Inside one man’s 30-year quest to save South America’s forests

Giving back to rural areas

Thanks to their efforts to restore endangered habitats and save birds and other wild animals, the local people receive help from Acción Andina to obtain titles to their lands, which provide legal protection against exploitation by timber, mining and oil companies.

Aucca and his team have also created protected areas, brought doctors and nurses to remote mountain villages and provided solar panels and clay stoves for people to live comfortably.

A person is talking to three other people
Large areas of the Andes were once covered with Polylepis trees but only 500,000 hectares remain today due to deforestation over the years. Photo by UNEP/ Diego Rotmistrovsky

Aucca’s vision of environmental change continues in his native Peru. In 2018, Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos and the US non-profit Global Forest Generation launched Acción Andina to promote a model of community-led reforestation in other Andean countries.

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As President and co-founder of Acción Andina, Aucca now oversees plans to protect and restore 1 million hectares of prime forests in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador, as well as Peru, over the next 25 years with Global support. Forest Generation. His work is an example of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration’s call for global action to prevent, stop and reverse ecosystem degradation.

Common good

Studies show that restoring 20 million hectares of degraded natural resources in Latin America and the Caribbean region could bring benefits of US$ 23 billion over 50 years. A thriving ecosystem is also necessary to keep global warming below 2°C and help people and economies to adapt to climate change.

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At the heart of Aucca’s work is its deep connection with its Inca heritage and the Incan principles of “Ayni and Minka,” a great commitment to working together for the betterment of the world, which goes hand in hand with plans to expand reforestation in other Andean countries.

A man is walking on a steep mountain road
As president of Acción Andina, Aucca is now overseeing plans to protect and restore 1 million ha of vital forests. Photo by UNEP/Diego Rotmistrovsky

“Once in South America we were a very large empire, united by one culture, the Inca culture,” said Aucca. “This is the first time we have all come together. From that time we met to meet each other to meet each other to be God’s best friends, we must meet each other to praise God. Now we are coming together for the third time. Why? Protecting a small tree.”

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About UNEP Champions of the Earth
The UN Environment Programme’s Champions of the Earth honors individuals, groups, and organizations whose actions impact the environment. The annual Champions of the Earth award is the UN’s highest environmental honor. It recognizes outstanding leaders from the government, public sector, and private sector

The UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration
The UN General Assembly has declared the years 2021 to 2030 to be the UN Decade for Ecological Restoration. Led by UNEP and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN with the support of partners, it was created to protect, prevent, and restore the loss and degradation of the world’s environment. It aims to revitalize billions of hectares, impacting terrestrial and marine life. Calling for global action, the UN Decade brings together political support, scientific research, and economic power to support recovery.


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