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Who is Omar Tello? The Man who Planted a Forest from Scratch

Updated: Jan 4, 2022

Omar Tello is a gentle, slightly built, sixty-three-year old. As a child, he loved nature, and dreamed of living in the jungle.

However, he ended up becoming an accountant, a job he never enjoyed. He yearned for a radical change in his lifestyle, so, forty years ago, he bought a patch of farmland in the province of Pastaza, which was used for cattle pasture. Omar purchased this land, and made it his mission in life to turn it back into a rainforest.

His land is 300 meters long and 230 meters wide and it’s now like an island of rainforest surrounded by farmland and houses. In order to restore his farm, he would wake up at 5:00 am to tend his land for a couple of hours, then he’d go to his job as an accountant, before returning back to the forest in the evenings.

Little by little, he planted many trees and plants, which are in danger of extinction, and can only be found in very remote places. He achieved this by travelling to areas that were being cleared, looking for seeds and plants that he could rescue.

Omar had a hard battle with the soil; it was so exhausted, he had to make new soil, enough to cover his entire plot of land. It took him about 15 years just to restore the soil. He used sawdust to make compost, adding in other things, like chicken manure. As it all rotted down, it gradually turned into the rich, nutritious soil it is today.

He has two sheds that house hundreds of baby plants: he has about ten thousand seedlings. Omar gives away many of his rare plants to people who are interested in restoration work. But he also uses his nursery to grow ornamental plants, which he sells. Eventually, 20 years after he first bought the land, he started earning enough money to give up his job as an accountant.

Growing a rainforest, as well as raising four children, two of whom have special needs, has been very difficult for Omar and his wife, Lupe. Even now, Omar wakes up at 6:00 in the morning every day. Sometimes, one thing leads to another, and he ends up working until 10:00 at night. He says it can be very tiring work, but he loves it. And, as long as he has energy, he’ll carry on his work restoring the rainforest.

Learn more about Omar Tello and the important work he has done restoring the Amazon, by listening to BBC’s video and podcast ‘People Fixing the World’.

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