How did the Restoration Stewards Program impact and change the Monte Alegre Project?

Final thoughts after a year of work

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Analí Bustos

With the end of the year upon us, it is time for evaluations in all aspects of our lives. I think that this has been a year of uncertainties; questions; many answers; of understanding the rhythm of the processes; and also of taking action. For many of us, the arrival of COVID-19 put our perceptions of reality in check, including the fragility of nature and the awareness of our own mortality. It is in this complex environment that we began, in January 2021, the work plan for the Restoration Stewards Program for the Monte Alegre Nature Reserve. I admit that, when I looked at my board full of ideas, items and monthly objectives, I was terrified… but I am learning to trust that, if I am given a task, it is because I can and should do it. There is a quote that says: the distance between dreams and reality is called “action”, so I put aside my doubts and decided to move forward.

That the Global Landscapes Forum has looked to a small corner of Argentina to help me further develop this project – offering economic, logistical and emotional support to help Monte Alegre grow – has been one of our greatest gifts. This has given us the confidence we needed to know that our work is worthwhile – and that we must not stop.

The future of Monte Alegre is seen as an expansion in each of its areas, and I am going to put in numbers the achievements of this year – small but infinitely-significant numbers. Our restoration project has welcomed 55 new volunteers. We built our own greenhouse-nursery that will increase our plant production every year. Ten hectares of exotic plant species were removed, giving rise to the first 500 daughter plants of the forest, which are being reintroduced to increase the prevalence of native trees. An incredible leadership team of eight people was formed, who have a coherent vision and are committed to helping this project grow. We made contact with two other organizations and agreed to work together. We started biodiversity censuses in two biological groups (plants and birds). We made an agreement with the regional school that the forest will be used for their students’ environmental education. We attended two networking events in person on the restoration and conservation of nature – and numerous online events – to disseminate our work.

Although these figures are important, I think there is something else that cannot be measured, and that is that we have helped many people to realize that the forest is life: that we need it, and that today it needs us. The key to ecosystem restoration will be getting more and more people to take on this task – that they make this fight their own, alongside crucial changes at the economic and political level.

Personally, I still have a lot to reflect on, understand and rethink about everything that has happened throughout these months, but I know that I was able to see each success and error as a learning experience. Thank you GLF and team, for placing your trust in me; for showing me with love and patience that I can fly a little higher in my dream of restoring nature. I hope Monte Alegre will be the first of many other restored forests along my path, and that no matter how great the challenges, I will never give up.

The Espinal forest and I embrace all of you from Argentina, and we thank you for your deep support and hard work.

Analí Bustos

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Supporting partners

Under the banner of Generation Restoration, the Youth in Landscapes Initiative (YIL) and the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) launched the Restoration Stewards program in 2020 to support and highlight the work of six young restoration practitioners and their teams, dubbed ‘Restoration Stewards’. The year-long program provides funding, mentorship, and training to deepen the impact of these projects.
In 2021, the Restoration Stewards and their teams will be supported to further develop their project and will become ambassadors at both global and local levels. Globally, the Restoration Stewards will share their journey in a series of vlogs and blogs documenting their stories of inspiration and challenges. Locally, they will spark a restoration movement, creating pathways to connect, share, learn, and act for more sustainable landscapes.