Andes Action

Powered by Global Forest Generation, Andes Action is scaling up a time-tested community reforestation model.

This nearly 20 year model, developed and implemented by Peruvian conservation non- profit, ECOAN (Asociacion Ecosistemas Andinos), has resulted in the planting of over 3 million native trees, including 1.3 million Polylepis.  It is a cost-effective solution for climate resilience.

Andes Action map

The map’s Andes Action flags show where our conservation partners are currently working to restore and protect Polylepis forests.

Restoring One Million Hectares (approx. 2.5 million acres) of High Andean Forest Ecosystems

Over the next 25 years, Latin-led Andes Action will protect the remaining 500,000 hectares (1.24 million acres) of critically important native Polylepis forests in six South American countries while reforesting an additional 500,000 hectares.

Regeneration of these forest ecosystems - in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina - is essential to addressing the challenges of climate change, including water security.

Help Us Grow

Help plant 337,000 native trees this season in South America’s Andes Mountains.

Enable local and indigenous communities to plant native forests that store carbon, provide water, and protect biodiversity.

Improve livelihoods: bring food security and health care to villagers growing and planting trees.

$100 starts a new forest!

Act Now!

Our Approach - Key Community Benefits 

Supporting on-the-ground leadership and local communities

To bring impact to scale, Andes Action works with an expanding network of on-the-ground conservation practitioners. Their decades of experience forging enduring community relationships as well as with project management make them the backbone of the initiative. With the support of Global Forest Generation, Andes Action is also embracing a new generation of effective, dedicated on-the-ground leaders.

Long lasting ties to indigenous communities in the Andes are essential for effective large-scale ecosystem restoration. Our leaders earn the trust of the people who are integral to every step of forest regeneration and protection.

Protecting Forests While Ensuring the Viability of Indigenous Cultures

Andes Action's partner organizations are responsive to the needs of the remote mountain communities and committed to helping improve their quality of life. This support includes dentist and doctor visits, access to medicine, solar panels (which bring electricity to villages), and clean-burning clay stoves. (Exposure to toxic fumes from traditional cooking practices is one of the world's biggest and least well-known killers. Frequent exposure to smoky, open fires causes cataracts and is the leading cause of blindness in developing countries.)

Conservation partners can provide alternative fuels for the clean burning stoves so that native trees are not destroyed for firewood. They also provide assistance with improved grazing management. And their technical and financial support for sustainable agriculture, ecotourism and microbusinesses help preserve the indigenous cultures of the Andes.

Land Titling

Conservation partners enable communities to secure title to their lands, which provides legal protection from exploitation by timber, mining, oil companies, etc. The process of designating a PCA (private conservation area) in Peru, for example, generally takes three years. It includes resolving land disputes and establishing a land use agreement, which may be multi-use, allowing sustainable agriculture in addition to land conservation.

The people of the high Andes consider the prime benefit of restored native forest to be restoration of their watersheds. As they watch the glaciers disappear, they are acutely aware of climate change. And they know that without actively regenerating watersheds, they will not have sufficient water in coming decades. Seedlings grown in community nurseries from seeds collected from nearby Polylepis forest, are planted on land set aside by communities to expand existing forests and to create new ones.

Andes Action's communities, comprised mainly of Quechua-speaking Inca descendants, value and practice the ancient tradition of 'Ayni', shared community service for mutual benefit. Community assemblies come together to decide which communities and watersheds will benefit from each year's communal planting. Everone - from children to the elders - climb steep mountain trails to plant saplings together. During a community's annual Polyepis tree planting festival of Queuna Raymi. 60,000 to 100,000 trees can be planted in a single day. (Polylepis is locally known as queuna.)


Andes Action Video

Andes Action Video

Community Reforestation in Action

Little-Known Tree Generates Life-Saving Water

The hardy evergreen Polylepis is the highest altitude tree in the world, growing up to 5,000 meters (almost 16,500 feet) above sea level. Now severely fragmented, Polylepis forests used to cover large parts of the Andes.

Water Security

In addition to sequestering carbon, Polylepis forest ensure that fresh water is available to mountain villages as well as to millions of people in lowland towns and cities who depend upon it, including for agriculture.

Transforming degraded landscapes -
Restoration of Wetlands

Even in the dry season, Polylepis trees absorb and store in their roots, enormous quantities of mist from the clouds. This promotes the growth of spongy, super absorbent Sphagnum moss. The abundant water retained by these extraordinary trees and their moss transforms degraded, eroded landscapes into healthy soil, streams, and wetlands.

Contributing fresh water to the Amazon

The fresh water stored by Polylepis forest feeds into watersheds at the headwaters of the Amazon Basin.

Capturing water from melting glaciers 

A green scarf of Polylepis forest beneath the Andes’ receding glaciers can help capture and store the water from the melting ice. These forests then slowly release the glacial water to communities below, even during the dry season.

Safeguarding Biodiversity - Habitat for Climate Refugees

Polylepis forests are habitat for threatened species. Click here to see the full Slideshow

Restored Polylepis forests will also offer a refuge for those species of birds and mammals able to survive climate change by successfully migrating to higher ground.


Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES)

The London School of Economics (LSE) conducted a 2011 case study of community conservation of Polylepis forest fragments in the Vilcanota Range of the southern Peruvian Andes. This community reforestation in the Vilcanota, which has resulted in the planting of1.3 million native Polylepis trees, is the model for Andes Action.

The LSE evaluation of community conservation outcomes supports the model. It concludes that a social consensus conducive to conservation must first be created. And once that consensus is established, payments for ecosystem services reinforce community support for forest conservation. The Vilcanota model demonstrates the value and successful implementation of non-monetary quality of life benefits.

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