Partnership seeks to support 300 farming families affected by rural fires in southern Chile

The Agricultural Society of Biobío (Socabio) and CMPC have jointly developed a reconstruction and reactivation plan for farmers in southern Chile affected by forest fires last February.

According to figures reported by the Ministry of Agriculture and CONAF, the forest fire season that lasted until the end of May in Chile, left more than 431,000 hectares consumed by flames throughout the country. Almost 70% of this total was in the Biobío and La Araucanía Regions of south-central Chile. The two regions were the ones most affected by the nearly 7,000 fires that were recorded. 

Omar Jara, from the Alhueleumu indigenous community of Mulchén, said that where he lives 19 houses and a dozen hectares were consumed by the flames. “I lost about seven hectares in the fires, in addition to lamenting the loss of several animals that we weren’t able to rescue,” said the Biobío farmer. 

That is why CMPC in collaboration with the Agricultural Society of Biobío (Socabio) created a program to support 300 farmers affected by these events so that they can recover everything they lost and resume their productive activities.

The program consists of four initiatives to help address the different needs of affected farmers. It’s being implemented in the districts of Los Angeles, Mulchén, Nacimiento, Santa Juana, Yumbel in Biobío and Collipulli, Lumaco and Renaico in La Araucanía, areas where the fires caused enormous damage. 

The first and most advanced so far consists of replanting one hectare of meadow or wheat crop for each beneficiary. To this end, all the seeds, fertilizers and needed inputs were provided, including soil preparation and crop planting.

The second initiative is to donate greenhouses to farmers. Each of these is 36 square meters, and will be completely installed and set up on the plots of all the beneficiaries, which include also the seeds and fertilizers. 

“I had no idea this support was being offered. It took me by surprise when one day they called me to say that I had been selected as an aid project recipient. I was quite surprised and grateful. This is very helpful for me as a farmer,” said Egidio Monsalve from the Palo Blanco sector of Lumaco, La Araucanía Region.

Monsalve said, “The aid I’ve received is pastureland with a great deal of seeds and fertilizer. I didn’t put anything else in aside from the elbow grease. This aid is so important because the fires here were extensive.”

The third initiative will be launched after the greenhouses are set up, which has to do with building warehouses so that farmers can store inputs and products. They will built with materials such as cement, zinc and wood to guarantee their durability and usefulness. 

Lastly, the fourth initiative consists of the donation of complete chicken coops for the farmers who lost theirs to the fires. They will include the framework, mesh, concentrated chicken feed and everything else they need to continue raising poultry.

Under the program, different types of plant species – including pine, eucalyptus and native trees – will also be provided to the 315 beneficiaries. 

“This support that’s been given to us means I can now have cropland planted with different species, fodder and more that will help me care for the horses and oxen I have on my land. This aid we’ve just received is substantial,” said Omar Jara. 

Thus, CMPC Forests Corporate Affairs Manager Ignacio Lira explained that the company’s goal with this initiative is to “in some way support those farmers who lost much of their source of work in the areas most affected by the fires last summer. There are around 300 families included in the various plans that we’ve come up with together with Socabio. We hope they will serve as that push they need to get back on their feet.” 

Socabio President José Miguel Stegmeier said that this partnership arose out of a longstanding relationship between the company and the trade union. He said, “The terrible summer fires and disaster they wrought, including the loss of human lives and massive material losses spurred us to respond immediately together with CMPC and go to the aid of the smallholding farmers who were affected by them.”

Likewise, José Bermedo, the CMPC-Socabio Rural World Restoration Project Coordinator explained that this was born from a synergy between the company and the trade union. “The idea was to join efforts so we could help the affected families with specific support capabilities to deal with what they’d lost. These aren’t just some benefits we dreamed up on our own. Instead we asked the recipients how they had been affected the most, and this was their response,” he added. 

The reactivation program began in May of this year and is expected to be fully implemented by September. This is in addition to the previous donation of 12,000 hay bales and hundreds of tons of bran and wheat animal feed that CMPC and Socabio made in February of this year to avoid further losses at the productive level.