The Cordillera Azul National Park is considered a jewel in the Amazon Basin thanks to its unique location at the intersection of the Andes mountain range and the Amazon Basin. The Cordillera Azul landscape supports a rich ecosystem of indigenous biodiversity, high carbon stock forests and a multicultural population of more than 250,000 people organized in 400 communities living in the buffer zone around the Park boundaries. With almost no economy apart from subsistence agriculture, these communities have a poverty rate of over 40%, or about the double of Peru poverty rate. The Cordillera Azul National Park is under constant threat from illegal logging and the encroachment of subsistence agriculture by small and poor farmers who have no alternative means of income generation.
Through an innovative Public-Private Partnership between the Peruvian State through the National Service of Protected Areas-SERNANP, the Centro de Investigación y Manejo de Áreas Naturales–CIMA Cordillera Azul, and the Althelia Climate Fund, the Cordillera Azul National Park REDD+ Project is preserving more than 1.6 million hectares of pristine montane rainforest within the Cordillera Azul National Park, and supporting the sustainable land use of its rich buffer zone area of 2.5 million hectares. The Park, which is among one of the largest protected areas in Peru, is bigger than the US state of Connecticut and is home to around 6,000 plant species, more than 80 large and medium sized mammals, around 180 species of fishes, and over 600 species of birds. On large mammals, 11 are listed on CITES-I, including spectacled bears, giant otters, jaguars, cougar, bush dogs and giant armadillos; as well as 9 bird species, including harpy eagle, curassow and several macaws.
The project will protect this unique biodiversity and restore degraded lands with agroforestry systems (cocoa & coffee) in the buffer zone relied upon by small farmers and local communities for their livelihoods. As a result, it will avoid more than 22.1 million tonnes CO2 emissions through 2021 due to reducing deforestation, which is equivalent to the emissions from all the flights passing through London’s Heathrow Airport over the same period.
This project, validated and verified under the Verified Carbon Standard and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard, in addition to the biodiversity and climate benefits, provides protection of critical ecosystem services for local communities for every day use who rely on the continuing healthy functioning of soil and water for their survival. The Park protects cloud forests and the headwaters of the Huallaga and Ucayali Basin rivers, providing clean water to surrounding local communities and supporting their livelihoods. The good management of the Park avoids soil erosion, maintains river health and provides an abundance of fertile soil in floodplains in the buffer zone, all of which benefits local populations.
On indigenous communities rights enhancement, Cordillera Azul National Park is home to indigenous populations that have chosen to remain in voluntary isolation and the respect and protection of these populations is central to the Project. Cordillera Azul is their home, and it is recognised as such by the State of Peru. The Cordillera Azul REDD+ Project will ensure that status is maintained and their way of life continues.
Althelia main partner for the Cordillera Azul REDD+ project is CIMA-Cordillera Azul, a leading Peruvian NGO with nearly 20 years on-the-ground experience in natural protected areas management. In 2018, CIMA was awarded with the first 20-year full Administration Contract by the Peruvian Government to manage the Park through a participative process with different stakeholders, including international cooperation agencies, regional governments, local municipalities, farmers associations, and organised communities. CIMA is now responsible for implementing conservation and protection activities inside the Park and its buffer zone, and reaching the long-term financial sustainability of the protected area.
In this context, Althelia Climate Fund has committed to provide loan-based financing of €8.55 million over 6 years. This is to enable the protection of the Cordillera Azul landscape by CIMA through activities such as enhanced surveillance, biological monitoring, research, institutional strengthening and governance of communities living in the buffer zone as well as the development of sustainable economic activities to boost their quality of life and generate sustained income in clear harmony with the protected area. On the development of sustainable economic activities, the Project prioritises the restoration of degraded lands in the buffer zone with sustainable agroforestry systems that combines food crops to enhance food security (i.e. banana, cassava), with sustainable cash crops such as cocoa and coffee to support poverty reduction, in partnership with local farmer cooperatives.
This investment is possible thanks to the ground-breaking partnership between CIMA-Cordillera Azul and SERNANP, the Peruvian Ministry of Environment’s National Service for Natural Protected Areas, which is a key supporter of private participation in nature conservation and environmental services.
Through successful implementation of this transformational Project, Althelia, CIMA-Cordillera Azul, their institutional partners and local communities, will support the protection and resilience of this rich landscape through a model that addresses economic, social and environmental sustainability.