, and other members of the community. Classes that raised the most money won a field trip to the national park and helped to plant lenga seedlings.
The campaign generated an overwhelming amount of interest and participation. The field trips proved to be an effective way to engage youth in conservation efforts and inspire environmental responsibility. Based on this initial success, AMA decided to coordinate additional student reforestation excursions to the park, allowing more children - particularly those in the park’s gateway town of Puerto Natales - to participate. By teaming up with the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund to expand the campaign’s budget, AMA was able to make these trips a reality.
Thanks to support from Adventure Life, in April and May 2016, 68 high school students and 5 teachers from Liceo Gabriela Mistral and Liceo Politécnico Luis Cruz Martínez in Puerto Natales were able to journey to the park, many for the first time. In addition to learning about the park’s flora and fauna, they dug in and got their hands dirty, planting 3,800 lenga trees!
“They really got into it too,” describes project coordinator Nelson Bahamondes. “We were a bit worried at first that they might be exhausted after the first day. But the next day that were ready to go again, super energized. That was really fun to see. I think it was also important that they realized that reforestation is more than what they had seen on TV, it’s more than just sticking a plant in the ground and covering it up. It’s an entire process that takes a a lot of time and energy.”