Agricultural expansion, livestock grazing, fire, and small scale-logging for timber and fuelwood are the primary causes of deforestation in the Andes. These activities both threaten critical habitat for hundreds of endangered species, while also endangering necessary drinking water for people.
But people need to be able to make a living. These farmers in the Andes are not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination; so we and our partners are working to provide these farmers with economic incentives that help them protect their land and the water for all in their community.
These photos are from Conservation Fellow Marco Bustmante’s campaign. On this day, he was working with farmers to install barbed wire to keep livestock out of land in the Yanuncay Watershed area of Ecuador.
This campaign will protect the Yanuncay Watershed through the creation of “Areás de Conservación y Desarrollo,” (reciprocal water agreements), which help preserve the grassland and native forest in the Yanuncay microwatershed and maintain habitat for the AZE species Black Cajas Harlequin Frog. With this campaign we hope to achieve conservation of at least 1000 ha of grassland and native forest.
This campaign is part of Rare’s Program for AZE Habitat and Watershed Protection in the Andes. This cohort works by having lowland farmers, who depend on stewardship of highland watershed habitats, contributing to a conservation fund. The fund provides “payments” to the highland landowners as an incentive to maintain healthy forests. The most popular payments are barbed wire, fruit trees, and bee keeping equipment. Pride campaigns accelerate and deepen community support for this approach.
Rare is working with Fundación Natura Bolivia, which began facilitating agreements between highland and lowland farmers in 2003. Over the last 20 years, dry season water flows in the Los Negros Valley, Bolivia are down more than 50 percent.
“If we don’t work with those people and figure out what economic tools can help them to not cut their forest down, they will cut their forest,” Dr. Nigel Asquith, director of science at Fundación Natura Bolivia, said. “Those species will go, and that’s it forever.”
Through Rare’s partnerships in the Andes and the hard work of conservation fellows running Rare Pride campaigns, we are aiming to both provide better and more water for people in the region, while also protecting endangered species. Healthy forests trap water and prevent flooding and runoff. This barbed wire is a relatively simple and inexpensive way to help keep improve water quality and prevent cattle from degrading forests and grasslands.
This video provides an overview of the original solution on which Rare has built its 11-site program in the Andes:
If the above embedded video does not display, here to view it.