Peru

Our project in South America’s Andes Mountains will help indigenous communities plant native forests that store carbon, provide water, and protect biodiversity. It will also improve livelihoods by bringing food security and healthcare to villagers growing and planting trees.

This planting site is like no other project we have participated in to date. Its effects span far beyond the local communities where the planting takes place. The fate of a healthy Amazon rainforest depends on the success of this project and those like it. We are proud of our contribution to protecting this extraordinary landscape and the life that depends on it.

Trees Planted

Waiting to be planted

Total Trees

Why Peru

This project is part of a regional initiative to recover and conserve the forest living at the highest elevation of any trees in the world: the Amazon rainforest.

The Amazon rainforest is drying out. Major cities in Peru that surround the Andes mountains (such as Cusco) are facing seasonal drought conditions and an overall decreasing water supply. 

But this is not due to lack of rainfall. 70 percent of the world's tropical glaciers are in the Peruvian Andes and 40 percent of their surface area has been degrading since the 70’s. As the water from these melting glaciers flow down the mountains, it erodes away the top layer of soil in the Amazon, causing extremely dry conditions. So when the fires burn each year, the fires burn bigger and hotter. The smoke rises creates a feedback loop which causes the glaciers to melt even faster.

Because the soil has been degrading at an alarming rate, the flow of water cannot be retained as it normally would. 

As a result, the Amazon is seeing drastic floods and extreme rain in the summer (rainy season) and extremely dry rivers in the winter (dry season).

By planting more trees, more water can be retained from the glaciers, and slow down the flow of water in the rainy season and help produce rain in the dry seasons. The moisture retention also helps moderate temperature and water tables. 

The Impact

Retain Soil Quality

Nutrients from the trees are retained in the soil.

Restore Water Tables

Healthy topsoil layers are restored and can absorb water.

Prevent Fires

Less severe dry periods prevent fires.

Lower Temperatures

More shade and moisture from trees lowers temperatures.

The Trees

We plant native Polylepis tree species at a height range between 12,000-15,000ft. These trees grow at some of the highest elevations on the planet. Polylepis forests used to cover large parts of the Andes, now they are severely fragmented.

Polylepis Tree

Polylepis: a potential game-changer for long-term climate resilience. They have an outstanding fortitude, and can adapt to harsh conditions and have been known to survive heavy snowfall winters. Not only do they survive adverse conditions, they thrive in them. The trees grow moss around their trunks, roots, and mountainside that absorbs glacier (and rain) runoff water throughout the winter like a sponge. Then they release the water into the rivers in the dry season to regulate the flow. They can grow up to 3m tall, though smaller in higher altitudes; at times, they almost look like shrubs instead of trees.

Planting Process

1

Grow Seedlings in Community Garden

The Polylepis Tree is grown in a seedbed or community gardens and are cared for by the local community.

2

Collect Seedlings for Ceremony

All local and surrounding communities get together and collect seedlings from the nursery. These seedlings are then bunched up, tied together, and carried to the site by person or by llama.

3

Community Planting Ceremony

Two hours north of Cusco is a small village called Ollantaytambo; the planting site is located about an hour drive and a short hike away. The local communities involved in the project are descendants of the Inca and gather each year during the first week of December to plant Polylepis trees in a single day planting ceremony. With the village as the starting point, we formed a long line (with the llamas) and hiked along the mountainside for roughly 3.5km. It was here on a 1,000ft steep mountain slope that the men, women, babies, and even the llamas all pitched in to help plant trees. 600 people. 50,000 trees. It’s an amazing sight to see, let alone be a part of.

Our Partner

Meet Your Planting Team

Constantino

The head of ECOAN, Constantino (Tino) is widely known as the Father of the Forest. He is the protector, enforcer, and a wise leader who rallies the communities around the importance of planting Polylepis instead of invasive Eucalyptus.

Constantino

The head of ECOAN, Constantino (Tino) is widely known as the Father of the Forest. He is the protector, enforcer, and a wise leader who rallies the communities around the importance of planting Polylepis instead of invasive Eucalyptus.