Sunday, January 22, 2017

A real Alternative for monarchs: a visit to Alternare A.C.

Monarchs roosting in the Monarch Biosphere Reserve

Almost 6 years ago I posted about work by Dra. Isabel Ramirez of the University of Mexico in Morelia (UNAM). Since then I have been supporting the non-governmental organization Alternare (web, facebook) which works in the Michoacan area where the monarchs overwinter. Founded 20 years ago by two peasant activists and two biologists, Alternare focuses on improving the lives of local people (campesinos) in ways that also help conserve water, soil, forests, and the air.

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Dra. Ramirez and pollinator biologists Drs. Silvana Marten-Rodriguez and Mauricio Quesada and their students at UNAM. Then I went to the Alternare training center which is located just at the base of the mountains where the monarchs overwinter.

Alternare is very active in several ways of conservation; I'll post about some of these in the future. Today I want to focus on just one of the ways Alternare helps preserve the forests in this area.

Campesino family-run tree nursery
In the picture you can see members of a small community in their tree nursery. Members of several families work in the nursery on Saturday mornings. Children come too and help, learning skills they can use the rest of their lives. Seeds are collected from native trees in land owned by the families, and planted in organic soil mixes they make themselves. At any one time they have about 2,500 seedlings of pines, firs, oaks, and other trees growing. At the beginning of the rainy season, they plant them on their land. Any excess seedlings are given to other campesinos - this is not a profit making enterprise.

By growing healthy, vigorous seedlings and by taking care in when and where they are planted, the survival rate of their seedlings is over 85%. By comparison, government-funded tree planting programs may have survival rates as low as 5%.

Almost all the land in and around the Monarch Biosphere Preserve is privately owned, mostly by small farmers such as these. Sustainable forestry is important for meeting their needs for timbers and fuel, and provides some income. Small family groups like this were trained by Alternare in these organic tree growing techniques, which they then took back to their own land. They take pride in their nursery and the prospects it provides for their children and grandchildren, and the ecological services the trees provide for the area.

Alternare depends on donations. I have donated through the Paypal link on their site (red button at bottom of page). If you pay US taxes, you can get a tax receipt by donating through GlobalGiving, which I did while I was earning $$ in the U.S. I'm not aware of any Canadian registered charity to which we Canucks can donate and have the funds reach Alternare - if you are, let me know and I'll post it!

Artemio in Alternare's tree nursery

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