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Cajas Massif Biosphere Reserve

NCI played an integral role in the designation of this 2.4 million acre UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the first in Ecuador’s Western Andes. This vast reserve spans more than seven diverse ecosystems, including marine areas, desert and cloud forest. Now, we are reinforcing sustainable conservation practices such as watershed management, mangrove protection and organic production methods.

nci-ecuador2014 026Declared in 2013, this Biosphere Reserve includes 2,230,402 acres of land and 211,097 acres of sea surface as well as ecosystems as diverse as paramo, cloud forest, mangroves, seasonal deciduous forest and desert. It also helps to ensure the water supply for nearly 850,000 inhabitants by protecting upstream watersheds. Within the reserve, 50% of the country’s hydro-energy is produced, along with cattle, cocoa, banana and other industries important to the local and national economy.

Biosphere Reserves are a significant conservation achievement because they remain under national jurisdiction but share their experience and ideas regionally and internationally within the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. Our office in Cuenca, led by Fabián Rodas, worked extensively with Ecuador’s national and local government to prepare the proposal for the Cajas Massif Biosphere Reserve. Fabián and his team were also instrumental in organizing 57 institutions (ministries, municipalities, universities, industries, communities, etc.) to rally support for the creation of the reserve. In May 2013, after several years of work guided by a core team of institutions in which NCI played a key role, the Ecuadorian government presented the proposal for the declaration of the region as a new UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

“For me, this experience represents the creation of a delicate balance between nature and human interest, where local people and authorities claim their willingness to drive to sustainability every economic and productive system. The declaration was possible only by the involvement and commitment of local and national institutions, aware that this title could give international value in benefit of commerce, tourism, industries, environmental education and conservation. After the declaration, further steps are needed to take real advantage of this condition with the involvement of many more stakeholders to create networks, policies, management structures, social awareness and more.”

– Fabián Rodas, Cuenca Region Coordinator

Watch our short video below to learn how the reserve’s paramo ecosystem is preserving the water supply for the city of Cuenca.