Now known as Queuña Raymi Tree Planting Festival, we work alongside 21 communities to reforest the area in which they live and help to maintain the water sources, without which these communities could not survive. The villagers are also paid as part of the project, to grow the seedlings and protect the trees throughout their life.
A number of endemic species of birds are also dependent on this habitat, and the project aims to give them the continuous habitat they need to survive and thrive.
Check out our marketing manager, Claire, and her account of our 2021 tree planting experience:
As we return from a grueling day of planting trees in the Lares Valley for the Queuña Raymi festival, we’re simultaneously met with pride and exhaustion. Joined by over 1000 indigenous people from the pueblo Huilloc, we’re proud to have completed 14 years of tree planting.
This year was the year we successfully planted our millionth tree (originally planned for 2020, but pandemics get in the way!). In fact, this year was our biggest ever. In just one day we successfully planted 50,000 saplings, totalling 470,000 trees over the course of the Queuña Raymi festival (spanning December through to March).
This extra 470,000 trees in the area will result in some incredible things:
CO2 reduction in the atmosphere (when fully matured): 11280 tonnes per year
Protection from soil erosion – the roots and the branches of the tree protect the earth from erosion from the rain. As landslides become more frequent and larger problems in Peru, this is a very important aspect of reforestation.
Clean, filtered air: With the reduction of CO2 in the air, nature can breathe again.
Fresh water- This number of trees don’t just clean the air, they clean the water that everyone in the valley relies on. Trees act as huge natural sponges, filtering water through its roots and releasing back into the atmosphere as clean and fresh water. Large forests actually result in lower water costs for communities, as the water requires less filtering.
Supporting the local economy- As the land becomes more fertile and hospitable for different kinds of plant and animal life, the communities can sell their wares at local markets, instead of buying or self-sustaining. This brings more money into the local economy and helps them to grow further.
Better for wildlife- Rare birds found in the valley will have plenty of food and shelter, as well as other fauna native to the area. Large areas of forest also make it safer for the animals to move around, which helps with mating and genetic diversity, as well as allowing for movement between seasons.
The communities that take part in Queuña Raymi are…
Huama community with 15000 trees planted
Yanamayo community with 15000 trees planted
Huilloc community with 50000 trees planted
Cusibamba-Ccorcca communities with 35000 trees planted
Quellccanca community with 18000 trees planted
Pampacorral community with 20000 trees planted
Abra Malaga-Thastayoc community with 15000 trees planted
Tambohuaylla community with 10000 trees planted
Lares Ayllu community with 10000 trees planted
Cuncani community with 40000 trees planted
Rumira Sondormayo community with 20000 trees planted
Cancha Cancha community with 10000 trees planted
Tacllapata community with 10000 trees planted
Patacancha community with 60000 trees planted
Huacahuasi community with 50000 trees planted
Ollantaytambo community with 18000 trees planted
Chupani community with 14000 trees planted
Chaullaccocha community with 15000 trees planted
Mantanay community with 15000 trees planted
Patacancha y Rumira Sondormayo (Microphila) communities with 5000 trees planted
While it would undoubtedly be too much information to share if I were to write about all of these communities, I would love to shine a light on one of the communities:
Huilloc is a relatively small community a few hours away from Ollantaytambo. It is divided into two main sections- lower Huilloc with a population of around 1000, and upper Huilloc with a population of around 80.
Many of these people work as Inca Trail porters or farmers, and they proudly wear their traditional bright red clothing and broad hats.
During the pandemic, Upper Huilloc quarantined themselves, living off the land, growing their vegetables and raising cuys as well as making their own cheese. I saw it for myself first hand as we completed our year anniversary of donating food parcels to the communities. These parcels allowed the upper village to isolate completely from the larger town and keep themselves safe from the pandemic.
Huilloc is the main hub for porters of the Inca Trail. It’s the town that produces the majority of the people who help you to carry your bags along the famed trek. As a consequence, while the people of Huilloc speak predominantly Quechua they are friendly and welcoming to foreigners.
It’s even possible to do a homestay in Huilloc- the family who shared lunch with us showed me the room after our lunch of potatoes, homemade cheese, and roasted cuy. As with many homestays, it is basic, but authentic.
A large number of the Inca Trail porters are men, and while women are beginning to tread into the world of porter-dom, most work in the town, keeping everything moving and also creating beautiful pieces of weaving- another thing Huilloc is famous for.
Community Benefits of the Queuña Raymi Reforestation efforts
While the environmental benefits of reforestation are widely touted, there are some awesome community benefits as well brought about by the Queuña Raymi festival.
At Amazonas Explorer, we help the local community and economy by paying the locals to care for the saplings throughout the year as they grow big enough to be planted on the mountain. We also are sure to pay the locals again to plant the trees, and then once more to look after them throughout the coming year and ensure the survival of the plants.
This helps to stimulate the local economy, offers agricultural jobs, and involves the community with the health of their valley on a longitudinal basis. During the Queuña Raymi festival I spoke with some locals, who all said they have noticed a significant decrease in the quality and quantity of water since mining companies moved into the area. They consider planting the trees to be a gift to their children and the future of their children.
They also consider Queuña Raymi to be an expression of Andean values- putting the good of the community above the person, and sharing goodwill amongst neighboring communities.
If you wish to donate to the Queuña Raymi cause, or donate on behalf of another, please get in contact with us.