Flooding Spaces with Native Green

Magdalena Valdés, founder of Bosko

Interview with Magdalena Valdés, founder of Bosko and dedicated to creating fast-growing native forests.

Magdalena’s interest in nature and concern for the loss of native plant species led her –a historian with studies in sociology– to investigate the Miyawaki method of ecological conservation; the results of which accelerate the growth of forests by up to ten times. The success of her prototype in Pirque (rural locality in the outskirts of Santiago, Chile) led to the founding of Bosko, with which she hopes to continue covering the ground with native green.

Fundación Mar Adentro: To start, tells about Bosko and its lines of work.
Magdalena Valdés: Bosko is a company with a socio-environmental focus that is dedicated to creating fast-growing native forests based on the Miyawaki method. Our intention is to fill public and private spaces with native forests, in order to recover soils, generate habitats and, with this, stimulate biodiversity. Our intention is also to bring native forests closer to people so that they can enjoy and appreciate their beauty, because these forests are a part of us and they are a life source at its best.

Could you briefly tell us what the Miyawaki method consists of?
It’s an ecological restoration method devised by the Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki. In short, it tries to accelerate the process of natural succession –that is, the mechanism used by nature to colonize any type of soil and convert it into a forest. To do so, Miyawaki argues that via a substantial improvement of the soil, a conscious and appropriate selection of native plants from the place of reference, and their planting in high-density, we can achieve a process that would normally take hundreds of years, condensed down to a couple of decades.

How did you develop the research to be able to apply this method in Pirque?
The truth is that when I heard about this method I decided to test it out in my own land. But to do so, I needed to study a lot more about the method itself and its results, of which there isn’t a lot of information readily available, though I managed to find some papers. I also needed to learn about our flora and, in particular, the context of Pirque. So I started to buy books and take some courses to better understand what I had to do. In one of these courses I met Teresa Eyzaguirre, who had great botanic knowledge and today is also part of Bosko as a consultant. In this way, I was able to properly execute this first prototype with great results.

What have the results been in the two years since you decided to plant a forest in your land, and where else have you applied this method?
Several things happened from which I was able to learn valuable lessons. The first is that the method, when properly implemented, really does works. Today, for example, after a year and a half since its planting (which was done in reforestation size) this prototype is reaching a maximum canopy or height of approximately 5 meters. We also have to remember that these are artificial conditions that try to achieve the result of a quasi-natural forest, as Miyawaki says. Therefore, the behavior of the plants vary and this is an important part of the learnings for future forests.
The other forests developed until now are all pircanos (from Pirque), with similar results to the prototype. In 2021 we have many projects scheduled outside of Pirque, including our participation in a project within the Botanical Garden of the Universidad Austral de Valdivia in the south of Chile.

What are the basic conditions for the soil and climate that are required to develop a fast-growing forest?
There aren’t conditions for the development of nature. But to help them develop in the best way possible, the essential condition is to observe it. That is, when we speak of that which is native, we refer to that which is native of the exact place where the forest will be planted. If part of the referential vegetation is deteriorated by climate change, then we must also keep this in mind. This is also part of the observation process. We can’t think of regenerating nature without this basic understanding. And the notion of beauty should also be associated to this unique condition.

Access to green areas is seen today as a fundamental human right that in reality is poorly developed and offered in our country, especially in urban contexts. How do you imagine Bosko impacting this need?
A substantial part of the inhabitants of our cities don’t have the possibilities to interact with nature. My dream is that part of nature can come to the city, through Bosko. I think that as human beings we always need encounters with nature. We are still the same homo sapiens from thousands of years ago, but since the Industrial Revolution –only about 200 years ago– we have been dedicated to the transformation of that lifestyle, dissociating ourselves from nature as if we were not a part of it. I hope that Bosko can contribute by making this situation visible and generating meeting places between urban dwellers and the native forest.

While working on “building” a forest, what have been your biggest lessons learned regarding ecosystems?
The first lesson is that you never stop learning about nature. I come from the world of social sciences, so the first step is to be humble and to assume that the learning process will never end. This also explains how we built up our team in Bosko: a botanist, an agronomist, a landscaper, an architect and myself. I also believe from an ecosystems standpoint, these small forests can make an important contribution, though of course partially; but more importantly, they represent a message. They are a symbol, a type of “publicity” for our native flora and all that is associated with it. That’s where its greatest impact lies, by highlighting our natural heritage.

You have also studied environmental education and are part of a school board. How do you think Bosko can be introduced into educational practices?
Thank you for this question! I always say that the cornerstone of environmental education is to grant these issues visibility. Understanding can generate attachment, and attachment can promote care. I love the concept of topophilia: love for a place. If we can achieve that with our children, then we’ll be promoting a future where they take care not only of their own “place”, but also their home at large, which is our planet. Bosko therefore aspires to generate this sense of attachment through these small forests created in educational institutions and public spaces.

You are participating in Alto Impacto, an entrepreneurial incubator for the regeneration of nature. What project will you be working on? And with Joaquín Cerda from Paisaje Táctico?
We are working on a lot of interesting projects! With Alto Impacto we hope to consolidate our proposal on all sides. From the point of view of the application of the forest itself, experimenting with certain variables of the method that could make it more efficient climate-wise. We’ll also be working on logistics by having a proper plant-storage space, seeing as it is a critical issue for the implementation of these forests. Other important projects include, for example, a good website, solid business knowledge, etc.
With Joaquín it will be fascinating to implement a forest in a place as emblematic as the Botanical Garden of the Universidad Austral. It will be 100 or 200 m2 of Valdivian forest inserted in the Botanical Garden.
In addition, we are working with SUGi, a wonderful Swiss organization that is dedicated to channeling resources for Miyawaki forests around the world. With them, we are in the process of creating a 1,000 m2 forest in a public space in Pirque, which will connect to an artisans’ town from the region and to a future open-air fair.

How do you picture Bosko’s work in 10 years?
First, I hope to establish a clear and defined path around the different possibilities that arise from the creation of our fast-growing forests. But in 10 years I honestly hope that Bosko is working on projects throughout Chile and (why not) in parts of Latin America. I also hope to have contributed to changing the mentality around what we understand as green areas, to the appreciation of our flora and its associated biodiversity, and to the importance of regeneration to combat the climate challenges that we are already experiencing, and also those that are yet to come.
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Magdalena Valdés. Historian, with studies in sociology, public policy and environmental education. For years she worked within the field of education, from the standpoint of public policies and research, and was co-founder of a school. However, her deep affinity to nature led her to study and test out the Miyawaki method, a recognized ecological restoration system which accelerates the growth of native forests. The success of her forest prototype led to the foundation of Bosko to continue covering the ground with native green.

The ilustration of this interview has been made by Pablo del Cielo @delcierro