Reforestation Efforts in Ecuador's Sacred Headwaters Region

May 14, 2024 | By The Pachamama Alliance

DSC08665-1Volunteers checking the roots of the trees that are going to be planted. 
Photo by Fundación Pachamama

At the UN Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow in 2021, King Charles III (then Prince Charles III) met with representatives from various Ecuadorian Indigenous peoples. As a result of this meeting, King Charles asked for a delegation from the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance (CBA) to visit Ecuador.

The Circular Bioeconomy Alliance initiative is an NGO established by King Charles in 2020 to accelerate the transition to a circular bioeconomy that is climate neutral, inclusive, and prospers in harmony with nature.

This delegation explored possible ways to collaborate with our Indigenous partners on forest ecosystem restoration projects.

In 2023, after 2 years of planning and laying the groundwork, Fundación Pachamama and the Amazonian Indigenous federations CONFENIAE and COICA—with CBA, Reforest'Action and the Sacred Headwaters Alliance—began a reforestation project in the provinces of Pastaza and Morona Santiago within the Sacred Headwaters region of the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Reforest'Action is an organization from France and their mission is to regernerate terrestrial ecosystems on a large scale to tackle global challenges using field experience, local communities, science, and technology.

This new project, named Reforesting Edible Forests, has a goal of planting at least 167,000 native trees and non-timber plants that directly benefit Amazonian families’ and communities’ food gardens, called chakras, as well as providing economic alternatives to extractive industries.

Reforesting Edible Forests is also being completed within the framework of the Sacred Headwaters Alliance—a group from Indigenous nationalities and peoples that was formed based on principles of cooperation and harmony to permanently protect life, biodiversity, and territories in the Amazon. 

The reforestation work so far has been carried out with the help of local communities with technical support and monitoring provided by Fundación Pachamama.

IMG_7164-1Students from Escuela EVA preparing the soil for planting trees. 
Photo by Fundación Pachamama

In addition to the technical team, strategic partnerships have been formed with the private sector and the Amazon State University, which has sent students as interns to work on the project.

Based on systematic soil nutrient analysis in the areas to be reforested, specialized natural fertilizers such as bioles, are being developed to improve production in the area. 

The Provincial Government of Pastaza approved the production of 100,000 forest, fruit, useful, and medicinal plants. More governmental agreements are in the works to advance the production of vanilla plants, forest plants, fruit trees, and clonal orchards for the community chakras. Around 250 agreements have been signed with beneficiaries in 51 communities, belonging to 8 Indigenous nationalities in the Provinces of Pastaza and Morona Santiago. Around 228 community nurseries have contributed to the generation of plants for the project.

DSC08624-1Different species of trees waiting to be planted.
Photo by Fundación Pachamama 

In this phase of the project, a total of 158,293 plants and trees from 103 different Amazonian species have been planted and verified, covering approximately 770 hectares (approximately 1,900 acres). Out of these, 135,284 were provided by the project and 23,009 were produced in community nurseries. About 20% of the species that have been reforested in the project are in danger of extinction or in a state of vulnerability, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In this way, the project also contributes significantly to the restoration of the natural environment as a strategy for the recovery of biodiversity and actions to strengthen the resilience of the ecosystems and traditional productive systems of the Amazon.

IMG_7257-1A newly planted tree as a demonstration of how to plant a tree. 
Photo by Fundación Pachamama

These trees are being planted in degraded secondary forests, pastures, and chakras. They are regenerating the ecosystem, converting degraded areas to forests and strengthening the food security of families.

The Next Phase of the Project

The project completes at the end of June 2024 and, together with current and new allies, Fundación Pachamama hopes to maintain these actions as a permanent policy. It is essential to make all efforts to permanently protect the tropical humid forest through strategies that improve the natural environment with a strong component of strengthening the livelihoods of families within the framework of the bioeconomy and Indigenous economies.