UIAA MOUNTAIN PROTECTION AWARD WON BY SOUTH AMERICAN PROJECT FOR THE FIRST TIME
The UIAA is delighted to announce that the Establishment of Self-Managed Climbing Parks project by Asociación 7a Escalada, Peru, has been named as the ninth winner of the UIAA Mountain Protection Award (MPA). In doing so it becomes the first project from South America to win the Award.
The announcement was made on Saturday 29 October at the UIAA General Assembly in Banff, Canada. During a dedicated ceremony, Kimberly Schwartz from Asociación 7a Escalada collected the MPA Trophy from UIAA President, Peter Muir, Mountain Protection Commission President, Dr Carolina Adler, and MPA Chair, Mary Sanseverino.
A video stream from the ceremony is available to view, featuring insights into this year’s Mountain Protection Award and a contribution from the Bally Peak Outlook Foundation, the Award’s partner.
”The Assessment Team particularly valued the project’s emphasis on the development of fair and inclusive job opportunities, including the administration of camping areas, shelter, food services, transportation services and guiding services that we agree are roles that need to be filled and managed by the community members themselves through carefully planned training and employment support. Furthermore, the UIAA places particular interest in seeing the prize money invested in the infrastructural development of the climbing area, supporting the refuge building; improving waste treatment; installing toilets; creating designated spaces for camping, campfires and composting; and improving water access through environmentally-efficient design and water use,” Carolina Adler, Mountain Protection Commission President
“The Project by Asociación 7a Escalada in Peru is this year´s well deserved winner of the UIAA Mountain Protection Award as it is a truly sustainable project balancing its many different aspects in an impressive way. The core of the project is its focus on the involvement of, and the collaboration with, local communities, youth and various NGOs in creating an attractive climbing park. By establishing the climbing area in such a way, already it has become a best practice for other initiatives.” – Paul Kwakkenbos, member of the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission and MPA assessor.
A total of 16 projects operational in more than 15 countries and on four continents were showcased as part of 2022 MPA. This year’s nominated projects focus on a number of sustainability topics including climate change, water pollution, waste management, education and youth, and closer engagement with decision makers and local authorities.
This year’s Award is particularly significant as it coincides with the United Nations designating 2022 as the International Year of Sustainable Mountain Development. Throughout this year, governments, international organisations and stakeholders have been invited to raise awareness of the importance of conservation and sustainable use of mountain ecosystems.
The announcement of the winner, who received the MPA Trophy and 10,000 euros in prize money, follows the confirmation that the Clean Hikers project by Leave Good Trace (Korea) and Save Rinjani by FPTI (Indonesia) were awarded the runner-up and best new initiative prizes respectively.
All nine MPA winners since 2013 have come from different countries and now from five continents. It marked a particularly significant day for Peru with Federación Deportiva Peruana de Escalada (FEDPE) being elected as a full member of the UIAA during the General Assembly.
ABOUT THE WINNING PROJECT
Through mountain sports, Asociación 7a Escalada’s project seeks territorial development aiming at improving the lives of the native people of Pitumarca, Cusco. This has been achieved by uniting the enjoyment and development of young people with the conservation of nature and local traditions. The project also empowers native communities through the self-management of climbing parks and by creating employment positions aimed at promoting sustainable practices. This is to offer viable alternatives to some extractivist and poorly managed activities that have threatened the region. Combined with the lack of investment in local communities, many people have been forced to leave in search of better opportunities. Thus not only has there been a gradual decrease in the population of mountain communities, but also a loss of culture.
Following the announcement of the project’s nomination as overall winner, the UIAA spoke to Diana Alexia Gómez Cavieres, Head Project Coordinator.
UIAA: How do you feel about winning the 2022 UIAA Mountain Protection Award?
Asociación 7a Escalada: We are honoured by the recognition. It is inspiring because we have been working with love and dedication for many years. We are very grateful to all the people and organisations that have joined us along the way. We believe that being announced as the winner is a big vote of confidence from the UIAA. It is empowering and fills us with motivation to continue this work here. But also, we believe it can inspire others to build a new way of doing sport, more responsible, inclusive and respectful of the mountain and its diverse cultures.
What do you hope recognition from the UIAA Mountain Protection Award brings to the project?
The UIAA is a high-level entity and this gives us a lot of visibility. It is a valuable tool to have more opportunities for support, to work for self-management, to provide more job opportunities, sports and better service to visitors. Today, having a recognition of this magnitude is a great open door to new opportunities. There are still many things to do – monitoring, infrastructure, mitigation of impacts, training, research, etc. We are confident that these doors will be open to new opportunities. We are confident that these doors will open with this great visibility and clear work. In addition, the monetary award is a great help to continue developing and sharing outdoor sports with young people.
What are the long-term goals of your project, ie. plans beyond 2022-2023? Do you hope your project can be expand to other areas in Peru?
Our dream is that the Ch’aqo Wayllasqa and Kuntur Sayana Parks will be completely managed by the native community, and that development will be carried out with an integral awareness of the importance of mountain ecosystems, so that all activities coexist in a balanced way with the culture.
For this, our objectives for the next five years are: (1) to monitor water, flora, fauna and soil erosion, which will feed back into the management plan; (2) to continue with integral and inclusive education through climbing, (3) to train local people in services for adventure sports and as a profession, hiking guides, climbing, mountain, adventure tourism and ecotourism.
Your project directly targets youth participation – what has been the feedback you have received from young people engaged in your project?
Every time we have initiated some activities for children, such as climbing classes or field trips, we seen a great commitment. We see that the young people who get involved want to improve, and want to do more things, which in general is a little slowed down by our lack of resources and we hope this will improve over time.
Your project has a very holistic vision in terms of engaging youth not only into sports participation but to become ambassadors for their community and to embrace other aspects of the mountain world such as sustainability. Why is this so important?
We believe that true conservation is given by the relationship with your environment and when basic needs are met. Young people are the future guardians of their mountains, staying in their community will depend on the opportunities provided to develop fully and with dignity in the region. That is why they are our focus. We believe that sport is a tool to increase this relationship with the mountain environment while generating more opportunities.
You will be presented with the MPA Award at the UIAA General Assembly. On the same day, FEDPE is hoping to be elected as a full member of the UIAA. How significant is it that Peru has greater representation on the international stage? Do you think this will help improve the challenges currently faced at a local and national level?
The Peruvian Climbing Sports Federation is a great ally for us. We believe that having a federation that is open to collaborate with development projects is fundamental for the sport to grow. We are sure that being part of the UIAA will be a great support for the entire mountaineering community in Peru, as it would be a direct connection to the international network that provides us with information about events, projects, funding and opportunities.
How can climbers/mountaineers (both local and international) more closely engage with your project?
There are many ways to get involved:
- Being a respectful and inclusive sport person is a way of educating each other
- Sharing the rules of use of a mountain and climbing space, making them visible on social networks and in the spaces is a great contribution.
In addition, you can help us in mentoring programmes, accompanying or teaching children. You can also volunteer in infrastructure tasks, trails, trailheads, training or in long-term plans, such as natural and economic monitoring, training in services, equipping new routes, conservation or research.
How can people support your project?
The project is very ambitious and we always want to receive ideas. All contributions are welcome. Also many times the biggest obstacle is financial, because we all work as volunteers. We all have extra jobs and little time. You can donate via our website.
PAST MPA WINNERS
2013 – Menz-Guassa Community Conservation Area, Ethiopia
2014 – Pamir Horse Adventure, Tajikistan
2015 – KTK-BELT Studio, Nepal
2016 – Mountain Wilderness, France
2017 – Mount Everest Biogas Project, United States
2018 – Community Action Nepal, United Kingdom
2019 – Alpine Leaning Project Weeks, Switzerland
2020-21 – Fondation Grand Paradis, Italy
2022 – Asociación 7a Escalada, Peru
Main photo: (l-r), Willy Montenegro – UIAA MC Continental Representative for South America; Carolina Adler, UIAA Mountain Protection Commission President; Mary Sanseverino, UIAA Mountain Protection Commission and MPA Assessment Lead; Kimberly Schwartz from Asociación 7a Escalada. Credit: UIAA/Amy Liu