Ecuador: N4J & Los Aliados First Initiative

Sustainable Management of the Cloud Forest in Ecuador

N4J is supporting Fundación Los Aliados (Aliados) as it works with at-risk communities affected by the climate crisis in a critically important region of the Andean-Amazon slope in Ecuador, where up to 20 percent of eastern tropical cloud forests have been lost in the past two decades.

Local farmers are looking to find alternatives to cattle ranching, which is the primary driver of ecosystem loss in the area.

Aliados has partnered with Cloudforest Organics and local farmers to implement a sustainable cloud forest management program in the Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve buffer area.

Overall, the project is generating good momentum, with a growing community of support, including two new funding partners. This puts the project in a good position to consolidate progress towards the Phase II creation of a wider agro-ecological corridor linking the three national parks — Cayambe Coca, Antisana, and Sumaco Napo-Galeras national parks — and connecting Andean cloud forest management with lower Amazon tropical forest management.

Ecuador Los Aliados

Key Results: Phase I, 2022

Progress has been very encouraging.

 Los Aliados has successfully implemented a pilot native species restoration program and planted 1,050 trees, restoring disused pasture. This contributed to 60 hectares of forest incorporated into a sustainable cloud forest management plan.

To identify Phase II expansion, 167 hectares of locally owned farmland has been mapped with designated zones for reforestation.

 Seven local families are participating in a Community of Practice to replicate activities from year one. We are learning that restoration activities will not necessarily replace cattle ranching completely but can reduce the need for new pasture expansion and make cattle farming more climate and biodiversity friendly.

Some locally identified innovations include creating live fences with native trees and educating farmers on wildlife-friendly practices to reduce conflict between farmers and wildlife, notably the endangered Andean bear.

 We implemented a comprehensive wildlife monitoring program that is now gathering valuable data. To date camera trap footage has captured nearly 1,500 photos of local fauna resulting in a database of over 140 species between amphibians, mammals, birds, and reptiles.

Here below are a sample of  images from the collection:

White Spectacled Bear
Klebba's Snail-Eater Snake
Moss Rubber Frog
Andean Tapir
Goldenberry Farmer
Porotón Flowers
Porotón Nuts
Ecuadorian Jungle
And our partner, CloudForest Organics (CFO)

 has been undertaking product R&D to identify market-ready product alternatives. CFO has made impressive progress working with the UTE University in Ecuador to complete lab and nutritional testing and well as creating several product prototypes.

We are excited about 3-5 commercial agroforestry products that could tap into the growing plant-based protein market, including powdered porotón, lucuma and motilón. Farmers are also planting goldenberries as a shorter term income option, with a guaranteed offtake agreement negotiated by Los Aliados with a key corporate partner.

Nature For Justice Support

N4J is supporting the initiative through technical assistance and financial resources.  Our support has helped fund community-based agriculture extension personnel to promote improved farmer income via crop diversification.

In a new development . . .

We are currently working with Aliados on the western Andean slopes, in the Choco Cloudforest. N4J connected Aliados with a Colombian expert in small-scale cocoa production to develop a new cocoa program linked to conservation with the Chachi indigenous community.

In summary

With these programs, N4J and Los Aliados are creating a sustainable management model for vulnerable cloud forest resources in a changing climate. This model will prioritize improved farmer well-being linked to wildlife conservation.

Together we aim to extend such  initiative across the broader buffer region between the Coca-Cayambe, Antisana, and Sumaco Napo-Galeras national parks, and other areas of Ecuador — with an initial focus on the Choco Cloudforest — and, over time, in other countries in South America.

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