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Andean forests in the Peruvian coastal regions

(11 September 2013)

The coastal area of Peru is known for its (extremely) dry landscape. This is not surprising considering that in fact, the entire (densely populated) coastal strip of this inmense country is hardly receiving any rainfall. However, many people forget that the Andean mountain range is quite close to the Pacific Ocean and most coastal regions (or provinces) extend from the coastline up to altitudes of over 4000 m.a.s.l. Therefore, these regions generally have ecosystems varying from deserts to perhumid mountain forests and páramo or Jalca. However, since most of the higher parts have a difficult access while most of the population and economic activities take place in  the coastal strip, not even the people living here are aware that regions like Lambayeque, Piura or La Libertad indeed have lush tropical mountain forests. This is even more surprising when it is considered that the intensive agricultural productivity in the coastal lands depend for 100% of irrigation water originating in the highlands.

With this in mind, in 2010 the Peruvian government, in collaboration with Profonanpe and Agrorural, developed a project to conserve the biodiversity of forests in the Andean portion of the Lambayeque region. The project is financed by GEF through IFAD and I had the luck to participate in the formulation mission 3 years ago. Now, IFAD invited me to visit the project partners and the field activities again, to evaluate the progress of this fascinating project. I write these lines while preparing for the mission in Lima, but I look forward to visit the rural communities in the mountains of Lambayeque next week. It is wonderful to be able to ascent over 3000 meter from the hot cities close to the beach to quite remote indigenous villages in the mist and cold. The local cultural identity is strongly developed, proven by their local organization in farmer associations that implement projects on sustainable forest management in a nicely coordinated way among various families. A great way to get to know the "hidden mountains of the coast"