May, 2011 | Our new office in Ecuador’s Azuay province is helping to guide the process for the declaration of the fifth UNESCO biosphere reserve in that country, and the first located in the extremely threatened western foothills of the Andes.
National support for the Cajas Biosphere Reserve became official in 2011 after the signing of an agreement driven by Nature and Culture International. Signatories include the Ministry of Environment, the Secretary of National Planning, the Provincial Government of Azuay, the Municipality of Cuenca, the Water Supply of Cuenca, GIZ, and NCI, which is committed to providing institutional, technical and political support culminating in the official declaration by UNESCO.
Biosphere reserves are places that seek the promotion of sustainable development and scientific research, the protection of natural resources and local cultures, and the demonstration of practices that can improve the livelihood of local people.
This proposal will include the Cajas National Park as a core area and will seek the protection of biodiversity and environmental services provided by paramo, cloud forest, tropical forest, and mangrove ecosystems. In addition to the spectacular richness and endemism of the flora and fauna in this region, these ecosystems provide water resources for over 1 million people. The area also generates more than 1,100 megawatts of hydroelectric power and provides support for production of cocoa, bananas, and shrimp.
Prior to this agreement, we promoted the formation of a Technical Committee, which worked on the preparation of the official proposal, submitted to UNESCO late last year.