Community Impact: Environmental Sustainability with Amigos del Árbol
Amigos del Árbol, Focusing on Environmental Preservation
The organization Amigos del Árbol, Bosques y Parques Nacionales, was founded in the city of Salta in 2001. It has developed relationships with various state entities, as well as third-sector and private entities to work towards environmental preservation, awareness, and education. The Amigos team consists of employees involved in their local environment, who also value making a difference through community participation and collaborative work. Amigos del Árbol develops different socio-environmental projects in rural and urban areas, with intervention activities and educational techniques aiming at preserving, enhancing, and promoting respect and knowledge of natural resources.
Impact of Internship Projects
FSD began an official partnership with Amigos in 2014 and placed Duke Student, Amy Wong, as their first intern. During her time with Amigos, Amy worked with Amigos staff to develop an informational pamphlet about tree planting regulations. Because of recent vehicle congestion in Salta, Amigos felt the need to educate the community about the importance of urban trees, and when Amy arrived they were grateful for her project to help more easily disseminate information to community members. For the pamphlet, Amy researched information regarding the benefits, maintenance, and conservation of urban trees within the province of Salta.
Amy’s educational pamphlet about urban trees served as an important milestone in educating the public about the importance of trees and how people can plant trees in their own neighborhoods. Amy also participated in La Semana del Árbol (SMA), a volunteer-driven, Latin American campaign organized in Argentina with the purpose of restoring ties with the natural environment through the symbolic and practical act of planting trees. During SMA, Amy worked with Amigos to equip young leaders with the skills and knowledge to launch environmental activities and events in their own communities.
In 2015, Rachel Eulau from Duke University worked with Amigos del Árbol to support rural community-based tourism in the Quebrada del Toro area. Since Quebrada has immense cultural and natural value there had been a recent push towards developing rural community-based tourism. In response families of provincial sites in the Quebrada have established a tourism development organization to provide products and services to tourists, enabling the community to generate additional income. Unfortunately, this new business development had not progressed for four years and was at a standstill. Rachel was able to support the tourism business through the design and installation of solar hot-water heaters to ill-equipped households, thus allowing families to begin to receive tourists and generate income beyond traditional agricultural sources.
The next year, Shomik Verma also from Duke University, worked with Amigos del Árbol to further develop Rachel’s project of rural community-based tourism in the Quebrada. Shomik’s project was executed in several steps: creating access to hot water through the installation of solar water heaters which enabled overnight tourism, conducting capacity building of community members, educating the community about bio-construction and wood construction, promoting understanding of the economic and environmental benefits of these construction methods, and lastly advising other families interested in improving their infrastructure.
Later in 2016, Cal Poly student Rebecca Wysong completed two projects focused in distinct areas of Salta. She worked with Amigos del Árbol to improve the health of the forest and ecological preserve in San Lorenzo, Argentina. Rebecca also worked with the Asociación de Emprendedores de los Cerros (The Association of Entrepreneurs of the Hills) in Quebrada del Toro. While working in the Quebrada, Rebecca focused her work on conducting workshops to train volunteers and community members about the benefits of bioconstruction.
The next intern to join Amigos del Árbol was Isabella Klemprer Melo, a student currently studying at the New School. Isabella’s project expanded upon the work of Rachel and Shomik and the solar water heaters. In the community, she worked with the staff from Amigos del Árbol to identify a home to use for demonstrations of the benefits of solar energy. She conducted evaluations and helped ensure the sustainability of the project, and then worked to educate the community about the equipment through workshops about how to operate a solar water heater and what the benefits are to the community.
Continuing in 2017, Amigos del Árbol hosted an intern from the University of San Francisco, Rachel Starling. During the course of Rachel’s two-month internship, she worked in various communities throughout Salta to conduct workshops for children using recycled materials. She also participated alongside local volunteers to conduct trail maintenance. However, the main focus of her internship was engaging the community Gauchito Gil through the creation of an amphitheater. Hear more about Rachel’s experience with Amigos del Árbol in the interview below.