Joint Partnership Among Funders to Expand and Strengthen Protected Areas and Indigenous Lands in the Amazon Headwaters

Photo: Enrique Ortiz

Photo: Enrique Ortiz

Wyss Foundation, Moore Foundation and Andes Amazon Fund invest in conservation in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador.

In a joint statement today, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Wyss Foundation and Andes Amazon Fund announced a total of $15 million in funding for conservation in the Andean Amazon region of Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador.

The Amazon headwaters region is home to the world’s greatest concentration of biodiversity and abundant endemic species, especially along the eastern flank of the tropical Andes. The montane cloud forests and other ecosystems in the region boast one-third of the planet’s species of flora and fauna, with new species still discovered regularly, adding to the more than 2.5 million species of insects, tens of thousands of plant species, nearly 3,000 fish species, and well over 2,000 species of birds and mammals already identified. And the headwaters rivers generate nearly a quarter of the world’s freshwater while the forests help regulate the Earth’s climate.

Today, approximately 19 million people live in the Amazon headwaters region, including 1.4 million indigenous people living throughout the Amazon basin in traditional territories, which are often effective conservation bastions with important wildlife populations and low deforestation rates. Formally designated protected areas and indigenous lands, which cover more than half of all Amazon forests, have proven effective in stemming the many threats to forests and freshwater systems. The benefits to people can also be profound: this region provides direct ecosystem services for rural and urban communities, and several indigenous tribes in this region live in voluntary isolation with no contact with modern society, and many others are seeking formal designation of their lands.

However, these areas require sufficient management and good governance mechanisms to ensure their long-term viability. In recent years, especially those areas outside protected areas and indigenous lands have seen a steady increase in forest loss as roadways and hydroways expand, and resources are extracted, often illegally. In addition, potential resettlement plans within Colombia’s peace accord and interest in establishing market-access waterways for Loreto, Peru, will accelerate land-use change.

Within this context, there is an imperative to increase donor coordination and leverage more resources, to heighten the conservation impact and increase the efficiency of grantmaking in the region. “The collaboration between foundations can be a powerful tool for increasing efficiency for grantees and providing the resources needed to have outcomes at a greater scale with more durability. The fate of the Amazon is such a huge issue for planetary health that the pooling of resources and sharing of agendas is just what is needed,” said Adrian Forsyth, Ph.D., Executive Director of Andes Amazon Fund. 

With this announcement today, Andes Amazon Fund is matching $5 million in Moore Foundation funds with an additional $10 million from the Wyss Foundation.“The Wyss Foundation is proud to add its support to help protect this vital region of the world.  This effort furthers our goal of seeking to protect these lands that are often referred to as the ‘lungs of the planet’, for both the local indigenous people and the whole world,” explained Molly McUsic, President of the Wyss Foundation.

Photo: Enrique Ortiz

Photo: Enrique Ortiz

The coordinated funding will support organizations working toward three primary outcomes:

  • Consolidating the conservation status of approximately 20 million hectares—at least 15 protected areas and 15 indigenous lands in the Amazon regions of Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

  • Promoting the sustainable finance of Peru’s national parks system through Peru’s Natural Legacy Initiative, led by the Peruvian Protected Areas Service (SERNANP), leveraging in-country financing and ensuring long-term funding for management of key protected areas.

  • Formally designating an additional 800,000 hectares in Peru to secure connectivity and formalize protection, while supporting local civil society organizations in their work to cultivate new supportive constituencies for conservation at local and national levels.

“As the world faces deep social and environmental changes, we have a window of opportunity to secure the headwaters of the Amazon basin – with critical implications for the well-being of local peoples, wildlife and the Earth,” said Avecita Chicchón, Ph.D., Andes Amazon Initiative director at the Moore Foundation. “We are delighted to embark on this partnership with Andes Amazon Fund and the Wyss Foundation.”

The Andes Amazon Fund (AAF) is a multi-donor grant-making initiative that supports the conservation of the Andes-Amazon of Peru and surrounding countries through the designation and effective management of protected areas and indigenous reserves. Visit or follow @andesamazonfund.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation fosters path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, patient care improvements and preservation of the special character of the Bay Area. Visit or follow @MooreFound.

The Wyss Foundation is a private, charitable foundation dedicated to supporting innovative, lasting solutions that improve lives, empower communities, and strengthen connections to the land. Visit or follow @WyssFoundation

Photos by Enrique Ortiz

Tres Cañones Regional Conservation Area: A New Tourism Opportunity for Cusco

Photo: Walter Wust

Photo: Walter Wust

The region of Cusco is largely known for being the home of the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. As a result, tourism has become an important part of the regional economy, with over 3 million visitors this past year. On August 27, 2017, the Regional Government of Cusco approved yet another opportunity for this type of development and growth. Located in the province of Espinar, Tres Cañones is Cusco’s newest regional conservation area, spanning 97,570 acres (39,485 hectares). 

Only 5 hours from the city of Cusco, this area is easily accessible for those traveling within Peru.  It’s stunning geological formations and sparkling waters make it an ideal tourist destination for adventure seekers, photographers, and families alike. Among other outdoor activities, visitors can choose to kayak, rock climb, or hike in the area. Tres Cañones also contains the archeological remains of Mauka Llaquta, the capital of the K’ana nation during the Incan empire. Aside from these artifacts, tourists can potentially see Andean deer (Hippocamelus antisensis), vicuñas (Vicugna vicugna), viscachas (Lagidium viscacia), thola flowers (Parastrephia lepidophylla), and other unique flora and fauna.   

Increasing annual tourism to 7 million visitors by 2021 ranks high on President Kuczynski’s agenda. Establishing new protected areas can help the administration achieve this goal; since 2009, the number of tourists visiting Peru’s protected areas has grown 17% annually, according to the Peruvian Natural Protected Area Service (SERNANP). It is predicted that over 2 million tourists will visit Peruvian protected areas in this year alone. Furthermore, there are many more opportunities for tourism growth in Cusco, as the regional government has proposed Ausangate and Urusayhua as new protected areas.    

Establishing Tres Cañones was a joint effort between Cusco’s Regional Government, the communities of Mamanihuayta, Manturca and Cerritambo, and the Peruvian Ministry of Environment—with strong support from President Kuczynski. On behalf of the Andes Amazon Fund, Program Director Enrique Ortiz congratulates Peru for this success:

“As the first protected area created under the Kuczynski administration, Tres Cañones is a landmark achievement for the Peruvian government. Its establishment demonstrates that the country is on the right path for both tourism growth and environmental conservation. Local communities will also benefit from its creation, providing them with ecosystem services and new job opportunities as ways to improve their livelihoods. Andes Amazon Fund commends the joint efforts between the Peruvian national government and the regional government of Cusco, which made this victory possible.” 

Photo: Walter Wust

Andes Amazon Fund supported the work of the Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica (ACCA) to assist with the creation of Tres Cañones. Moving forward, we will continue to support the initiatives of the Regional Government of Cusco to establish additional protected areas, ensuring both environmental conservation and economic development. 

More Information: 

Interactive tour of Tres Cañones

Mongabay Latam, "Tres Cañones: El Paraíso Altoandino Que Ya Es Área de Conservación Regional" 

SPDA Actualidad Ambiental, “Cusco Ya Tiene Una Nueva Área de Conservación Regional: ‘Tres Cañones’ ”

El Comercio, "Cusco Crean Nueva Área de Conservación Regional en Espinar"

Agencia Andina, “Cusco: Declaran a la Zona de Tres Cañones como Aŕea de Conservación” 

Diario Correo, “Tres Cañones es declarada como Área de Conservación Regional en Cusco” 

Photos by Walter Wust and Ronald Catpo. 

El Chaco Municipal Reserve: Safeguarding the Napo Watershed in Ecuador

Photo: Nature and Culture International

Photo: Nature and Culture International

With the help of Andes Amazon Fund grantee, Nature and Culture International (NCI), another critical conservation area has been formally protected in the Amazon headwaters of northern Ecuador. On July 25, 2017, El Chaco Municipal Reserve, totaling 167,867 acres (67,933 hectares), was declared to safeguard a strategic ecosystem between Cayambe Coca and Sumaco Napo-Galeras National Parks. El Chaco is now a part of a planned network of 7 municipal reserves, which will help protect the watershed of one of the most important rivers in Ecuador, the Río Napo.  

With an altitudinal range of 918 to 8,989 feet (280 to 2,740 meters) above sea level, El Chaco contains both cloud forest and Amazonian lowland forest. Endangered and vulnerable species such as spectacled bears as well as mountain tapirs can be found in this area. Other endemic species include giant anteaters, ocelots, blue-headed parrots, and over 50 different types of orchids. 

The planned network of reserves is also significant from a cultural perspective, as 5 indigenous groups reside in the area. This includes the Cófan, Kichwa, Secoya, Shaur, and Siona. Many of these groups face threats from unsustainable development, which jeopardize both their livelihoods and cultures. The level of legal protection offered by the municipal reserves will help secure the homelands of those living within the area, preventing deforestation and local water contamination.  

The 7 municipalities that will manage the group of reserves comprise the Mancomunidad de la Ruta de Agua, or the Water Route Association. The association will create a sustainable form of economic development for local communities by generating ecotourism within the area while maintaining its environmental integrity. As a part of their work with the association, NCI will also help lead environmental management training sessions to create a watershed protection program and to establish mechanisms for ecosystem service payments. 

Photo: Nature and Culture International

Photo: Nature and Culture International

The Andes Amazon Fund congratulates the Municipality of El Chaco for establishing the new municipal reserve, given its important role in regional conservation efforts. We will continue supporting the work of NCI in Ecuador, hoping that even more important areas will be protected there in the near future. 

Colombia Protects 1.4 Million Acres by Expanding Indigenous Reserves

Photo: Colombian Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development

Photo: Colombian Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development

On July 12, 2017, the Colombian government announced the expansion of Puerto Sábalo-Los Monos and Monochoa, two indigenous reserves, also known as resguardos indígenas. These areas lie in the buffer zone of Chiribiquete National Park in the province of Caquetá. The combined expansion of Puerto Sábalo-Los Monos and Monochoa indigenous reserves amounts to 1.4 million acres (570,000 hectares), which is roughly the size of the state of Delaware. As a result, 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) of forest in the northwest Amazon basin are now protected within their boundaries. The Andes Amazon Fund congratulates the Colombian government for achieving this important victory for environmental conservation and cultural preservation in the region.

Puerto Sábalo-Los Monos and Monochoa will help form one of the largest bio-cultural conservation corridors in the Colombian Amazon, equaling the size of the state of Virginia. Specifically, the two indigenous reserves will connect Chiribiquete National Park with Colombia’s largest indigenous reserve, Predio Putumayo. Along with various isolated tribes, the Murui Muina (Witoto) - an indigenous group comprised of more than 40 clans - call this area home. 

Indigenous reserves provide local communities with the responsibility and right to manage their land, while maintaining its ecological function. Many studies show that this is one of the most effective ways to combat deforestation and the loss of biodiversity across the region. Colombia has witnessed these benefits firsthand, as “annual deforestation rates inside tenure-secure indigenous forestlands were two times lower than those on similar land without security,” according to Amazon Conservation Team (ACT). Out of all the provinces in Colombia, Caquetá has the highest rate of deforestation, losing 72,265 acres (29,245 hectares) in 2014 alone. Therefore, the expanded indigenous reserves will be valuable tools for fighting forest loss and promoting sustainable land use.

Photo: ACT

Photo: ACT

The Andes Amazon Fund, along with other donors such as the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, supported ACT’s work to help expand the resguardos. ACT was able to do this through close partnerships with indigenous communities in the Caquetá river basin. The organization continues to work with these communities and has set the following goals: 1) protect isolated indigenous peoples, 2) strengthen local and environmental governance, and 3) create and expand indigenous reserves.

ACT also obtained a formal agreement with the National Rural Development Agency (INCODER) – renewed with the Colombian National Land Agency – to form and expand indigenous reserves, like Puerto Sábalo-Los Monos and Monochoa. The alliance has been further supported by the Colombian National Park System. The Andes Amazon Fund believes that these partnerships, especially with the local communities, will enable even more victories for environmental conservation in Colombia in the future.

More information: 

Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, "Indigenous reserve expansions create massive Amazonian conservation corridor in Colombia"

Amazon Conservation Team, "Better Protection for Chiribiquete, Northwest Amazon's Most Important Protected Area" 

El Espectador, "El corazón del Amazonas (casi) a salvo"

AAF Hosts Annual Workshop in Peru

AAF recently hosted its annual grantee workshop, gathering its partners from across Peru for the two day event this June. The seminar was held in Pachacamac to the southeast of Lima and included a series of presentations and activities aimed to do the following:

  • Strengthen knowledge of legal and technical procedures related to protected area creation

  • Learn from the experiences of other NGOs in the country

  • Discuss recent achievements and challenges within the field

  • Review mechanisms for financial sustainability of protected areas

Presentations were given by both AAF staff and individuals from Peruvian government institutions, including the National Protected Area Service (SERNANP), the Forestry and Wildlife Service (SERFOR), and the Ministry of Environment. In addition to other important topics, grantees learned more about the process of establishing Regional Conservation Areas and Private Conservation Areas, how to conduct a cost-benefit analysis for a protected area proposal, and the new process for forestry zoning.


Grantees also presented information about the goals, work, and impact of their organizations. This provided them with the opportunity to learn more about each other’s projects and encouraged future collaboration between NGOs. 

Grantee organizations in attendance included Asociación Peruana para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (APECO), Asociación para La Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica (ACCA), Amazónicos por la Amazonía (AMPA), Centro para el Desarrollo del Indígena Amazónico (CEDIA), Centro de Conservación, Investigación, y Manejo de Áreas Naturales (CIMA), Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF), Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos (ECOAN), Instituto del Bien Común (IBC), Mongabay-Latam, Nature and Culture International (NCI), Propurús, and Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental (SPDA).


New Municipal Conservation Area Created in Bolivia

The Municipal Conservation Area of Santa Rosa del Abuná is one of the most significant protected areas that Bolivia has created in the past decade. Established on April 3, 2017, the area is comprised of intact Amazonian forest in northern Bolivia and spans 424,601 acres (171,834 hectares). In Bolivia, protected areas created at the municipal level share the same legal strength as national areas, and are part of the national protected area system.

Santa Rosa’s dense tropical rainforest and rivers host a wealth of biodiversity. The following are examples of species that have been recorded in the area: 

  • Bald-faced Saki monkeys (classified as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 

  • White-lipped peccaries (classified as a vulnerable species by the IUCN)

  • Jaguars (classified as a near-threatened species by the IUCN)

  • South American tapirs (classified as a vulnerable species by the IUCN)

  • Bolivian river dolphins (named a national treasure by the Bolivian government) 

The new Santa Rosa protected area is located in the Department of Pando and the Municipality of Abuná. This region is close to the borders of both Peru and Brazil. However, outside of a community of around 230 Brazilian immigrants, very few people live near the area.

Santa Rosa is an important milestone because it empowered a partnership between the municipal government, local communities, and la Asociación Boliviana para la Investigación y Conservación de Ecosistemas Andino Amazónicos (ACEAA) to create a large new protected area sought by the regional government of Pando. 

Santa Rosa serves as a buffer against high rates of deforestation in nearby areas, especially across the border in Brazil (see map above). This is also reflected in data collected in the Municipality of Abuná: 

  • 97% of Abuná’s forests remain intact 

  • Abuná ranks 3rd among Bolivian municipalities with the highest proportion of forest cover in relation to its geographical area  

  • On a national scale, Abuná ranks 4th among municipalities with the highest proportion of potential species richness

Santa Rosa is classified as a Category VI protected area by the IUCN. This categorization allows for the sustainable use of natural resources found in the area for non-industrial purposes. 

As a result, the newly created protected area has significant economic benefits for the people of Abuná. Non-timber forest products such as Brazil nut trees and acai grow freely in this area, and protecting the forest ensures that they can be sustainably harvested over the long term. Local families will benefit from the revenue generated from the harvest of these products, offering an alternative to illegal logging or mining as a source of income. Therefore, Santa Rosa will function as an integrated model of biodiversity conservation and sustainable forest use.

The creation of this new protected area would not have been possible without the help of Andes Amazon Fund grantee, ACEAA. Now that the area has been created, AAF will support the establishment of protection and management systems for Santa Rosa, including a forest monitoring system and training workshops for the local population. We hope that the success of this area's creation will lead to additional conservation accomplishments in Bolivia.  


New Conservation Concession Established Near Manu National Park

Photo by Gabby Salazar.

Photo by Gabby Salazar.

Peru’s National Forest and Wildlife Service (SERFOR) granted a new conservation concession in Kosñipata. This marks the 15th protected area that AAF has helped establish in Latin America. 

Located in the southern region of Cusco, the conservation area is 4,459 hectares (11,018 acres), or the size of approximately 11,000 soccer fields. These types of government concessions can be renewed after 40 years and are designed to protect biodiversity, promote environmental education, and foster related research. 

In particular, the Young Conservationists Association of Alto Pilcomayo requested the grant to stop illegal logging and hunting in the area. Kosñipata is home to a wide variety of plants and animals, some of which are endangered such as the spectacled bear. 

AAF supported the work of the Amazon Conservation Association, a strong advocate of the conservation concession as well. More information about the area can be found here

AAF Helps Create 5 Protected Areas in 2016

Photo by Gabby Salazar.

Photo by Gabby Salazar.

2016 was a very busy year for AAF. In total, the Fund helped establish 5 private conservation areas (PCAs) or áreas de conservación privada (ACPs) in the region of Cusco, located in the south of Peru. 

PCAs are a type of protected area. Peru’s National Protected Area Service (SERNANP) defines them as privately-owned properties that are samples of natural ecosystems. The owners of these areas, rather than the state, are responsible for conserving and managing the land. 

SERNANP further explains PCAs biological importance, "in recent years this instrument of private conservation has become more important, as more and more people, communities, non-governmental organizations, and companies are committed to contributing to the conservation of our country's biological diversity and connect the large fragments of ecosystems."  

In total, 694 hectares (1,714 acres) were dedicated as PCAs. This included Santuario La Veronica, Machusaniaca I, Machusaniaca II, Fundo Cadena, and Wayqecha. Species endemic to these areas include pumas,  green-and-white hummingbirds, and andean bears.    

To achieve these PCAs, AAF supported efforts led by the Amazon Conservation Association

Creation of Sierra del Divisor National Park in Peru

Program Director Enrique Ortiz presents AAF's contribution to Sierra del Divisor's initial management.

Program Director Enrique Ortiz presents AAF's contribution to Sierra del Divisor's initial management.

AAF is proud to announce the creation of Sierra del Divisor National Park in Peru.

President Humala signed a law into effect on November 8th, establishing the new conservation area. Located in the western part of the country neighboring Brazil, the massive park spans more than 1.3 million hectares (3.2 million acres).

 According to the Peruvian Times, Sierra del Divisor, "is larger than Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks combined. [It] straddles parts of the Loreto and Ucayali regions and closes a final link to ensure the protection of a 67mn acre area known as the Andes-Amazon Conservation Corridor." 

Sierra del Divisor is a major win for conservation efforts in Peru.  The park hosts an estimated 3,500 species of plants alone. Threatened animals in the area, such as jaguars and tapirs, will also be protected as a result of Sierra del Divisor's creation. 

Still, native flora and fauna are not the only ones benefiting from the park's development. The protected area is also the home of indigenous communities, namely the Iskonowa.  

AAF committed $1 million USD to Sierra del Divisor's initial management. During the process of creating the park, the Fund also supported the efforts of the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law (SPDA).


Banner photo by Walter Wust.