Football for forests
Football is known for many things, but not for the protection of the environment. A project in the heart of Colombia’s Amazonas wants to change that. It uses the passion for football to accelerate #GenerationRestoration.
When speaking about human-induced destruction of forests, it is often football fields that are used to make the damage imaginable. When it comes to the Amazonas – the green lung of our planet with its immense diversity in plants, animals and culture – three football fields that disappear every minute. EVERY MINUTE.
“’Football for Forests’ offers an innovative opportunity to finance forest restoration activities in Colombia – football field by football field, so to speak,” says Juan Pablo Castro, director of GANSO, an organization that provides technical and financial support for a transition to sustainable land use in Colombia and that implements the ‘Football for Forests’ initiative on the ground.
Juan Pablo is convinced that humans have the ingenuity to halt and reverse deforestation, and that football has the power and the positive emotions to make boys and girls learn to care for the environment and to restore and protect their neighbouring tropical forests.
Valentina Madrigal is one of the youngsters who come regularly to the football academy in Florencia, a city in the Amazonian Piedmont region in Colombia: “We come here to play soccer, to get distracted, to have fun, to learn how to respect each other, and how to respect and care for the environment. I have learned many things here that I didn't know before. Not only how to score a goal or to defend myself, but also how to plant a tree and make sure it survives or how to distinguish different kinds of birds in the near-by forest.”
On the ground GANSO works together with ‘Tiempo de Juego’ (meaning ‘Game time’), an organization with several years of experience in life skills training. Diana Torres, the project coordinator, is working with the kids both on the football field and in the forests. She explains: “We are trying to teach the kids how to take care and heal instead of doing harm and destroy. This applies on the football field as much as it does for the environment in which we live. Through football we can empower kids, strengthen their self-consciousness and environmental awareness. We educate them and trigger their desire to make the world a better place.”
Training young ´guardians of the forest´
In the long run, ‘Football for Forests’ plans to train as many young people as possible to be ‘Zagueros del bosque’ (guardians of the forest) for their home forests and to lead football schools in their own communities. In 2022, 20 guardians of the forest were trained already.
As a next step, through a mobile application the ‘Football for Forests’ activities in Colombia will be connected to European major soccer leagues and football fans. The latter are supposed to help finance the activities in Colombia in the long run by donating money every time their favourite teams scores a goal.
#GenerationRestoration: Contribution to the UN Decade
‘Football for Forests’ contributes to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration by:
- restoring tropical forests and ecosystems,
- preserving existing forests and soils,
- protecting the biological and cultural diversity of tropical forests,
- nurturing a healthy environment and community,
- adapting and mitigating the effects of climate change,
- educating on the environment and raising ecological awareness,
- exploring innovative funding mechanisms for ecosystem restoration,
- inviting football fans to join the global #GenerationRestoration movement.
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Zukunft – Umwelt – Gesellschaft (ZUG) gGmbH
The Football for Forests initiative is led by the international consultancy Climate Focus and Planet Super League. Implementation on the ground by GANSO is co-financed by the International Climate Initiative (IKI).