In Colombia’s Orinoquia valley, planting a tree is planting life

January 20, 2023

“Planting a tree is planting life.” These inspiring words, uttered by the Secretary of Environment in Meta and repeated by many, echoed across the fertile lands of Colombia’s Orinoquia valley. Nearly 100 farmers, their families, government officials, community members, and Rare and partners gathered to plant over 300 native trees on farmers’ land.

“Planting trees is very important,” said Patricia Garcia, on whose farm trees were planted. “The ecosystem services the trees provide support both the farmers and the rest of us.”

The event marked the occasion of the third year of Rare’s “Trees for Life” campaign in Colombia’s central Meta department. Together with partners, Rare launched the campaign in 2020 to support Colombia’s smallholder farmers and the country’s national climate change goals. Through its regenerative agriculture program, Lands for Life, Rare has planted 98,000 trees with partners and communities in Meta and seeks to plant another 80,000 over the coming year.

“We started to plant trees to improve the soil,” said Alexander Rojas, Rare’s Regional Program Coordinator in Meta. “But there are other benefits too. Not only do trees protect the water source, they provide a biological corridor for new fauna, flora, and native species to return and help the land recover.”

The incredibly biodiverse Orinoquia valley, flanked by the Andes Mountains, is home to over 35,000 thousand smallholder farming communities that farm for a living.  Strands of cacao, coffee, and groupings of livestock dot the verdant landscape, while the Ariari river weaves its way through the communities nestled on its banks.

“We are in a very beautiful area in the Department of Meta,” shared Nicolas Herranz Ramirez, Meta’s Secretary of Environment, “—not only for its mountains and forest cover but also because El Dorado and Cubarral municipalities produce water for seven or eight other municipalities.”

Planting trees is one of the activities Rare promotes as part of its efforts to help Colombian farmers adopt more regenerative and climate-friendly farming practices.  Using landscape management tools, like planting more trees, conserves water sources and biodiversity and supports biological control of pests and diseases. It also promotes carbon dioxide capture, reduces the need of agrochemicals, and helps mitigate the effects of heavy rains and high temperatures.

“Adopting more regenerative practices can help Colombia’s farmers cope with the agricultural crisis we are facing nowadays: the effects of climate change, like heavy rains, high food and fertilizer prices, and decreased food production,” says Monica Varela, the program’s Vice President.

Lands for Life is working with farming communities in ten municipalities to reforest and afforest their land.  To help farmers shift their mindsets and practices to plant trees and use other regenerative practices, Rare is working with partners to raise awareness of the benefits of native species, raise demand for its approach, coordinate with environmental authorities to align on tree planting logistics and objectives, organize more tree planting events, and monitor the trees’ survival.

Rare’s tree planting initiative also supports the Colombian national government’s reforestation and restoration campaign, Sembratón, including its goal of planting 180 million trees to fight climate change and deforestation. The program is working toward building a foundation for farmers to not only improve their land, its productivity and its biodiversity, but ultimately to benefit from the growing carbon credit market.

“We always have to put people at the center of our work,” Monica emphasizes. “Thanks to technology and creative solutions, we are reaching thousands of farmers and creating new opportunities to revitalize the land and protect those who depend on it.”

We always have to put people at the center of our work.”

Monica Varela, Lands for Life

“But farmers are the life and soul of the land,” she adds. “For nature to thrive, they must thrive. So we must take the time to understand their motivations and obstacles and co-create strategies that protect both the land and the people taking care of it. Only then will we all truly benefit.”


Video directed and produced by Lorena Velasco for Rare.