Landscape Hero nomination

Leli González Nationality: Paraguay
Country of residence: Paraguay

Nominated by

Michaela Palmer

Revalorization of Natural Resources in Rural Paraguay

Leli González separating the raw yerba mate leaves from their stems to begin making yerba mate - Alto Parana, Paraguay - Photo by Olivia Suárez

When widespread deforestation and the encroachment of large-scale agriculture threatened the livelihoods of small landholders in eastern Paraguay, Leli González envisioned a different future. She was able to inspire over 200 landowners, majority female, to come together to change their fate and protect their landscape.

Leli González looking over the trees in the tree nursery that will distributed to other community members - Tavapy 2, Alto Parana, Paraguay - Photo by WWF Paraguay

These landowners formed an association of committees and were able to capture the attention of the World Wildlife Fund Paraguay as well as of their local government. From there the project grew; with their hard work, dedication, and vision 300 landowners have been able to plant over 90,000 native trees, helping revitalize the landscape, combat deforestation, and alleviate poverty.

The women loading raw yerba mate leaves into the electric drier machine to make the tea leaves - Alto Parana, Paraguay - Photo by Olivia Suárez

Leli González’s vision did not stop there; seeing that the yerba mate, a shade-grown tree native to the Atlantic Forest region, was a climate resilient source of income, she got nearby landowners to agree to the plantation of 252,000 yerba mate trees as well as collaborate in the development of a yerba mate tea factory. Using artisanal production methods, women in the community are able to convert yerba mate raw leaves into a variety of gastronomic products, generating a sustainable source of income for the community and a demand for more yerba mate trees from surrounding communities.

An aerial photo of Alto Parana - Alto Parana, Paraguay - Photo by Lucas Mongélos

These efforts have protected more than 40,000 hectares of smallholder land in Atlantic Forest region, recognized internationally as one of 200 areas most biologically important in the world.

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