As world leaders were gearing up in 2014 to meet at a major Climate Change conference Tino and his ECOAN colleagues were working with Andean villagers in Peru’s Vilcanota Mountains to demonstrate what Ayni & Minka could achieve for the benefit of Mother Earth in a single day on a single mountainside. “We planted more than 57,000 trees that day to show it can be done,” he said. This was the birth of the Queuña Raymi, a yearly Polylepis community tree-growing festival. Celebratory work days begin with ancestral rituals: spirited dances passed down from Inca ancestors accompanied by hand carved flutes, conch shells, and drums honoring Mother Earth. Then several generations – from the very young to the very old – in a long queue climb steep mountain trails to plant trees together. Mothers manage to carry not only their babies but also heavy bundles of Polylepis saplings. Old women wind llama wool on spindles as they climb. Once at the sites, they work intensely and efficiently.
Those who were children when Tino first started the Vilcanota community reforestation project are now parents, continuing the tradition of growing and planting Polylepis saplings. The people of Peru’s high Andes are, says Tino, “the perfect ally of the environment.” It is here in Vilcanota, in December 2017, where the idea for Acción Andina was born. It would be a growing network of grassroots leaders and their communities restoring and protecting vital forests. Guided by the conservation expertise and experience of ECOAN and its US -based conservation partner, Global Forest Generation (GFG), Acción Andina is uniting an increasing number of local conservation leaders and communities spanning the vast Andes.