Partnering to preserve the headwaters of the Amazon

  • The largely unexplored Sierra del Divisor region of Peru is home to massive old growth forests, incredible biodiversity, and the iconic "El Cono". This region recently celebrated the establishment of Sierra del Divisor National Park and is supported by the Andes Amazon Fund. Thomas Müller/SPDA

  • Choquequirao is both an ancient Incan ruin and a large swath of Andean habitat that runs from deep river gorges to the snow-capped peaks of the Vilcabamba mountain range. Choquequirao is the first regional conservation area in Cusco and serves as a model for future areas. Jose Maria Formenti

  • In the Cusco region of Peru stands Ausangate mountain, one of the spectacular sights of the renowned Ausangate Trek. Amazon Conservation Association is working with Peru's regional government to establish Ausangate as a regional conservation area in Cusco. Ronald Catpo/ACCA

  • Wild vicuna graze near the Japu community private conservation area (PCA) in the Cusco region of Peru. Rich, montane forests characterize the Ukumari Llaqta PCA, which spans from Andean highlands to Amazonian foothills. Adrian Tejedor/Amazon Conservation Association

Before there was an Andes Amazon Fund, there was Patricia Jones Edgerton, a blue moon fund co-founder, whom Adrian Forsyth credits with helping him to understand the potential impact properly directed philanthropy can have on global issues.

“Pat was all about finding committed individuals in important places and supporting them. Her open spirit and willingness to engage with the entire planet was transformative [for me],” recalls Forsyth, who is founder and Executive Director of the Fund.

Patricia’s daughter, Diane Edgerton Miller, is continuing in her mother’s footsteps by recognizing the need to take a risk and place a bet on initiatives like the Andes Amazon Fund. The organization is taking on the ambitious task of combating the impacts of illegal resource extraction and climate change in the Amazon Headwaters region in Peru. To date, the Andes Amazon Fund has successfully protected over 4.5 million acres of largely intact habitat supporting the world’s highest levels of biodiversity and regulating nearly 20% of the world’s freshwater supply.

As to why he and Program Director, Enrique Ortiz, are focusing an entire organization’s efforts on protecting this particular geographic region, Forsyth says, “You have to set priorities if you’re going to make the best use of the very limited amounts of philanthropic money available in the world. Here, the problems are solvable, governments are receptive, people benefit in clear and obvious ways, and the amount of biodiversity and its condition are unparalleled in the world. So it’s strategic geography, and by choosing geography in the right point in history you can have a much bigger impact.”

Since its inception in 2015, the Andes Amazon Fund has certainly had a big impact, most notably with the designation of the Sierra del Divisor National Park and the Tijae Nain Conservation Concession as officially protected land. In both instances, blue moon fund and other partner organizations supported the Andes Amazon Fund to protect entire landscapes that sequester carbon and maintain the earth’s climate. The large swaths of officially protected landscapes will also provide a continuous habitat gradient that will allow a multitude of species to relocate to higher altitudes as the climate warms.

Conservation of the ecological integrity of these protected areas is just one result of the Andes Amazon Fund’s efforts. The indigenous peoples that live within the boundaries of the Sierra del Divisor National Park and Tijae Nain Conservation Concession will likewise benefit. In Sierra del Divisor National Park, as Enrique Ortiz explains, “Indigenous communities will not only benefit from the legal security and enforcement against threats provided by new park employees, but also from sustainable development projects that will improve their well-being and food security.” In the Tijae Nain Conservation Concession, local NGOs supported by the Andes Amazon Fund are working with the Unkum and Ankaish indigenous communities to protect the forests through development of sustainable cacao, bamboo, and fine hardwood production.

The presence of the Andes Amazon Fund in the Amazon Headwaters ensures that several pre-eminent figures in conservation and philanthropy are working together to take a holistic approach to a very large and pressing issue. The Fund’s Strategic Steering Committee is comprised of well-known ecologists, a former Secretary of the Interior, and highly regarded members of the philanthropic community, including blue moon fund co-founder, Diane Edgerton Miller.

The unique amalgamation is part of what makes the Andes Amazon Fund effective in Forsyth’s eyes. “It’s the interaction between people that understand what a foundation can and cannot do and what an NGO can and cannot do that keeps us real and keeps us on track.”

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