Making A Change
By Liliana Jaramillo
2017 Young Champion of the Earth
Every single person working in environmental topics has its own battle and story. In my case is biodiversity conservation in the urban environment. After studying in Australia, I returned to Quito (Ecuador) and found a city dominated by cement, full of introduced plants and reduced green areas. A country recognized by its high biodiversity which is not reflected in its capital city. Facing that reality, I knew I had to do something about it. During my postgraduate studies, I did a plant selection of native plants for green roofs in Quito, as my research project. Which happened to be the starting point in my venture. The idea of experimenting and making this project a reality led me to start knocking doors. UN Environment gave me an amazing opportunity, with the Young Champions of the Earth program. Since December 2017 I have been working on my dream job, a venture called Nativus.
Ten months have passed, I can look back and see how this project has grown. Since December, I have been going to the field to collect plants, seeds, and cuttings and propagating them. I have been working in collaboration with a local foundation for using their greenhouse until my own plant nursery was built. We propagated the first batch of plants by cuttings, which allowed me to start thinking about the first green roof prototype. In April we finally had our first experience planting a non-irrigated green roof. This green roof has given me lots of learnings related to plant performance, substrates, planting, and logistics. In June and July, we had the opportunity to install two native rooftop gardens on a 15th story building in Quito´s downtown. Currently, I am following up on the performance of these green roofs. They have shown great results despite the harsh conditions that plants have to overcome on a rooftop.
While working on the technical part of plants and green roofs, my team and I identified the need for communicating citizens native plants relevance. We found it is not common to find people that recognize native plants or identify their benefits for the city. So, we started thinking about ways we can share this knowledge and create consciousness. We decided to open social media for sharing news about the project but also share images and information about native plants importance. Additionally, on the next months, our web page will be ready and we are very excited to share through this channel Nativus work. Our second strategy is to provide signage for the native rooftop gardens. They have been designed as a recreational space in the building, so we want users to be informed and appreciate the benefits of native plants. In the future, we plan to start activities for creating awareness in a more practical way, incentivizing people to take action.
The past months have brought me lots of learnings and successes. Getting to this point has been a hard task, but full of encouraging moments. I feel that I have started a change. I have found many people in my way, which make me realize that I am not the only one searching a way to make the Earth a better place. I think that being a Young Champion of the Earth has given me many opportunities and a responsibility to keep encouraging people to be part of the change. There is still a long way to go, but I am excited to see how this project grows. I hope that the dream of having green and biodiverse cities will be the norm rather than the exception in the near future.