Leslie Cooper, Managing Partner InterSearch Chile, interviews Magdalena Valdés, Founder and Executive Director of Bosko
Today, candidates are increasingly interested in finding companies that offer meaningful jobs. Such positions not only provide a sense of purpose, motivation, and well-being but also encompass opportunities for social impact and personal growth. As society progresses and perspectives on work and life’s purpose undergo a transformation, a significant number of young individuals are actively seeking employment that transcends mere monetary compensation. They yearn to experience a profound sense of contribution, knowing that their work is making a positive difference in the world. This profound sense of purpose empowers them to work with unwavering passion, wholeheartedly commit to goals, and unleash their creativity in the realm of their profession.
Furthermore, the emerging generations demonstrate an ever-increasing concern for social and environmental issues. They possess a deep longing to make a positive impact on the world and tackle these challenges head-on. Through active engagement in meaningful projects, individuals are presented with a unique opportunity to not only acquire new skills and relevant knowledge but also to fully develop their potential.
In this context, it is especially interesting to engage in a conversation with Magdalena Valdés, founder and director of Bosko, a company dedicated to planting fast-growing native forests using the ecological restoration method devised by Akira Miyawaki. The passion and conviction with which Magdalena talks about her work is truly inspiring. In Magdalena’s own words, “I firmly believed that I had to dedicate myself to leading this project, spreading awareness about it, and thereby making a meaningful contribution to the intricate challenges faced by humanity today.”
Magdalena recalls her childhood, where she would embark on adventures to the Pirque Hills, which felt like an extension of her own backyard. These hills were once teeming with lush vegetation and a thriving ecosystem. However, as the years went by and Magdalena continued these excursions with her children, she became an eyewitness to the devastating environmental degradation that had taken place. This profound realization ignited within her a fundamental concern and an innate discomfort with the state of our environment, prompting her desire to contribute to something of greater significance.
Since Bosko’s creation in 2020, she has discovered a profound sense of inner peace. Driven by her deep connection with nature and fueled by an unwavering passion, she has found her calling. Her conviction lies in the restoration of life to the soil, with a steadfast focus on forests and regeneration. Magdalena’s dedication to her mission is unwavering, as she strives to breathe new life into the land and make a positive impact on the environment.
“There is no reason to believe that more and more opportunities to work for nature will not continue to open up” – Magdalena Valdés
What drives someone like you to make a drastic change in your profession to get involved in this issue?
Conviction and passion, probably. Although I come from the world of Social Sciences, all my life I have been in contact with nature. I have lived in Pirque since I was a girl, closely linked to the rural world and life in the open air and, therefore, I have witnessed the transformation that nature has undergone in recent years. From birds and insects that are hardly seen anymore, to the essential vegetation of the ecosystem that no longer resists the current climatic conditions. It is painful to see how the native forest of a place, which has lived in harmony for hundreds of thousands of years, collapses in a matter of years.
It was in this context that when I found out about the existence of a system that allows native forests to grow quickly, I was immediately enthusiastic about trying it to see if it would also work with our Mediterranean climate. The trial’s ultimate success served as a catalyst for me to redirect my professional path toward something that not only convinces me but also fills me with excitement.
What is Bosko? What motivated you to found Bosko? How did the idea of planting fast-growing native forests come about?
Bosko is a company dedicated to ecological restoration, in general, and with a particular “spearhead” that is precisely the Miyawaki native forests, which have the virtue of rapidly recovering small, degraded spaces, returning them to their original or reference ecosystem.
My initial motivation responded to the dream of filling the soil with native forests that also grow fast. After carrying out that first Miyawaki forest trial and seeing its impressive results, I was certain that I should dedicate myself to leading this project, disseminating it and thus contributing to the complex scenario in which we find ourselves today as humanity.
Could you explain what the ecological restoration method devised by Akira Miyawaki consists of? How do you apply it at Bosko? How well-known is it in other parts of the world?
The Miyawaki Method, as it is known, is an intensive system of ecological restoration. This means that, with the objective of reconstituting a certain reference ecosystem, it tries to imitate the conditions of that ecosystem in its mature version. For example, if the ecosystem corresponds to a type of temperate forest, the soil conditions and plant species that would exist in that place if there had been no human intervention are observed.
Thus, the soil is worked looking for its oxygenation and enrichment with organic matter, until reaching certain characteristics that are similar to the soil of a mature temperate forest. Likewise, the possible species are chosen, from all the strata of that ecosystem and they are planted in high density, that is, three to five plants per square meter. In this way, collaboration between those species that have coexisted for hundreds of thousands of years is fostered and, in turn, their competition for nutrients and light is stimulated, just as in any forest.
Finally, the soil is covered with a layer of mulching, in order to protect it from solar radiation and thus promote the multiplication of microbiological life in it, which facilitates the interactions of the forest, making it increasingly complex.
Technically speaking, at Bosko we apply it in the most reliable way possible, trying to get it done in urban or peri-urban spaces, because this methodology is quite intensive in its work per square meter, which means that these types of forests tend to occupy smaller spaces. The parks, streets, sidewalks, public areas, etc.,.are perfect spaces for a Miyawaki forest. Likewise, gardens and plots of pleasure have been spaces where we have carried out many projects.
It has been interesting to realize that, although the methodology has existed for more than 50 years (the first forest made by Akira Miyawaki, creator of the system, was in 1971), we were the first to spread it more systematically in Latin America through our work in Chile. Before arriving here, these forests began to replicate intensely in different cities in Europe, including Paris, London, and Brussels, for example.
In this start-up, what have been the biggest challenges you have faced and how have you overcome them?
The greatest challenge is to do it right. Technically, Miyawaki forests require rigor in the process and monitoring. Furthermore, each forest responds differently because conditions always vary. Therefore, we must be conscientious of those conditions. Our approach to addressing these challenges is by being responsible from a technical standpoint and sensible in terms of where and how we execute each forest.
What impact has Bosko’s work had on ecosystem restoration and biodiversity conservation?
Early on, we set out to broaden our perspective by incorporating different methodologies associated with ecological restoration. With the purpose that “every soil dreams of being a forest” or that every soil desires to respond to its reference ecosystem, and that our job is to make it a reality, we are already working, for example, on a pilot restoration project in Cerro Renca, which we know is a very challenging space due to its degraded conditions. In that project, we have set goals that are aligned with the degree of degradation of the area, focusing more on the erosion control and restoring the soil’s capacity to support life through physical soil remediation work, and subsequently introducing certain pioneer plants that are resistant to the extreme conditions of the location.
Therefore, we have developed the ability to address both populated spaces within the city through Miyawaki forests, as well as wild areas using other techniques more suitable for the environment. As a result, we are pleased to realize that the impact is strongly ecological but also deeply social because our projects are also exposed to people. Human beings ARE nature and cannot and should not disconnect from it. That is why we will continue to work strongly on bringing native forests to people and cities, promoting green infrastructure that is both ecological, functional, and aesthetic.
How do you involve local communities in your projects and what role do they play in ecological restoration?
When it comes to interventions in public spaces, we have involved the community at least in the planting process. This is very motivating because you can see firsthand what we intuit: that in order to promote an ethic of care, we must first and foremost foster knowledge and attachment to what we are getting to know. When there is no community connection, the conservation of the space becomes more challenging because there is precisely a lack of knowledge, attachment, and therefore, less care.
What has been the response from companies to your value proposition? What are you doing to involve more companies in the restoration or planting of native forests for different communities?
The response from both the public and private sectors has been incredibly positive and remarkable. There is curiosity, and that’s already a good sign. It’s exactly how I started myself, out of curiosity. And from curiosity comes the desire, and that’s how it has been. We are seeing increasing demand, even from real estate companies that are daring to incorporate ecological restoration and Miyawaki forests into their landscaping.
We are also on the verge of establishing a foundation branch so that companies can support projects dedicated to vulnerable public spaces, for example, which are also the areas where green spaces are most needed.
What is your dream for Bosko? What are your plans for the future of Bosko and the expansion of your ecological restoration projects?
Our dream is to gradually establish ourselves. We are striving to refine the application of the Miyawaki system, where we still have room for improvement. However, we are determined to make a strong impact on ecological restoration or rehabilitation projects.
In terms of coverage, we are currently working in the central region and the Los Lagos region in the southern part of the country, but we aim to build capabilities throughout Chile. Lastly, we believe that looking towards Latin America is also an interesting option, possibly through our foundation and alliances with local stakeholders. I see this as a highly feasible goal in the medium term.
You have just been in the Galapagos Islands receiving a significant award. Can you tell us about that?
Absolutely! It was a wonderful experience because we indeed won in our category of Resilient Architecture Design at the “Premios Verdes”, which are like the “Oscars” of Sustainability for Latin America. There were over 3,000 projects submitted, and we managed to become one of the three finalists in this category. It was a delightful surprise when they announced us as the winners of the Galapagos Islands. It is a stimulus and a reinforcement that we believe we are doing things right and that there is room to continue doing our work in the best possible way.
What is your message to those who wish to get involved in environmental conservation and ecological restoration?
I believe there is every reason to believe that more and more opportunities will continue to arise for working towards nature. Our company exists because we are structurally facing an unparalleled climate and ecological crisis since the existence of our species. And although it may be late, we are now witnessing growing awareness and action from international organizations, governments, and businesses. The forms that these actions take are diverse, and if carried out appropriately, this crisis can gradually be mitigated for the sake of the planet and humanity as a whole.
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