Sustainable Communitarian Management of Mountain Ecosystems

Sustainable Communitarian Management of Mountain Ecosystems

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Through the Instituto de Estudios de Montaña we promote the protection, conservation and sustainable community management of Andean Glaciers and Wetlands in the Aconcagua Valley. We encourage the responsibility of communities, organizations, companies and public entities concerning natural and cultural wealth of Andean mountains in central Chile.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The sustainable management of ecosystems with high hydric value and thus with high economic value, imply effective strategies and growing economic capacities. In this manner, main challenges related to this initiative, make reference to the slight line that crosses its self-financing. The effort has been highly successful so far; however, achievements require moving forward to new development stages, with other needs to be met. The three functional experiences have focused on the self management principle and on the valuation of autonomy, these initiatives only access to resources that do not mean commitments that may imply a risk to their independence. That is why these initiatives are granted prizes and acknowledged at national and international level, however these initiatives require moving forward to other development stage to progress in their stability, since these are poor communities that do not have resources to carry out their communitarian tourism development plans and conservation and sustainability management.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

It is about an innovative functional approach aimed at the communitarian conservation of exceptional natural ecosystems by means of an integration model of research, conservation and sustainable management principles. We conceive the Andes as a strong but fragile spring of million of cubic meters of pure water that year after year circulate towards the sea, not without having given life to the vegetal and animal, including human beings, who live in the country’s intermediate and coastal valleys, which makes us appreciate the rich heritage it contains. We are motivated by conservation, but above all, we are encouraged by the unique possibility that local communities have nowadays to manage said wealth within a sustainable perspective, taking advantage of their potentialities in an associative and supportive manner. We apply an active methodology which creates participation instances, generates collective working spaces, educates new generations of local leaders, carries out scientific research both environmental and cultural research, shares its experiences, and creates awareness in the local and national community on the importance of associated natural and cultural resources and promotes association regarding the economic, social, environmental and cultural responsibility of the Aconcagua community itself upon its local heritage resources. It is aimed at creating awareness; a collective and articulating belief that allows communities to understand that they are able to carry out economic activities mainly related to communitarian tourism and that with few resources they can change the uses and production direction of mountains in a sustainable perspective.
About You
CIEM Aconcagua
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Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



CIEM Aconcagua

Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

CIEM Aconcagua

Organization Phone

56-34-537980 - 536649

Organization Address

Almendral 3627. San Felipe. Chile

Organization Country
Your idea
Country your work focuses on
Would you like to participate in the MIF Opportunity 2010?


Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had on your clients and the tourism sector?

In 7 years we achieved the communitarian conservation of 3 natural ecosystems of strategic hydric relevance by making and effort and creating awareness on the proprietary communities:
The Juncal glacier is born in the Juncal River and it is the most important tributary of the Aconcagua river: their owners manage the “Parque Andino Juncal” in a sustainable manner by legally protecting more than 13.000 hectares of mountains threatened by non-sustainable mining and hydro electric projects. The site has been recently designated a RAMSAR site, due to its huge conservation of mountain glaciers and wetlands.

-Serranía del Ciprés Natural Sanctuary: makes possible that 106 families manage tourism initiatives in 1.100 hectares.
The Copin lake wetland ecological system, which includes a complex group of lakes and mountain springs of over 8.000 hectares over the 2.000 meters over sea level is at present protected by the hunting law and the 100 rural families combine livestock and tourism activities.
Our work is based on the recovery and value of these milestones through intervention processes and legal and formal validation, such as National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, tourist centers or routes, which enable to improve the quality of life of their own communities while preserving their natural and cultural heritage.
The three cases include economic initiatives focused on communitarian tourism. The organization of small supplementing service units allows providing tourists with interesting experiences in terms of contact with nature and communitarian roots. Tourists get to know the lifestyle of rural communities, as well as the problems faced by these communities and they are admired by the communities’ strength and wisdom to combine conservation and tourism management in a balanced manner.


The strategy of our organization has 3 successive&supplementing components that it has been implementing efficiently for several years. The 1st in intended to produce knowledge, thus it implies research. The 2nd proposes to assume the responsibility&thus it implies conservation. The 3rd supposes implementation capacities&thus it implies the following:
Research: increase knowledge of the natural&cultural conditions of the 3 ecosystems. Baseline surveys have been carried out, however these require to be intensified&its scope of scientific knowledge defined with better equipment& qualified professional support. Conservation: significant progress has been made in conservation terms at formal&legal levels; however there are important steps to take in term of authorization of operational&specific conservations procedures by involved communities.
In sustainable management, achievements are less noticeable, there is much to do in terms of creation of awareness&management abilities by the responsible communities& of implementation of a stable&successful model that manages to balance resources generation requirements for the communities, jointly with the conservation activities as requ


In terms of research, the consolidation of the Instituto de Estudios de Montaña, part of our organization with a team of scientists and highly qualified professionals and the corresponding technical equipment , that contributes with expertise from biology, glaciology Geography, ecology, and archeology and anthropology.
In terms of Conservation, it is expected to achieve other legal categories of conservation, protected by the law available to ensure stability and overcome the weaknesses inherent in a system that operates by economic domination. As long as new RAMSAR sites, new Wildlife Sanctuaries, new legal protection areas, these conservation opportunities are also consolidated.
Finally in terms of Management, the expectation is to increase the communities’ abilities to ensure their autonomy and above all sustainability of current experiences. This means achievements in terms of management abilities training, of articulation at internal group level, as well as with other local actors both public as well as private, of new participative leaderships, of insertion in local markets related to tourism at national and international levels, without loosing its autonomy or the contro

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

Since this is a strategy that combines research, conservation and sustainable management in a supplementing manner, achievements are assessed for each of them in successive phases of continuous improvement. However, the strategy stipulates a sequence that allows its progressive balanced development, as it has been the basis in previous years, in this regard it is considered that:
The first year the priority is focused on strengthening the research component, to the extent that the results are essential to successfully face the conservation objectives
The second year, the priority is focused on the conservation component, since this is the necessary basis to achieve the consolidation dimensions for effective management.

The third year, the priority is focused on the sustainable management component and on the authorization of solid and better qualified communitarian dynamics.
In this manner it is possible to start a new successful cycle of these successive and supplementing dimensions.
Local tourism groups offer mountain guiding services, accommodation, food, crafts, environmental education, birds and mountain animals watching (guanacos and others), natural water and springs births, archeological sites and routes. Tourists would not be able to access to all these service without the support from the communities, whose wisdom enables the survival of said high altitude and complex ecosystems. In this way, rural and livestock communities combine traditional activities with new opportunities offered by tourism in order to guarantee their existence in a sustainable and responsible manner.
In conclusion, this means the improvement of the quality of life of the communities, through the responsible and sustainable management of the communities’ natural wealth.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

Possible barriers to these undertakings are mainly related to external factors. In the 3 ecosystem in question, although lessened by the conservation and management measures achieved so far, there are potential mining investment projects which may endanger the achievements. This, however, may be part of a dynamic of negotiations with the companies that are potentially interested in intervening in said mountain areas. These, at the same time, could also (and partly they do) join the sustainable management experiences in said locations. Thus, a potential weakness may become strength. Other obstacles make reference to the lack of resources to develop the programmatic lines. Likewise, the lack of continuity in the actions carried out by our organization, due to potential difficulties to continue with our work.
More info about Problem: The same problem is faced by our organization, which has a an economic base by a small group of people who evidence high levels of commitment and carry out important volunteer contributions, although it lacks the necessary stability to contribute with the sustainability of these experiences. There are technical, professional, equipment and technical assistance needs, as well as spreading and development of collaboration networks which require to be solved for its consolidation.

How many people will your project serve annually?

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy or introduce models and tools that benefit the tourism sector in general?


What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

In what country?
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

If yes, provide organization name.

CIEM Aconcagua

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Our organization conceives its action through the integration and articulation of actors both at public and private levels, not being monetary issues the axis of our joint actions. In this manner it is possible to channel efforts and wills through shared visions and possible actions with lasting results. In this manner, our interest is not to have joint projects, but shared long term points of view, where collaboration possibilities and trust are stronger and more sustainable.
We have developed several lasting partnerships with communitarian organizations. Some of our director partners are businessmen who voluntarily contribute with our organization. We have carried out some collaboration programs with the government and have also been granted an award by some public entities related to tourism and environmental conservation. Finally, it is important to mention the relationship with city councils and local governments, where our strategy is mainly based on the development of mutual trust and collaboration relationships.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

Among the most relevant actions to be carried out, these can be described as follows:
1. Consolidate the articulation among the research, conservation and Management dimensions, by strengthening the working team, systematizing the articulated strategy and by formalizing the operation unit, the Instituto de Estudios de Montaña.
2. Implement an articulation dynamic extended with several actors, at communitarian level as well as public and private levels. This means to achieve the involvement of a wide range of new organizations and institution committed in the experience.
3. Implement a dissemination and communication strategy in line with the achievements and set goals, extending the visibility of the initiatives, creating a sense of massive adhesion to them and generating sustainable business units managed by the involved communities.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

After completing Mater Studies in anthropology and development at the University of Louvain in Belgium, with my wife and children we decided to return to our homeland in Aconcagua, (a province 100 kilometers north of the capital) and in 1995 we created a NGO called CIEM Aconcagua aimed at becoming an actor in local development in the economic, social, cultural and environmental fields. As part of the environmental and local development plan option, in 2000 we initiated a research in connection with Aconcagua’s natural and cultural wealth which meant going over the mountains that I had gone around when I was a child together with my father and brothers. This time I was accompanied by researchers and above all by community herdsmen and farmers who shared with us their ancestral knowledge and the power of their relationship with Andean lands and waters. In this context, the communities themselves showed us the way since they are the most knowledgeable and potential guardians of their heritage value and these communities also show the genuine opportunity that involves protecting the mountains and living on them in a sustainable manner. Jointly with a group of professionals from different fields archeology, biology, geography, anthropology and landscape we decoded to create the instituto de Estudios de Montaña, supported by CIEM Aconcagua and initiated mainly a volunteering work which meant the participation in different communitarian conservation initiatives, experiences which enabled us to publish some texts in a collective manner and to commit our personal efforts and commitments to the conservations of the Aconcagua mountains through the leading role of the communities living there.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

I belong to a family of Italian immigrants, who gave me values in aspects related to foundational aspects of my person: the work as a core value of commitment to life, autonomy as a principle, the study, as a fundamental means of social promotion, the respect for diversity and basic human ethics and solidarity as an expression of collective life. During my youth intellectual leaders from the literature and music fields appeared in my life. At University when I was attending anthropology studies, social commitment inspired in me the interest in the academic word and the valuation of culture as a social research axis. My professional trajectory has been linked to developments NGOs, as a personal decision to participate in strengthening process of the civil society in Chile. When I was 27 I was awarded a grant to perform master studies in anthropology and development in Belgium. When I return to my homeland in 1995 we created a NGO with a strong local identity that increasingly became into a reference name in alternative development in Aconcagua. Since 1996 until the present I have been working as a professor of Anthropology and Rural Development Anthropology at Universidad Bolivariana and then at the University of Chile. I have also voluntarily participated inn initiatives aimed at defending human dignity, solidarity, culture and sustainable development at local and national level. I am member of the Justice and Peace commission, and member of the board of directors of Colegio de Antropologos de Chile, Visitor of the National Monuments Council, the Council of the Americas, the local committee of the Development Bank, founder of the Red Atlantic action Andean mountains, a member of the RedChile Avina, Ashoka fellow among other social initiatives. I value autonomy jointly with social commitment, citizen participation and local capacities as an expression of sustainable development, based on the principles of respect for individuals and communities as well as the natural and cultural environment. The personal commitments, the search for innovation and creativity and team work, solidarity, respect for biodiversity are values to which I devote my life. My family composed by my wife and two children (22 and 18 years old) constitute my intimate space and taught me the arts of love and good life.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Web Search (e.g., Google or Yahoo)

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

No más de 50 palabras

MIF Opportunity 2010
Has your organization been legally constituted or registered in your country or one of your target countries for at least three years?


Does the applicant organization have sufficient financial resources to guarantee the co-financing required by MIF during the execution period of the project? (This amounts to at least 50% of the project’s total budget with 25% in cash and 25% in-kind.)


Does the applicant organization have experience managing projects co-financed by international organizations? Please describe below

The organization has been legally registered in Chile for 14 years. Since its creation it has had several sources of financing by co-management principles. Among others important contributions from Avina Foundation.

Please classify the applicant organization according to the options below

What problem-area does your project address?

How will your project address this problem?

Through the Instituto de Estudios de Montaña we promote the protection, conservation and sustainable community management of Andean Glaciers and Wetlands in the Aconcagua Valley. We encourage the responsibility of communities, organizations, companies and public entities concerning natural and cultural wealth of Andean mountains in central Chile.

Who is benefited by the initiative? (Please highlight the type and number of beneficiaries, and their role in the tourism value-chain.)

Rural and livestock communities, as well as owners of large mountain lands, people accustomed to hard work and scarce economic resources, who know the mountain in detail. We mean over 200 families who share these features. The initiative is focused on expanding the sustainable management capacity of their lands through communitarian tourism initiatives.

How will the project's results assist the region’s tourism sector and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises?

Directly since the communities and their families are those who conceive the initiatives and at the same time they have to articulate with other local tourism management entities both in terms of supplementing services and spreading and promotion. All of them are small entities of local family groups who make a great effort and have a huge operational capacity.

A. Total Budget (100%)


B. MIF Contribution (up to 50% of total budget and US$. 500.000 max)


C. Cash co-financing (at least 25% of total budget)


D. In kind co-financing (at least 25% of total budget)