Restoring native forest in the Andes

By 2045, the community-based initiative Acción Andina aims to protect and restore one million hectares of the native forest ecosystems in the high Andes  across Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

Their grassroots work, which benefits millions of people in the region, is already forging a path for similar work elsewhere. The initiative won a 2023 Earthshots prize in the preserve and restore nature category, and Global Forest Generation plans to replicate the Acción Andina model around the world to restore critically endangered and neglected ecosystems.

Acción Andina, which was co-founded by non-profit organisations Global Forest Generation and Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos, is reviving the ancient Inca principles of “Ayni and Minka” to unite tens of thousands of people in local and indigenous communities to protect and restore the native forests and ecosystems.

Ayni, or Andean reciprocity, and Minka, working together for a common interest, are Incan practices that represent and encourage the ideas of sharing the workload, helping others and cooperating.

As deforestation, animal grazing and mining have depleted all but 10% of the region’s native forests, much of the farmland below has grown infertile and water supplies have dwindled. This severely impacts local and indigenous communities who rely on the land for their livelihoods, as well as the water security of millions of people across the continent.

Acción Andina’s activities are increasing food and water security, providing new income opportunities, and contributing to more sustainable management of natural resources. Since 2018, almost 10 million native trees have been planted across five countries – restoring over 4,000 hectares of Andean forests and protecting more than 11,000 hectares of native forest.

Even though it makes up just 1% of the earth’s land surface, the 7000km long (4500 miles) Andes Mountain Range is home to a rich and diverse ecosystem, including 15% of all plant and wildlife species – 50 of them endangered species like the spectacled bear and the Andean condor.

The initiative provides critical resources including salary support, project and financial management, as well as technical training for local conservation leaders, organizations and communities to grow long-term land protection and restoration activities. Acción Andina works closely with local communities in the high Andes to carry out conservation activities.

All the images come from the Earthshots Prize website.

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