Constantino Aucca Chutas can trace his roots back to the Andes mountains — an ecosystem that’s now under threat, with melting glaciers and vanishing forests. But Aucca Chutas and his organization, Acción Andina, have stepped in to protect this region and the local water supplies that depend on it, One Earth reported.
Acción Andina (Andean Action) works with local Indigenous families and incorporates their traditional knowledge and practices to plant trees. The organization has planted over three million trees so far, with the help of 25,000 families.
The trees are vital to the local communities as well as to the ecosystem, One Earth explained. Not only do they purify the air, as all trees do, but they also help store water — ensuring that there are still fresh, pure water sources for the people living downstream.
The water systems in the area have been at risk thanks to the rapid expansion of mining operations and other private industries. These activities damage the native Polylepis forests that keep the water level high. These trees have a unique, spongy foliage and quickly grow a covering of absorbent moss as well.
By replanting the trees — sometimes as many as 60,000 a day — Aucca Chutas helps catch water and bring the level of the affected lakes and streams back up.
“We must work hard to try to run faster than the destruction,” Aucca Chutas told One Earth.
To do that, he believes strongly in including the Indigenous people of the area in the effort.
“Conservation without money is just conversation,” he said. “If you didn’t include local communities, it’s a very bad conversation.”
Aucca Chutas’s incredible record led to him being named a 2022 Champion of the Earth laureate in Inspiration and Action by the UN, the organization’s highest environmental award, One Earth reported. He has also inspired many similar efforts worldwide.
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