Andes-Amazon Conservancy is so effective because we work from the ground up, in close collaboration with individual villages and communities that live along the wildlife migration bio-corridors.
The effectiveness of AAC’s work is rooted in our trusting relationships with Indigenous Communities of the Ecuadorian Amazon. AAC collaborates with these Communities to maintain and restore ecological connectivity between the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Basin through community land-use planning, integrating traditional knowledge and modern technology to foster sovereign Indigenous land stewardship and sustainable land conservation.
The Amazon Andes Conservancy originated with the work of ethnoecologist Adam Gebb when he was living in Cuenca, Ecuador and exploring the Andes-Amazon region. Adam built relationships with Indigenous leaders, and went on many expeditions with them in the deep rainforest of the Pastaza region. These relationships became the foundation of what would become AAC.
AAC’s conservation model is rooted in Gebb’s 25-year of study in ethno-ecology, landscape connectivity and community land-use planning.
“I worked with professional trackers and conservationists and led expeditions around the world. We observed strikingly similar patterns of wildlife migration and the loss of these migrations everywhere we went. With loss of migration cames loss of biodiversity. Landscape connectivity all over the planet is being fragmented by unplanned human development. What is urgently needed are bio-corridors that are designed to maintain evolutionary processes and biodiversity.”
Preventing landscape fragmentation is the most cost effective and successful conservation solution in the world’s remaining functional ecosystems, the most important being the Amazon.
Hunters and elders affirmed the patterns of ancient wildlife migrations prior to the current spread of human population in the rainforest, noting that mammal populations have been in decline for 30 years. Their communities expressed a desire to reverse this trend but weren’t sure how to do this.
A dialogue ensued regarding how these Communities could prepare for their future, accounting for growing populations while also maintaining their highly bioverse ecosystems. These conversations evolved into a relationship-building process, and a vision emerged of an organization that would partner with Indigenous communities to create an Indigenous-designed and implemented eco-cultural corridor. AAC now provides ongoing professional training, resources, technology, and collaborative guidance to 70 communities who are creating this globally important eco-cultural corridor.
The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity acknowledges that biodiversity loss poses “an existential threat to our society, our culture, our prosperity, and our planet” and recognizes that “Indigenous Peoples … contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity through the application of traditional knowledge, innovations, and practices, and through their stewardship of biodiversity on their…lands and territories.” By partnering with Indigenous Nations to protect and restore ecological connectivity through community land-use planning, AAC integrates Indigenous knowledge and modern technology to foster sovereign Indigenous land stewardship and sustainable land conservation.
AAC’s values around engaging Indigenous people as equal partners and supporting their self-determined needs are modeled in our work and hiring practices. The community land-use planning fieldwork is run by an entirely Indigenous staff of 135, with administrative and technical support provided by a handful of Ecuadorian office staff (Indigenous and Mestizo). 96% of AAC’s staff is Indigenous and based in Ecuador.
Because of the ongoing threats to Indigenous peoples in Ecuador and around the globe, our staff has asked that we not publish their names or photographs. We look forward to the day when we can celebrate every Indigenous team member with a full bio on our website, but need to hold their safety and security in highest regard until that time.
The voice and agency of Indigenous Communities define the land-use choices that will guide healthy and sustainable village life for the next 100 years. AAC draws on the fields of Indigenous sovereignty, human rights, ethnoecology, wildlife migration and community land-use planning to employ a community-led process.
Our guiding principles include the following:
- Nature and culture must be viewed holistically as intertwined and interdependent.
- Given that 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity is on Indigenous lands, only they can protect the biodiversity. As such, we must defend the human rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- Community-led conservation must be based on the following guiding values and practices to be ethical, respectful, valid, and sustainable over the long-term: trusting relationships, local control, consensus decision-making, patience (having an open-ended time frame), long-term commitment, remuneration of community members for their time, and Indigenous-created learning goals.
- Women’s wisdom and leadership is a prerequisite for successful community planning.
- Landscape connectivity is a requirement for maintaining biodiversity, necessary for ecosystem health, key to genetic diversity and adapting to climate change (Convention on Migratory Species, CMS), and critical to the health and wellbeing of IPLCs.
- Landscape connectivity can only be realized by protecting and upholding the sovereign land rights, self-determination, and free, informed, and prior consent of IPLCs.