Take a look at our proud plant brigade!
The photo above shows indigenous Ati children and families carrying some of more than 400 fruit tree saplings to planting grounds up in the hills near their tribal homes here in Malay, Aklan, Panay, Philippines.
The really neat part — and reason for all the smiles — we rewarded the Ati carriers with 10 Philippine pesos (20 cents) for each seedling hauled up the mile-long, mountain trail.
Some kids made repeated trips. Some moms used empty rice or cement sacks to increase their capacity and earnings. Whatever the case, as shown in the pictures, all 422 seedlings were safely and speedily transported to two separate hilltop staging areas for permanent planting.
The grand total paid into the pockets of the Ati for the effort: 4,220 pesos ($85). The excitement and pictures and pride generated by the production – priceless!
The planting of fruit seedlings is our creative way to counter the unfortunate tree-cutting that has occurred on the Ati land since the coronavirus crisis began.
Sadly, one of the few income opportunities available to the Ati tribe during the continuing local COVID closures has been the making and selling of charcoal.
Authentic charcoal is created by a controlled burn of downed trees. Many many mature Ati trees have disappeared over the last 17 months.
Our expectation is that these smaller, fast-growing and producing, ‘replacement’ trees will be far less appealing as a source of wood in the future.
Some of the species are more like big bushes. All will eventually produce an edible bounty too.
And hopefully the kids who carried – and will now help plant the trees – will feel some continuing connection to the saplings as they mature together in coming years.
It might be a pipe dream, but I would love for young Ati to become arborists; tree protectors instead of tree torchers. The pesos we’ve invested in the transport and planting schemes will hopefully help make that happen.
We procured the saplings last week; on an officially authorized ‘humanitarian’ mission (during community quarantine) to the AKlan State University agriculture center some 60 miles from our temporary coronavirus crisis home.
The details of that trip are here.
Of course, next will be the actual tree planting. Indeed, the budding Ati arborists are all excited about another incentive offer: 25 pesos (50 cents) to plant each tree.
Bottom line, while staying within our desired $1K project budget, we’re helping restore the Ati land and people as they wait for vaccines and virus hardships endure.
As always, be thankful and generous (like our overseas supporters), happy trails & more beer.
Life is NOW!
Thanks for reading, “Big tree brigade to Kurong Village.”
Earth Vagabonds and generous overseas donors have helped the indigenous Ati tribe in Malay, Aklan, Philippines, during our pandemic travel pause.
Our past sustainability projects include: