The paths to reducing deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon

Posted on October, 27 2017

Emissions from deforestation and land use change make up the majority of Peru’ contributions to global warming
By Daniela Amico, WWF-Peru
Emissions from deforestation and land use change make up the majority of Peru’ contributions to global warming. In 2015, it is estimated that deforestation and land use change in Peru contributed 53 million tonnes of carbon emissions to the global atmosphere, and cut down 118,000 hectares of carbon-absorbing trees in the Peruvian Amazon. 
If left to continue without interruption, the climate impacts could be catastrophic. According to WWF studies to be published later this year on carbon stocks in protected areas of the Peruvian Amazon and its buffer zones, these forests store approximately 6,700 million tonnes of carbon emissions, an amount greater than six times the size of the emissions from the energy sector of the European Union. 
To tackle this problem and prevent future emissions, the governments of Peru, Norway, and Germany signed a cooperation agreement in September 2014 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation through 2020. Like their ratification of the Paris Agreement, the Joint Declaration of Intent represents Peru’s commitment to reducing their emissions and protecting their forests while cultivating sustainable livelihoods.  
The goal of the Declaration is to achieve zero net emissions from land-use change and forestry in Peru by 2020, while contributing to the global goal of keeping temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius. Reducing deforestation by 50% and promoting the transition to sustainability in the agricultural, forestry, and mining sectors are the tasks set out by the Declaration to limit temperature from rising further above pre-industrial levels.
With funding from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), WWF-Peru has been working to support the implementation of the Declaration, in partnership with the National Program for the Conservation of Forests and Mitigation of Climate Change (PNCBMCC, per its Spanish acronym), and the Ministry of Culture, among other organizations. This support project used five strategies: foster active participation of civil society and indigenous peoples to increase commitments to prevent deforestation, develop low-carbon and production-protection agricultural policies that can be adopted by regional governments, monitor deforestation across three Amazon regions, improve land tenure of indigenous communities and strengthen the protection of four territorial reserves. 
Legal recognition for Indigenous Peoples 
A key element of WWF-Peru's mission is increasing the recognition of the work silently carried out for centuries by the people who inhabit the Amazon. With deep respect for nature and ecological knowledge, they are exemplary stewards of its forests and ecosystems. That's why WWF-Peru has worked with them as conservation partners, helping to strengthen their institutional capacities, secure greater protection of their territories, and increase gender equality and respect of both their culture and customs. 
In July 2016, the Regional Government of Loreto began the process of titling 35 indigenous communities, as part of a strategy that recognizes the territorial rights of Indigenous Peoples and guarantees the conservation of 175,000 hectares of forests within its territory, containing approximately 71.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases.  
This process has involved close coordination with regional indigenous organizations and the Regional Government, and has produced a methodological guide for the titling process of native communities. This guide has become an essential tool for officials in the field, as it details the enumeration, boundary establishment, georeferencing, and procedures of soil analysis necessary for a community to successfully receive legal titles to their land. As a result, 780 families from 4 different ethnic groups have become legal owners of their territories.  
Strengthening the capacities of indigenous leaders to sustainably manage their territories is a priority for WWF, and we have been providing them with tools to implement subprojects for the recognition and titling of their land and the management of their natural resources. 
More than 80 managers from 18 local and regional indigenous organizations were brought together in a first-of-its-kind intensive workshop to build on their communication, administrative, and management skills to allow them access to additional funds for the successful execution of natural resource management projects. Participants described a variety of planned projects that would benefit from the funds and facilitate the protection of forests in their territories, either through more sustainable practices like improving cocoa production, agroforestry systems, or through alternative revenue streams like Amazonian-fish breeding and tourism.
Amazonian Indigenous Peoples in Isolation and Initial Contact
The Amazon is one of the few places in the world that still has Indigenous Populations in Isolation and Initial Contact (PIACIs). They live in remote and extensive places, maintaining a close relationship of dependence with the forest. To protect the rights of these communities, the government has established Indigenous Reserves as a category of protected area to define strict areas of protection and intervention with neighbouring populations. 
Existing Indigenous Reserves in the country are in a good state of preservation, but given that PIACIs live in remote areas abundant in natural resources, their territories are permanently at risk of being invaded and deforested by illegal logging and drug trafficking, and face the constant pressure of a disorderly migratory agriculture and the growing market demands of forest goods, palm oil, and cocoa. 
WWF-Peru has worked on strengthening alliances with government sectors to promote greater commitments to guarantee PIACI survival and protection. Meetings and training sessions with representatives of the Ministries of Culture, Health, Defence, and Education have generated solid results. For the first time, state officials from different sectors and levels of government have participated in patrols in the regions of Madre de Dios and Ucayali, visiting remote areas which had previously never received any form of government presence and learning first-hand the reality and needs of these communities. Working groups were formed to deal with illegal logging and patrols were carried out in three Indigenous Reserves and one Territorial Reserve, which confirmed development of illicit activities within the protected areas, allowing for better protection of their territories.
This close participation between different actors has also favoured the construction of protection plans for the three Indigenous Reserves: the Isconahua, Mashco Piro, and Murunahua. These plans represent the ultimate management tool for these territories, determining the roles and mechanisms for their protection by both public officials and civil society. 
Development in harmony with the forest
Madre de Dios, located in Southeast Peru, is one of the regions most affected by deforestation. Between 2007 and 2015, the region lost approximately 12,700 hectares of forest each year to deforestation. Taking a long-term view in their approach, WWF-Peru has worked alongside a diverse set of stakeholders in the region – local and regional authorities, Indigenous Peoples, farmers –  to establish a development vision that is inclusive, sustainable, and reduces deforestation.
Such is the case of the municipalities of Tahuamanu and Tambopata, the two territories in Madre de Dios most affected by forest loss, mainly due to the increase of low intensity agricultural activities. Both local governments have begun the process of updating their Concerted Development Plan, a management tool to promote development and improve the quality of life in the area. 
Mayors Alain Gallegos Moreno and Alfonso Cardozo Mouzully, of Tambopata and Tahuamanu respectively, applied a participatory approach in the development of their Plans to implement national and regional strategies in ways that respond to their local development needs and expectations. As a result, Tambopata is seeking to convert 80,265 deforested hectares into productive areas, making use of already affected lands and preventing the destruction of untouched, natural areas within their jurisdiction. Similarly, Tahuamanu wants to turn degraded areas into productive land for agriculture and agroforestry to reduce pressure on their forests and promote semi-confined livestock for more efficient land use. Their Plan includes applying new technologies and timber production with added value to enhance permanent production forests.
While previous development approaches responded to political interests and demands, they did not account for the future of their municipality’s environment, especially in indigenous territories, where many live in Isolation and Initial Contact. Integrating a focus on reducing deforestation has allowed the technical teams of the municipalities to better recognize how their local actions contribute to the achievement of national conservation goals.  
Low carbon agriculture
Coffee production is the main economic activity in the region of San Martín, located in Peru’s northern Amazon. The Coffee Network of Roque is composed of more than 180 producers grouped in 11 committees. It has an average coffee production of 5 hectares per producer but many of them hold no legal rights to the land. This area, like many in the Peruvian Amazon, is undergoing a process of deforestation due to the expansion of small and medium-sized agriculture, the largest cause of deforestation in the country.
The Network has among its leaders a woman who stands out for her entrepreneurship and boldness. Leonor López Mondragón has fostered active participation in her organization, and motivated a strong presence of young leaders, abreast of the latest agricultural technologies, successfully increasing their productivity using what’s known as the production-protection approach. 
This approach ties more efficient land use, through technologies to improve both the quantity and quality of yields, to public policies that promote forest conservation. When combined, these processes make expansion through deforestation less attractive, preventing emissions from forest destruction and supporting sustainable development and improved livelihoods. 
With the support of Earth Innovation Institute, Forest Trends and Alternative Development Mechanisms (MDA, for its Spanish Acronym), and financed by WWF, they have successfully increased their productivity and reduced pressure on the forests by applying new agricultural techniques, including better plant management of coffee plantations, production of organic fertilizer using efficient microorganisms, and more selective harvesting.
Thanks to these efforts and Leonor López Mondragón’s leadership, they have been able to install - through their own efforts and funds - two hectares of technical irrigation, after which they obtained financing from a public program for eight of their other hectares, improving the quality of their crops whilst reducing production costs and hectare needs. 
With this access to affordable credit and leverage to create economies of scale, reduced costs, and transaction risks, Roque’s Network is now eligible to become a sustainable agroforestry concession. This will provide them legal use of the land, opening access to new markets that privilege the sustainable origin of their products. Leonor López Mondragón’s vision has demonstrated that it is possible to increase productivity, income, and conservation; living better while looking after the forests.
Technology that detects deforestation 
What if an alarm went off whenever illegal deforestation happened in the Amazon? While not quite that responsive, National Program for the Conservation of Forests and Mitigation of Climate Change, (PNCBMCC, per its Spanish acronym) has a tool to generate an “early warning” for forest loss in the Peruvian Amazon. This technology reports on forest cover at least every 7 days and facilitates speedy interventions in illegal deforesting activities. 
PNCBMCC has worked in coordination with the Regional Environmental Authority of the governments of Ucayali, Loreto, and San Martin to train technicians to process the information and identify potential illegal deforestation. Public presentations and training sessions were carried out to show the accuracy of the data during the registration of satellite information. This information was shared among state actors and civil society to take action to prevent the advance of the degradation of their forests. 
In the indigenous community of Nuevo Saposa, Ucayali, a field check with the residents exposed an area of wood extraction and agricultural expansion carried out by people from outside the community. This confirmed what the environmental authorities had recently observed in the satellite images. Immediately, the team documented the deforestation and transferred the complaint to the Specialized Public Prosecutor's Office for sanctioning, which can include jail time and high fines.
In the case of the Reserved Zone of Sierra del Divisor, reports utilizing this technology established that the extent of affected forests amounted to 25 hectares, mainly due to the advance of subsistence agriculture and illegal logging. This information was later verified by an overflight carried out by the members of the Ministry of the Environment and Ucayali’s Public Prosecutor's Office, who witnessed the existence of roads, collection points and the presence of vehicles for the transportation of cargo.
With access to this kind of technology, environmental authorities can have a much more realistic understanding of the state Amazonian forests. Being able to regularly monitor the changes in forest cover, and to determine the causes of deforestation - be it new illicit roads, grazing areas, or monoculture - they can better plan their actions and strategies to prevent further deforestation. 
Many paths to tread
These different paths show how many tools we can use to reduce deforestation, without putting forest protection at odds with sustainable development. In support of the Joint Declaration of Intent, WWF-Peru and its partners have used multiple tools, fostering active participation from all levels of government to reduce the progress of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon. 
We all have worked alongside local governments in the most deforested regions to promote more sustainable development in their jurisdictions, converting degraded areas of pasture into productive ones and protecting forests from agricultural expansion. This has involved the two national indigenous organizations to ensure the respect of their rights – including the right to be Indigenous Populations in Isolation and Initial Contact – and initiated processes with government authorities to grant them legal tenure to their ancestral territories. 
Technology also plays a role in the prevention of forest loss, along with the human capacity to use it. Local farmers have been introduced to new forms of production, and shifted to modern practices with higher crop yields, improving their income and preserving existing forests. Environmental regional authorities have been trained and granted access to new satellite information tools to help them visualize illegal activities that reduce forests, and plan timely interventions to prevent illicit mining and logging activities.
There is no silver bullet; we need to use our whole toolkit to reduce deforestation and forest degradation and the carbon emissions caused by those processes. Dialogue and collaboration with all sectors of the Peruvian government, civil society, and the corporate sector are essential pieces of that kit. Only together can we protect both the future of our climate, our forests, and the livelihoods of those who depend on them. 
Community representatives, accompanied by Peruvian officials and Norad officials, receive titles to their land.
© Walter Aguirre / WWF-Peru