CI-Peru has been working with the Antamina mining company through Asociación Ancash (AA) since 2004 to protect Andean ecosystems in Peru’s Ancash region, in the Conchucos corridor between Huascarán National Park and the Cordillera Huayhuash Reserved Zone. This Andean landscape contains some of the last and best conserved remnant forest patches of Polylepis. These are the highest forest ecosystems in the world,
|Forests of Polylepis regulate the water cycle, maintain soils, and provide habitat to many endangered bird species. These trees are also traditional energy source - fuel - to the population of the area, which has meant a significant reduction in forest area of this species.|
growing at more than 4,000 meters above sea level. Unfortunately, overgrazing, fires and firewood collection have depleted these systems to less than 2 percent of their original cover.
Local communities have a long history of interdependence with the natural landscape of the Conchucos corridor, having settled in the area before the Spanish conquest of the Peruvian Highlands. In 1622, Charles V of Spain granted the Llámac and Pacllón communities the use rights over their territory. However, they did not receive land titles until the beginning of the 20th century. Since the 1600s the economies of both communities have been oriented mainly around cattle and sheep farming. They also plant crops such as potatoes, oca (an Andean tuber), wheat and maize for subsistence food production.
In 2005 the communities decided to protect their land from outsiders interested in extracting their natural resources, and pursued declaration of their territories as private conservation areas. The National Protected Areas Service of Peru (SERNANP) required the communities to zone their 19,000 hectares and develop master plans for management and protection. Pacllón was declared a private conservation area in 2005, and Llámac in 2009. In 2010 CI and AA started working with the Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos (ECOAN), a Peruvian NGO, to design and implement conservation agreements to protect these amazing forest ecosystems. In 2010 ECOAN developed
|The conservation agreement involves the community building a nursery and reforesting 20,000 Polylepis trees.|
feasibility analyses for conservation agreements in both communities. These analyses showed that although the communities desired to manage their natural resources and implement their master plans, they lacked the means to do so. In October 2010, ECOAN signed conservation agreements with both communities.
The motivation for establishing conservation agreements in the Conchucos corridor was to provide communities with the means to conserve polylepis forest. Polylepis forests harbor numerous endemic species of birds, insects and mammals. These forest patches are crucial for water and climate regulation and nutrient cycling processes. Thus, protecting polylepis forest is not only important for conservation of its associated fauna and flora, but also maintains ecosystem services and reduces the communities’ vulnerability to climate change.
Under the conservation agreements the communities have committed to:
- Forgo logging of polylepis trees;
- Control burning of fields to prevent fire in polylepis forest patches;
- Participate in communal reforestation campaigns to plant 40,000 polylepis seedlings in one year;
- Nurture the polylepis seedlings to ensure their survival;
- Stop grazing cattle and sheep in polylepis patches and reforestation sites; and
- Fence critical polylepis forest patches and reforestation sites to protect them from cattle and sheep.
In exchange for complying with these commitments, the conservation agreements specify the following benefits for the 300 families of the communities:
- Support in animal health (provision of medicines to the communal veterinary post);
- Improved seeds for better pastures;
- Technical capacity-building to enhance production of traditional Andean crops; and
- Funds for the implementation of some of the activities defined in the master plans.
The communities also requested technical support for cattle improvement, fruit cultivation, irrigation, and ecotourism. In addition, ECOAN will provide capacity-building and tools to establish polylepis seedling nurseries and build fences. These activities will strengthen communities’ governance and capacity to manage their territory, and provide them with the means to implement the conservation area master plans.
ECOAN currently is carrying out feasibility analyses in other communities in the Conchucos corridor. The goal is to help additional communities establish private conservation areas to protect polylepis patches and other Andean ecosystems. The long-term aim is to enhance connectivity between these conservation areas, using conservation agreements to make sure that key areas are protected and local communities receive tangible benefits from choosing conservation.