Lake Titicaca, which sits high in the Andes Mountains, was a sacred spot for the Incas. This cold, deep lake is the largest lake in South America and is home to more than 530 aquatic species and large populations of water birds. There are several endemic endangered species, including the flightless Titicaca grebe and the huge Titicaca water frog, which stretches up to two feet long. But the lake’s famed biodiversity is threatened by industrial, agricultural, and household pollution.
To reduce pollution, Seacology is working with communities on one of the lake’s many islands, where about 4,200 people, indigenous Quechan speakers, live. This project encourages villagers to use traditional terraced farm plots to grow native crops like potatoes and quinoa, without pesticides. Many of these terraced fields, which cover the island’s steep hills, were abandoned after heavy rains damaged them. Restoring them will reduce erosion that pours sediment into the lake, and shifting to organic agricultural practices will mean less pesticide runoff.
This project also provides garbage cans and equipment for separating recyclables. The municipality has committed to picking up the garbage and seeing that it is disposed of properly off the island.
The third aspect of the project involves promoting small-scale tourism and environmental education with a new interpretive center and trails around the island, and replanting of native trees. The interpretative center will be built next to an ancient emblematic stone called “Incatiana.” (There are similar stone markers on sacred spots at Machu Picchu.) Two species of native trees will be planted on 2.5 acres of deforested land near the interpretive center.
The center will educate visitors and students about the ancestral use of the island and modern threats to the environment. Materials will also warn tourists against harming the endangered Titicaca grebe by taking eggs or inadvertently trampling the nests of these flightless birds.