Planting more than 600,000 trees across almost 2,000 hectares, Ecuador has broken the Guinness record for reforestation efforts.
Targelia Mauha was one of the over 44,000 citizens who participated in this historic endeavor, which is part of larger state priority to protect the environment and honor the constitutional rights secured for nature. Citizens joined together to plant 647,250 trees of more than 200 species. The seedlings were planted all over Ecuador, taking advantage of the country’s wide range of climatic and geographical regions. New trees were introduced everywhere, from the Pacific coast to the high Andes and low-lying tropical Amazon basin.
“I believe in the people who are collaborating to plant trees. And today we will not see the growth of the trees, or the reduction in contamination. I think that in the future our children, our grandchildren, they will see this and they will see a healthy environment,” said Mauhua after planting her tree near the equator Middle of the World monument outside of Quito.
Ecuador became the first country in the world to guarantee the rights of nature in the constitution passed in 2008. Putting this legislation into action are efforts such as the Socio Bosque conservation program, which provides incentives for citizens to not cut down trees, as well as the National Reforestation Plan, which seeks to reforest 1 million hectares over a 20-year period.
“Going beyond the record, this is a symbolic act to mobilize the population,”said Minister of the Environment Lorena Tapia. “It is important, but it is symbolic. Behind this is the National Reforestation Plan of the government. And as you said, that the goal is to have the deforestation rate be zero. The project Socio Bosque, a project of reforestation, has invested more than US$74 million dollars, something no other government has done.”
The state argues that the protection of the rights of nature is key for achieving the goals of the National Development plan of Good Living. With the goal of improving the quality of life of citizens, the 2008 constitution recognizes the right of the population to live in ecologically balanced and healthy environments.
“We are working on legislation, in an environmental code that will permit us to have a strong backing for environmental management but at the same time with the support of various state institutions throughout national territory, we will have the base to be able to achieve the objectives of Good Living, or Sumak Kawsay,” said Carlos Viteri, a legislator for the PAIS Alliance at the planting event.
In 2012, 109 Ecuadorian schools collected 1,559,002 plastic bottles for recycling – the most ever recycled in one week. The recycled bottles generated $30,000, which helped fund Yasuni-ITT — a program aiming to protect a national park from oil exploitation.