Seven million trees were planted in Costa Rica last year, and both government and the private sector plan to do the same this year.
The campaign that has enabled the massive endeavor is called “A qué sembras un árbol,” roughly translated as “Go Plant a Tree.” The initiative was actually initiated by a group of Tico youths who wanted to aid in the United Nations’ campaign “Planting for the Planet.” That worldwide campaign aimed to plant 1 billion trees in 2007 and 3.5 billion in 2008.
“A qué sembras un árbol” seeks to promote reforestation, forestry awareness and sustainable forestry management, while supporting larger goals of mitigating climate change, conserving biodiversity, and regaining forest cover.
According to Roberto Dobles, head of the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry (MINAET), “The success of the campaign depends on help from everyone: public institutions, privates businesses and volunteers.”
The three largest contributors to the project are MINAET, which supplied more than 3.6 million trees (more than half those planted), the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE), which donated more than 1.8 million trees and private companies belonging to the Costa Rican Forestry Chamber, which contributed just over 1 million trees. Combined, these institutions provided more than 93 percent of the trees planted.
Other private companies also played their part. Cemex, a construction materials corporation located in 90 countries, provided 2,300 trees. Carlos González, general director of Cemex, said the company always tries to support environmental campaigns.
2,000 trees were planted by CEMEX in the northwestern province of Guanacaste. Most of these trees were tempate, a species formerly regarded as useless but which was recently found to produce biofuel by extracting juice from its seeds.
González emphasized the potential of this initiative to provide an industry for people in the area.
“The trees, even though they were planted by Cemex, now officially belong to the residents of the area,” said González, “and we plan to buy the seeds from them in five years.”
Most of the trees planted in the initiative nationwide can later be used for lumber. They will also absorb carbon-dioxide, helping to reduce the risk of global climate change.
These mostly have been teak and melina trees, which are used for lumber, as well as native species. Dobles said careful consideration was taken when deciding when and where to plant the trees. The largest number of trees (30 percent) were planted in Alajuela province, and the second largest amount (about 19 percent) in Guanacaste.
This year the campaign hopes to again plant 7 million trees, but in different areas. “This year we need to strengthen our capabilities by creating awareness in our country,” said Dobles. He said they are planning to promote the initiative in schools by having the children plant some trees themselves, so that the next year Costa Rica can up the number.
“For such a small country, with such a recent dedication to replanting, we’ve definitely made a lot of progress,” said Dobles. “We’re not a large country like the United States. For us, 7 million is a lot of trees.”
Alfonso Barrantes, director of the National Forestry Office, hopes to meet the higher numbers, but added, “We have our limits. Fifty-two percent of Costa Rica is already forest.”