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Bamboo is improving the watershed in Ecuador's Pichincha Province

(© FSC Ecuador/Karla Salvador)© FSC Ecuador/Karla SalvadorBamboo species can provide a great sustainable material for packaging and toilet roll, and is also commonly used for furniture and even clothing. Bamboo plantations also have incredible environmental properties: with their expansive underground stems, they reduce soil erosion and prevent sediments from entering streams and rivers. Fallen leaves carpet the ground, which reduces water evaporation. Their hollow stems retain water into the dry season, thus increasing environmental humidity. Dense bamboo vegetation also captures water droplets from fog.

In the Pichincha Province in Ecuador, a small bamboo plantation has developed its watershed ecosystem services, vital for nature and the local community. These benefits are especially important for the two small plots named El Milagro (the Miracle) and La Joya (the Jewel) as they were both used for intensive livestock production until 2004, which progressively led to eroded soils and deviation of water courses. Everything changed when its owners, a group of medium and small producers, began to plant bamboo in the area. Eventually, they created Allpabambú for technical management of their plantation. With the help of the FSC Ecosystem Services Procedure, they have demonstrated this positive impact and are looking for sponsorship to fund their hard work.

“We want to change the perception that bamboo does not require any type of care, that is only harvested to be sold. We want to demonstrate that good forest management can produce high-quality bamboo and can turn it into a sustainable and long-term resource, bringing positive environmental impacts,” says Nelly Arroyo, Manager at Allpa Bambú.

Allpa Bambú manages more than 140 hectares of plantations of giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus asper) and Guadua bamboo across the two sites of El Milagro and La Joya. One of these species is native from Ecuador, while the other one comes from Asia but has successfully acclimatized to the region. The bamboo species in these combined areas protect over 90% of surrounding local riverbanks. Protected watershed services in these properties have direct benefits not only for the local families and cooperatives, but also for surrounding communities. In total, 105 properties depend on the watershed for cultivation and livestock activities.

The certification body NEPCon performed the evaluation of El Milagro and La Joya in August 2019. The results proved  Allpabambú’s commitment towards “maintaining the capacity of watersheds to purify and regulate waterflow” (as per the Ecosystem Services Procedure,  Section Annex B. Impact ES3.3). A comparison of present and past data based on specific outcome indicators shows the company successfully demonstrated positive impacts in two distinct categories. First, they increased the proportion of forest cover of the sites: from 2004 to 2019, El Milagro’s forest cover grew from 36% to 85% and La Joya’s cover grew from 10% to 60%. These results were verified through spatial mapping analysis. Second, Allpabambú demonstrated a positive impact on the quality of the water itself, employing a methodology suggested by in the FSC Ecosystem Services Guidance called the stream visual assessment protocol.

Participatory monitoring methods were also used to demonstrate the difference in water quality recorded when this same piece of land was used for cattle rearing, and how the planting of bamboos have successfully brought a steady stream of water.  

“These evaluation methodologies allow small producers to avoid incurring in additional technical costs since the same producer can carry out evaluation and monitoring through observation,” explains Karla Salvador from FSC Ecuador Technical Team.  


How sponsors might help in funding such efforts

Every benefit has a cost, and funding initiatives like this can be extremely challenging. Smallholders must use their resources not only to manage and preserve, but also to cover costs for certification. Their income can also be delayed as a result of the process. Paulina Soria, FSC Ecuador National Coordinator, believes that “there is great potential for the contribution of businesses to support Allpabambú’s remarkable efforts. Not only would they show a positive impact on nature and its benefits, but also deliver small property owners with adequate compensation for their hard labor.”

The Ecosystem Services Procedure, has been successfully used in sites all over the world and recently celebrated its 28th verified ES Claim. If you are a potential sponsor interested in funding this initiative or similar ones, please contact Amy Willox (amy@fsc-uk.org).


© Forest Stewardship Council® · FSC® F000231