Fair Credits against Climate Change

How the Paramo Ecosystem of Tungurahua is protected against the degradation by cows


The Paramo is a typical high altitude ecosystem of the Andes, present in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and northern Peru. It is home to thousands of people, flora and fauna, and acts as their main water supply. In addition, the region is an important carbon sink, its soil absorbing large quantities of CO2. It is also the drinking water storage, on which the local Andean population depends upon.

An alarming scenario is depicted by the historical climate data of the Ecuadorian Paramo in the Tungurahua Province: the average annual temperature has been rising from 1,2 to 2,0°C between 1960 and 2006. According to different climate projections, temperature shall continue to increase especially in the months of july and august. Eventhough the annual average precipitations has only slighty risen in the last 50 years, the upcoming trend is more precipitation during the rainy season and less in the dry months. These changes in temperature and precipitation would, in the long run, have devastating effects on many species in the Paramo. They would not be able to migrate to higher altitudes, nor could they reach the valley, as it would be blocked by agriculture and livestock. The Paramo ecosystem is very sensitive to drought and the danger exists, that because of the change in precipitation due to climate change, the Paramo seizes to exist, and with it the region’s water supply.

The Approach

In order to sustainably protect the Paramo, different instruments have been developed under the cooperation between the provincial governments, the private sector and indigenous organizations. The main goal was to relieve the ecological and economical pressure of this sensitive ecosystem, while at the same time ensure its drinking and irrigation water supply.

Several plans and programmes have therefore been implemented to quantitavely and qualitatively conserve, protect and regain the Paramo ecosystem as main water supplier. For example, the sustainable production and marketing of milk and of the Andean blackberry were improved. This shall help in the sustainable poverty reduction of the Andean indigenous farmers.

The provincial government passed a regulation to prohibit grazing above 3600 meters, in order to prevent cows from harming the ecosystem. However, no alternative has been offered to the farmers. 

On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) advises different actors how to protect the Paramo while also insuring the farmers’ sustainable living conditions. As an example, , through a cooperation with the private cooperative “Valles del Lirio”,  a financing system was developed that would provide the farmers with credits under fair conditions.

This offered incentives for farmers to let their cows graze in lower levels. Three indigenous farmer organizations, whose members have access to the credits, were also involved. The farmer who would like to i.e. buy a more productive cow, needs to first sell one of his own to be able to apply for the credit. This way, his flock‘ s size stays the same. Credits are also available for better seeds. High energy food such as ryegrass, that can grow at up to 3600 meters, is very important in that context, providing enough food for the animals, even in the dry season. High protein food such as alfalfa, that only grows at up to 3200 meters, should help preventing farmers to let their cows graze in the higher levels of the Paramo.

The National Agricultural Institute INIAP advises farmers with new technologies and with the cultivation of high protein plants, for an efficient and sustainable management of the soil. 

The Impacts

It is a win win situation for everyone: the farmers of the lower levels have a greater market for their alfalfa, the farmers of the higher levels have access to better food and have less cows, producing more milk; the Paramo is less trampled by the animals and is protected, so that it can continue its role as main water supply. The latter is very important as climate projections predict more upcoming dry seasons for the region.



More Information

Acopio y Comercialización de Lecha Fresca de la Zona de Amortiguamiento del Ecosistema Páramo


Implementación de Planes de Manejo de Páramos en Tungurahua