Conservation agreements help preserve Andean ecosystems

On International Mountain Day, the Andean communities of Ecuador and Peru have a lot to celebrate. Thanks to the Global Environment Facility and the UN Environment-supported “Multiplying environmental and carbon benefits in high Andean ecosystems” project, they have been successfully reversing degradation of the valuable Andean ecosystem.

9 December 2016: Andean ecosystems are under threat from unsustainable agricultural and rangeland management practices, fire, deforestation, and overexploitation of natural resources.

To overcome this challenge, Peru and Ecuador have put in place Conservation agreements to help stem damage to the Andean region’s globally significant carbon stocks and biodiversity.

This is one of the main achievements of a 2014-2018 project led by UN Environment at three sites in Ecuador and two in Peru.

“There has been a lot of deforestation in this territory.  With the help of the project, local leaders interested in correcting this have initiated restoration processes that attracted the attention of settlers resulting in communities asking for seedlings to plant,” says Washington Benalcázar, president of the Andean-Chocó Commonwealth  of Local Governments in Ecuador.


By June 2016 the project had promoted conservation agreements covering 30,503 hectares of montane forests, and 19,220 ha of páramo (montane vegetation above the continuous timberline) and punas (high, cold, dry plateaus) in Ecuador and Peru. The project also promoted restoration practices in nearly 7,300 ha of high Andean ecosystems that are expected to sequester around 30,000 tons of carbon dioxide by 2018.

Formal collaboration agreements with local governments at each site have guaranteed that project interventions become part of the community’s agenda, and thus consolidate the sustainability and replicability of the expected results.

Technical support

In Peru, institutional and technical support was given for the creation of the Tapal, Cachiaco and Chicuate-Chinguelas Regional Conservation Areas of Piura, equal to 20,000 ha of montane forest and 12,300 ha of páramo.

”The technical support has been very important to generate local awareness of the significance of conserving the cloudforest and páramo of the district of Pacaipampa,” says Miguel Herrera from the Municipality of Ayabaca, Piura, Peru.

Studies on the impacts of sustainable forest management (SFM) are looking at different restoration practices with regard to carbon stocks and biodiversity.


Credit: Mircea Verghelet

“The information about ecosystem dynamics and the recovery of environmental services through restoration practices in Huancavelica highlights the importance of pastures in Peru,” says Alberto Mamani, a specialist in forest restoration with the National Forest Service of Peru.

Support has also been given to local governments in Ecuador for the inclusion of environmental guidelines (biodiversity, climate change and SFM practices) in land use plans, and the training of professionals and community leaders is helping to institutionalize SFM practices.

Two training workshops for Ecuador National Incentives Programme staff have strengthened their technical capacities on Andean forest restoration. Currently 5,500 ha of montane forest and páramo are being restored in 10 local government areas. 

The project also helped develop the National Biodiversity Strategy (NBS) of Ecuador 2015-2025, with indicators to measure progress towards NBS targets.

Technical assistance was provided for 10 integrated land use plans in Ecuador at the three project sites (Pichincha, Tungurahua, and Carchi).

Monitoring systems inform land use planning

A carbon and biodiversity baseline for environmental monitoring has been generated in four of the five sites. This is a significant step towards the establishment of long-term monitoring systems, which are already producing valuable information that will improve our knowledge of high Andean ecosystem dynamics.

Monitoring systems are strongly linked to local government needs and could inform land-use planning. For example, at the Tungurahua (Ecuador) and Huancavelica (Peru) sites, the biodiversity and carbon monitoring systems will inform restoration practices promoted by local governments and others.

”Having solid data on carbon and biodiversity gives us a very good argument for conservation, and is helping us develop tools for the future,” says Ruth Elena Ruiz, Director of Natural Patrimony – Environment Secretariat of Quito Municipality.


credit: Hector Bonilla

At the Pichincha site in Ecuador the monitoring system will help to improve the design of the carbon compensation programme promoted by the Climate Change Programme of Quito Municipality.  

About the project

In 2014 the Global Environment Facility, the world’s largest public funder of international environmental projects, began funding a four-year project titled Multiplying environmental and carbon benefits in high Andean ecosystems. The project aims to contribute to the conservation or enhancement of carbon stocks and biodiversity at three sites in the tropical Andes of Ecuador (Carchi, Pichincha and Tungurahua ) and two in Peru (Piura and Huancavelica).

Both countries have signed the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and are developing plans and incentives to ensure the conservation and restoration of natural ecosystems.

UN Environment is the implementing agency for the project, and the Consortium for the Sustainable Development of the Andean Eco-Region manages it at the international, bi-national and national levels, in coordination with national environmental authorities.

The GEF activity-based budget is US$4,796,364. Counterpart cash and in-kind contributions surpassed requirements, and are estimated at $16.2 million.