The Ayacucho region is located in the heart of the Andes Mountains in Peru. The mountains give Ayacucho its diverse range of ecosystems, from the puna grasslands to the cloudforests. The region relies on the valuable natural resources that come from its varied climate and geography. 

Community-led environmental management and stewardship have a long history in the Ayacucho region. For example, the people of Ayacucho have successfully managed the region’s wild populations of vicuña, which has improved quality of life for many communities.  In the past, vicuñas were driven to the brink of extinction. When local communities were granted the right to process and sell the vicuña fibers, the local people worked to conserve, protect, and strengthen vicuña populations. The population grew from just 10,000 to 450,000 throughout the Andes. 

Female vicuña

However, the rich flora and fauna of this region is increasingly threatened by deforestation and pollution. Local decision makers, including government officials and community presidents, have a great responsibility to address these environmental problems. Recently, the Regional Government of Ayacucho has embarked on a visionary quest to do just that.

A Regional Government Leading the Path for Biodiversity Management and Natural Resource Use

From August 29 to October 15 of this year, the Regional Government of Ayacucho, through their biodiversity initiative, funded, and with our support, developed a training course called “Biodiversity Management through the evaluation, monitoring and sustained use of natural resources in the Ayacucho region.” The course strengthened the capacities of close to 100 regional government officials, local governments and community leaders to carry out conservation and management of natural resources. 

The course, envisioned by the Regional Government of Ayacucho, had the support of Peruvian Ministry of Environment’s General Directorate of Biological Diversity, Yunkawasi and Rainforest Partnership Peru. 66 people participated from 28 districts of Ayacucho. Guest speakers for the course were from the Ministry of the Environment, National Park Service of Peru, the National Forest and Wildlife Service, the Office of Environmental Assessment and Enforcement, and the Agency for the Supervision of Forest and Wildlife Resources, as well as specialists with experience in biological, social, intercultural and gender issues.

Because of the pandemic, the course was held virtually, and amounted to 160 academic hours.  The course was divided into nine components within four modules: (i) Introduction to Environmental Management, (ii) Territories and Communal Rights (iii) Participatory Research and Monitoring and (iv) Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity. 

The power of capacity-building

The course created a space to exchange knowledge and experiences, strengthening the officials’ environmental awareness and ability to practice effective environmental stewardship. But more importantly, it fostered a collective sense of accomplishment and community, grounded in care for the land and its biodiversity. At first, the course participants were not used to this kind of training, much less virtually, but they actively participated and came out of the experience with increased motivation and ability to protect, manage, and conserve the beautiful environments that lie in the Ayacucho region. 

Looking to the future, we are extremely grateful to have been able to support the Regional Government of Ayacucho and hope to replicate this course in other regions. This will exponentially increase the number of government officials and community leaders who have access to this critical knowledge and who have the tools to effectively conserve their lands. Courses like this foster environmental consciousness and stewardship. Armed with knowledge, experience, data, language, and understanding of the need to conserve resources and biodiversity, this capacity-building empowers participants to create lasting, durable impact. Over time, with more training courses, governments, communities, and organizations throughout the region and the country will adopt policies and sustainable projects, and environmental stewardship will become the status quo.