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Stories of Life Change

The Eye of Water

September 4, 2018

It started with a different vision.

About twenty years ago, a visit to the community of Ojo de Agua, “the eye of water” in Mexico’s Mixteca region would have looked quite different. The steep hillside would have been brown and dry.

For years, the people of Ojo de Agua relied heavily on the production of charcoal and firewood in order to survive. Financial motivation led to many trees being removed. With nothing to keep nutrients fixed in the soil, they were quickly washed away. Before long, the hills were barren.

These conditions left the surrounding farms infertile. In places where growing food hadn’t been a problem, crop yields started to rapidly diminish.

Thankfully, people like Eduardo had a different vision for these hills.

Eduardo, an environmental technician working for Plant With Purpose in Mexico, grew passionate about reforesting Ojo de Agua. Reforesting the infertile land would be a necessary if this community were to break out of the cycle of poverty. He envisioned those same hills filled in with the green textures of Oaxaca pines and other trees.

The people of Ojo de Agua have seen its hills go from barren to green over the past few decades.

The people of Ojo de Agua have seen their hills go from barren to green over the past few decades.

Was it too late?

Many thought it was already too late for their community. Many men contemplated having to leave for bigger cities in search of other opportunities to feed their families. They expressed skepticism over how long it would take for trees to grow large enough to make an impact.

Eduardo and his colleagues knew that it would be difficult. He knew that hundreds of trees would need to be planted every month in order for the land to be healed. He also believed in his community, however, and started equipping locals with the tools and knowledge needed for a big reforestation effort.

Eduardo and Plant With Purpose began to reach out to community members. They met with Isaias, a resident of Ojo de Agua. His wife wanted him to plant peach trees, but Isaias was still reluctant because of how long it would take them to mature. They met with Leonardo who had been selling trees for charcoal in order to feed his family. They met with Umido who said that his community simply didn’t understand the damage being done by cutting trees.

By promoting and providing knowledge in sustainable agriculture, Plant With Purpose started shifting local perceptions. People eventually started to think that perhaps their land was not a lost cause. Many even started asking what they could do to contribute to its renewal.

Isaias presents to neighbors and visitors about the reforestation of Ojo de Agua.

Isaias presents to neighbors and visitors about the reforestation of Ojo de Agua.

Everybody embraced doing their part.

Leonardo first decided to stop cutting down trees and to look for other means of income.

Umido focused on improving his orchard and invested in chickens so his family wouldn’t have to solely rely on tree products.

Isaias got especially busy contributing towards reforestation. He made a plan to plant 50-100 trees on his property every year. Ever since 2001 he has successfully accomplished this goal.

Oaxacan Pines dominate the hillsides of Ojo de Agua.

Oaxacan Pines dominate the hillsides of Ojo de Agua.

Change can be seen from acres away.

These days, Ojo de Agua truly looks radically different. Thousands of Oaxacan Pine trees now cover its hillsides and farmers are reporting that they are able to produce plenty for food for their families and for income. After all this, families are beginning to plant vegetables they didn’t even know could grow in their gardens.

Eduardo’s team recently paid a visit to Isaias at his farm. They could see tall beautiful pine trees on a steep hillside, above and below the road that went through his land. Isaias talked about how the trees have healed the land. Neighboring communities would ask him what he did to make his pine trees so healthy. Theirs would be yellow and dying. Isaias said it comes down to interest and effort. “We have the seeds here to collect. We have the soil. The only other thing required is the will to do it.”

At the very end he added something he heard decades before: “It’s never too late to start something.”

Thousands of communities around the world are in a similar situation to what Ojo de Agua faced twenty years ago. When communities lose trees, people start to go hungry and face poverty. Reforestation can help turn things around. To help bring this sort of change to villages across the globe by empowering partners like Eduardo & Isaias, sign up to become a Purpose Partner today!

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