Scaling Mountain Forest Restoration to Increase Water Security for Communities in the Andean Region

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

Scaling Mountain Forest Restoration to Increase Water Security for Communities in the Andean Region

Bioregion Andean Mountain Forests & Valleys (NT11)
Category Nature Conservation

Our project categories represent one of three core solutions pathways to solving climate change. Energy Transition focuses on renewable energy access and energy efficiency. Nature Conservation includes wildlife habitat protection and ecosystem restoration, as well as Indigenous land rights. Regenerative Agriculture supports farmers, ranchers, and community agriculture.

Realm Southern America

The Project Marketplace is organized by the major terrestrial realms divided into 14 biogeographical regions – N. America, Subarctic America, C. America, S. America, Afrotropics, Indomalaya, Australasia, Oceania, Antarctica, and the Palearctic realm, which coincides with Eurasia and is divided into Subarctic, Western, Central, Eastern, and Southern regions.

Status active

Seed indicates an early stage project that needs some level of support to develop into a larger funding proposal. Active indicates any project that needs core programmatic funding. Urgent indicates a short-term project initiated in response to a natural disaster or other impending risk.

Funding Level $$$$$

$$$$$ indicates a project needing over $5 million in funding.

Timeframe 12 Months
Partner Global Forest Generation

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100% of your donation will go directly to support this project. You can also give a gift in honor of a friend or family member. 100% of your donation will go directly to support mountain forest restoration in the Andean Region. You can also give a gift in honor of a friend or family member.


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One Earth’s Project Marketplace funds on-the-ground climate solutions that are key to solving the climate crisis through three pillars of collective action — renewable energy, nature conservation, and regenerative agriculture.

Mountainous “water forests” are recognized by local, national, and global communities as an important contributor to Andean and Amazon watersheds. A keystone species for high Andean forests, Polylepis, currently comprise a narrow 6,000-kilometer-long, 500,000-hectare vegetative band spanning seven Andean countries and supporting a unique ecosystem. Primary Polylepis forests have been reduced to just 1-10% of their natural range. Major deforestation drivers today are harvesting for firewood and construction materials, uncontrolled fires, and grazing by livestock. The nonprofit organization Acción Andina (AA) was created to respond to the need of local communities to protect their forests and restore their watersheds with native trees.

Community nursery construction in Quishuarani, Peru. Image credit: Courtesy of ECOAN

The edges of these forests are found at 3,500-5,000 meters, mostly defining the upper tree line for the Andes range and found beneath glaciers. There are 21 native Polylepis species, filling different ecological niches. They are critical to building permanent streams and wetlands and carbon-rich soils and are home to a range of IUCN-listed species of conservation concern. They also serve as natural water reservoirs and provide fresh water to hundreds of thousands of people in local communities and cities below, including major metropolitan areas. In light of climate change, high Andean people are motivated to protect and restore polylepis forests for their cultural and natural resources values. As a result of decades of conservation and community engagement work by leading conservation practitioners, communities understand the crucial roles of forests at these altitudes for water and land security.

In the 2021-2022 restoration season, Acción Andina aims to plant 2.1 million native trees, restore and protect 1,050 hectares of forest and support 15 local restoration leaders.

Polylepis production in community nursery in Ecuador. Image credit: ourtesy of Aves y Conservación

Acción Andina aims to grow 2.1 million native trees by 13 on-the-ground partners, involving approximately 100 local and indigenous communities in six countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. ECOAN, the main implementing agency of Acción Andina, provides in-person and online training to local implementing partners. Activities (forest conservation, capacity building, and tree growing) are planned on an annual basis. A reforestation cycle (seed/cutting collection, sapling production, and planting) occurs across a fifteen-month period, with plantings occurring September through March. Protected area creation can sometimes take several years depending on the local process.

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

In addition to helping safeguard water sources for hundreds of thousands of people, Acción Andina immediately benefits high Andean communities. AA receives more requests to work with such communities than it can currently respond to. The project creates jobs in the nurseries, employing on average two laborers and one manager. Funds transferred to the communities for their sapling production and reforestation services are used collectively for general community benefits, such as school renovation and community halls. The community can choose to hire additional people to help manage project operations, but this depends on the wishes and priorities of each community.

Reforesting in Pampacorral, Peru. Image credit: Courtesy of ECOAN 

Acción Andina is the flagship initiative of Global Forest Generation, created to address the major obstacles currently hindering restoration progress, including:

  • The lack of local restoration capacity and quality projects worldwide: There are not enough long-term programs and implementers on the ground to advance restoration as urgently as it is needed to meet climate, biodiversity, and restoration targets.
  • The limited capacity of tree-planting projects to deliver comprehensive ecosystem restoration in the long term and the lack of transparency, traceability, and quality control in international reforestation projects.
  • The lack of diversified, long-term funding resources and partnerships. Short-term annual reforestation grants can be an important starting point for many projects but they need to be blended with long-term financial resources.

ECOAN meeting with Indigenous community leaders in Peru. Image credit: Courtesy of ECOAN

Acción Andina is a long-term initiative specifically targeting the development and support of local leaders, effective ecosystem restoration using scientific and traditional knowledge, and the creation of sustainable funding mechanisms for grassroots organizations.

Secure payment. USD donations tax-deductible.

Provide a major gift

Your contribution will help ensure the long term success of this important project. Gifts can be made as a tribute to a friend or family member and are tax-deductible for U.S. residents. Please contact us!