Seeding the Altiplano with trees? Rubén and the eucalyptus project

Rubén Hilari in NY, Aug. 2008

UPDATE: Ruben writes that they separated the seedlings out into the bags with the help of people in the village, and have given away about 2,000 seedlings. They need to see how the newly-transplanted seedlings will fare over winter. There are also some seeds left over, for additional starts next year.


Rubén Hilari, BQEF scholarship program graduate and 2008-2009 intern at Oakwood Friends School, realized that if he could buy the seeds, there was someone on the Altiplano who would help him sprout eucalyptus seedlings. They couldn’t afford to buy seedlings, which cost about $1 each.

The project is in Walata Chico, the last village on the left before the pass on the road to Sorata, after Achacachi (where the first Quaker school still exists today).  Walata Chico has zero trees, but now the seedlings are sprouted. They’re in a greenhouse, are over 8” tall, and have to get a bit taller to withstand the wind. They also have to be planted during the rainy season (February/March), so they’ll have sufficient moisture to weather the transplanting.

Rubén tells us his village just had one of their 4-times-a-year “Local Gatherings”. He’ll be gathering photos and reporting back soon on the project’s progress. Meanwhile, they’ve purchased bags to separate the seedlings out into for further growth. Ruben tells us there will be 3,000 trees planted in the Walata Chico area.

Eucalyptus grows strong and straight and can handle the altitude, unlike most trees (the only other trees that grow in the Altiplano’s cold environment are pines).  It can be used for firewood, furniture, construction, and medicinal purposes – for colds, etc.

It’s usually about 5 years before the trees can be used for firewood, about 8 to10, maybe as many as 15 yrs to use them for furniture and building. Many of them will be left as wind blocks, which will help plant growth and with sheltering homes.  Eucalyptus also regrows once its been harvested, so coppicing or pollarding is a possibility.