With support from the Global Conservation Fund, two organizations are working together in Peru’s Cusco region to establish a network of community-managed forest reserves.
The communities of the Vilcanota Polylepis Project lie southeast of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary and directly north of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, in an environment of snow-capped peaks and glaciers, deep valleys and fast-flowing mountain streams.
The American Bird Conservancy and Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos (ECOAN) have teamed up with residents to develop a reserve network owned and managed by the communities that will provide real alternatives to the people so that the cutting of native forest is reduced and eventually eliminated.
The organizations are working closely with the people of 20 farming communities and the town of Yanahuara for the project, with the goal of conserving and restoring the area’s forests of polylepis trees, home to Critically Endangered bird species and an important source of water and soil conservation for area residents. The plan also includes community health and training programs and ecotourism development.
To date 2,006 families are participating in the project, and two communities have had their land recognized by the national government as private conservation areas. The project has also resulted in the reforestation of more than 295 hectares of land.
In some areas, participants have established community plantations of eucalyptus on degraded land as an alternative source of fuel and construction wood. The project has also provided more than 6,000 fuel-efficient stoves to reduce fuel wood consumption, and, in one community, short-term fuel wood aid from existing eucalyptus plantations outside the proposed reserve area in exchange for community members’ assistance with the reforestation campaign.