Birder's Guide

MAY 2017

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 36 of 51

35 May 2017 | Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community as souvenirs. Several communities in the Vilcanota Reserve Network have built visitor centers and lodges. The hope is that, as they work together to support and attract still more tourism, and by collecting and reinvesting the entrance fees paid by visitors, these communi- ties will be able to expand and support the reserve network they have created while continuing to improve their lives. The Vilcanota area provides an authen- tic trekking experience that offers visi- tors an alternative to the popular but busy Inca Trail while remaining close to the amazing birding of Machu Picchu, where birders search for Torrent Ducks, Inca Wrens, Andean Cocks-of-the-rock, and a dazzling variety of hummingbirds and tanagers, some of which have highly restricted ranges. Land and Livelihoods In the Vilcanota Mountains, the local com- munities control the land where the forests and birds survive. These lands are not for sale, and working with the people who live here is the only option to conserve them. Local livelihoods depend on these forests as well, providing natural incentives for conservation, and local traditions are well suited to reserve management. For instance, the villagers patrol and manage the reserves via Rondas Campe- sinas. These teams of volunteers keep an eye on community territory and maintain law and order on their lands. The Rondas began as self-defense teams decades ago, when Peru suffered domestic terrorism, and the system has been maintained in re- mote areas where police rarely travel. The tree-planting efforts draw on an even older local tradition. Communities in the Vilcanota Mountains gather to - gether for one day each month to work on a community project. Known as faena communal in Spanish or minka or minga in Quechua, these work days are manda- tory for every member of the communi- ty, and the practice dates back to ancient Over the years, ECOAN has contin- ued to work with Abra Malaga and with 20 more communities, building the trust that is essential to successful conserva- tion partnerships. In total, ECOAN and ABC's project has provided 6,765 stoves to more than 8,059 people over 10 years to reduce fuelwood demands. The communities faced other chal- lenges, including how to improve nutri- tion for people, especially children, who depended on a diet traditionally domi- nated by meat and potatoes. ECOAN helped communities construct 60 vege- table greenhouses to grow cabbage, car- rots, and other produce. The communities' legal status pre- sented another opportunity for ECOAN to be of service and to build trust. These farming communities, known as Comunidades Campesinas, were only legally recognized by the Peruvian government in 1987. ECOAN helped them define and legalize their boundar- ies to reduce conflict with neighboring groups. Not only does that empower local people, but clear land tenure is a prerequisite for establishing nationally recognized protected areas in Peru. Designated protected areas carry sev- eral benefits beyond ecosystem conser- vation. They put places on the map, at - tract tourists, and enable better zoning and land-use planning within each terri - tory. Together, these communities have formed the Vilcanota Reserve Network to increase tourism and conservation throughout the region. Drawn by scenery and history, many tourists already visit the area for trek- king, mountain biking, horseback rid- ing, and birding, creating economic op- portunities for residents. Community members work as guides and cooks, handle mules and horses, and host visi- tors in their houses. Women weave intri- cate and colorful textiles, and sell these n White-browed Tit-Spinetail is a Polylepis specialist endemic to southern Peru and most easily observed by birders in the Vilcanota Mountains. Photo © Greg Lavaty

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