Anna McLoud Gibbs

Reforestation, one tree at a time – Days 6-8

Óla! This week has been flying by. How is it already Thursday?

Rainy season has definitely commenced. We have been getting one or two big thunderstorms almost every day since last Friday. The storms often hit around 1 pm and soak the ground for an hour or so. I love watching rain so these daily storms have been wonderful. They feel refreshing and healing for the earth.

It’s interesting because I remember being amazed on the first day at Iracambi at the amount of rainforest here – “there’s so many trees!” Now that I’ve gotten used to the incredible sight that is the rainforest, I’ve started to see the vast amounts of negative space, the pastures where trees should be. At first glance, the landscape still looks vibrant. The fields of grass are bright green and lush with life – birds, cows, insects, and the occasional tree. It takes a few moments to remember that this landscape is not healthy. This is not a sustainable environment. There should be trees where there are not.

But, we are working on that. Since Iracambi was founded 20 years ago, they have planted 130,000 trees. Huge changes have occurred in the landscape. Reforestation has sprouted from both hand-planted trees and natural regrowth. Natural reforestation – where patches of rainforest just pop back up on their own – is particularly interesting. I asked Robin, the founder of Iracambi, why some areas reforest and others remain pasture. “I can’t tell you,” Robin responded. “It’s a complete mystery to me.”

While others figure out that mystery – perhaps a future Iracambi intern or volunteer – we work on planting saplings, or mudas. We spent most of this week in the nursery, where there are hundreds of sementes and mudas.

On Monday, Nathan, Riho, and I hiked to the top of the High Valley trail to collect his camera traps. Thor came with us. It was a steep climb paired with a hot morning. We stopped near the top – 1100 meters – on a large rock face surrounded by rainforest. I felt right in the heart of it.


In the afternoon, I bumped into a new volunteer from England named Kerry, freshly arrived from Rio. We headed to the nursery together to do some weeding. Not more than 10 minutes after we got to the nursery, the sky broke and rain came pouring down. Thunder and lightning, and buckets and buckets of rain. But we had just got there, and we felt up to the task. The two of us put on our rain jackets, hunched over the tables (each muda in its own black bag of soil), and continued removing weeds from the base of the baby trees. We finished right before it stopped raining.

On Tuesday, we spent the morning identifying more seeds and picking them out of their respective pods, shells, nuts, and casings. One set of seeds was securely lodged in its rotting fruit. Another we had to pick out of.. poop. We washed our hands thoroughly after.

That afternoon, we planted some of the seeds in the garden. They start in the beds in the ground, and when they get bigger, they’re moved into individual containers, and eventually transferred to black bags.


We also took a break to swim in the waterfall!

At the waterfall, referred to as the bamboo waterfall.


The next day, we planted these mudas and started to gather the trees to fill farmers’ orders.

This is an avocado tree!

I’m working on creating a video of the steps to planting a tree. I’ve learned it’s not just putting a plant in the ground. It requires communication, research, and collaboration, and it involves a cast of players, including farmers who need to be educated about the importance of trees in improving water quality.

We’ve completed the first few steps this week – more to come!