The guaimaro, a highly prized tree bearing nutritious fruit, once abundant throughout South America, is slowly coming back to life in Colombia.
In Colombia’s northeastern Guajira region, new life is being breathed back into stocks of the beloved tree.
The leaves and fruit of the guaimaro have for centuries sustained animals and humans alike. But in recent times, deforestation has decimated the magical tree.
Now French-Colombian NGO Envol Vert have launched a reforestation program to bring the guaimaro back from extinction.
Brosimum alicastrum, to give the tree its scientific name, grows from Mexico to Brazil. Depending on the country, it is known variously as ramon, campeche, ojoche, mewu or, in English, as maya nut.
Guaimaro was as essential to pre-Colombian civilization as corn, and still is for a number of indigenous communities, who use the sap for medicinal purposes to treat asthma, anaemia and rheumatism. But its qualities have been forgotten by many farmers.
In order to revive valuable knowledge in the fight against malnutrition with local food sources, Envol Vert organizes cooking workshops using the fruit.
A guaimaro will produce about 180 kilos (400 pounds) of fruit a year across a lifespan of some 100 years. The fruit is consumed raw and in juices, soups or mashed like potatoes. It can even be grilled and ground to powder to make infusions, with the look and flavour of chocolate coffee.
The fruit of the guaimaro tree contains as much protein as milk, four times more potassium than bananas, as much iron as spinach, and four times more magnesium than kidney beans.
It can grow to a height of 50 metres (165 feet), and its taproot sinks just as deep into the earth. That makes it very resistant to both drought and hurricanes. It even has phoenix-like qualities, scientists say, as it readily regrows after a fire.
Working with nearly 200 families, including 87 from
Since 2011, Envol Vert has contributed to planting more than 30,000 trees in Santa Rita de la Sierra, a village for displaced people near Dibulla. Around 6,000 of these are guaimaros.
Nurseries are entrusted to communities who raise trees there to be transplanted in their own plots.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea