Bolivian Community Unites to Establish the Quebracho and Condor Nature Reserve

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The Laderas Norte Community, the NATIVA Foundation, and Nature and Culture International established the first rural municipal protected area in Bolivia’s Southeastern Tarija Province that will protect important nesting ground for the emblematic condor.

On August 24, 2023, the City Council unanimously approved the law establishing the Quebracho and Condor Nature Reserve, covering 8,144.57 acres. The reserve is particularly special because of its role in the preservation of the Andean condor (Vultur Gryphus) and the rare white Quebracho tree (Aspidosperma quebracho blanco).

A tragic background 

In February 2021, a devastating incident struck the Laderas Norte community in Bolivia. Thirty-four majestic condors perished after consuming poisoned meat. This incident had a profound impact on both the local area and the entire nation.

34 Andean condors were tragically killed in 2021 leading to a communal effort to protect this magnificent bird

The condor is a symbol of South America and holds a special place as Bolivia’s national bird. Beyond its symbolic importance, this majestic bird serves as a crucial component of ecosystems. As a scavenger, it plays a vital role in preventing the spread of harmful bacteria that can pose health risks to humans. Additionally, it aids in regulating the populations of various species, contributing to the overall balance and harmony of local ecosystems.

However, its population has experienced a rapid decline, going from being listed as “Near Threatened” to “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List in December 2020. 

Condor flying over newly established protected area.

The community of Laderas Norte, known for its commitment to conservation, donated 141 acres to the municipality a decade ago to protect the condor and the only white quebracho forest in the Central Valley of Tarija. It was in this very place that the lifeless condors were found, worrying the local population, and prompting them to take action.

The only white quebracho forest in the Central Valley of Tarija.

A turning point toward conservation 

The community, in its eagerness to avoid future tragedies and protect its environment, requested support from the authorities and social organizations to improve their quality of life through conservation and sustainable development projects. In addition, they expressed their concern about the illegal exploitation of timber in the area, a threat to valuable species such as cedar (Cedrela lilloi), red quina (Myroxylon peruiferum), walnut (Junglas australis), tipa (Tipuana tipu), among others. 

Thus began the collaboration between the community of Laderas Norte, the NATIVA Foundation, our implementing partner in Bolivia, and Nature and Culture. Despite the challenges, such as border conflicts and misinformation, the creation of the Quebracho and Condor Nature Reserve was achieved. 

Reserve highlights

The reserve is notable for several key reasons: it plays a critical role in preserving the Andean condor, protecting the white quebracho tree, conserving vital ecosystems spanning from the Central Valley of Tarija to the Bolivian Tucuman Jungle, safeguarding water sources, and ensuring the safety of endangered species like the quirusilla plant (Gunnera apiculata). Furthermore, it serves as a picturesque destination, making it an excellent choice for adventure tourism.

This achievement is a testament to the commitment and determination of the Laderas Norte community. By declaring their territory a “municipal protected area in perpetuity,” they have taken a bold step toward conservation. 

This milestone has been made possible thanks to more than two years of collaboration between the community of Laderas del Norte, the NATIVA Foundation, the Municipal Government of Tarija, the Ministry of Environment, the Directorate of Tourism and the Municipal Council, with the Environment and Tourism commissions, backed by the financial support of Nature and Culture International and Andes Amazon Fund. 

Congratulations to the community of Laderas del Norte and all the organizations that made it possible! 

Two recent climate wins driven by local citizens highlight the strength of local communities in protecting nature.

In the ongoing effort to combat climate change, there are events that highlight the potential for progress. Today, we invite you to take a closer look at two significant climate victories, on opposite sides of the globe but connected by a common thread: the tangible outcomes achievable when people work together for the betterment of our planet.

Ecuadorians proved that they care deeply about the environment with the passage of the Yasuní referendum. 

Something incredible has taken place in Ecuador’s elections earlier this month. Over 5 million people came together to pass a referendum to protect the Yasuní National Park in the Ecuadorian Amazon from any further oil extraction. This is huge step towards mitigating climate change. This passed referendum will block oil extraction in Indigenous territories, in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. The resounding “yes” vote marked a monumental victory for environmental preservation and the rights of Indigenous communities.

The Yasuní National Park is much more than a natural treasure.

Protected areas such as the Yasuní National Park are key tools to guarantee ecosystem services like clean air and fresh water, and help to mitigate climate change. That is why we must protect them and ensure their long-term sustainability. Ecuadorians made a choice for the future of Yasuní and showed that they care deeply for nature. This sets a precedent for the country and the world in the fight against climate change.

While this achievement was not a result of Nature and Culture’s efforts, it has major implications for the future of the Ecuadorian Amazon and resonates deeply with our unique approach to conservation. At our core, we believe in fostering solutions that originate with local communities and believe in the transformative power of community involvement.

In the U.S., the recent court ruling, in favor of local students, will require the state of Montana to consider climate change when deciding whether to approve or renew fossil fuel projects

The Yasuní victory is just one example of how community-centered conservation can lead to remarkable change. The recent Montana Climate Lawsuit in the United States similarly demonstrates that when communities take the lead and have a stake in decisions affecting their environment, they can achieve extraordinary outcomes.

Hear from Nature and Culture CEO on these recent climate wins

Ikíitu Indigenous youth connect to their culture, language and ancestral customs with Nature and Culture’s publication of the comic, “El Último Kuraka.”

Each year on August 9th, people around the world celebrate Indigenous Peoples. It’s an important time to raise awareness around Indigenous autonomy and equal rights to their ancestral lands, native languages, and traditional customs. This year’s theme centers around Indigenous youth who have so much at stake in the struggle to maintain their cultural identity. That is why Nature and Culture, together with the Ikíitu people of the Indigenous community, San Antonio, Pintuyacu river, Loreto, Peru, produced and published the comic, “El Último Kuraka,” or “The Last Chief.”

Margarita Beuzeville Panduro, Ikíitu community member

Nature and Culture hopes to raise awareness around the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon by sharing their traditional knowledge.

Alongside our efforts to conserve forests, our team provides opportunities to strengthen the Indigenous identity of the local communities that help keep the forest standing. In this way, forest management is imbued with local understandings and experiences that have persisted for centuries. Written in both Spanish and the Ikíiitu native language, “El Último Kuraka” serves as written documentation of the cultural history of the Peruvian city of Iquitos (named after the Ikíitu people), the capital of the Maynas Province. We hope that this history is not only shared amongst the Ikíitu youth but spread to youth across the region and throughout Peru!

In the comic, hero Súkani, a leader with supernatural powers, is imprisoned by colonialists attempting to seize his people’s land. This traditional story was adapted by Nature and Culture from collected facts from the oral tradition of the Ikíitu people. During the 17th and 18th centuries, many Ikíitu were forced to join missions and displaced from their ancestral territories. The city of present day Iquitos bears the name of the Ikíitu people, in homage to the first residents of the area, although it is not known exactly when and who settled on the plateau surrounded by the Nanay, Amazon, Itaya and Lake Moronacocha rivers. The true story of the death of “El Última Kuraka”, Alejandro Inuma, in the the 1940s was decisive moment for the Ikíitu people because the language ceased to be used as a primary language and many customs began to be lost. According to data obtained by the Ministry of Culture, it is estimated that today there are only 519 people from the communities of the Ikíitu people remaining.

A view of the Peruvian city of Iquitos

In the comic’s prologue, Inter-cultual Specialist, Elena Burga Cabrera affirms that “Amazonian Indigenous peoples have their own stories about who they are, where they came from, who were their leaders, how their first contact with ‘mestizos’ went and about the events they have experienced, generally with a lot of violence and suffering, and that has generated changes in their way of life and in the characteristics of the territories they occupy.”

Ema Llona Yareja, bilingual Ikíitu community member asserts, “(Children) must learn, so that our language is not lost, from an early age they should receive education in the Ikíitu language”.

The identity of Indigenous Peoples is attached to the land, language, traditional livelihoods, ceremonies, arts, crafts, and family members and society as a whole. The elders of the Ikíitu community, like Ema Llona Yareja, pictured above, provide a connection between generations, a crucial aspect of Indigenous Peoples’ wellbeing. She asserts, “(children) must learn, so that our language is not lost, from an early age they should receive education in the Ikíitu language”.  In areas of high cultural and economic exchange like the Nanay river basin, Indigenous cultures are at risk of being lost. “The Nanay basin, where the community of San Antonio is located, is subjected to processes of cultural and economic exchange with western society. The pressures riverside communities face create challenges that must be confronted to safeguard the well-being of their families, the forest, water and, above all, the right to stand firm before illegal actions,” says former Nature and Culture Peru Country Director, Patricia Ochoa.

View the full comic here!

The Ikíitu people have a cultural richness, which to this day persists in their daily customs.

Utensils and tools, fishing techniques, knowledge of medicinal plants, knowledge of the forest for hunting, cultivation of their farms are all pieces of knowledge that are preserved in the rich culture of the Ikíitu people. In addition to documenting their native language, the “El Última Kuraka” comic also records some of the customs and artifacts that are used to this day, including garments, pottery and cooking utensils.

Adith Pacaya Inuma, Ikíitu community member, demonstrating the use of a batán, one of the most important utensils for making a traditional drink made from fermented cassava.

Supporting Indigenous communities in conserving nature in their lands requires recognition of their lived experiences and world visions. By documenting the culture and history of the Ikíitu people, we are helping to preserve not only their way of life, but also the sustainable practices that have been passed down through generations. They have been great stewards of their ancestral lands and we are working alongside the elders in the community to ensure future generations will have the same local knowledge and support to continue to protect these sacred places.

If you’d like to support our efforts please give today.

In 2007, the municipal government of Loja, Ecuador approved the ordinance for the protection of micro-watersheds and other areas of hydric importance. Updated in 2020, the ordinance was issued for the protection and restoration of water sources, fragile ecosystems, biodiversity and environmental services through the creation and management of the Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Area. These local conservation areas protect the natural state of forests, páramos, and other fragile ecosystems, ultimately recovering ecosystem functionality in areas that have been altered in some way.

To date, Loja has 182,858 acres in Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Areas, of which 71,660 acres are areas of hydric importance or protect local water sources. Areas that were selected were determined a priority for the provision of environmental services, especially water, ecological connectivity, and biodiversity protection.  

Jipiro Ravine, Loja

Nature and Culture has identified 72 water sources which are the primary source of potable water for the province of Loja, 13 of them provide water to the urban sector and 18 areas of hydric importance provide water to the capitals. Some of the areas identified have a high degree of degradation, mainly due to the change of land use due to agricultural activities.   

Map of the 72 sources | Prepared by: Patricio Jaramillo

How local governments support the maintenance of natural ecosystems that provide water to their citizens

José Romero, Nature and Culture’s Coordinator for Areas of Hydric Importance, states that it is a priority to support local governments and establish conservation measures to protect the ecosystems that provide water to population centers. In the province of Loja, this process has been developed together with the Regional Water Fund (FORAGUA) and the Municipal Government, which has recently identified 7 areas of water interest with high priority for intervention: El Sauce, Cachipirca, El Cisne, San Lucas, Chantaco, Taquil, and Tenería. Within these areas, there are 6,819.14 acres of natural forests that store and release water, yet they have been deforested and converted into pastures. The land use has altered significantly, jeopardizing the quantity and quality of water available. 

Tambo Blanco water catchment, Los Leones stream

Faced with these results, the Municipal Government of Loja, as part of the management of water sources, is promoting Conservation Agreements for Water and Forests among the owners of the properties settled in these areas of hydric importance, Water Management Boards, cooperation agencies and the local government.   

These agreements aim to ensure conservation, recover degraded areas and comprehensively manage forests and water resources located in the water sources and Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Areas of the province. This is part of the process of reversing degradation and recovering ecological functionality, in other words, improving the capacity of water sources in this area.   

Currently, 10 additional conservation agreements have been signed between private owners and Drinking Water Management Boards of the Jimbilla, San Lucas, Taquil, Malacatos parishes and buffer zones of the Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Areas.   

Ángel Jaramillo, Nature and Culture Project Coordinator, stated that the 10 conservation agreements signed will allow the conservation and recovery of 336.48 acres. They include the active and passive restoration of around 74 acres, through agroforestry systems, silvopastoral systems and block planting of native forest species, which allows ecological succession processes to be carried out; and 262.57 acres of primary and secondary forest are committed to being conserved and maintained. 

Municipal Government Authorities, Water Management Boards, FORAGUA and Nature and Culture International

Francisco Gordillo, technical secretary of FORAGUA, points out that areas that are not covered by native forest erode, degrade, and in the face of climate change, the dragging of sediments into streams and rivers occurs violently, and creates problems at lower elevations including floods and other harmful damage to local populations.   

Gordillo states that for these reasons it is recommended that municipalities have ordinances to conserve and protect nearby ecosystems, and thus reduce the risk and vulnerability to global warming.  In addition, Gordillo points out that, by establishing these ordinances, local governments will be able to count on Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Areas, and invest economic resources to take care of water sources together with the farmers. In addition, he mentioned that the financial sustainability of this model is based on the environmental tax and on measures to regulate land use and occupation. Above all, he points out that when defining this regulation, incentives should be considered for the owners who reside in the upper parts of the basins, to guarantee the protection of water sources. 

Jipiro Waterfall

Within this cooperation process, Felipe Serrano, Nature and Culture’s Ecuador Country Director, commented that everyone, including aid workers, are moved by the sense of urgency, in his message he expressed his concern about the consequences and effects of climate change, “We do not know what is going to happen, the levels of deforestation in the country maintain the same trend, every year around 247,105.38 acres are deforested in Ecuador and the trend of forest reduction in Loja has been the same, that is, deforestation has not stopped.”   

Likewise, Serrano explained that areas of water importance, such as the micro-basins that supply drinking water and irrigation to the province of Loja, are in a constant process of transformation due to the change in land use.   

Within these global phenomena of climate change and with the transformation of forests, the so-called water buffers and before the announcement of the arrival of the El Niño Phenomenon, Serrano spoke of the uncertainty that the population is going through and raised the following question, “What will happen to the city and the flows of the rivers if we do not have buffer forests?  The only infrastructure that will defend us from these phenomena are the forests and grasslands of the headwaters.”   

Finally, he called for the joint search for mechanisms to protect the natural infrastructure of the forests that provide water and defend us from the onslaught of climate change, collaborations and coordination that must be sustained over time, he stressed. 

Conservation agreements in the ACMUS-Loja

Luís Gutiérrez, president of the Drinking Water Board, San Francisco Belén of the Malacatos parish, mentions that it is essential to protect the environment, in an articulated way with the boards of water administrators, to have drinking water in Lojan homes. “We are 900 users distributed in 11 neighborhoods and thanks to institutions such as FORAGUA, the Municipality of Loja, Nature and Culture International and Andes Amazon Fund, for these agreements that have motivated us to continue protecting and caring for water.” 

Incentives for water boards and private property owners

At the signing event of the conservation agreements for water and forests, Loja Mayor, Franco Quezada Montesinos stated, “We must protect water. We must conserve forests. And this must be done with management and in common agreements with those who take care of water.” The mayor focused on the need to improve institutional work through local, national and international cooperation, to establish comprehensive projects that serve citizens, and pointed out that this management must be carried out honestly and quickly. 

If everyone learned to protect water, we would achieve great changes. That is why mitigating the social and environmental crisis to a large extent is everyone’s task, of citizens in both sectors: urban and rural; landowners in micro-watersheds and communities living near water sources; drinking water boards; and public and private institutions; in addition to international cooperation that allows the consolidation of collective agreements. 

The Cazaderos Nature Reserve was declared a protected area within Ecuador’s National System of Protected Areas (SNAP), on November 9, 2022. This territory, which covers 12,108.16 acres, is located at the heart of one of the best preserved and largest remnants of tropical dry forest in Ecuador which, together with the Peruvian forests, constitute the most representative block of dry forest of flora and fauna of the Tumbesian region. 

The impressive flowering of the Guayacanes, an event that happens every year at the beginning of the winter season, the presence of animals such as the crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), puma (Puma concolor), howler monkey (Alouatta palliata), several species of migratory and endemic birds, as well as the colorful and diverse species of tumbesian flora, make it a priority for conservation. Currently in Cazaderos a model of sustainable management of the territory is being built, jointly with the population and local authorities that seeks to take advantage of the attractions of the Reserve and the surrounding areas. 

Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata)

This sustainable management model will identify areas that are threatened by land use change for agricultural activities, logging, and hunting. It is estimated that currently, only 5% of the original dry forest in Ecuador is in a good state of conservation. Catalina Quintana, a researcher at the Catholic University of Ecuador, in an interview for Mongabay magazine, explains the value of the reserve: “There is a genetic potential, a representation of plants unique to our country.” 

In addition, the Reserve is considered a natural laboratory to develop permanent research. The organization BirdLife Conservation (2009), due to the presence, abundance and endemism of birds, considers this territory as an area of global importance.  

This declaration strengthens and will increase collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition, MAATE, in order to follow up on the construction and implementation of the management plan of the Reserve. In addition, the Dry Forest of southern Ecuador is positioned on the national map of protected areas; With this, it is expected that public and private organizations will increase their support for the conservation of these ecosystems and the local communities that inhabit them.  

The management of the Cazaderos Reserve is in charge of the Nature and Culture Foundation Ecuador FUNACE, which seeks to promote a model of co-management of the area, together with the neighboring communities of the Reserve.  

Species monitoring in the Cazaderos Nature Reserve  

The crocodile is one of the emblematic animals of Cazaderos. Therefore, programs have been developed to strengthen research, training, and tourism around this species, one of the southernmost and continental populations of the country and at the same time very, little known. 

American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus)

The first studies carried out in this area reveal that there are approximately 97 individuals in the area of influence of the Reserve. “We have worked with local communities and guides to promote herpetological tourism (science that studies amphibians and reptiles). The program consisted of night outings to learn about crocodiles, amphibians and snakes in a non-invasive and friendly way,” explains Daniel Sanmartín, FANACE technician.   

A similar program is being carried out together with the Nature and Art Foundation/Washu Project to encourage research and conservation of the golden-mantled howler monkey (Alouatta palliata aequatorialis). The first preliminary study in the Reserve has identified 119 individuals.   

Sanmartín says that, as with crocodiles, through the training of local tour guides, the opportunity to develop sustainable tourism is encouraged in order to offer visitors the possibility of responsibly becoming familiar with the sites where this species is found.   


FUNACE is working together with the Parish Government of Cazaderos, the organized Veconas communities and institutions and people interested in supporting in order to improve capacities and build infrastructure that allow promoting this area as a sustainable tourism offer. Ángela Piedad Rueda, president of the organization Guardians of the Border, believes that this new declaration will help promote all the attributes of this area. 

Restoration improves the structure and functionality of forests for local communities

We often hear about the devastating effects of deforestation and degradation in rainforests and ask ourselves, what can be done to stop this? Indigenous communities in the Pastaza province of Ecuador refuse to stand idly by. With the help of Nature and Culture International, they have taken on a forest restoration project to renew their ancestral degraded lands and reinvigorate the local ecosystem.

Nature and Culture, through the “Actions for the Amazon” project, is taking action to prevent and reverse deforestation in the Ecuadorian Amazon. This project will also guarantee the rights and sustainable livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples and local communities through the implementation of the ancestral practice of traditional Chakra gardens.

The project began in September 2022, with the goal of restoring 235 acres of degraded land.

Due to the rate of deforestation and the need for intervention in the area, the Shuar Kawa Indigenous community was first selected from a list of priority areas by Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment. Additionally, Nature and Culture seeks to incorporate the Shuar Kawa restoration goals into Pastaza’s REDD+ Plan for the implementation of measures and actions to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (PdIPPz REDD+). The REDD+ Plans are part of a framework of the United Nations Development Project and provide long-term climate funding to support Indigenous and local communities’ conservation efforts.

People from the Shuar Kawa community actively participated in the project

The Shuar Kawa community was consulted and actively involved in the decision-making process.

With their consent, the Nature and Culture team has focused on educating local communities on the benefits of forest restoration and provided training around reforestation tactics. This way, the local communities will be able to continue the project for years to come. Initially, the team constructed a temporary nursery for the propagation of 63 native species. The seedlings will be established in local watersheds, helping to maintain groundwater and access to clean water in dryer seasons.

Seedlings from the nursery will also be used in “Chakras”, or multi-species traditional Indigenous gardens.

Traditionally, the women of the community took care of the Chakra gardens, and their position as conservationists is more important than ever within the project. Men and women have worked together to reforest the gardens using specific trees and plants that provide food security and an additional source of income.

Women are traditionally in charge of caring for the Chakras

“We did not come just to restore. By sharing and talking with the people of the communities, we have learned a lot, complementing the technical aspect with their culture and traditions”

– Amparo Lima, Restoration Specialist, Nature and Culture

Restoration is important because it allows us to recuperate the structure and functionality of forests, which improves the quality and quantity of water collected for community consumption.

So far, the team has already restored 190 acres of land.

The communities’ enthusiasm and participation have been crucial in achieving this goal.

This level of community involvement and collaboration should serve as a model for other conservation projects in Ecuador and beyond. By working together, communities and organizations can reforest portions of the Amazon Rainforest and protect the planet. This project serves as an example of what is possible when we work together to restore our natural world.

For World Rainforest Day, will you join our community of monthly donors who have pledged to protect South America’s rainforests year-round?

Over the course of a year, you’ll care for 12 acres – the size of 6 professional soccer fields!

Your gift… 

  • Defends wild places from deforestation, mining, and other unsustainable activities  
  • Connects irreplaceable habitat for threatened plants and animals  
  • Supports Indigenous and local communities in mapping, monitoring, and managing forests for the long-term 
  • Preserves the services these ecosystems provide to us all, including clean water and a stable climate 

Not all rainforests are alike

Rainforests are ecosystems that experience a large amount of annual rainfall. They support an incredible number of plants, animals, and other life forms. Although they occur in different parts of the planet, tropical rainforests are found on and around the equator where sunlight is consistent throughout the year.

Nature and Culture International has projects and protected areas in rainforest ecosystems in many types of rainforest in South America. Our work occurs in the lowland Amazon rainforest, cloud forests in the Andes, and the Chocó forest of coastal Colombia and northern Ecuador. 

Andean Cloud Forest: Highland rainforest 

The extraordinary cloud forests of the Andes are a type of mid-altitude tropical rainforest. When humid air, transpired from the billions of trees in the lowland Amazon, moves west and up the mountain slopes of the Andes, some of it condenses and falls as rain. Some remain in the form of low clouds and mist, which condenses directly onto the foliage of cloud forest trees.

Cloud forests extend from about 3,000 feet in elevation up to about 8,000 feet, so temperatures tend to be cooler than in lowland rainforests. The terrain is often on steep slopes, with more open canopy, leading to more vegetation on the forest floor.

These higher-elevation forests are characterized by waterfalls and quick-moving, shallow rivers.

Cloud forest trees are often covered in plants called epiphytes, which capture much of the moisture found in cloud forests. Clouds and mist condense on the epiphytes’ leaves and pool at the bases of epiphytes (providing habitat for insects and some types of frogs). Trees here are generally shorter than in lowland rainforest, hence the cloud forest tree canopy is lower.

Nature and Culture is currently working with local communities and authorities in our North Andes Mosaic to protect highland forest in Peru which is essential for providing water resources to over two million people who live in the region.

Amazon: Tropical rainforest east of the Andes

The Amazon rainforest is the largest tropical forest on Earth, with the highest density of plant and animal species anywhere.

This region provides essential ecological services, stabilizing the world’s rainfall patterns and storing massive amounts of carbon that mitigate climate change.

This lowland rainforest is east of the Andes mountain range and spans eight South American countries. The Amazon is impressively large, more than double the size of the next two largest rainforests combined. It is also well known for its mighty Amazon River which is made up of 1,100 tributaries, including the Marañón River which is considered the source of the Amazon in Peru. 

The province of Loreto, Peru, is facing the second-highest rate of deforestation in Peru. Nature and Culture is currently partnering with Indigenous communities and local authorities through sustainable livelihood projects in our Nanay-Tigre Mosaic.

Chóco: Coastal rainforest west of the Andes

On a strip of forest in western Colombia and Northwestern Ecuador, between the Pacific Ocean and the Andean mountain range is the Chocó forest.

It is a dense and diverse tropical rainforest that blends with adjoining mangrove forests, rocky cliffs, and coastal plains.

It is one of the world’s wettest rainforests and one of the most biologically rich areas in the world. Many species here cannot be found anywhere else on Earth, such as the golden poison frog (one of the three most poisonous vertebrates in the world).

Between two to three percent of this ecosystem is left, making it one of the most threatened and lesser-known forests in the world. With Nature and Culture International’s support, the Bajo Baudó protected area was established in 2018. This is the largest regional protected area ever created in Colombia. We are currently working in our Southern Chocó Mosaic to declare two new protected areas and establish sustainable management plans.

Why we protect rainforests

Although rainforests only cover 6 percent of our planet, an estimated 80 percent of terrestrial animals, plants, and fungi species worldwide live within them. Many species have not yet even been described by science. Rainforests contain a huge amount of biodiversity, which has major implications for our health, including improving mental well-being, preventing zoonotic diseases (diseases transmitted from animals to humans – e.g. West Nile virus, Lyme Disease, and some types of coronaviruses, among many others) from entering human populations, and providing fresh water, clean air, and vital medicines. Indigenous peoples have lived in and sustainably managed tropical rainforests for centuries, if not millennia. Many Indigenous communities are reliant upon the natural resources that the rainforest provides, particularly clean water.

Shuar children

By destroying rainforests, humans are exacerbating the climate crisis by releasing additional CO2 into the atmosphere. All rainforests have a huge volume of carbon stored in the vast amount of vegetation they house. There is so much carbon stored in these ecosystems that, if released, it would not be able to be restored by the 2050 global goal of reaching net-zero emissions; this is known as “Irrecoverable Carbon”.

For World Rainforest Day

and every day, it is important to support rainforest conservation and raise awareness of the threats they face.

We know we can do better for Earth. You can help by spreading awareness and supporting Nature and Culture’s nature-based solutions by pledging your $10 monthly gift today.

Indigenous women have long been the backbone of their communities, preserving their traditions, culture, and knowledge for generations. However, Indigenous communities across the world are facing unprecedented challenges due to climate change. As the world comes together to address the climate crisis, it is essential that Indigenous female leaders are included in the international climate conversation to ensure that their voices and perspectives are heard. That is why, in the last year, Nature and Culture has supported two of our Indigenous partners in attending United Nations conferences

We are committed to amplifying the voices of Indigenous leaders by ensuring their inclusion in the global climate conversation.

In the past year, Nature and Culture sent two Indigenous female leaders, Lolita Piyaguaje of the Siekopai Nationality and Vice President of CONFENIAE and Josefina Tunki of the Shuar Arutam Nationality, to United Nations conferences. In November 2022, Piyaguaje traveled with Nature and Culture CEO, Matt Clark, to Egypt for the United Nations Climate Conference (COP27) For Piyaguaje, it was “an honor to be in this space giving voice in defense of our territories and the human rights of the people who live in the Ecuadorian Amazon.” Clark and Piyaguaje attended the conference, speaking together on a panel about Indigenous leadership preventing deforestation within the Amazonian province of Pastaza.

Lolita Piyaguaje of the Siekopai nationality and Vice President of CONFENIAE with Nature and Culture CEO, Matt Clark at COP27

Josefina Tunki, who just completed her four-year term as the President of the Shuar Arutam Nationality, traveled to the United Nations Water Conference in New York in March 2023 where she and Clark presented on water resources in the Amazon. She is from one of four Indigenous nationalities Nature and Culture worked with to create the 3-million-acre protected area, Tarímiat Pujutaí Nunka. She is fighting to keep her ancestral territory free of mining activities that have devastated her community.

Josefina Tunki standing in front of mining excavators in the Amazon, Photo courtesy of Nora Sanchez

Historically, Indigenous peoples have not been included in these critical conversations even though Indigenous territories hold 80% of the world’s biodiversity and Indigenous communities preserve their forests at twice the rate of other protected areas. Nature and Culture is working to change this paradigm and ensure that the voices of the world’s greatest conservationists are heard on the global level.

Indigenous women are often the primary caretakers of their families and communities, and they depend on the environment for their livelihoods.

Climate change has a direct impact on their way of life, as it can lead to food and water scarcity, displacement, and loss of traditional knowledge. For Tunki and the people of the Shuar Arutam, “The forest is our mother, it sustains us.” In the province of Pastaza in Ecuador, “the forest was our supermarket, but now the fish are contaminated, there’s no more medicine, and we can’t eat.” According to Piyaguaje, “We want to live without pollution, without destruction, and, above all, to live healthily with our rights, our identity, our culture, our language.” Sending Indigenous female leaders to international climate conferences ensures that their experiences and concerns are taken into account when developing policies and solutions.

Lolita Piyaguaje shares, “We want to live without pollution, without destruction, and, above all, to live healthily with our rights, our identity, our culture, our language.”

Indigenous women have a deep understanding of their local environments and the impact of climate change on their communities. They have unique perspectives and solutions that can contribute to the development of effective climate policies. In Piyaguaje’s words, “proposals and projects need to be co-designed with the communities and with our needs in mind. If these policies come from the top, they won’t work.” By including Indigenous female leaders in international climate conferences, policymakers can gain valuable insights that can inform their decision-making.

Clean water is one of the most important resources in the rainforest and extractive activities are the primary threat.

Tunki has long fought for clean water protection for the 47 communities of the Shuar Arutam Nationality. “Ancestrally, we have always known the value of the rivers and freshwater. Historically, our rivers were never contaminated. An uncontaminated environment gives you a healthy life and helps you live with joy, without epidemics. We’re now fighting to sustain the fresh water of the Amazon and looking for the best strategies for protection. We invite the whole world to reflect on the fact that it is us, the humans, that are contaminating the planet. Not the animals, not the birds, not the fish, since they respect nature. It’s the humans.”

Both women agree that the biggest threats to their ancestral lands are petroleum extraction and mining. Extractive activities pollute the rivers and lead to deforestation. They both attest that petroleum and mining companies are not doing enough to mitigate environmental impacts and that the Ecuadorian and other governments are responsible for enforcing mitigation.

For both Piyaguaje and Tunki, being a woman is key to their leadership.

“I feel proud to have worthily served as a woman in my organization, demonstrating that women are also capable of representing an organization on the municipal, provincial, national, and international levels,” says Josefina. Intersectionality and inclusion are key to the future, says Lolita. “It’s important that women participate in these processes, we have to work very hard towards intersectionality. Women should not just be sitting at the meetings, but they should be making decisions.”

“I feel proud to have worthily served as a woman in my organization, demonstrating that women are also capable of representing an organization on the municipal, provincial, national, and international levels,” says Josefina.

On April 22th we commemorate Earth Day, an opportunity to recognize our role in caring for the planet and all the forms of life that inhabit it.

For our Peru Country Director, Guillermo Maraví, it is necessary to create immediate actions to stop the accelerated loss of biodiversity and generate effective actions collaboratively to address climate change.

In this sense, he emphasizes that Nature and Culture International, in addition to promoting the establishment of conservation areas connected to other conservation initiatives, also engages in their management and handling, with the aim of making them sustainable over time. For Guillermo, this work, which is only possible because we do it in collaboration with local, peasant and indigenous communities, must prevail, because it is there where the accumulated knowledge for years about caring for the land has many of the solutions to the world’s climate and biodiversity crisis.

In addition, in Peru, we help endangered and endemic species have a safe place to feed and move. We protect the habitat of animals such as the spatuletail hummingbird in Amazonas, known for being one of the most beautiful hummingbirds in the world, or the emblematic spectacled bear that we have registered in Piura, Cajamarca, Amazonas, and Huánuco.

Marvelous spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis), an endangered species of hummingbird endemic to northern Peru.

Peru is home to thousands of species whose habitats we must protect and rehabilitate! Our actions matter. Let’s be responsible! We have only one planet to live on, with hundreds of plants and animals that, like us, depend on the good condition of ecosystems, pure air, fresh water, and so many other services provided by Mother Earth.

There are a number of ways our team works to conserve biodiverse hotspots throughout Latin America. We employ many different strategies to protect wild places, from municipal and local level government protection to national level protection, to land purchase when necessary. No matter the method, we always consider the local communities who live in these areas along with long-term ecosystem health.

Supporting local communities is key to long-term conservation

In 25+ years, Nature and Culture has never seen a protected area reversed and we believe that is because of our commitment to serving local communities. The relationships we have built with the people who live in the areas we work to protect are key to our success. Our co-management model is what sets us apart. Providing access to legal tools to establish a protected area, technical training for skills such as monitoring a protected area for threats, or investing in a new means of sustainably generating income from local resources are just a few of the ways we support the WHOLE ecosystem.

Our protected areas are living, breathing, dynamic spaces that require fostering relationships and understanding local needs. Indigenous Peoples and local communities are often the initial advocates for the protected areas we support. We simply provide them with the tools they need to safeguard their natural resources like clean water and fresh air. This approach in turn supports the health of the tiniest of species and the health of the entire planet.

Peru’s Ministry of Environment recognizes Nature and Culture and local communities

Last month Nature and Culture Project Managers, Lleydy Alvarado and Elvis Allauja attended the National Service of Protected Natural Areas (SERNANP) annual meeting. SERNANP, an agency of Peru’s National Ministry of Environment, presented the official declaration of two new Private Conservation Areas (ACP) Yasgolca-Santa Lucia, Montevideo in Amazonas, and Utco in Cajamarca. Both areas were declared in February of this year, and together they protect more than 19,000 acres of the dry forests of Marañón, Yungas, and montane forests.

SERNANP meeting in Peru where the team was recognized for their work with Utco and Montevideo Private Conservation Areas.

Our team in Peru was recognized along with the presidents of each of these two new Private Conservation Areas, with whom Nature and Culture’s technical team collaborated to create the new areas. In response to our team’s dedication to supporting the local effort, SERNANP recognized Nature and Culture for its important contribution to the declaration of both areas and for being an ally in the departments of Piura, Cajamarca, Amazonas, Huánuco, Loreto and Ucayali.

Alan Sánchez, Nature and Culture’s Environmental Legal Coordinator accepted the recognition award on behalf of the team.

Two new protected areas cover more than 19,000 acres

The Yasgolca-Santa Lucia Private Conservation Area, Montevideo protects 11,677.43 acres and is an important water source for communities in the Amazonas region of Northern Peru. Establishing this protected area was crucial for the local community because it plays a fundamental role in water regulation. This ecosystem is also a significant carbon capture and connects to other nearby protected areas. According to Lleydy Alvarado, both newly declared areas connect with other conservation areas, which creates a larger wildlife habitat. It’s not enough to simply establish areas, says Lleydy, they need to be connected so the team’s environmental services are more effective.

The Yasgolca-Santa Lucia Private Conservation Area, Montevideo protects 11,677.43 acres and is an important water source for communities in Amazonas.

The Utco Private Conservation Area protects 7,562.31 acres of dry forest. This unique ecosystem is known for being an epicenter of biodiversity. It is home to a large number of endemic birds, reptiles, amphibians, and plants. Together these two new areas protect over 19,000 acres and are critical to local inhabitants’ well-being.

View from within the Utco Private Conservation Area that protects 7,562 acres of dry forest. Photo courtesy of Elvis Allauja

Congratulations to our team in Peru and the communities of Utco and Montevideo for their determination to conserve their ecosystems.

The 6th Assessment Synthesis Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that despite progress in climate mitigation efforts, the current pace of action is insufficient to keep global temperatures below the threshold of 1.5°C. That is the threshold beyond which scientists say climate impacts increase significantly and damage becomes rapidly irreversible. Below is a summary of the report’s findings.

Action needs to happen now, this is the decisive decade

To ensure temperatures do not exceed the threshold of 1.5°C, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will need to peak within this decade, decline by 43% by 2030, and 60% by 2035. Adverse climate impacts are already far more extreme than initial reports anticipated. The current global surface temperature has already warmed 1.1°C above preindustrial levels. With this alone, there has been an increase in biodiversity loss, drought, extreme heat, and flooding, among other impacts. Despite a decrease in the cost of green energy, improved technologies, and national commitments to reduce GHG emissions. These measures have continued to increase and will fall short. Unsustainable energy use, land use, lifestyles and patterns of consumption and production all contribute to the GHG emissions. A rapid scaling of policy and increased funding to climate is needed to achieve climate stabilization.

Even small increases in overall temperature matter

The report defines the risks, adverse impacts, and related losses and damages from climate change at varying degrees of temperature rises. At each tier, the loss of biodiversity increases, access to clean water and food decreases, and sea levels rise. There is no question that any positive changes to keep global warming in check will help to avoid further loss of life and encourage ecosystem health. At a certain point, it is no longer reversible. As certain losses and damage occur, reversal and adaptation options are far less feasible, if even effective at all. It is important to take every action possible at this very moment. Hope lies in the prevention of further tipping the warming scales.

A member of the Shuar Indigenous nationality in the province of Morona Santiago, Ecuador.

Biggest impacts threaten those who have historically contributed the least to climate change

According to the IPCC, nearly half of the global population lives in areas where their lives or livelihoods are under threat of climate change. It is said that between 3.3 billion and 3.6 billion people live in countries that are highly vulnerable to climate impacts, including those within Central and South America where Nature and Culture operates. In addition, many of these areas face extreme poverty, governance challenges, and limited access to financial resources or technical support. In this 6th Assessment Report, the IPCC also notes that climate adaptation challenges are often “exacerbated by inequity and marginalization linked to gender, ethnicity, low income or combinations thereof, especially for many Indigenous Peoples and local communities.”

Data on the global inequalities of CO2 emissions reveals that higher-earning countries as well as higher-earning individuals produce more of the world’s GHGs and yet it is those who are producing the least who are most heavily impacted. The highest income-earning households contribute around 45% of the world’s consumption-based CO2 emissions, while the bottom 50% account for only around 15%.

The threats of climate change weigh more heavily on regions that are not historically responsible for the production of GHGs; however, the world is looking to many of these areas for quick adaptation efforts or asking for limitation on development that could provide an immediate higher standard of living. That is why it is important to allow these most vulnerable groups or regions inclusive governance, and transparent and participatory decision-making for mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Tropical forests provide ecosystem services such as food security and clean water and air.

What is Nature and Culture’s role?

Protecting Earth’s remaining oceans, plants, animals, and soils is the most cost-effective climate adaptation option. The most potential exists in preventing deforestation in tropical regions. For Nature and Culture that means maintaining tropical forests in the Amazon and Andes. Long-term management of our protected areas supports biodiversity resilience in the region and supports ecosystem services at a global scale, including the sequestration of billions of tons of carbon. Beyond the protection and management of these threatened forests, reforestation and agroforestry (or sustainably cultivating native crops) also contribute to climate mitigation. All these efforts can positively affect local communities if they are done in coordination with the people who live in these areas. Reforestation can improve air quality, access to clean water and food, and agroforestry techniques include economic benefits that have potential to reduce poverty and improve local livelihoods.

The Amazon Rainforest stores billions of tons of carbon and provides ecosystem services to the entire planet. Protection and long-term management of these tropical forests benefits all life on the planet.

Many climate adaptation solutions already exist and positively impact global well-being

According to the report, there are feasible, effective, low-cost, low-trade-off options already available, and many include wider societal benefits. A major conclusion of the synthesis is the need to prioritize equity, climate justice, social justice, and inclusion in the near-term actions to mitigate climate change.

Focusing on societal enhancements like education, hunger, poverty, gender, and energy access can support regions and people with the highest climate change vulnerabilities. It not only supports overall societal well-being, but it can also scaffold climate adaptation development programs. Recognition of the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples is also crucial to successful adaptation across forests and other ecosystems, according to the report. This has always been a cornerstone of Nature and Culture’s work, prioritizing the needs of the local communities we work with.

Looking to communities, governments and businesses for leadership

Cooperative climate mitigation is essential. This means including climate adaptation practices that are informed by Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Truly effective climate action will involve coordination among many stakeholders. A prime example of this in action is in our work on the Amazonian Platform, This is a agreement between 7 Indigenous nationalities and local governments to manage 11 million acres of the Amazon rainforest. Nature and Culture supports projects that require buy-in from varying levels of government and marketplaces and include frameworks that hear a multitude of voices, including Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

At the Shuar El Kiim Center, the first Indigenous-managed, nationally recognized conservation area is celebrated by members of the Shuar community with Nature and Culture technician, Trotsky Riera.

The climate adaptation measures we implement are done in close collaboration with Indigenous Peoples and local communities and in partnership with local government. These types of projects put people at the heart of the outcome and provide access to finance and technology that would otherwise be unavailable. They often also provide other economic benefits, such as food and water security and improve the overall health of the human populations while safeguarding biodiversity and promoting carbon sequestration.

Please join us in safeguarding our climate future by making a donation today!

Peruvians are a resilient, united, strong, and proudly biodiverse country. We have shown that together we are capable of making small actions to generate big changes. On International Forest Day we want to recognize the efforts of Peruvians who joined the “Plant a tree and sow life” campaign.

A few months ago, we involved the general public in Peru in the “Plant a tree and sow life” campaign with the aim of giving back to the forest of the peasant communities of Llamapampa La Jalca and San Pedro de Chuquibamba in Amazonas and thereby recovering ecosystem services such as climate control, water regulation, and flood control.

This campaign was born as part of an agreement between the Amazon Voluntary Conservation Network – AMA, which brings together voluntary conservation initiatives, and Nature and Culture International, which works in the Private Conservation Areas of both communities.

#Residents of the communities of Llamapampa La Jalca and San Pedro de Chuquibamba in Amazonas who took part in the campaign

During the campaign, the main protagonists were the residents of the communities, who took care of the native plants in the community, until they had the resources to move them to the forest and plant them in degraded areas. Now, these trees are monitored and receive the necessary care to develop.

#Napoleón Vega Escobedo took part in the campaign

We spoke with Napoleón Vega Escobedo, president of the Palmira Forestry-Agricultural Association, in the Leymebamba district, and he describes the campaign as an opportunity to strengthen the propagation of native and medicinal species, the latter with added value for marketing.

Thanks to the “Plant a tree and sow life” campaign, dozens of Peruvians did their bit to maintain the good condition of the forest, improve the climatic conditions for humanity and the hundreds of animals that live in both ACPs, because there they find necessary food and ideal setting to reproduce.

“La abuela”, a female jaguar that had not been seen for almost 10 years, made a hopeful appearance on the outskirts of Ejido of Munihuaza, in Sonora, Mexico. 

The inhabitants of Ejido of Munihuaza had not seen jaguars on their land for a long time. The increase of livestock and open-range grazing in the area had significantly reduced jaguar habitat due to continuous conflict between the animal and ranchers who take action out of fear that the cat would hunt their livestock. 

“There is a lack of community awareness,” says Gilberto Díaz, a Nature and Culture technician in Mexico, “there is a lack of knowledge about the importance of caring for the jaguar’s habitat since its survival is closely tied to the integrity of the ecosystem,” he points out. 

Ejido de Munihuaza is in the protected area of Sierra de Álamos-Río Cuchujaqui, in northwest Mexico. There, the thorny scrub, pine and oak forests, and riparian vegetation intermingle, creating an excellent biodiversity corridor that is home to hundreds of species of flora and fauna, among them the jaguar and other felines such as the puma, and the ocelot.

Thus, in an effort to protect the northernmost corridor of jaguar habitat, Nature and Culture joined the “Borderlands Linkages Initiative”, a project led by the Wildlands Network involving eight organizations from Mexico and the United States. This initiative includes monitoring the activities of the jaguar as well as assessing the restoration needs in the Sonora region. 

Nature and Culture chose to monitor the cat in Ejido de Munihuaza because it is adjacent to the Monte Mojino Reserve, a private reserve of the organization, and because it provided an opportunity to collaborate with locals on community projects with an environmental focus. “For us, it was essential that community members of Ejido participate in the activities,” says Gilberto. This is how he, Anselmo Palomares, Alejo Palomares, and José Bojórquez formed the monitoring team and worked together from August 2021 to April 2022 in the training, installation, and maintenance of camera traps to make the mythical jaguar visible.

Alejandro’s family got very involved in the project

In total, they installed 22 camera traps that covered 90% of Ejido. For the location of the monitoring stations, the team surveyed the area, cleaned it, and placed each camera strategically to avoid “junk images”, that is, photos activated by the wind, leaves, etc. Díaz highlights that, although it was the first time that José, Anselmo, and Alejo carried out wildlife monitoring, they took to the task quickly. “They were coming up with ways to make sure the camera traps worked, like walking like a jaguar,” he says. 

One of the park rangers mimics a Jaguar to activate the camera trap.

The installation work was arduous, not only because of the irregular topography of the region that goes from sea level to almost 4,000 feet above sea level but also because of the summer season. “We worked from 5 in the morning to noon and from 3 in the afternoon to 6 in the afternoon, avoiding the hottest hours,” says Díaz. They also helped themselves with mules to be able to travel long distances and reach the objectives of the day. Gilberto warmly remembers that the families of the community made him feel at home, offering him lodging and food when the days did not allow him to return home. 

Now all that was left to do was wait. The park rangers had to periodically monitor each of the monitoring stations, review the photographic record of the cameras, download the data, and delete it before reinstalling the cameras. Each of the rangers received economic compensation for this activity contributing to improving their home life. “The support is noticeable at the table,” said one of them, “this support allows us to buy gas,” added another. 

Months passed and the jaguar did not appear in the image. They saw, among other species, deer, pumas, squirrels, and many cows, but the characteristic black spots of the feline did not appear on the recordings. Every day of monitoring, the team looked for the jaguar enthusiastically, but as the project’s closing approached, it still had not appeared. It was not until the last shift that they saw her, in one of the cameras located in the best-preserved area of Ejido. 

Recording of the jaguar in one of the camera traps

With the recordings, the Northern Jaguar Reserve confirmed that it was not only a jaguar but that it was the second oldest female recorded in the region, an individual that had not been seen in the area since 2013. “Seeing a jaguar is very important since it is an indicator of a healthy ecosystem. But seeing a female jaguar brings hope since it means that reproduction is possible”, explains Gilberto. The people of Ejido were filled with emotion upon hearing the news and collectively agreed to name her “la abuela” or grandmother, as a symbol of wisdom and hope for the community. 

Thanks to the monitoring of the species, the community of Ejido de Munihuaza understood the importance of protecting the habitat of species such as the jaguar. But the effort must continue, as Díaz mentions, “It is essential to strengthen monitoring strategies and disseminate information so that the people of the communities take ownership and take care of what is theirs”, because “conservation is not only about protecting habitat, it is also the social environment”, he concludes. 

The Andwa nationality of the Ecuadorian Amazon released the Andwa Language Dictionary, Kupukwano in partnership with Nature and Culture International

The release of this stunning publication took place Thursday, February 16, 2023, during an event at Amazon State University, in the province of Pastaza.

Representatives, leaders, and young people of the Andwa Nationality attended. Nature and Culture Director of Ecuador, Felipe Serrano, moderated a conversation with panelists on the importance of strengthening ancestral languages.

“Nature cannot be separated from culture, even more in the Amazon, where the jungle depends on the people and the people depend on the jungle.”

Felipe Serrano, Director of Nature and Culture Ecuador

Language plays an important role in identity and culture, and many Indigenous languages are disappearing. In the Ecuadorian Amazon, 11 of the existing Indigenous languages are threatened with extinction. Once lost, traditional practices and ancestral knowledge begin to disappear as well. 

In a speech emphasizing his love for his Katsakati-Andwa language, Daniel Dagua, President of the Andwa Nationality, officially introduced Kupukwano, the Andwa Language Dictionary.

“We are young people who have started to rescue our language which is in danger of extinction.” 

Daniel Dagua, President of the Andwa Nationality

Your gift makes so much possible for Nature and Culture. From the conservation of critical ecosystems to the monitoring of endangered species to supporting sustainable livelihoods for Indigenous communities, we could not do this without you.

From the whole team, we thank you for supporting this important work. 

If you haven’t yet, please consider making a gift today to fight climate change and save wild places. Every dollar donated now through the end of the year will be matched up to $150,000.

Nature and Culture attends COP27, the U.N. climate conference held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, November 6 – 18, 2022.

The opportunity for Nature and Culture to attend COP, participate in the climate conversation and amplify Indigenous voices in climate action is a significant milestone for the organization.

Nature and Culture’s President & CEO, Matt Clark and Lolita Piyahuaje, Vice President of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon’s (CONFENIAE) attended the conference, speaking together on a panel about Indigenous leadership within Pastaza Province’s jurisdictional REDD+ program. This program is the first of its kind in Ecuador, bringing together 7 Indigenous nationalities, the local provincial government, CONFENIAE, and Nature and Culture International to implement activities to reduce deforestation.

Nature and Culture President & CEO, Matt Clark and (CONFENIAE) Vice President, Lolita Piyahuaje at COP 27 with co-presenters, Marioldy Sanchez, Forest Alliance Manager, and Diana Mori, Shipibo-Conibo Indigenous Leader.

The project provides a new set of insights into the processes and structures that allow for meaningful Indigenous participation, equitable benefit sharing, and free and prior consent, all major themes of this year’s conference.

Watch the full presentation below.

COP27 Presentation: Indigenous Leadership in Amazonian REDD+ Program

COP27 Major Themes Related to our work

Providing carbon funding directly to Indigenous Peoples

The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said earlier this year that Indigenous Peoples are “critical” to addressing climate change. Their report cited the fundamental importance of recognizing their land tenure, knowledge systems, and management of forests.

Reducing tropical deforestation can contribute as much as 20 percent of the solution to reach the U.N. Paris Accord target of halting the average global temperature to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Indigenous Peoples live on about 60 percent of the world’s tropical forests. And they are not receiving fair compensation for the sustainable management of these forests. Of the 1.7 billion that was pledged at COP26 to support Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ forest tenure, only about 7 percent, of the 19 percent already delivered, has gone directly to Indigenous-led organizations.

Although a theme from years prior, the slow pace of carbon funding reaching Indigenous nationalities received particular attention at this year’s climate meeting. Lolita addressed the issue in her remarks as did numerous Indigenous speakers on other panels and workshops. Among potential solutions, they highlighted the need for two-way knowledge exchange between Indigenous and non-Indigenous actors and a joint commitment to create funding and administrative structures consistent with Indigenous forms of governance. They also stressed the importance of building the technical, administrative and financial capacity of all actors in order to facilitate direct funding to Indigenous Peoples.

On the complex nature of providing timely carbon funding directly to Indigenous Peoples Matt Clark explains, “On one hand, there’s this urgency to combat climate change. We’re rapidly blasting past the Paris Climate Accord. That goal will soon be unattainable if we don’t take drastic actions now. There’s also clearly an urgency that Indigenous Peoples feel to be compensated for conserving their forests. They’re tired of waiting. On the other hand, it’s critical to take the time to build trust and mutual understanding. Carbon markets are technically, socially, and politically COMPLICATED and the free, prior, and informed consent that Indigenous Peoples demand and deserve cannot be completed quickly.”

Pastaza: a case study for Indigenous Inclusion in climate mitigation.

Nature and Culture has long-established relationships with Indigenous communities that are crucial to ensuring transparency and mutual benefit. Though a work in progress, the multi-stakeholder REDD+ Pastaza project is a good example of this.

The partnership Nature and Culture established with the provincial government of Pastaza, 7 Indigenous nationalities, and the Indigenous Confederation, CONFENIAE has led to a shared framework where all parties have endorsed guiding principles that recognize Indigenous rights.

The collaborative framework also utilizes a trust fund that accepts and channels funds to Indigenous and non-Indigenous actors alike with control and oversight from a board of directors that includes representatives of the 7 Indigenous nationalities, the Indigenous confederation, and the provincial and other local governments.

These funds are used to implement four actionable activities: restoration, conservation, sustainable livelihoods, and improvements to governance mechanisms. Throughout this process, local Indigenous communities are consulted and their Planes de Vida, or community development and territorial zoning plans according to an Indigenous worldview are incorporated into the project design.

These Planes de Vida are overseen by Indigenous representatives who understand the Indigenous worldview and can encourage further community participation.

It is important to empower women and youth. Revenues from this project may also support gender equality training, as well as improve healthcare, housing, education, better living conditions, and clean water.

Chakras, or multi-species traditional gardens, are another way funds are used which provide food security and a means for additional income. Medicinal, and/or culturally important crops can be harvested and brought to market. Furthermore, there is an interest in developing a bigger market for forest products. Products would use a ‘green seal’ that signals they are sustainably sourced from the tropical rainforests.

To have a real climate impact, Indigenous Peoples must be consulted, considered, and invited to participate as equal partners. This project in Pastaza is beginning to show that not only is that possible, but it also has direct and lasting conservation impacts.

Nearly 30 years after the passing of two prominent conservation scientists, the Santa Elena Provincial Protected Area has been declared.

On August 31st, 2022, the Provincial System of Protected Areas of Santa Elena was approved. This area protects 277,870 acres of both dry and humid forest and one of the last remnants of coastal forest in Ecuador. It also provides water regulation services for the entire province of Santa Elena. In addition to protecting 97.5% of Santa Elena’s water sources, the area stores 17 million tons of carbon and contributes to the mitigation of global climate change.

Ted Parker was the first to realize the importance of using audio acoustics to identify birds in neotropical forests. Image courtesy of The Field Museum.

Nature and Culture would like to celebrate this achievement in remembrance of ornithologist Ted Parker and botanist Al Gentry who reported deforestation in the area since the 1990s.

Ted Parker and Al Gentry were killed in a plane crash surveying these very forests. In fact, they were on a Rapid Assessment Program when they crashed. Their work in conservation, with members of MacArthur Foundation and Conservation International, inspired the development of the Rapid Assessments Program in 1989 which has led to the creation of many protected areas.

This new assessment model was an important milestone for helping to prioritize ecosystems for conservation.

The evaluation examines areas based on several factors including, uniqueness, total biodiversity, degree of endemism, and degree of risk. The Santa Elena Protected area is a prime example of a high priority landscape with positive conservation potential.

The Santa Elena Provincial Protected Area has one of the highest numbers of endemic bird species in the world.

56 unique species of birds have been recorded here. Parker was considered one of the world’s top ornithologists. He was among the first to realize the importance of using acoustics and behavior to identify birds in neotropical forests. In his lifetime, he contributed over 10,000 recordings to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds.

Al Gentry, a field botanist, published close to 200 scientific papers and collected nearly 80,000 plant specimens. He prioritized South America and collected data in several of the areas Nature and Culture still works to this day, including Nangaritza in Ecuador and Allpahuayo in Peru.

One of his studies focuses on plants of Northwest South America. In it, he describes woody plants in a new way, using vegetative characteristics (such as leaves, bark and odor) for identification, rather than relying only on fruits or flowers.

Within the country of Ecuador, the coastal region currently has the fewest terrestrial protected areas and increasingly fragmented coastal forest which leads to loss of biodiversity.

Al Gentry
Al Gentry. Image courtesy of The Field Museum.

The Santa Elena Provincial Protected Area is home to one of the last remnants of coastal forest in Ecuador.

Furthermore, it will establish connectivity with nearby national parks and other legally protected areas in the region.

The Santa Elena Provincial Protected Area is an incredibly unique and important landscape for conservation. Field scientists Parker and Gentry did not get to see this land protected; however, the Provincial Government of Santa Elena and the Sustainable Landscapes Foundation, with support from Nature and Culture and Andes Amazon Fund, will uphold the long-term control and monitoring, research and restoration to conserve this area for years to come.

Sustainable Harvesting of Amazonian Super Fruits in Peru

Açaí, camu camu, and aguaje are just a few of what are called “super fruits” found in the Peruvian Amazon. For centuries, aguaje has been consumed locally for its powerful health benefits, but now our “Super Fruits that Conserve Forests” project supports sales outside of the region. This project will support local conservation efforts as well as provide an improved livelihood for local and Indigenous communities.


Nature and Culture is working to develop a connectivity corridor that spans 5 million acres, protecting key ecosystems and diverse habitats.

We are working with community partners and government officials to develop the first “bi-national” corridor in South America. The proposed Andean Corridor will connect mountain habitats in southern Ecuador and northern Peru, creating an intact biological corridor that crosses international borders. The end result will unite three of our existing landscape mosaics. With this corridor, wide-ranging species that traverse the area will have unencumbered mobility in their natural habitat.

Nature and Culture Spotlights Connectivity

The Andean Corridor was initially set in motion fifteen years ago with the establishment of our Sangay Podocarpus mosaic, Ecuador’s first connectivity corridor. The impetus for this mosaic was a noteworthy gap in protected areas between Sangay National Park and Podocarpus National Park in the southern Ecuadorian Andes. Because our conservation model values connectivity, we partner with local expert conservationists to customize conservation areas based on the needs of endangered species.

Since the establishment of the Sangay Podocarpus mosaic, we’ve added 11 protected areas in the region. The Andean Corridor will expand this area even further to 236 miles along the Andes thus linking a chain of protected areas.

Andean Corridor
The proposed Andean Corridor will include 3 of Nature and Culture's existing landscape mosaic protected areas.

Three of our Landscape Mosaics Already Contribute to the Andean Corridor

The Sangay Podocarpus and Podocarpus El Cóndor mosaics in Ecuador span the páramo grasslands, montane forests, and cloud forest ecosystems. Whereas the North Andes mosaic in Peru encompasses some of the most diverse, fragile, and complex cloud forests on Earth.

Overall this region encompasses some of the most biologically diverse places on our planet. The Tropical Andes are a global biodiversity hotspot. For example, the area contains about one-sixth of all plant life in the world and boasts the largest variety of amphibian, bird, and mammal species. Its ecosystems help to regulate the natural cycles that produce and renew the planet’s air, water, and climate.

Species Monitoring to Improve Conservation Efforts

Habitat range is a strong indicator of species’ vulnerability. By combining ecosystems together into landscape mosaics, networks of wildlife movement are protected. This helps maintain whole species’ survival.

Some wildlife travel long distances to migrate seasonally, others need to disperse away from their natal groups to find new home ranges to prevent inbreeding and competition. For these wide-ranging species, like the Andean bear that can traverse up to 150 miles of terrain a day, protecting these far-reaching ecosystems means giving these animals adequate room to roam.

To learn more about how we are partnering with local wildlife specialists, watch our panel discussion, Conserving Habitat for Wide-Ranging Species in the Andes. Our team and local species specialists presented on the conservation needs of three wide-ranging, endemic species — the Andean bear, black-and-chestnut eagle, and the pampas cat.

The best defenders of nature, Indigenous nationalities live sustainably within the most biodiverse places on the planet.

That is why Nature and Culture prioritizes people in our conservation efforts. We provide extensive technical and legal support for communities to define and achieve their own conservation goals. From land protection and sustainable use of the land to the documentation of Indigenous culture, our conservation process examines all components of a potential project.