Climate Hero: Constantino Aucca Chutas

Aucca has spent 30 years reviving forests across South America, which are critical for fighting climate change and home to unique plant and animal species. Photo by UNEP/Diego Rotmistrovsky

Climate Hero: Constantino Aucca Chutas

When Constantino (Tino) Aucca Chutas heard from a local Andean about the glaciers melting and forests disappearing, he knew he had to act. A biologist and descendant of the Incas, Constantino has been working hard to restore the degraded ecosystems of the Andes and secure the water supply of local communities.

His organization, Acción Andina, has planted over three million trees with the help of more than 25,000 Indigenous families.

‘Running faster’ than destructive industries

The Andes is one of the world’s most beautiful and vital regions, with its highland forests providing water for millions of people downstream. However, this ecosystem is threatened by the private sector and mining companies rapidly expanding.

As Constantino puts it, "We must work hard to try to run faster than the destruction." He believes the key to success is involving local communities and reviving their ancient practices.

Community Nursery Technicians in Ecuador. Image Credit: Aves y Conservación

Planting trees to save water

Constantino's vision is to plant millions of trees along the Andes to secure local communities' water supply. He has found that the native Polylepis forests, with their moss cover and sponge-like vegetation, are especially effective at storing water.

By planting 60,000 trees in a single day, his organization has created thousands of holes that catch water, increasing the level of lakes and streams. This collaborative work not only restores ecosystems but also strengthens the bond between communities and the environment.

Image credit: UNEP/Diego Rotmistrovsky

The power of Indigenous knowledge

Throughout his work, Constantino emphasizes the importance of reviving Indigenous knowledge about tree planting and involving local communities in conservation efforts. As he says, "Conservation without money is just conversation. If you didn't include local communities, it's a very bad conversation."

By working with Indigenous families, Constantino has restored ecosystems and helped revive traditional practices on the verge of being forgotten. His work has become a model for community-based conservation and has inspired many others worldwide.

ECOAN and communities reforesting in Quelqanqa-Ollantaytambo, Peru. Image credit: Courtesy of ECOAN

Join the movement

His efforts are a powerful example of how local action can solve climate change and biodiversity loss. For his work, Constantino received the UN's highest environmental honor, being named a 2022 Champion of the Earth laureate in Inspiration and Action.

As Constantino says, "The formulas and the solutions are in front of you, not a magic formula you can find by internet." He calls for all to do their part to support the restoration of ecosystems and join the global movement for a better future.

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