Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
Strengthening Capacity to Manage Ecosystems Sustainably for Human Well-Being

Vilcanota Sub-Region


The Vilcanota sub-region is located in the Peruvian Andes, near Cuzco.

Lead institution

This assessment will be undertaken by the International Center of Traditional Knowledge, Ecology and Policies (CICTEP), which is a project of the Asociación ANDES, a community-based Qechua-Aymara organization working on conservation and livelihoods promotion in the Andes region. To undertake the assessment CICTEP will closely work with the Ausangate Community MA Association (a community organization of Ausangate sub-region associated to ANDES ) made up by the indigenous communities of Tinqui, Tayancany, Cotaña, Mahuayani, Pausipanpa, and Anjasi.

Contact info:

  • Alejandro Argumedo
    Asociacion ANDES
    Ruinas 451
    Cusco, Peru
    Tel: +51 84 24 50 51

Focal issues

The main objective of this assessment is to assess the state of the ecosystem in the Vilcanota sub-region of the Peruvian Andes from an indigenous perspective. The MA Conceptual Framework will be analyzed and adapted in order to take into account the spiritual perspectives and concerns of the people of the region. The local people themselves will do the assessment work, in collaboration with scientific experts from various fields. The Vilcanota assessment is important due to the increasing intensity of global dynamics and drivers such as mass tourism and mining. These impacts are significant at the sub-regional and local level, particularly on the ecological and socio-cultural dimensions. This may cause short and long term loss of capacity for self-reliance, and the erosion of biological and cultural diversity.

Ecosystem services being assessed

Spirituality, water, soil, agro-biodiversity

Key features of the assessment

The Vilcanota sub-region is the second most important ice-capped mountain range of the Peruvian Andes. It comprises 469 glaciers in an area of 539 square kilometres. The mountain range gives origin to an extended watershed system. The watersheds border two main differentiated ecosystems at the regional level: the Amazon rainforest system and the Andean Valleys. The Ayacachi and Central Vilcanota systems are located in the Northeast. In the North, the main systems are Qosnipata and Pilcopata, which border the Manu National Park. To the east the Marcapata and San Gaban are the main watersheds, and in the South is located the Vilcanota system which constitutes the Sacred Valley of the Incas. These systems border two main differentiated ecosystems at the regional level: the Amazon rainforest system to the east, and the Andean Valleys to the west.

This ecosystem differentiation, as well as historical factors, have produced a very rich biological and cultural diversity in the region characterized by the existence of a large number of endemic species. Rich local knowledge and practices have made possible the adaptive management of natural resources for sustaining local livelihoods. Locals believe that systems and values, including the treatment of mountains as divinities, have allowed for the maintenance of a strong local cultural identity that approaches nature on the basis of concepts of relatedness to the natural world.


The area is also a known hot spot of biodiversity in the region, characterized by the existence of a large number of endemic species. It also an area of concentrated native agrobiodiversity and livestock populations. Natural resources are now under pressure and local land users have little means to improve their livelihoods. Present day changes and the influence of a liberalized world economy, particularly mining and tourism, have created social and cultural tensions and ecological degradation, making it particularly crucial to carry out an MA assessment in this important eco-region.

The primary users of the assessment will be the communities of Tinqui, Tayancany, Cotaña, Mahuayani, Pausipanpa, Anjasi which form the Ausangate MEA area. Surrounding communities and the municipality of Ocangate will also use the assessment. The assessment will be completely user driven.

Timeframe, budget

Total cost $127,000 US. The assessment will take place during the period 2003-2005. Seed funding was given by the MA.