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HAVANA, Aug 1 (IPS) – Every morning Mario Véliz makes his way through the streets of Pogolotti, a low-income neighbourhood in the Cuban capital, to the milk shop. Those who only know him because he works there are unaware that this thin, wiry man with a face seamed with age is the life and soul of local reforestation.
Véliz, whose friends call him “environment boy,” owns a ramshackle house at the edge of the Isla de Polvo shanty town. It was in his yard that a group was formed, which is now involved not only in forest restoration but also in managing the water in a local stream, treating solid waste and educating residents on environmental questions.

“The first thing we did was to recover the sacred forest of Pogolotti, which used to be a garbage dump,” Véliz said. Now, after 10 years of restoration efforts, it is an extensive woodland area which is useful as a barrier against dust from a nearby lime pit, and serves as a park for the barrio (neighbourhood).  (Read more)