Building climate change resilience through local cooperation: a Peruvian Andes case study
Many of the problems faced by international projects intending to create adaptive social–ecological systems for climate change stem from lack of stakeholder engagement, limited understanding of local political, economic, and environmental complexities, and restricted time. Local organizations focused on conservation and development might have an advantage in creating adaptive social–ecological systems because they understand local processes and are involved with communities for extended periods of time. A local non-governmental organization, Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos (ECOAN), works in twenty-one communities in the Andean highlands outside of Cusco to conserve the endangered Polylepis forests. As part of the conservation project, ECOAN supports community-led development projects such as building greenhouses. Data for this project were gathered through interviews (with community members in three different communities, ECOAN staff, and donors) and participant observation. This paper shows that ECOAN’s extensive use of participation has led to community ownership of the conservation and development projects. The communities’ close connections to the Polylepis project contribute to resilience through creating networks, extending the local environmental ethic to the Polylepis trees, supporting projects that diversify and strengthen community sustenance, and contributing to the growth of economic activities. This case study provides a positive example of the potential for local organizations and people to take charge of their own resiliency efforts where international projects and protocols may otherwise prove ineffective.