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Building climate change resilience through local cooperation: a Peruvian Andes case study

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Local organizations are defined in this paper as organizations located in the same state as the communities in which they work.

  2. 2.

    Andean temperature is expected to increase 4.5–5 °C by the end of the twenty-first century (Vuille et al. 2008). Simultaneously, these areas are undergoing precipitation changes with the wet seasons expected to be wetter and the dry, drier (Vera et al. 2006).

  3. 3.

    The names of community members and ECOAN staff have been changed for confidentiality. The Yale University Institution Review Board, Human Subjects Committee determined this study to be exempt from the United States’ Code of Federal Regulations for Human Subjects Research.

  4. 4.

    Environmental ethic used in this sense is similar to Leopold’s (1949:171) land ethic: “The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.” In this case, the boundaries of community have expanded to include the Polylepis.

  5. 5.

    One example is the case of the Yanacocha mine in Cajamarca where the Newmont Mining Corporation has taken control of traditional, farmer collective water rights through “overt and covert strategies to achieve control over water… often backed up by neo-liberal government policies and by permissive local water authorities” (Sosa and Zwarteveen 2012:360). This example of bypassing local water rights is illustrative of the Peruvian government’s predilection to prioritize national goals, such as receiving revenue from the Yanacocha gold mine, to the detriment of local rights.

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Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Dr. Karen Hebert and Dr. Carol Carpenter for their support of this research and comments on preliminary versions of this article. This work would not have been possible without the support and openness of ECOAN staff and the community members of Abra Malaga, Rumira Sondormayo, and Patacancha. I also acknowledge the financial support for the research on which this article is based from The Tropical Resources Institute Endowment Fellowship, Latin American Iberian Travel Grant, Tinker Field Research Grant, and Carpenter Sperry Grant.

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Correspondence to Caitlin A. Doughty.

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Doughty, C.A. Building climate change resilience through local cooperation: a Peruvian Andes case study. Reg Environ Change 16, 2187–2197 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-015-0882-2

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Keywords

  • Participation
  • Conservation and development
  • Resilience
  • Climate change
  • Andes