In Ecuador, One Man’s Mission to Restore a Piece of the Rainforest


Nearly 40 years ago, Omar Tello bought a deforested plot of land outside his small Ecuadorian city. “7 Hectares Back” – the second-place winner of the Yale Environment 360 Video Contest – tells the story of how he persevered and transformed it into a lush, thriving rainforest.


Ecuador has lost thousands of square miles of rainforest, the land converted to pasture and crop fields and cleared for oil and gas development. Today, trees cover just 35 percent of the country’s surface, down from more than 90 percent a century ago.


In their documentary, “7 Hectares Back” — the second-place winner of the Yale Environment 360 Video Contest — filmmakers Dorota and Robert Migas-Mazur tell the story of one man who has spent his life restoring a small piece of Ecuador’s lost Amazonian rainforest. In 1980, Omar Tello, now 61, purchased a seven-hectare plot of severely degraded pasture outside the town of Puyo. Over the past four decades, he has traveled the country salvaging native plants from areas being deforested and brought them back to his land. Tello’s recreated rainforest is now home to thousands of plant species, which provide habitat for thousands more animals, including 400 species of spiders.

While the film shows the rich ecosystem that Tello has created, it also paints a frank portrait of the personal and financial toll that the relentless restoration work took on the former bank accountant and his family.

“What we’re doing now to preserve nature isn’t enough,” Tello says. “We should plant the forests we destroyed and give back what we took from the world. The same nature that was stolen.”