On 19th February, the Labundo-Bundo Village team got off to a great start, headed up by Darwis, son of Pak Mantan, whom many Opwall volunteers will remember. Since early in the pandemic, this team has been collecting and tending to 10,000 native tree saplings in a nursery just outside the village. Their enthusiasm levels were high as they moved on to the planting phase, despite the challenging rainy season weather conditions. On average, the teams have been walking between 20km and 35km (12-22 miles) each day, through very thick mud, and often in the pouring rain to plant out the trees. The saplings are being planted within the Lambusango Reserve in an area that has suffered at the hands of illegal loggers. In many ways the torrential rain and high winds have been a blessing as it means the team can work during the day without too much hinderance, yet the newly planted saplings are receiving a good soaking at night. So although it is extremely muddy and hard going on the legs, at least the saplings are getting watered well!
To give you an idea of the logistics involved, the saplings need to be carried from the nursery, across a river and up to the road to be loaded onto a truck, stacked carefully and then driven to the edge of the forest reserve. The team takes care to select a diverse range of saplings for each load to ensure a good mixture of native saplings are planted out in any one area. After unloading, the trees are carried deep into the forest to be planted in the areas where illegal loggers have caused the most damage. The team works from the early hours of the morning, returning to the village close to dusk each day. Most of the team members have worked as Opwall guides and are familiar with the survey transects radiating out of Lapago camp. They have been focusing their efforts on replanting in the damaged areas around these transects, methodically measuring out and roping off 100x100m quadrats and replanting in the degraded areas within each quadrat. So far, all is running smoothly aside from a few slips and falls on the often steep and slippery terrain. To date the team has planted out 1200 saplings across an area of approximately 8 hectares and are in high spirits.