How many trees can a group of SST students plant in two days? 246.
We ventured up to the town of Acopia to meet our host, Luis Delgado, founder of Yachay Wasi (House of Learning). Yachay Wasi is part of an international movement to plant a billion trees in deforested regions all over the world. Luis has committed his organization to planting a million trees in the four lakes region of Peru. We did our part to move him a bit closer to his goal, using funds donated from friends back in Goshen to pay for native qeuna seedlings.
Most of the trees were planted our first afternoon near the town of Acopia using chakitaqllas (Andean foot plows) and shovels. We hope that someday they will form handsome hedgerows to the fields they border. On our second day we carried 37 more seedlings up to a 4,300 meter (over 14,000 feet) mountain overlooking a vicuna reserve. Vicunas are a native camelid, related to the llama and alpaca, and are fairly rare in these parts. We got a view of them in the distance before turning to our work at hand, getting several dozen trees planted in what we hope will one day become the beginning of a new forest.
During our visit we had a chance to learn about global environmental issues from Luis as well as local customs from his neighbor, Feliciano Fputturi. Each month members of the community gather for a town-hall type meeting and participate in regular feinas (work parties) to repair cobblestone roads, clean out irrigation ditches or construct community buildings. We also ate a variety of traditional Andean cuisine — soups and main courses consisting of quinua (a high-protein grain), potatoes, herbs and, a rare treat, Alpaca meat.