Revealing the hidden - Indigenous perspectives on deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon - The causes and the solutions


The causes and the solutions
Indigenous perspectives on
deforestation in the Peruvian
the hidden
dedicated to the memory of Jorge payaba (shipibo), Benjamin chumpi (Wampis),
edwin chota (ashéninka) and federico Ramírez (Yaminahua) who have departed from
us to be reunited with the spirits of the forests that they defended when they were
alive. also dedicated to the memory and legacy of all those indigenous martyrs from
saweto, Bagua and all the other struggles of amazonian indigenous peoples who have
been defending their lives and rights.
Principal authors: Michael Valqui, Conrad Feather and Roberto Espinosa Llanos
English edition, Moreton in Marsh, March 2015
Our main debt of gratitude is to those people and organizations who agreed to be interviewed and therefore
contributed their time and knowledge to the production of this report.
The publication of this report was possible due to the generous support provided by NORAD and CLUA.
However, the opinions and points of view expressed in this report, in addition to any errors or omissions, are the
responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of these donors.
Maps: Aliya Ryan.
Design: Daan van Beek
Photos on the front and back covers: FEDIQUEP, La Republica, PUINAMUDT, Amazon watch, FECONACO,
UAG, FENAMAD, Proyecto Loreto Sostenible/Mongabay and Johan Wildhagen (Front cover). Back cover based
on the photo of Celine Massa (Flickr).
The maps that refer to indigenous territories in this report are based on available data and should not be
interpreted as or assumed to be definitive versions.
Edited by: AIDESEP (Inter Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Amazon) and FPP (Forest
Peoples Programme).
Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana (AIDESEP)
Av. San Eugenio 981, Santa Catalina – La Victoria, Lima, Perú
Central 00 51 1 471 711
Forest Peoples Programme (FPP)
1c Fosseway Business Park
GL56 9NQ, UK
Tel 00 44 1608 652 893
acronyms 5
executive summary 7
alberto pizango, member of the Kampu piyawi
people and president of aidesep 12
introduction and general information 14
paRt 1: 16
indigenous peoples and deforestation at the
national level – the general context 16
1.1 Forests and indigenous peoples in Peru 16
1.2 History of deforestation in Peru 20
1.3 Indigenous perspectives on deforestation 23
1.4 Current trends in deforestation at the national
level 26
paRt 2 30
direct causes of deforestation 30
2.1 Deforestation by land use category 30
2.2 Agriculture 32
2.3 Gold-mining 41
2.4 Logging 42
2.5 Oil and gas operations 52
2.6 Infrastructure and
transport 60
paRt 3 63
indirect causes of deforestation 63
3.1 National and international markets and
investments 63
3.2 Land ownership and use rights 66
3.3 Governance and institutional capacity 74
3.4 Corruption and criminality 77
3.5 Human rights, access to justice and the
criminalization of protest 80
3.6 National development and land use policies 80
3.7 Perverse incentives 82
3.8 Weak state response 83
3.9 Population and environmental footprint 89
paRt 4 91
new threats: future trends in deforestation 91
4.1 Roads 91
4.2 Oil palm 91
4.3 Energy sector infrastructure 92
paRt 5 95
deforestation at the regional level 95
5.1 San Martín 95
5.2 Madre de Dios 102
paRt 6 109
indigenous alternatives and solutions 109
6.1 Deforestation rates in indigenous territories 109
6.2 Confronting deforestation:
a challenge for indigenous
people 112
6.3 Indigenous solutions and proposals 115
paRt 7 117
conclusions and recommendations 117
7.1 Conclusions 117
7.2 Recommendations 120
Bibliography 123
list of maps
Map 1: The territorial demands of indigenous
Amazonian peoples (December 2013). 19
Map 2: Deforestation in Peru 2000-2012. FPP 27
Map 3: ‘Large-scale’ deforestation for oil palm
plantations in the Barranquita district on the Loreto/
San Martín border. FPP 29
Map 4: Deforestation connected to the towns of
Tocache and Uchiza and the surrounding road
network in San Martín. FPP 29
Map 5: Current focal points of deforestation and
degradation in Peru. 41
Map 6: Deforestation caused by gold-mining
combined with deforestation along the length of
roads in the river Guacamayo region, Madre de Dios.
Map 7: Map of the Peruvian Amazon covered by oil
and gas concessions. PerúPetro 2014 52
Map 8: Proposed dams in the Peruvian Amazon on
the river Marañon. 92
Map 9: Proposed highway between Puerto Esperanza
and Iñapari. 105
list of BoXes
Box 1: Current indigenous territories and pending
territorial rights in the Peruvian Amazon 17
Box 2: Historic deforestation: Contested facts 22
Box 3: Traditional rotational farming: The scientific
evidence supporting sustainable agriculture 24
Box 4: Estimates of deforestation in Peru 26
Box 5: Annual deforestation (in hectares) in Amazon
regions between 2000 and 2012 28
Box 6: Deforestation by land category 31
Box 7: Deforestation statistics: A note of caution 31
Box 8: Direct causes of deforestation per year in
overarching land use categories 31
Box 9: Oil palm: Carbon store or carbon sink? 33
Box 10: Applications for the adjudication of lands
for the implementation of oil palm plantations in
Loreto 38
Box 11: Mahogany and cedar threaten the survival of
indigenous peoples in isolation 43
Box 12: A death foretold: assassinations and illegal
logging in Saweto 46
Box 13: Ongoing destruction of forests and indigenous
peoples: Industrial forestry in the upper River Purús
region 49
Box 14: Key failings of the new forestry law 51
Box 15: 40 years of oil exploitation in the northern
Amazon – Chronicle of a human and environmental
tragedy 56
Box 16: IIRSA projects involving Peru 61
Box 17: Principal categories of indigenous land
ownership in the Peruvian Amazon 67
Box 18: Law 30230: Threat to the property rights of
indigenous peoples 68
Box 19: Titled communities by date and
government 70
Box 20: Indigenous communities and overlapping
rights 70
Box 21: Logging rights overlapping the Kugapakori
Nahua Reserve: Forest destruction through
government inefficiency and incompetence 71
Box 22: Ecoamérica v Kampu Piyawi (Shawi) and
Kechwa communities 72
Box 23: Laws and policies promoting oil palm
cultivation 81
Box 24: National parks (in the Amazon) overlapping
indigenous territories 83
Box 25: The Cerro Escalera Regional Conservation
Area in San Martín 85
Box 26: AIDESEP observations and proposals about
the prior consultation law 86
Box 27: National policies and initiatives to combat
deforestation 88
Box 28: Population in the Peruvian Amazon, according
to the national census. (Growth has been greater in
the Amazon than the country as a whole) 89
Box 29: The Peru-Brazil energy agreement threatens
to flood Asháninka lands 93
Box 30: San Martín’s population growth 1940-2007 96
Box 31: Historical reconstruction of deforestation in
San Martín 96
Box 32: Deforestation in indigenous communities
in the upper River Mayo: testimony of a local
resident 100
Box 33: Population growth in Madre de Dios
1940-2007 102
Box 34: Mining and indigenous communities in
Madre de Dios 106
Box 35: Indigenous territories as a barrier to
deforestation in the Amazon and at a global level 110
Box 36: Resistance of the Achuar on the River
Pastaza 112
Box 37: Examples of indigenous efforts to protect
their forests and territories in the Peruvian
Amazon 113
Box 38: The programme for a ‘Full Amazonian Life’ 114
ACODECOSPAT: Cocama Association for the
Development and Conservation of San Pablo de
ACR: Regional conservation area
AIDESEP: Inter-Ethnic Association for the
Development of the Peruvian Amazon
AFIMAD: Indigenous Forestry Association of Madre
de Dios
ANA: National water authority
ANP: Natural Protected Area
ASSM: Artisanal and small-scale mining
BCRP: Central reserve bank of Peru
BNDES: National economic and social development
bank of Brazil
BRIC: Brazil, Russia, India and China
CAAAAE: Peruvian Congress’s Commission on the
Environment, Ecology and Andean, Amazonian and
Afro-Peruvian Peoples
CAF: Development Bank of the Andes
CARE: Asháninka association of the River Ene
CART: Asháninka association of the River Tambo
CDC: Conservation Data Centre at the National
Agrarian University-La Molina
CEPKA: Ethnic council of the Kichwa peoples of the
CFM: Community forest management
CITES: Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
CODEPISAM: Coordinator for the Defence and
Development of Indigenous Peoples in San Martín
COFOPRI: Commission for the formalization of
informal property ownership
COP: Conference of the parties
CORPI: Regional coordinator of the indigenous
peoples of San Lorenzo
CORPIAA: Regional AIDESEP coordinator of
indigenous peoples of Atalaya
COICA: Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations in
the Amazon basin
CSA: Centre for Environmental Sustainability
CTAR: Provisional Council of regional Government
DAR: Law, Environment and Natural Resources
DEVIDA: National commission for development and a
life without drugs
ECASA: The State commercial rice company
EIA: Environmental Impact Assessment
ELAW: Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide
FAO: Food and Agricultural Organization
FCPF: Forest Carbon Partnership Facility
FECONACO: Federation of Native Communities of
the River Corrientes
FECONAPU: Federation of Native Communities of
FEDIQUEP: Indigenous Quechua federation of the
Pastaza river
FENAMAD: Native Federation of the River Madre de
Dios and Tributaries
FENAP: National Achuar Federation of Peru
FEPIKRESAM: Federation of Kechwa Indigenous
People in San Martín
FEPKISAN: Federation of the Kechwa indigenous
peoples of the lower Huallaga river of San Martín
FERISHAM: Federation of Shawi Indigenous People in
San Martín
FIP: Forest Investment Program
FSC: Forest Stewardship Council
FUNDECOR: Foundation for the Development of the
Central Volcanic Mountain Range, Costa Rica
GOREL: Regional government of Loreto
GOREMAD: Regional government of Madre de Dios
GORESAM: Regional government of San Martín
GDP: Gross Domestic Product
GHG: Greenhouse gases
IACHR: Inter-American Commission on Human
IBC: Institute of Common Good
IDB: Inter-American Development Bank
IDL: Institute of Legal Defence
IFI: international financial institution
IIAP: Peruvian Amazon Research Institute
IIRSA: Initiative for the Integration of Regional
Infrastructure in South America
ILO: International Labour Organization
INADE: National Development Institute
INEI: National Statistics and Information Institute
INIA: National Agrarian Innovation Institute
INRENA: National institute of Natural resources
MDG: Millennium Development Goals
MFE: Ministry of Finance and Economy
MINAM: Ministry of Environment
MINAGRI: Ministry of Agriculture
MINEM: Ministry of Energy and Mines
MT: Metric tons
MW: Megawatt
OCODECOFROC: Organization for the development
of the frontier communities of the Cenepa
OEFA: Agency for environmental evaluation and
ORAU: Regional Organization of AIDESEP in Ucayali
ORPIAN: Regional Organization of Indigenous
Peoples in the northern Amazon
ORPIO: Regional indigenous peoples organization of
the East
OSINFOR: Supervisory agency for wildlife and forests
OSINERGMIN: Supervisory agency for investments in
energy and mining
PAC: Complementary environmental plan
PCM: Peru’s Council of Ministers
PAMA: Programme for environmental management
and remediation
PIACI: Indigenous peoples in initial contact
PIAVCI: Indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation and
initial contact
PROCLIM: National Capacity-Building Program for
Managing the Impacts of Climate Change and Air
PUINAMUDT: Union of indigenous Amazonian
peoples in defence of their territories
RAISG: Amazon Network of Geo-Referenced Socio-
Environmental Information
REDD+: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and
Forest Degradation
R-PP: Readiness Preparation Proposal
SBN: National agency for State assets
SERNANP: National service for natural protected areas
SNIP: National system for public investment
SPDA: Peruvian Society for Environmental Law
SPDE: Peruvian Society for Eco-Development
SUNARP: National public registry agency
SUNAT: National tax administration agency
UAC: Upper Amazon conservancy
UNOPS: United Nations Office for Project Services
UN-REDD: United Nations REDD program
VRAE: The valleys of the River Ene and River
WHO: World Health Organization
WWF: World Wild fund for nature
eXecutive summaRY
This report, written by AIDESEP (Interethnic Association for the development of the Peruvian
Amazon) and FPP (Forest Peoples Programme), addresses the many complex causes and
future of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon. It combines a critical review of publiclyaccessible
research with the analysis and perspectives from indigenous peoples’ leaders and
organizations many of whom were interviewed specifically for this investigation as their
traditional lands1 occupy almost half of the Amazon region and they confront the problems
caused by deforestation on a daily basis. This report draws the following conclusions:
the main trends in past and present deforestation in peru are:
􀁴􀀁 By 2014, between 8.9 and 10.5 million hectares (‘ha’, hereafter) of Peru’s forests had been
deforested (or approximately between 11.3 % and 13.4 % of the original forest area).
􀁴􀀁 The vast majority of this deforestation is the direct result of State and corporate policies
encouraging the colonization and agricultural development of the Amazon (at the expense of
forest use). These policies included road building programmes and the provision of agricultural
credit. Most deforestation has occurred within 20 km of the principal roads.
􀁴􀀁 Historic levels of deforestation in Peru have been relatively low compared with other
Amazonian countries at less than 0.23 % per year with an average of 123,000 ha deforested
annually between 2001 and 2012. Nevertheless, there are indications that these rates may have
doubled to 250,000 ha/year since 2012.
􀁴􀀁 Indigenous territories constitute effective barriers to deforestation with 75 % of the deforestation
in Peru occurring outside the boundaries of indigenous territories and Protected Areas.
Meanwhile, within those lands recognised as ‘native communities’ official deforestation rates
are only approximately 0.1 % per year (less than half the national rate). Rates of deforestation in
indigenous territories are likely to be significantly lower, however, due to distortions in satellite
forest monitoring systems which are unable to accurately differentiate between permanent
deforestation and temporary clearance from rotational farming.
􀁴􀀁 Today, commercial agriculture, illegal gold-mining, and oil palm plantations have rapidly
become the principal direct causes of deforestation, accounting for over 20 % of deforestation in
􀁴􀀁 Rampant illegal logging is one of the principal causes of forest degradation and subsequent
deforestation and accounts for approximately 80 % of Peru’s wood exports.
􀁴􀀁 Oil and gas concessions covered over 80 % of the Peruvian Amazon in 20122 and their
operations, including frequent spills from pipelines, have been responsible for severe
degradation of forests and their associated biodiversity and ecosystems.
􀁴􀀁 A huge volume of carbon found in oil, gas and logging concessions is under imminent
threat of release due to degradation associated with these activities. This degradation could
generate greenhouse gas emissions greater than those caused by the next ten years of projected
the main underlying drivers of deforestation in peru are:
􀁴􀀁 Large-scale investments in agribusiness including palm oil, logging, mining, dams, oil, gas and
roads which are premised on an extractive and predatory vision of the Amazon.
􀁴􀀁 Endemic corruption, criminal organizations and weak governance in the forestry and mining
sectors enabling high levels of illegal activity. In Madre de Dios, 97 % of gold produced is illegal.
􀁴􀀁 Processes to assess environmental impacts of land use activities lack transparency, are plagued
by conflicts of interest and frequently determined by powerful elites.
1 This includes lands with some form of legal recognition (approximately 15 million ha) and customary lands that remain
unrecognized (approximately 20 million ha).
2 In 2012, they covered 84 % of the Peruvian Amazon (RAISG, 2012) but currently the extent of this area that is overlapped has
􀁴􀀁 Absence of due process to plan long-term use of lands and natural resources.
􀁴􀀁 Large-scale extractive projects that are prioritized over protection of the forest and human
􀁴􀀁 Inappropriate, ineffective and increasingly weak State control, monitoring and oversight of
extractive operations.
􀁴􀀁 Weak legal and regulatory frameworks including:
– Loopholes permitting deforestation through classification of primary forests as suitable for
– Contradictions that permit the exploitation of supposedly ‘untouchable3’ areas;
– Perverse incentives encouraging deforestation as a means to obtain ownership rights over
Today, approximately 15 million ha, or 20 %, of the Peruvian Amazon currently enjoys
some measure of recognition as indigenous lands. Nevertheless, the recognition of a further
20 million ha of customary indigenous lands remains pending. Between 2001 and 2010,
approximately 75 % of national deforestation took place beyond the boundaries of indigenous
lands4 and Protected Areas, much of which are also the traditional lands of indigenous peoples.5
This constitutes evidence of how indigenous peoples have been able to protect their lands from
colonists, miners, loggers, dams, and oil and gas operations. However, this report also documents
the systemic and historic failure of the Peruvian state to value, respect and support indigenous
peoples' contributions to protecting Peru’s forests, and instead how it has continued to undermine
and weaken indigenous peoples’ efforts, exposing them to unscrupulous vested interests. These
failures include:
􀁴􀀁 A national legal framework that doesn’t comply with binding international obligations to
respect indigenous peoples’ rights, including to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) and
ownership rights over customary lands and forests.
􀁴􀀁 Lack of legal protection for approximately 20 million ha of indigenous territories.
􀁴􀀁 Massive overlap of titled and untitled indigenous lands and territories with protected areas, and
concessions for logging, mining and oil and gas.
􀁴􀀁 Policies that prioritize large-scale logging operations over small-scale community forest
􀁴􀀁 Criminalization of indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination, including the legitimate
protests of many indigenous leaders in defence of their rights and territories.
􀁴􀀁 Disregard for indigenous peoples’ reports and denunciations of illegal operations.
􀁴􀀁 Inertia and leniency on the part of the State permitting intimidation and persecution of
indigenous leaders by those with vested economic interests in their territories.
􀁴􀀁 State tolerance for the division of indigenous communities and their organizations promoted by
extractive companies through the use of threats, manipulation and intimidation.
future threats:
Deforestation rates in Peru are expected to rise significantly in the immediate future, due to the
continued imposition of the dogma of increased economic growth and investment in energy and
infrastructure projects in order to satisfy regional, national and global demand for energy and
consumer goods.
Both illegal and legal gold-mining, the expansion of oil palm plantations, and the construction of
over 50 large dams6 represent the greatest threats to the Peruvian Amazon in the immediate future.
3 Areas within which all extractive activities or human settlmenent are strictly prohibited.
4 This study (IBC, 2014) does not include all unrecognised indigenous lands.
5 According to IBC figures (which don’t take into account the extent of unrecognised indigenous lands) protected areas and
indigenous lands cover approximately 47 %of the Peruvian Amazon (IBC, 2014).
6 All 50 have a capacity greater than 100MW and 10 are greater than 1000MW.
hollow commitments to protect the forest:
In 2008, Peru announced its commitment to a national forest conservation program as part of
a reduction of its green house gas emissions intended to protect 54 million ha of forests and
reach zero net deforestation by 2020.7 Seven years later, this commitment and in particular its
commitment to reduce net deforestation to zero looks distinctly unlikely as deforestation caused
by logging, mining and palm oil plantations spirals out of control, while contradictory national
and regional policies promote massive road building programs, oil and gas operations, major
expansion of the oil palm sector, and the construction of almost 80 large and small dams8 in its
Amazon region, more than any other Andean country in the Amazon basin. At the same time,
legal frameworks continue to facilitate deforestation and prioritize large-scale extractive projects
over small-scale community forest management.
Peru’s commitment to protect the Amazon has been further undermined by a recent package
of legal reforms (Law 30230), in July 2014, intended to encourage foreign investment. These
reforms considerably weaken environmental laws and regulations, and, even more seriously,
establish special procedures permitting the government to curb or extinguish indigenous peoples’
territorial rights in order to prioritize development projects even if they only exist as a proposal. In
September 2014, the assassination of four Ashéninka leaders (at the hands of a logging mafia) who
had denounced illegal logging on their lands and were demanding the titling of their traditional
lands, further highlighted the continued failure of Peru’s government to support indigenous
peoples’ efforts to protect their forests.
Despite this, on the 23rd September 2014, only a few days after these events an international
agreement was announced between Peru, Norway and Germany with the objective of Peru
reaching neutral carbon emissions by 2021 as a result of deforestation and agriculture. In addition,
the so-called Declaration of Intent committed to title at least 5 million ha of indigenous territories.
Norway will contribute 300 million USD for implementation. The initiative was received as a
positive step by AIDESEP, who at the same time called on the signatories to ‘prevent the agreement
from becoming simply a letter of intent that would never become reality due to the powerful
conflicts of interest that exist within the Peruvian government, and a weak legal framework that
governs indigenous peoples’ control over their traditional territories.’9
7 The Peruvian proposal was first presented during COP14, the UNFCCC negotiations in Poznan (Poland) in 2008. It consisted
of ‘conserving 54 million hectares of forest and reversing slash and burn processes in order to substantially reduce our
deforestation as part of our country’s contribution to global mitigation efforts. In accordance with this objective Peru ratified
its position to reduce its net deforestation to zero in the UNFCCC’s COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009’. DECRETO SUPREMO N°
008-2010-MINAM, 4/7/2010.
8 All greater than 2MW.
This report makes the following key recommendations to inform public opinion at both national
and international levels as well as the Peruvian government and relevant international agencies:
on indigenous peoples’ rights:
􀁴􀀁 Respect and protect indigenous peoples’ territories. This includes resolving pending demands
for legal recognition of their territories as well as annulling overlapping rights that have been
granted on indigenous territories.
􀁴􀀁 Align national laws and policies with international human rights law in order to respect
indigenous peoples’ right to FPIC where extractive activities are planned in their territories as
well as ownership of their customary lands and forests.
􀁴􀀁 Respect, rather than criminalize, legitimate protests and denunciations made by indigenous
peoples regarding the destruction of their forests.
􀁴􀀁 Ensure access to justice for indigenous peoples and communities who denounce the destruction
or contamination of the forest.
􀁴􀀁 Ensure that the recognition, titling of indigenous peoples’ collective lands as well as the
annulment of any overlapping rights is prioritised over the titling of individual parcels of land, a
land use category associated with the highest rates of deforestation in Peru. These titling efforts
should be supported with adequate human and financial resources and concrete annual work
on forest governance and environmental management:
􀁴􀀁 Control and sanction deforestation and any contamination associated with the legal or illegal
activity behind it.
􀁴􀀁 Recognize existing initiatives for independent community environmental management and
encourage similar efforts.
􀁴􀀁 Provide technical support for community forest management and the promotion of other,
non-timber forest products.
􀁴􀀁 Establish transparent, effective and independent procedures to evaluate and approve EIAs and
strategic environmental assessments for large-scale development projects ensuring that the
precautionary principle is applied (in other words, no investment if there are risks of serious
􀁴􀀁 Review national laws and policies promoting investment and the agri-business, energy and
transport sectors to ensure coherence with the government’s commitment to achieve zero net
deforestation by 2020.
In 2011, Peru’s government agreed to modify national legislation in order to align it with its
international legal obligations to protect indigenous peoples’ customary lands (R-PP 2011), but as
of November 2014 this commitment remains unmet. In 2013, the government’s Forest Investment
Plan pledged to spend over US$14.5 million recognizing untitled indigenous lands (US$7 million),
supporting community forest management (US$4 million) and indigenous forest governance
(US$3.5 million).
These projects are currently in the design phase, but an US$80 million parallel land-titling project
part financed by the IDB threatens to undermine these efforts. As of November 2014, the aim of
the IDB-financed project is to secure individual land titles (for over 730,000 migrants), despite the
fact that they are responsible for the highest deforestation rates in Peru. As a result, this project,
if not modified, is likely to result in further colonization of the Amazon and its subsequent
The Spanish edition of this report was launched on the eve of COP20 in Lima, the first United
Nations climate change conference to be hosted by an Amazonian country (70 % of Peru is forest).
During its presidency of the negotiations (until handing over to France in November 2015) Peru
hopes to establish itself as a leading player in the fight to protect tropical forests and indigenous
peoples’ rights as part of a broader commitment to mitigating the impacts of climate change.10
However, to date, Peru’s pledges to protect forests and indigenous territories remain not only
unmet, but are being undermined by contradictory laws, policies and the reality on the ground.
The question is, as one Peruvian indigenous leader asks:
‘can peru rise to this challenge and convince the world that it is serious about protecting
its forests and supporting us, indigenous peoples, its true allies in the fight against the
destruction of the amazon instead of marginalizing us and postponing recognition of our
rights?’ Alberto Pizango, President of AIDESEP, July 2014
10 See address of President Humala in New York on September 23, 2014.
WheRe theRe aRe people With Rights to
theiR teRRitoRY theRe Will alWaYs Be
Jungle and life foR all
alBeRto pizango, memBeR of the Kampu piYaWi people and
pResident of aidesep
Once again the debates, projects and promises about deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon has
become fashionable. Is it perhaps because it is the discourse that is needed to secure funding for
the state or for some NGOs? Or perhaps it is because of the COP20 approaches and the media
“show” that accompanies it?
Unfortunately, at the same time, while there is much talk of reducing deforestation, the same mafia
groups continue to operate with impunity. For example, the one connected to oil palm, which
after destroying 80 % of the forests of Malaysia now invades Peru, paying visits to government
ministries, dining with certain regional governments, hiding behind impoverished migrants, and
even dressing themselves up as a replacement for coca cultivation. The result of Peru’s welcome to
the COP20 is dozens of applications for oil palm concessions that will destroy more than 100,000
hectares of primary forest. When they felled 2,500 hectares of forest, nothing was done and nor
will any action be taken and if this continues, it is impossible that the agreement with Norway
can be fulfilled. However, to avoid the wastage of yet more millions, AIDESEP will be strict in
demanding effective measures to stop this oil palm catastrophe.
Despite this, oil palm is not discussed much in these debates about deforestation. It is “invisible”,
just like the massive oil spills, the multiple dams that are planned, the superhighways, the gold
rush or the timber mafia. This explains the need for this study, the need to make visible what is
not spoken and to expose what is hidden to try and divert our attentions.
In the jargon of the UNFCCC, it is these “mega drivers”, in other words the principal motors,
driving deforestation and forest degradation which they do not wish to, or fear to, touch.
These are the so-called indirect causes of deforestation, which does not mean they are any less
dangerous. The opposite is in fact true as they lie behind the apparent “direct” causes such as the
massive colonisation of the Amazon. It is easy to pin the blame on the small farmer, forgetting or
obscuring the hundreds of millions of dollars that the Peruvian state and international finance has
and continues to invest in the supposed “agricultural modernization” of the Amazon. In the past,
there was the story of the “empty Amazon”, of the “living frontiers” or the “Amazon breadbasket”,
while today it is for agriculture that forests are felled to make way for papaya, cocoa, coffee, palm
oil and livestock; knowing full well that it is not feasible, that the soils are poor and the nutrients
are held in a standing forest. Is it that they do not know or they do not care?
As a result of this theoretical and technical distraction, it has been necessary to harness the
vision and proposals of indigenous peoples, we who live with and are victims of this wanton
destruction of the Amazon in the name of this “sick development”. It was necessary to gather the
views and analyses of indigenous peoples and complement them with other analysis, a task taken
on by Michael Valqui, Conrad Feather and Roberto Espinoza, professionals associated with the
indigenous movement who have accompanied us through various processes.
AIDESEP, as the largest body uniting indigenous peoples of Peru will continue to work on all
levels, from communities to international forums, to stop these threats. Our alternatives are simple
but proven to work: Territory, Management and Governance. It’s too late to “wait” until they
deign to listen to us, and when they do, wait yet more decades until they deliver. No more hobby
horses. It is time to move from protest to proposal, but especially with the major contribution of
indigenous peoples: the reestablishment of our unity through the development and deployment of
collective laws for our peoples to enable the effective control of natural resources. Achieving this
does not depend on any law, any piece of paper, “project” or “permission” from anyone. It’s in our
own hands and will allow us to beat the trap they have set for us to divide us into “communities”
(worse now with this story of land for financial credit). We will maintain the existing bye-laws of
our communities and federations but build on them to establish agreements for the reconstruction
of our ancestral territories that belong to us through customary law. Through this we will agree
that our natural resources and forests cannot be sold or divided, as they constitute the core of our
If this book helps us to open ourselves to more questions, see other data and go beyond
appearances it will have achieved some of its objective. We hope that, in addition to this, it
will wake up and motivate more people and institutions to support and be committed allies of
AIDESEP and its 76 federations and 1,300 member communities.
peoples, territories and forests, all united forever
Lima, November 2014
intRoduction and geneRal
the role of forests in the peruvian amazon
The importance of forests for human well-being, whether in local or global terms, is becoming
increasingly clear. From their infinite importance to the people living in them, to the role they
play in regulating the global climate, the services provided by forests are fundamental to the
functioning of the biosphere and therefore the survival of humanity itself. This is particularly true
for the Amazon in general,11 and for the Peruvian Amazon in particular.12
the drivers of tropical deforestation
Indigenous and civil society organizations have been attempting to focus attention on the rise in
tropical deforestation since the 1970s, and the fate of tropical forests now ranks high on the agenda
of national governments and international policymakers. International interest has increased,
mainly due to the contribution made by tropical forests to greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere
and therefore their potential inclusion in controversial climate mitigation schemes such as REDD+
(Reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation), in which industrial emissions of
greenhouse gases may potentially be offset by protecting forests and their carbon stocks. These
schemes have not only led to international negotiations, but to a wave of regional and national
programs to reduce deforestation that attempt to highlight the main causes and identify potential
policy solutions. As a result of its involvement in World Bank-financed REDD initiatives, the
Peruvian government has participated in various studies since 2009 that have attempted to
understand the state of its forests, the drivers of deforestation, and the potential solutions.
deforestation rates in peru
In 2000, according to the government, the Peruvian Amazon covered 69.2 million ha,13 with
approximately 7.2 million ha, or 9.25 % of the original forest area, already deforested.14 In 2014,
it was estimated that 10.5 million ha have now been deforested (Box 2). According to the most
recent studies, 1.48 million ha were deforested between 2000 and 2012: approximately 123,000 ha
per year, or 0.17 % of the forest area recorded in 2000.15 By 2014 we estimate that the accumulated
deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon was between 8.9 and 10.5 million ha (Box 2). Small-scale
agriculture – mainly by migrants from the Andes – is often cited as the principal driver of
deforestation and therefore the focus of policy efforts.
However, these studies have attracted considerable criticism because of their tendency to ignore
or conceal the contributions to deforestation of extractive industries, agri-business and large-scale
infrastructure programs. At the same time they are notable for their emphasis on the immediate
11 The Amazon’s global functions include capture and storage of carbon, storage of fresh water, generating clouds and rain, and
biological diversity.
12 The Peruvian Amazon contributes to 25 % of the River Amazon and represents 6 % of tropical forest worldwide.
13 In this report, the terms ‘hectares’ or ‘ha’ are used interchangeably.
14 MINAM, 2009.
15 Hansen et al., 2013.
or direct causes of deforestation while underestimating the legal loopholes, policies, subsidies
and weak forest governance that underly these processes. For example, road building is often
downplayed despite the fact that an estimated 75 % of total forest damage to the Peruvian Amazon,
including 83 % of deforestation and 66 % of forest disturbance, is reported within 20 km of the
nearest roads.16
Moreover, indigenous organizations have repeatedly pointed out that these studies lack rightsbased
emphases and ignore the impact of deforestation on indigenous peoples as well as their
past and ongoing contributions to protecting the forest. Another tendency of these studies is to
demonize all types of ‘slash-and-burn’ agriculture and through failing to distinguish between
indigenous peoples’ customary, shifting, small-scale farming, which has been shown to be
sustainable (Box 3), and the permanent removal of much larger areas of forest by mining and
large-scale agriculture. Satellite monitoring, for example, doesn’t distinguish between long-term,
permanent forest conversion and short-term, temporary forest clearance for traditional crop
This report is an attempt by indigenous organizations to address this imbalance and contribute to
the debate on deforestation by taking into account the perspective of the people who live on the
front line of this deforestation.
the research
This report is made up of a critical review of prior, publicly-accessible research supplemented
by interviews with indigenous leaders and other representatives of indigenous organizations in
different parts of the Peruvian Amazon, concerning the main causes of deforestation in their
respective regions, the state’s response, and the possible solutions.17 It combines an analysis at
the national level with a focus on two specific regions, Madre de Dios and San Martín, where
deforestation rates are high and there are state-run pilot programs to combat it.
The report is split into 7 parts:
1. Part 1 describes the context at the national level, summarizing the past trends in deforestation,
the current rates, and the situation for indigenous people.
2. Part 2 analyzes the direct causes of deforestation, including agriculture, logging, mining and oil
and gas operations.
3. Part 3 analyzes the indirect causes of deforestation, including national policies regulating
resource use, forest governance, and land ownership.
4. Part 4 considers the main threats to the Peruvian Amazon and future trends in deforestation.
5. Part 5 focuses on the Madre de Dios and San Martín regions.
6. Part 6 summarizes the measures that indigenous peoples are taking and proposing to combat
7. Part 7 summarizes the report’s conclusions and makes a series of recommendations to the
Peruvian government as well as other relevant agencies.
16 Oliveira et al., 2007.
17 This information is presented in the form of direct quotations. Some interviewees prefered to remain anonymous and have not
been named.
paRt 1:
indigenous peoples and defoRestation at
1.1 foRests and indigenous
peoples in peRu
The Amazon has been inhabited for thousands
of years and estimates for the pre-Columbian
population vary widely. Some maintain that
population densities have always been low, while
others argue that there were complex civilizations
with high population densities based along the main
rivers.18 Nevertheless, there is a consensus that after
the Conquest, population levels collapsed, partly due
to the diseases brought by Europeans.
A boom in demand for rubber between 1880 and
1910 caused a second population collapse. This was
the result of a massive influx of migrants entering
18 Mann, 2002.
the Amazon and, above all, the genocidal practices of
Peruvian and foreign rubber company owners who
killed, enslaved and forcibly displaced innumerable
indigenous people.
Currently, 64 indigenous peoples from 16 language
families have been identified in the Peruvian
Amazon19 encompassing over 330,000 individuals,
image 1: forest peoples like the nahua depend on
the forest for hunting and gathering of vital materials,
including bush foods, medicines and ritual plants.
their forest territory is threatened by logging and the
controversial expansion of the camisea gas project.
Source: Johan Wildhagen
according to 2007 census data.20 The
level of contact with, or immersion
in, ‘modern Peruvian’ society ranges
widely from those living in large
cities like Iquitos and Pucallpa to
others in isolation or initial contact
Today, approximately 15 million ha of
the almost 70 million ha of tropical
forests in the Peruvian Amazon
are under some form of legally
recognized indigenous management
or administration. Although the
state has acknowledged that there
are at least 8 million ha pending
declaration as indigenous reserves,
recent research shows that, in addition, at least
294 communities have not been recognized legally
nor have a land title, 616 communities have been
recognized as existing but lack a land title, while
264 titled communities are requesting expansion as
20 According to the 2nd Census of Indigenous Communities in the
Peruvian Amazon (INEI, 2008), the number of indigenous peoples‘
was 332,975 – equivalent to 13 % of the total population in the
21 According to INEI (2008), the most numerous peoples are the
Asháninka, numbering approximately 88,000 and representing
26.6 % of the indigenous population in the Amazon, and the
Awajún, in the north, representing 16.6 %. At the other extreme
are the Resígaro-Ocaina who number just 37 people, according to
INEI (2010).
their titled lands are not able to support the entire
Moreover, in addition to the pending applications
of these communities (that total 1,174) there are at
least 10 well-advanced initiatives to obtain ownership
title to collective territories as peoples totalling more
than 10 million ha.23 See Box 1 for a summary of this
22 AIDESEP, 2014.
23 Based on unpublished data compiled by CORPI. To date this
includes the ten peoples referred to in Box 1.
Box 1: current indigenous territories and pending territorial rights in the peruvian amazoni
Territorial reserves 5 existing reserves:
2,856,223.32 ha
5 pending reserves: 3,972,569.18 ha
Cacataibo, Napo-Tigre, Yavari-Mirin, Sierra
del divisor and Tapiche-Blanco-Yaquerana
Communal reserves 6 existing reserves:
1,663,966.25 ha
6 pending reserves:
4,108,565.75 haII
Napo-Curaray, Tigre-Corrientes, Yurua,
Chambira, Inuya-Tahuania and Tamaya-Caco
Demarcated, titled indigenous communities 1,343 communities: 11,689,647 haIII
‘Invisible’ communities where administrative
processes to initiate ‘recognition’ have not
Communities whose official ‘recognition’
(and their subsequent land titling) is pending
‘Recognized’ communities pending land
Titled communities pending expansion 264
Peoples requesting title to collective
Including: Ese’Eja, Achuar, Kampu Piyawi, Shiwilo, Kandosi, Kukama, Kechwa,
Awajún, Wampis and Shapra
I AIDESEP, 2014.
II Formal applications completed and presented to the government by communities, some of these are currently being evaluated and
reconsidered by these communities.
III IBC, 2014.
image 2: upper purús River. Source: UAC
the relationship between indigenous peoples
and forests in peru
‘all of this space is Achuarti Nungkári, the territory
of the achuar. from these lands, forests and
waters we obtain the food we need to live and the
materials we need to construct, weave and make
our houses, products and crafts. in the remote
areas the animals that we hunt live and grow. We
depend on them and respect their spaces. We get
every kind of forest resource that allows us to feed
our children and grandchildren. from the waters
we get fish to eat and with the crystal clear water
from the springs and waterfalls we wash and clean
ourselves. here is where our ancestors lived and
relied on the same resources and the same land.
they looked after it and they left it for us as a
reserve which we use today. Because of this we
can live, and because of this we have life.’ Achuar
leader, Huitoyacu river, Loreto region.
For indigenous peoples in the Amazon the forest
is synonymous with life. Despite some integration
into the market economy, many retain an intimate
relationship with their forests and continue to
depend on them for their livelihoods and sense of
The forest provides game, fish, fruit, seeds and land
where they cultivate crops using a rotational system
that ensures the ongoing fertility of the soil and forest
renewal (Box 3). In addition to food, it is a vital
source of materials for tools, clothing, construction
and medicines – the latter enabling them to
communicate with the non-human beings on which
their cosmologies are based. A section of the map
(Image 3) shows how the Awajún and Wampis use
the resources in one part of their ancestral lands on
the river Santiago and illustrates their interdependent
relationship with the forest.
poverty, extractive industries and integration
into the market economy
Despite the ongoing significance of forests to
indigenous peoples’ culture and way of life, the
relationship has changed increasingly over the
years. This has been the result of a variety of factors
including; government policies opening up the
forests to natural resource extraction, oil and gas
operations, gold-mining, uncontrolled illegal logging
and other extractive industries that have extended
into indigenous territories and contaminated the
soil, land and air. In addition, a deeply flawed
land-titling process that fails to reflect traditional
image 3: section of cultural and historical map of the
awajún y Wampis peoples, River santiago.
Source: FECOHRSA, IBC et al.
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Canal del Puinahua
Lag. Arapa
Lag. Junin
Lag. La Niña
Río Tambo
Río Colca
Río Urubamba
Río Vilcanota
Río Tamaya
Río Aguaytía
Río Pisqui
Río Santa
Río Chapurí
Río Huasaga
Río Corrientes
Propuesta de Reserva Territorial
NAPO - TIGRE Propuesta de Reserva Comunal
Propuesta de Reserva Comunal
Propuesta de Reserva Comunal
Propuesta de Reserva Territorial
Propuesta de Reserva Territorial
Propuesta de Reserva Territorial
Propuesta de Reserva Territorial
Propuesta de Reserva Territorial
Propuesta de Reserva Comunal
Propuesta de Reserva Comunal
Propuesta de Reserva Comunal
Río Itui
Río Yaco
Río Acre
Río Apurímac
Río Curacá
Río Corrientes
Río Itaquai
Río Curaray
Río Jandiatuba
Río Mantaro
Río Mazán
Río Santa
Río Mayo
Río Tigre
Río Igaraparana
Río Tambo
Río Vilcanota
Río Algodón
Río Ica
Río Colca
Río Yaquirana
Río Tapiche
Río Tiputini
Río Nanay
Río Biabo
Río Huasaga
Río Yavarí
Río Pumajali
Río Samiria
Río Pisqui
Río Heath
Río Tamaya
Río Blanco
Río Nucuray
Río Chapurí
Río Yasuni
Río Zamora
Río Huitoyacu
Río Sama
Río Campuya
Río Urituyacu
Río Acarí
Río Tamboryacu
Río Huallaga
Río Pintoyacu
Río Grande
Río Cañete
Río Lidia
Río Pariamanú
Río Pacaya
Río Mala
Río Urubamba
Río Chira
Río Pisco
Río Rímac
Río Pucacuro
Río Picha
Río Los Amigos
Río Utcubamba
Río Cenepa
Río Patayacu
Río Saña
Río Huaura
Río Itaya
Río Piura
Río Arabela
Río Ocoña
Río Supe
Río Yavarí Mirín
Río Orosa
Río Buncuyo
Río Marañón
Río Timpia
Río Quijos
Río Chillón
Río Pampas
Río Ene
Río Atacuari
Río Bobonaza
Río Chignia
Río Sungaro
Río Catamayo
Río Utiquinia
Río Reque
Río Chaparra
Río Manuripe
Río Curanja
Río Pastaza
Río Chilive
Río Huayabamba
Río Manu
Río Curiuja
Río Abujao
Río Aipena
Río Ungurahui
Río Eno
Río Jurúa
Río Chancay
Río Bage
Río Callería
Río Cariyacu
Río Pozuzo
Río Inambari
Río Aichiyacu
Río Mayumanu
Río Chiriaco
Río Manchari
Río Lurín
Río Vitor
Río Perené
Río Alfaro
Río Huancabamba
Río Puyango
Río Salcca
Río Cohengua
Río Tacshacuraray
Río Panya
Río Sepa
Río Morona
Río Chotano
Río Chili
Río Urgumayo
Río Yauca
Río Huarmey
Río Macuma
Río Fortaleza
Río Sepahua
Río Ampiyacu
Río Camisea
Río Cahuapanas
Río Capahuari
Río Sotileja
Río Mishahua
Río Hollin
Río San Juan
Río Pativilca
Río San Francisco
Río Cujar
Río Tahuanía
Río Crucero
Río Majes
Río Maure
Río Sensa
Río Cuinico
Río Arajuno
Río Imaza
Río Tumbes
Río Shanusi
Río Cabanillas
Río Huancay
Río Las Piedras
Río Ilave
Río Ilabaya
Río Araza
Río Pichis
Río Tabaconas
Río Cumariali
Río Loco
Río Colorado
Río Yanayacu
Río Tambopata
Río Paranapura
Río Putina
Río Omas
Río Tangarana
Río Chirinos
Río Chambo
Río Callacani
Río Calvas
Río Purús
Río Yana Apaga
Río Chilete
Río Tulumayo
Río Verde
Río Magdalena
Río Chicama
Río Braguera
Río Ushusuma
Río Azupizú
Río Marán
Río Santa Rosa
Río Conaviri
Río Pampas
Río Cutervo
Río San Pedro
Río Chalupas
Rio Chamaya
Río Chiquinas
Río Canjallo
Río Rocomayo
Río Cajamarca
Río Vilcabamba
Río Putushin
Río Queros
Río Cebadas
Río PucaráRío Azángaro
Río Nusiniscato
Río Lampalla
Río Zarumilla
Río Huari Huari
Río Payamino
Río Puquiri
Río Locumba
Río Nupe
Río Salado
Río Moche
Río Osmore
Río Oropesa
Río Ilo
Río Ayaviri
Río Rimachi
Río Huacamayo
Río Naraime
Río Virú
Río Iruro
Río Chorobamba
Río San José
Río Pucuno
Río Pavayacu
Río Boncuya
Río Mucasani
Río Pinquecrillo
Río Chorroca
Río Piñipiñi
Río Jivino
Río Orauna
Río Canchis
Río Perejil
Río Guanaco
Río Cushabatay
Río Espíndola
Río Surocata
Río Huataracu
Río Quechamayo
Río Sangara
Río Camaná
Río Machacayacu
Río Huamasaña
Río Cashiriari
Río Chanchamayo
Río Huancahuanca
Río Quilca
Río Macará
Río Ichocollo
Río Matagente
Río Cabaljani
Río Pinquén
Río Cachiyacu
Río Huarayhoma
Río Hurayhuma
Río Palomatayacu
Río Jatunyacu
Río Samanco
Río Casma
Río Seco
Río Pucamayo
Río Huayhuash
Río Chilamayo
Río Jucumarini
Río Pinchayacu
Río Chancay
Río Grande
Río Chira
Río Ocoña
Río Pisco
Río Yanayacu
Río Magdalena
Río Grande
Río Pativilca
Río Tambo
Río Marañón
Río Marañón
Río Pampas
Río Chili
Río Tambopata
Río Grande
Río Cenepa
Río Marañón
Río Pintoyacu
Río Santa Rosa
Lagos y Lagunas
Rios, Quebradas, Islas y
Límite Departamental
Capital de Provincia
Capital de Departamento
Vía Ferrea
Sin Afirmar
Trocha Carrozable
Area Urbana
Comunidades Nativas por Inscribir y Titular
Comunidades Nativas Inscritas por Titular
Solicitud de Ampliación de Comunidad Nativa
Propuesta de Reserva Territorial 5
Propuesta de Reserva Comunal 6
Territorio Integral
1 : 1 900 000
Fecha de Elaboración
ENERO 2014
Prroojjeecccciióónn Unniivveerrssaall Trraannssvveerrssaa ddee Meerrccaattoorr
ArcGis 9.3
Siisstteemaass ddee Coooorrddeennaaddaass Geeooggrrááffiiccaass
Waldir Eulogio Azaña
EEllaabboorraaddoo PPoorr::
Essp.. S..II..G.. AIIDESEP
Sergio Arbaiza Gusmán
Reevviissaaddoo PPoorr::
Coorrdiinadorr CIIPTA
- Base Cartografica Digital IGN Perú
- Cartas Nacionales 1:100 000
- Limites Departamentales M..E.D.
- Red Hidrográfica - Ana
Diciembre 2013 ( 80% )
map 1: the territorial demands of indigenous amazonian peoples (december 2013). Source: AIDESEP
land use practices has meant that many indigenous
communities now find themselves confined to
comparatively small parcels of degraded land where
they are unable to practice their traditional way of
To make matters worse, many of these developments
have contributed to a change in lifestyle in which
externally manufactured goods have increasingly
come to be seen as necessities and play an increasing
role in their economies. In some remote areas in the
Amazon, where the value of agricultural products is
low but the cost of manufactured goods is high, it is
difficult for families to earn enough income without
resorting to finding work in the extractive industries.
In 2007, it was estimated that the total population
in Peru’s 5 main Amazon regions – Loreto, Ucayali,
Madre de Dios, San Martín and Amazonas – was
2,540,000. Of these, 910,000 were living in rural
areas,24 meaning that approximately 36 % of people in
the Amazon base their lives around the use of land
and natural resources.
However, it is clear that it is not only people living
rurally – both indigenous and non-indigenous – who
depend on healthy forests and rivers. Those who
live in the cities and smaller urban centres also rely
on the meat and fish for their protein, while their
regular supply of manioc and plantains requires
fertile soil.
One unique case is Iquitos, a city of approximately
500,000 people so isolated it is supplied almost
entirely from the forest surrounding it.25 This
includes fish, various crops, and fruit such as aguaje
(mauritia flexuosa). Aguaje is highly sought after, but
unsustainable exploitation has devastated aguajales
(palm swamps) extending for more than 5 million
ha, or 7 %, of the Peruvian Amazon.26
1.2 histoRY of defoRestation in
the conquest and the era of the missions
Deforestation in Peru isn’t only a recent
phenomenon. Some studies suggest that a
considerable part of the Peruvian Andes lost its forest
cover in pre-Columbian times.27
24 According to INEI’s definition (2008), rural areas are all those that
are not urban areas – where houses are scattered and settlements
number 100 houses or less, except when they are district capitals.
25 Considered to be the largest city in the world that can only be
accessed by river or air.
26 IIAP, 2006.
27 Fjeldsa and Kessler, 1996.
After the conquest and the subsequent population
collapse, it is possible that many such deforested
areas recovered. Subsequently, agriculture and its
associated deforestation became concentrated around
religious missions (reducciones) which encouraged
indigenous peoples to live around them. The overall
result of this dynamic may have been relatively stable
overarching levels of deforestation. The expulsion
of the Jesuits in 1768 and the abandonment of
the missions probably led to a recovery of the
surrounding deforested areas.
colonization during the Republic
The situation changed when Peru became
independent in 1821. In contrast to a Jesuit policy
of restricting access to the Amazon, the Republic’s
intention has always been to occupy it – for
agricultural cultivation and geopolitical reasons:
‘Once independence was declared, one of the
constant themes of Peruvian policy was to encourage
immigration, particularly by Europeans, to the
Amazon and other regions. In 1832 a law was passed
that freely gave ownership title to land between 2 to 40
fanegas to anyone who settled in these places, whether
they were Peruvian nationals or foreigners.’28
The results of such policies were towns like Pozuso
and Oxapampa. They were founded in the second
half of the 19th century by German and Tyrolean
farmers with little regard for the area’s original
inhabitants, the Asháninka and Yánesha.
The rubber boom in the late 19th century led to
settlements and estates being established along many
major rivers in the Amazon. Most settlers came from
San Martín and Amazonas, but some were European,
and many indigenous peoples were forced to move to
more remote areas.29
There was little economic activity for several
decades after the collapse of the rubber market,
although some products such as balata, precious
hardwoods, animal skins and barbasco experienced
temporary booms.30 During this period the number
of people living along the main rivers swelled and
the so called ribereño populations were born, a
combination of long-established colonists, recent
migrants, and indigenous people.31 Some of these
impacts can still be seen today. One example, in
the River Paranapura basin in San Martín are the
‘purmas of our grandparents’ – mature, 50 year
old or more secondary forests that grew out of
28 San Román, 1994.
29 Ibid.
30 Ibid.
31 IBC, 2012b.
barbasco plantations abandoned after the collapse
of the barbasco market in the 1950s (L. Huanzi,
Roads and colonization
In the 1940s, the construction and improvement
of the roads running to Pucallpa and Peru’s central
forest region, known as the ‘selva central’, increased
the number of colonists from the Andes migrating
to the Amazon. In 1943, the Ministry of Agriculture
was established, including an ‘Office for Issues of the
Orient, Colonization and Land’. State policy during
these years encouraged colonists to migrate to the
selva central in order to expand the agricultural
In 1963, Peru’s president proposed the construction
of the ‘carretera marginal’, a highway’ connecting the
Amazon regions of the various Andean countries,
running from Venezuela to Argentina with more
than 2,500 km in Peru and opening up more than
2 million ha of Peru to colonists and agriculture.
The first stretches were built between Tarapoto,
Juanjui, Campanilla and Moyobamba. Ever since
then, San Martín has been Peru’s leading agricultural
producer33 and, until a few years ago, had the highest
deforestation rates in the country.
In the 1980s, deforestation began to be seen as
more than just a local or regional problem. The first
recorded attempt to estimate total deforestation
in Peru was the National Forest Map which found
that approximately 4.5 million ha of forests in
the Amazon had been cut down at an estimated
32 MINAM, 2009.
average of 150,000 ha per year, and cited agricultural
colonization in the upland forest as the main cause,
although these figures have been disputed (see
Box 2).34
Between 1980 and 1990, the state played a
fundamental role in increasing deforestation by
encouraging development in the Amazon through
special colonization projects intended to complement
the new road network, with the Carretera Marginal
the most emblematic. These ‘special projects’,
implemented by INADE (National institute of
Development), were:
􀁴􀀁 PEJSIB (Jaén-San Ignacio-Bagua)
􀁴􀀁 PEAM (Alto Mayo)
􀁴􀀁 PEHCB (Huallaga Central and Bajo Mayo)
􀁴􀀁 PEAH (Alto Huallaga)
􀁴􀀁 PEPP (Pichis Palcazu)
􀁴􀀁 PERS (Restoration of the Ucayali, Chontayacu and
Purús river basins)
􀁴􀀁 PEMD (Madre de Dios)
Most of these projects were accompanied by road
building or road improvement. It is no surprise that
most of these regions had, and continue to have, high
rates of deforestation (Map 2).
The increase in the commercial cultivation of
coca – the raw material for cocaine – from the
late 1970s caused further deforestation, with many
34 Malleux, 1975.
image 4: the construction of the ‘carretera marginal’,
the first highway in the peruvian amazon promoted
by then president Belaunde.i
Box 2: historic deforestation: contested facts
The Peruvian state has historically had little interest in keeping a reliable record of the total
forest area in the country, let alone total or annual deforestation rates. This has changed in
recent years following intermittent initiatives by PROCLIM (National Capacity-Building Program
for Managing the Impacts of Climate Change and Air Contamination)I and MINAM (Ministry of
the Environment).II
A fundamental difficulty in measuring deforestation is defining what is and what isn’t the
Amazon, in addition to methodological problems in distinguishing primary forest from secondary
forest. Crucially, for measurements of deforestation in indigenous lands, limitations of satellite
detection systems for forest loss in Peru leads to the confusion of temporary forest clearance
(the result of indigenous rotational farming) with permanent forest loss, leading to the
overestimation of deforestation in indigenous lands (see Box 7). On the other hand, Dourojeanni
has discussed in detail how the lack of baseline studies has led to historic deforestation in Peru
being underestimated by 6 million ha.III
If MINAMIV estimates are used (7.2 million ha deforested by the year 2000) with those of Hansen
et al.V (1.48 million ha deforested between 2000 and 2012 at an average rate of 123,000ha/
year) then this yields a rough estimate of 8.9 million ha total deforestation by 2014. This figure
probably represents an underestimate of total deforestation for the following reasons:
1. It does not distinguish between primary forest and secondary forest which is over 20 years
2. In recent years there is likely to have been a significant increase in deforestation.
3. The question of at what altitude forest existed prior to 1975 requires further definition.
If Malleux’s 1975 figure of 4.5 million ha of deforestationVI is accepted as an initial estimate
and combined with the annual deforestation rates from that year onwards, the total figure
comes to 10.5 million ha. This figure, however, is almost certainly an overestimate as part of the
deforestation detected annually by remote sensing took place on previously deforested lands.
The altitudinal limit of forest cover and the methodological differences between Malleux’s (1975)
estimate in the pre satellite era and the more recent estimates are also potential sources of error
or blindspots.
In conclusion, and for the objectives of this document, the total accumulated deforestation of
dense Amazonian forests lies somewhere in between 8.9 and 10.5 million hectares. Considering
the 78.5 million ha of Amazon determined by MINAM (2012a), this is equivalent to a total
deforestation of between 11.3 % and 13.4 %.
I PROCLIM, 2005.
II MINAM, 2012a and 2012b.
III Dourojeanni, M., 2012.
IV MINAM, 2009.
V Hansen et al. (2013) use Landsat images and analyse all the countries of the world in a consistent manner between 2000 and
2012. As a result, subtle details from each country are beyond the scope of the analysis but it permits a general comparison
between countries and, over time, there are no blind spots due to changes in methodology or satellite use. The level reported
by MINAM is less but the difference in methodology between the 2 results remains unclear.
VI This included forests on the Western slopes of the Andes in the regions of Piura, Tumbes and Lambayeque which are
deciduous and which therefore raises special methodological problems for estimating deforestation. The MINAM study (2009)
only mentions that deforestation in Piura constitutes 2 % of national levels. Hansen et al. (2013) include all dense forest, in
other words covering over 75 % of the ground which would probably exclude a large part of the dry forests of these regions.
agricultural migrants initially growing it adjacent to
the newly-built roads. Efforts to eradicate it forced
cultivation, and the corresponding deforestation,
into more remote areas.35 Similarly, road building
and road improvement were used to encourage
commercial cultivation of crops other than coca –
part of a crop substitution policy, supported by the
USAID’s Alternative Development Project – which
led to further deforestation.36
agrarian credit
In 1986 and 1987, the Peruvian state started
providing agrarian credit on a large scale across
the Amazon, leading to a substantial increase in
deforestation rates. Although this is not reflected in
nationwide analyses of deforestation, it was remarked
upon by the indigenous peoples interviewed for
this report (L. Huanzi, FERISHAM), and it has
been documented in Madre de Dios where one
study found that deforestation rates were higher
when agrarian credit was available and that the
highest rates were within 8 km of the Inter-Oceanica
Other research on Madre de Dios, focusing on
the 1980s through to 2003, has found a clear
link between agrarian credit, road building and
“The amount of mature forest decreased from 97 %
in 1986 to 85 % in 1991, rose slightly until 1996,
decreased slowly until 2003, and then decreased in
accelerated fashion thereafter. Especially interesting
are the impacts of these investments on the forest
dynamics, from the decrease during the provision
of credit and incentives for cattle-ranching during
Garcia’s administration (1986-1991), the increase
after those incentives were withdrawn by Fujimori,
who later offered incentives for reforestation (1991-
1996), and then the rapid decrease after 2003 during
preparations for paving the Interoceanica Highway
during the Toledo administration.”38
Other studies also confirm the direct impact of
agrarian credit on deforestation. Regarding Pucallpa
and the surrounding region, one such study found:
“...upon provision of subsidized agricultural credit
and guaranteed minimum prices for agricultural
products in the latter half of the 1980s, 94 percent of
farmers increased production (predominantly of rice
and maize) ... and by hiring more labour for slash-
35 Bedoya, 2005.
36 CDC, 2004.
37 Álvarez and Naughton-Treves, 2003, cited in Zambrano et al.,
38 Chávez, 2014: 15 (authors translation).
and-burn production of annual crops. A sharp increase
in forest clearing resulted; 75 percent of farmers
reported clearing more primary forest for agricultural
use. When subsidized credit and guaranteed
prices were eliminated in the context of structural
adjustment, production levels and deforestation
sharply declined in the region around Pucallpa.”39
Retreat from the amazon
However, following these years of optimism, the
situation changed entirely in the 1980s and 1990s
with violence and economic crisis. Public and private
investment shrank. In the Huallaga, Apurímac and
Aguaytía valleys, for example, commercial activity
decreased so significantly that whole areas were
abandoned40 and vegetation recovered.41 Today,
many such areas appear as mature forests in satellite
Peace in the late 1990s meant that many indigenous
and non-indigenous peoples returned to the areas
where they had lived previously, although this
sometimes led to conflicts and disputes if other
people had settled there in the meantime.
Throughout the history of deforestation in the
Peruvian Amazon most of it – 75 % or more – has
been caused by the State’s road building, agrarian
credit and colonization programs encouraging
migration – although such colonists, limited by
time constraints and a lack of capital, have tended
to only clear a few hectares over the years.42 While
it is true that some extensive swathes of forest have
been deforested in past decades – especially for
cattle ranches – it is mainly in the last few years that
there has been a qualitative and quantitative leap
in deforestation, which will be discussed later. It
is precisely this central and historic role played by
an alliance between the State and the ideology of
‘development’ which makes the current situation of
the Amazon of such concern.
1.3 indigenous peRspectives on
To date, most deforestation in Peru has been
associated with the most important roads and
population centres, beyond the boundaries of
indigenous territories, although there are some
exceptions, such as the upper River Mayo, where
39 Yanggen, D., 2000, cited in White et al., 2005: 347.
40 L. Huanzi, from the Shawi people (FERISHAM), says that in the
River Paranapura basin in San Martín there are 20 to 25 year old
fallows (purmas) dating back to the agrarian credit years.
41 CDC, 2004.
42 INDUFOR, 2012.
Box 3: traditional rotational farming: the scientific evidence supporting sustainable
Shifting cultivation involves clearing forest for a plot of land, cultivating it for a few years, and
then, as soil fertility declines, abandoning it in favour of clearing further forest for another plot
of land while the first plot lies fallow and recovers its fertility. Widespread use by indigenous
and non-indigenous Amazonian people has been shown to be an effective response to the
fact that 93 % of Amazon lands located on firm ground are highly acidic, lack deep layers of
organic matter, and therefore are not sufficiently fertile.I Drawing on historical research and
ethnographic fieldwork, it has been shown that many supposedly ‘natural’ landscapes in the
Amazon have actually been created and managed in a sophisticated fashion by indigenous
peoples as well as non-indigenous peoples living on the floodplains, such as the so-called
‘ribereños’,II or other communities living in the forest.III This approach is described by a member
of the Achuar community of Wijint on the river Huitoyacu.
“We do not farm those lands with lots of clay or those that are very steep, those places with
lots of mud, flooded areas or swamplands. normally we would not make farms where there
are dead trees no where we find iji pujawai (a harmful fungus that sticks to the yucca and
slows its growth) nor in the núngka arantuti, ‘sacred lands’ or núngka shámrumtin, dangerous
Numerous studies have shown that rotational farming can be highly sustainable in the Amazon
when land is allowed to lie fallow for sufficient time. The Kayapó, for example, are famous for
creating ‘forest islands’ (apete) to cultivate crops and plant trees. Of a total of 120 species found
in 10 apete, it has been estimated that 75 % may have been planted.IV Similarly, the Awá on the
Colombia/Ecuador border practice a form of shifting cultivation known as ‘tumba y pudre’ which
involves cutting back the natural vegetation and waiting until it turns into mulch and creates
a temporary plot where maize and beans can be planted. Once yields decline, the field is left
fallow and allowed to regenerate as enriched, secondary forest.V
There are also studies showing that shifting cultivation by small-scale farmers encourages much
greater biodiversity than commercial agriculture and, in addition to providing vital food and
livelihood security for millions of smallholders, also provides a range of other ecological services
far superior to commercial agricultural lands, including significant carbon sequestration and a
reduction in soil erosion and run-off. One of these studies shows that an average of 37 species
of tree seedlings can be tolerated, even encouraged, in each ‘slashed-and-burned’ hectare in the
Peruvian Amazon.VI Shifting cultivation is a cyclical farming system in which forest is transformed
into field, field into forest. The “sustainability of swidden systems emerges when it is seen in
broader spatial and longer temporal scales”.VII
In the Gran Pajonal region in Peru’s central jungle, research over a 50 year period has compared
the traditional shifting cultivation of the Asháninka with cattle-ranching by colonists who have
migrated from the Andes. Asháninka agriculture is based on small, 1-2 ha plots featuring a variety
of plants and requiring an average fallow period of 25 years, although recently the cultivation
of high-quality coffee for export has been successfully integrated into their system. By contrast,
cattle-ranching by their neighbours is based on clearing the forest and planting permanent
pasture. Since the 1950s, the Asháninka have maintained almost the same proportion of forested
land to agricultural land, and more than 91 % forest cover despite the fact their population has
tripled. The colonist population is almost the same as it was in the 1980s, but deforestation
has increased by almost 50 % with no noticeable improvement in income generation or poverty

State-backed projects have promoted intense
colonization in areas very close to indigenous
communities (Box 32).
Despite that, deforestation and degradation
caused by colonists or extractive industries has
had substantial impacts on the forest and its
ecosystems and therefore serious consequences
for indigenous peoples’ capacity to manage their
lands and resources, in addition to the abuses that
such operations bring with them. In other words,
deforestation and degradation have indirectly had
serious consequences for indigenous peoples even
without directly violating their rights.
Deforestation is seen as integral to the way wider
Peruvian society impacts on indigenous people,
and as one of the consequences of the aggression
against their territories. Other consequences include
invasions, the over-exploitation of timber and
non-timber resources (degradation), contamination,
and, in the case of gold-mining and oil palm
development, utter devastation.
Indigenous people, however, distinguish very clearly
between different types of deforestation: temporary
deforestation caused by traditional rotational farming
(Box 3) which is adapted to the Amazon’s ecology,
and permanent deforestation by cattle-ranching,
mining or commercial agriculture. Conventional
analyses of deforestation often fail to distinguish
between the two forms.
Traditional shifting cultivation for subsistence
purposes involves deforesting significantly less
than 1 ha for each family per year. Moreover, most
cultivation takes place in already deforested areas.
According to A. Lopez, from the Kukama people, the
president of ACODECOSPAT:
‘in the amazon lands occupied by the Kukama-
Kukamiria the cycles of slash-fallow-slash last
between 5 and 6 years. this is possible because
the floodplain forests are so fertile.’
In other parts of the Amazon, the cycles are longer
and can last up to 20 years.43 In general in such
traditional indigenous systems a mosaic landscape
is created which is relatively stable in which most
deforestation takes place on secondary forest and
little primary forest is touched.
There is no doubt the forest can regenerate when
traditional shifting cultivation is practiced and/or
sufficient time passes. L. Huanzi (FERISHAM) says
of the River Paranapura in the Amazonas region:
‘our grandfathers were cultivating barbasco
and rubber in their plots in the 1950s, but later
abandoned them when markets collapsed. those
purmas (fallows) are more than 50 years old and
similar to primary forest. they even have valuable
timber species. there are also purmas that are
20 to 30 years old dating back to the special
[colonization] projects promoted in the 1980s, but
they’re still very different to primary forest.’
In other words, deforestation resulting from
43 Dourojeanni et al., 2009.
Despite this clear contribution to biodiversity and forest conservation, shifting cultivation in
many countries has often been criminalized, condemned, and described in pejorative terms such
as ‘slash-and-burn’ farming. Much of the criticism argues that it is only sustainable when plots
can be left fallow for long periods. However, recent research emphasises that there is a great
deal of diversity in shifting cultivation. In San Martín, for example, Kechwa Lamista communities
have used their traditional ecological knowledge to accelerate and improve the fallow period. As
a result, they have been able to cultivate commercial crops such as coffee alongside subsistence
food crops and restore degraded land to production.IX
I Gasche, 2010.
II Balee, 1994; Posey, 1985.
III Gasche, 2010.
IV Posey, 1985.
V Orejuela, 1992, cited in Folke and Johan Colding.
VI Padoch and Pinedo-Vasquez, 2010.
VII Ibid: 551.
VIII Hvalkof, 2013.
IX Marquardt et al., 2013.

traditional shifting cultivation is both a temporary
state and an integral part of indigenous peoples’ work
and lives, rather than a problem that needs resolving,
given the care taken to regenerate the cleared area
and its capacity to enrich the forest.44
Instead, the problem arises when the State,
companies or colonists operate in different ways.
Not only do they have little experience of what crop
works best where, they are functioning on a much
larger scale because their motivation is to earn profit
rather than support their subsistence, which involves
an entirely different logic. It is also a problem when
indigenous peoples themselves, for various reasons,
have been forced to adopt this logic, as has occurred
in the upper River Mayo (Box 32).
1.4 cuRRent tRends in
defoRestation at the national
national figures
For years, countries have reported deforestation
rates to the FAO, but FAO figures are problematic
because of the different definitions used by countries
to determine ‘forest’ and the different methodologies
used to assess deforestation.
In Peru, various estimates have been made recently
using different methodologies. Hansen et al. (2013),
who use the same methodology for every country
and therefore enable direct comparisons between
them, found that Peru has 74.5 million ha of forest,
the 7th highest amount of dense forest of any kind
in the world, and the 4th highest amount of dense
44 This may be one of the reasons why REDD generates such
suspicion among indigenous peoples: it places a restriction on
something indigenous peoples can’t live without. As many of
those intervieweed stated, this does not correspond to the ‘buen
vivir’ (good life).
tropical forest in particular.45 According to Hansen
et al., 1,480,000 ha were deforested in Peru between
2000 and 2012 at an average of approximately
123,000 ha per year, although various sources report
a significant increase in deforestation in 2012,
including, in some cases, more than 250,000 ha
deforested in this year.46 These latest figures will no
doubt be confirmed or refuted by future studies.
Other sources (Box 4) agree with Hansen et al. that
Peru has one of the lowest rates of deforestation
among tropical countries, equal to or less than
0.23 %. In the Amazon, only Venezuela and the
Guyana shield countries currently have lower rates.
However, considering the factors discussed in this
report, it is expected that deforestation in Peru
will increase significantly and rates will become
more similar to neighbouring countries. These
factors include an investment climate encouraging
large-scale projects, pressure from national and
international oil palm companies, the expansion of
local and regional road networks, and the increased
wealth of the population in general.
the regional situation
Loreto is the largest region in Peru and has had
more hectares deforested than any other. According
to MINAM (2009), most deforestation is around
Yurimaguas, along the Iquitos-Nauta highway, and
along the central channel of the River Amazon
between Caballococ ha and the border with Brazil.
In San Martín, the region where in the past
deforestation rates have been highest, there was
45 For dense forest the order is Brazil, Russia, Canada, USA,
Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia and Peru.
46 Global Forest Watch used MODIS satellite imagery to generate a
figure for 2012 of 246,456 ha compared with 118,005 for 2011.
Meanwhile, InfoAmazonia figures cite 167,000 hectáreas for 2012
compared with 97,000 ha for 2011:
Box 4: estimates of deforestation in peru
authors Years analysed annual deforestation (ha) annual deforestation %
Malleux (1975) 1975 150,000 Information not available
INRENA (1996) 1985-1990 261,000 Information not available
PROCLIM (2005) 1990-2000 149,600 Information not available
RAISG (2012) 2000, 2005 and 2010 150,400 0.21 %
MINAM (2012a) 2000, 2005 and 2009 123,203 0.23 %
MINAM (2012b) 2009, 2010 and 2011 105,975 0.17 %
Hansen et al. (2013) Every year from 2000 to 2012 123,300 0.17 %
map 2: deforestation in peru 2000-2012. FPP
a significant increase after 2005 but a decrease in
recent years (Box 5). Deforestation occurs almost
everywhere in the region, except for the lowland
areas, and it is particularly intensive in the upper
River Mayo, along the Tarapoto-Yurimaguas highway
near the border with Loreto, and along the Highway
to Huánuco (Map 2).
In Ucayali, most deforestation occurs along the
Federico Basadre Highway linking Pucallpa to Lima,
and the roads running to Aguaytía and the Pachitea
valley (Map 2).
In Madre de Dios, most deforestation is connected
to mining, particularly in areas such as Huepetuhe,
Mazuko and Delta I. New areas like Quebrada
Guacamayo and stretches along the Inter-Oceanic
Highway are now being impacted (Map 2).
According to one study, 86 % of total deforestation
and forest disturbance in Peru between 1999 and
2001 occurred in Ucayali and Madre de Dios. The
highest rates were around Pucallpa, a major logging
centre, and neighbouring regions connected by road,
accounting for 64 % of total forest damage in Peru.
This was followed by the ‘corridor’ centred on Puerto
Maldonado, Madre de Dios’s capital, which runs
along the Inter-Oceanic Highway and accounted for
23 % of total damage.47
In San Martín, Ucayali and Huánuco – all of which
have been seriously impacted by narco-trafficking
and violence – deforestation rates in the 1990s were
much lower than in subsequent years.
In regions that are only partly Amazonian (Huánuco,
Pasco, Junín, Cusco and Puno), deforestation rates
are currently lower than in previous years, despite
pressure from colonists often coming from the
Andean parts of those regions. In some cases, such as
Cusco and Pasco in 2005-2009 and 2009-2010, it is
not clear if there really was such a dramatic decrease
in deforestation or whether a methodological error
has been made.
In the tropics worldwide, 6 types of deforestation
have been identified.48 Four of these are found in the
Peruvian Amazon:
􀁴􀀁 Deforestation in large blocks resulting from
agricultural investments such as oil palm and
cattle-ranching (Map 3)
􀁴􀀁 Deforestation in ‘corridors’ along roads and
major rivers (Map 6)
􀁴􀀁 Deforestation around cities or large towns
(Map 4)
􀁴􀀁 Deforestation that is dispersed or ‘mosaic’,
by traditional inhabitants or long-established
colonists (ribereños) who don’t participate in the
globalized market economy and in general remain
isolated from road networks (Map 4)
48 Geist and Lambin, 2001.
Box 5: annual deforestation (in hectares) in amazon regions between 2000 and 2012i
Region period
1990-2000ii 2000-2005 2005-2009 2009-2010 2010-2011
San Martín 2,765 9,310 27,502 39,760 30,798
Loreto 30,751 16,672 31,932 24,211 36,201
Ucayali 7,931 16,679 22,057 16,342 9,942
Huánuco 6,816 11,830 16,790 12,785 7,777
Madre de Dios 12,461 4,325 3,707 5,402 5,959
Pasco 1,465 4,203 10,483 3,998 3,938
Amazonas 35,589 3,818 9,336 3,981 4,542
Cusco 14,175 11,773 24,450 740 1,498
Junín 11,141 4,498 9,882 333 1,514
I Modified from MINAM, 2012a and 2012b.
map 3: large-scale deforestation for oil palm plantations in the Barranquita district on the loreto/san martín
border. FPP
map 4: deforestation connected to the towns of tocache and uchiza and the surrounding road network in san
martín. FPP
paRt 2
diRect causes of defoRestation
2.1 defoRestation BY land use
Deforestation is a complex issue, difficult to
understand and therefore subject to various
approaches trying to comprehend its causes and
consequences. Direct causes are often confused with
indirect or underlying causes.49
Analyses of deforestation often break down rates
according to different land use categories or
ownership types. Box 6 highlights key elements of
the official figures for this breakdown in Peru.
According to this analysis, deforestation is highest
on private land (2.27 %), reforestation concessions
(0.74 %), campesino communities (0.26 %), and areas
where no rights have been allocated (0.24 %). All
these land categories have rates at or above 0.24 %.
By contrast, indigenous communities (0.11 %),
logging concessions50 (0.07 %), and conservation
and eco-tourism concessions (0.14 %) have
intermediate rates of deforestation between 0.07 %
and 0.14 %. Meanwhile the lowest rates are found in
protected natural areas (0.02 %), non-timber forest
concessions51 (0.04 %), and territorial reserves for
indigenous peoples in isolation (0.02 %). All these
areas have annual rates lower than 0.04 %.
Independent studies and official reports cite
agriculture – particularly practiced by recent
agricultural migrants, and particularly along roads
– as the main cause of deforestation, accounting
49 Geist and Lambin distinguish between ‘proximate and underlying
factors’, but other authors use the terms ‘direct and indirect
causes’, or threats and factors. In this report we use ‘direct and
indirect causes.’
50 Finer et al. (2014) argue that wood-laundering – illegally extracting
wood from beyond concession boundaries – is reflected in the
higher levels of disturbance in the surrounding areas, as does
Oliveira et al .(2007).
51 Such as brazilnut, aguaje, palm heart and animal rearing etc.
for 75 % of the total.52 The indigenous people
interviewed for this report point out that such
migrants focus on cultivating crops for national and
international markets such as corn, rice, papaya,
palm, cocoa, coffee, manioc, banana and sac ha inchi,
among others.
Cattle-ranching53 and mining also have a significant
impact, although mining is underestimated by this
source. Coca, so important in past decades, is now
less relevant as a direct cause of deforestation (Box
Nevertheless, the analysis shows that more than 50 %
of deforestation occurs in areas where no rights have
been allocated. Most migrant agriculture falls within
this category, given that very few colonists have
obtained title and therefore are not considered within
the private land category.
Estimates for cattle-ranching do not appear in
other studies, probably because of the difficulty in
distinguishing between pasture and crops, making it
necessary to wait for further studies for confirmation.
The indigenous peoples interviewed for this report
generally didn’t consider cattle-ranching as an
imminent threat, and although it is significant in
some areas such as Puerto Inca or Aguaytía it doesn’t
appear that there will be a significant increase in the
near future. For the purposes of this report, cattleranching
is included within agriculture in general.
52 Climate Investment Funds, 2013, Peru R-PP.
53 As INDUFOR (2012) reports for the Climate Investments
Funds, 2013.
Box 6: deforestation by land categoryi
use category and ownership type standing forest (ha) annual
deforestation rate
( %)
area deforested
per year (ha,
2000 2009
Forest area without allocated rights 20,806,729 20,305,072 0.24 % 55,739.67
Privately owned land 649,083 515,765 2.27 % 14,813.11
Titled native communities 11,510,213 11,383,967 0.11 % 14,027.33
Timber concessions 7,413,846 7,364,880 0.07 % 5,440.67
Reforestation concessions 132,665 123,121 0.74 % 1,060.44
Protected natural areas 16,885,055 16,848,661 0.02 % 4,043.78
Total tropical forest in Peru 71,424,855 70,436,169 0.14 % 109,854.00
I Extract from a table in the 2011 R-PP, cited in the Forest Investment Plan (INDUFOR, 2012).
Box 8: direct causes of deforestation per year in overarching land use categoriesi
use agriculture cattle-ranching mining coca
Estimated deforestation
per year (ha)
60,000-67,000 40,000-48,000 5,000-7,500 1,500
I INDUFOR, 2012.
Box 7: deforestation statistics: a note of caution
However, these figures must be treated with caution. Satellite data for Peru is not fully able to
distinguish forest loss from traditional rotational farming with permanent forest removal. This
means that rates of deforestation in indigenous lands are likely to be significantly overestimated.
In addition, these figures tend to obscure the fact that the land use category doesn’t necessarily
reflect how the land is actually used in practice. Moreover, the rightsholder isn’t necessarily the
one responsible for the deforestation.
For example, recent studies have found that more than 50 % of logging concessions extract
timber from outside their concession boundariesI (see section 2.4), that less than 50 % of
indigenous lands are legally recognized as indigenous communitiesII, and that a significant
portion of those areas classified as Natural Protected Areas are considered to be and used as
part of the ancestral territoriesIII of various indigenous peoples so these lands are excluded from
the analytical category of ‘indigenous lands’.
I Finer, 2014.
III No comprehensive data exists about the level of overlap between such natural protected areas and indigenous territories
but, according to data from the IBC (2014), this is at least 2, 963,87 ha or at least 15 % of the total extent of these protected
2.2 agRicultuRe
2.2.1 commeRcial coca cultivation
In 2011, Peru once again became the world’s leading
producer of coca. According to a report by the UN,
more than 60,000 ha were under coca cultivation in
2012, compared to 48,000 ha in Colombia.54 However,
it is estimated that the annual rate of deforestation
caused by coca is 1,500 ha, accounting for a little less
than 1 % of Peru’s total deforestation.55
There is considerable demand in Peru for
unprocessed coca leaves, but, according to the UN
report, such demand could be satisfied by cultivating
less than 7,000 ha. This suggests that the majority
of coca produced in Peru is used for processing
cocaine, and makes clear the ongoing demand for it
in regional markets and Europe.
Clearing forest to grow coca is an important cause
of deforestation in Peru, although much less so than
in the past. It has long been cultivated in areas such
as the Monzón, Apurímac and Ene (VRAE) valleys,
and relatively new areas now include the upper River
Tambopata in Puno, the upper River Urubamba,
and lower Amazon river. According to estimates,
cultivation peaked in 1992 and then declined to
39,000 ha, but has recovered in recent years.56
In addition to causing deforestation, coca has the
potential to destroy the environment because of the
rapid loss of soil fertility once it is planted, forcing
cultivators to move to other areas and meaning
that it expands more quickly than other crops.57
54 According to the annual report by the United Nations’
Office on Drugs and Crime. Perú: Monitoreo de Cultivos de
Coca 2012.
55 INDUFOR, 2012.
56 Pedroni and Yepes, 2010.
57 Rodríguez Valladares, 2010.
Moreover, cocaine production involves using highly
toxic substances such as kerosene, sulphuric acid
and acetone which are later dumped into rivers and
In addition to its environmental impacts, coca
cultivation involves other dynamics. It appears that
drug traffickers collaborate closely with loggers,
who clear the forest to sell the wood and thereby
open up an area for coca to be planted.59 Indeed,
the colonists who have the biggest impact on
indigenous peoples in Ucayali and the lower River
Urubamba have migrated from the VRAE. According
to R. Guimaraes, from the Shipibo people and the
vice-president of FECONAU, the colonists don’t
simply invade:
“they bring with them a cocktail of illegal
activities: logging, coca, gold-mining. indigenous
leaders trying to stop it receive death threats, and
some have been assassinated. in 2013, one leader
from the patria nueva community in the [River]
callería basin was killed by coca growers invading
their territory.”
Coca cultivation is invariably linked to violence,
either because of connections to terrorist and/or
guerrilla operations in the VRAE and upper Huallaga
valley, or to clandestine production of cocaine
paste, or to drug trafficking, or to the moneylaundering
that is so characteristic of Peru’s illegal
gold-mining industry (see section 3.4). Given the
need to formalize the profits earned, companies are
established in the agriculture, mining and logging
sectors that are simply a front to hide the true
origins of their capital, and ultimately cause more
59 Ibid.
image 5: clandestine runway
used by drug traffickers in the
pichis-palcazu valley.
Source: La República
2.2.2 oil palm
Oil palm is replacing other crops
as a source of oil for human
consumption worldwide. The
biggest producer is Malaysia, where
more than 4 million ha are under
cultivation, followed by Indonesia,
where there are approximately
3 million ha. In recent years, the
deforestation linked to oil palm
in Indonesia has reached half a
million ha per year.60
In Peru, despite efforts made by the
state for 40 years to encourage oil
palm (oil palm has been one of the
principal crops promoted as an alternative means
of development in coca producing areas), official
figures show that in 201261 there were 57,752 ha –
much less than the 370,000 in Colombia and 230,000
in Ecuador. However, one recent study found that
in San Martín and Ucayali alone approximately
100,000 ha of oil palm were established between
2000 and 2009 by large- and small-scale producers.62
According to this study, small-scale plantations cover
80,000 ha, 24,000 (30 %) of which replaced primary
forest, while large-scale plantations cover 20,000 ha,
with 14,000 (70 %) replacing primary forest. This
means that a total of 38,000 ha of primary forest were
cleared in order to establish oil palm plantations
in 9 years, at an average of 4,200 ha per year. This
is significant for Peru, albeit low in comparison to
south-east Asia.
60 Teoh, 2010.
61 MINAG, 2012.
62 Gutierrez-Vélez et al., 2011.
image 6: deforestation in shanusi, loreto.
Source: Barranquita Resiste63
Other figures suggest that a massive expansion of oil
palm is both imminent and planned. Peru currently
imports a considerable amount of oil palm, and
this is used by those promoting the expansion to
justify future growth alongside an argument that
approximately 140,000 more hectares are required to
satisfy domestic demand.64
case study: the Romero group’s grupo palmas
One of the main investors in oil palm in Peru is
the Romero Group which, through its subsidiary
group, Grupo Palmas (composed of the companies
Palmas del Espino, Palmas del Shanusi and Palmas
del Oriente), has approximately 20,000 ha under
64 Information collected for the Draft Law for the Promotion
of Oil Palm Cultivation submitted in 2012.
Box 9: oil palm: carbon store or carbon sink?
There are many problems associated with oil palm, but in terms of carbon it has no positive
impacts in terms of climate change except when it replaces grasslands. In every other case,
removing the vegetation cover emits greenhouse gases (GHG) that can’t be recovered during
the life of the plantation and the use of the oil as a substitute for fossil fuels. In other words,
when plantations are established through replacing primary or mature secondary forests, oil
palm plantations and the biofuel that is produced emit more GHG than the equivalent energy
produced by fossil fuels (PUCP, 2009). In addition, establishing a commercial oil palm plantation
means the forest won’t be able to recover for several decades. In this way, whatever the
arguments used by the proponents of oil palm to justify its cultivation, its carbon neutral nature
is certainly not valid except if it can be demonstrated that it is replacing permanent pastures.
cultivation in the San Martín-Loreto border region
(Image 24 and Map 3).65 Grupo Palmas includes
Palmas del Shanusi with 7,029 ha (acquired from
the Ministry of Agriculture at 17.50 soles per ha,
Yurimaguas-Loreto), Palmas del Oriente with
3,000 ha (Caynarachi valley), and Palmas del Espino
with 13,200 ha.66
As various observers have reported, establishing
these plantations has involved a series of problems
including boundary disputes, irregularities in
administrative proceedings, and conflicts with the
local population who lived in and occupied the area
without land titles.67 Another of the group’s projects,
Palmas del Caynarachi (with 3,171 ha adjudicated at
$150/ ha – Barranquita-San Martín) was abandoned
by the company in 2010 after resistance from the
local population.68 69
Unfortunately, each one of its operations is marked
by social conflicts with local populations. In the case
of Palmas del Shanusi, conflicts with local people
have been reported since the project's inception
in 2006: ‘On 5 August there was a clash between
people living in the Nueva Italia sector and company
employees. [The latter] have destroyed the crops and
homes of, and even abused and detained, posesionarios
[people occupying the land without property title]
under the new citizens’ arrest law. One farmer was
sent to prison for a month and even now is under
conditional bail.’70
Palmas de Espino’s operations have led to similar
conflict: ‘hundreds of posesionarios (inhabitants) have
been waiting for property title since 2007 but have
been denied by the simple fact that they’ve cleared
very little forest, they’ve kept much of the primary
forest standing, and because the company has
requested the area.’71
In the case of Palmas del Caynarachi, issues reported
include the overlaps with those occupying the land
without property titles and their legal actions in
protest as well as the use by the company of a legal
loophole permitting primary forest to be classified as
suitable for agriculture:
para-cultivar-palma-aceitera. For more information
about Grupo Romero see
69 CRS, 2012.
71 Ibid.
“in these territories there are people living who
have been ignored by the site visits of the previous
authorities from pett (land titling agency) and
efforts have been made to reclassify primary
forest categorized as ‘permanent production
forest’ so it can be used for oil palm. this project
has been declared in the ‘regional interest’ with
a simple letter by the regional ex-president, and
there was no eia as required by law. nor has
it respected the region’s ecological economic
zonification which has been legally enforceable
since 2006. in 2008, the Barranquita population
filed an injunction requesting that their properties
be titled and the cancellation of the contract
of sale (Resolution to date, the
majority of the farmers in the conflict area have
not received title, and cofopRi (current land
titling agency) has refused to demarcate those
lands within the 3,000 hectares (belonging to the
Due to these problems the project was abandoned in
2010 by the Romero Group but 2,100 ha had already
been deforested.73
As a result of these conflicts, the Grupo Palmas is
currently facing 5 lawsuits, filed by San Martín’s
regional government, for clearance of primary
forest.74 In one of these cases involving Palmas de
Shanusi, 600 ha were purchased from 58 posesionarios
using a perverse incentive in which the company
paid more for each deforested hectare (1,000 soles,
approximately US$370) than a hectare of standing
primary forest (only 600 soles) (see section 3.2.2 for
more details).
The plantations of Grupo Palmas have also affected
indigenous peoples living in the region. In particular
the areas that overlap at least 4 Kechwa and Shawi
communities whose territories remain untitled. In
August 2014, FERISHAM representatives visited
the region to investigate denunciations made by San
José, one of the Shawi communities, regarding the
deforestation of more than 50 ha of their traditional
territory (see Image 7):
“only one month ago i visited one of our local
members, the shawi community of san José which
shares a boundary with a plantation belonging
to the Romero group but it has cut down more
than 50 ha of forest within the ancestral lands
of the community. We have denounced them
for environmental crimes to the environmental
prosecutor in Yurimaguas. in this area there were
72 Ibid.
73 CRS, 2012.
old farms and virgin forest as well, it was an area
where the people used to go and hunt and fish but
now its all deforested.” Ely Tangoa, FERISHAM.
“perhaps 80 % of the communities [in this region]
have been impacted by deforestation connected
to the Romero group’s oil palm plantations. land
of some communities was first affected and then
the forest was cleared after they employed the
facility in the law allowing them to change the
land use category. now some people from these
communities are working as workers on the
plantations while the communities bordering them
have less access to the forest. members of other
communities find themselves unable to cross the
plantations and blocked by armed guards. that’s
to say, freedom of movement along traditional
paths has been restricted." J. Sangama, technical
advisor to FEPIKRESAM
In the case of Palmas del Oriente, the deforestation
of 2,100 ha75 has had serious impacts on indigenous
peoples and their use of the forest:
"the Romero group has stolen an area
within our communities where we
used to hunt and obtain food for our
families. now no one can enter. the
rivers are all blocked as they have to be
diverted elsewhere... ancestral areas
and forests have been destroyed...
they only had permission for
agricultural activities but they arrived
with documents backing them up..."
CEPKA leader, Tarapoto, 201176
“there are two Kechwa communities,
los angeles and dos de agosto, which
do not have a land title and which is
why they have longstanding problems
with the Romero group plantations
that they neighbour. Recently we have
received reports, albeit unconfirmed
that about 800 ha of forest has been
cut down in these months, although
this still needs to be verified in the
field.” Jaime Tapullima, CODEPISAM
The Grupo Palmas, together with the
Ministry of Agriculture, has also been
accused, by the NGO Environmental Investigation
Agency (2013), of encouraging the deforestation
of 7,000 ha of primary forest as part of the planned
10,000 ha Tierra Blanca agro-industrial project in
Loreto while the remaining 3,000 ha are considered
to be the 30 % reserve.77
how to exploit a legal loophole: the rapid and
imminent expansion of oil palm in peru
Oil palm cultivation in Peru is facilitated by a
loophole in the legislation. According to the current
Forestry Law (no. 27308), primary forests can’t be
used for agriculture or anything else affecting the
forest canopy, but the Ministry of Agriculture can
make an exception if it deems the land in a particular
area of primary forest suitable for agriculture. This
is what is known as ‘greater land use capacity’ and
overrides the forestry law so that the ownership of
the land changes.78
76 CRS, 2012: 35.
77 Law 27308, article 26 states that on forest lands declared suitable
for agriculture a mínimum of 30 % of the forest and a strip no less
than 50 metres from rivers or other water bodies must be kept
image 7: deforestation by the Romero
group in traditional territory belonging
to san José, a shawi community, august
2014. Source: FERISHAM
For example, in 2008 the Caynarachi company of
the Grupo Palmas (the project was subsequently
abandoned but it resulted in over 2,000 ha of
deforestation) managed to secure permission from
the Regional agricultural authority of San Martín
(DRASAM) to change the classification of 1,041.52 ha
of forest and thereby convert it.79 This, despite
significant local opposition.
“This resolution was subsequently backed by the
General Environmental Authority with the approval of
the EIA via a resolution on the 16.11.09 (No 047-09-
AG-DMV-DGAA). Despite this, on the 22nd January
2010 the DRASAM suspended (No 021-2010-GRSM/
DRASAM) the change of land use because the EIA
was presented 1 year and three months after the initial
approval. It also referred to the fact that the original
Ministerial Resolution that permitted the acquisition
of the lands as part of the rural property ‘Palmas del
Oriente’ established that within these lands only an
area of 1,372 ha was suitable for pasture and not for
the development of permanent agricultural activities
as indicated in the Technical report No 048-2006-
Exploiting this loophole, Grupo Palmas is currently
planning a US$200 million investment in 4 oil
palm plantations in Loreto. Palmas has applied
to “exploit” 34,268 ha in total – more than 70 %
of which is classified as primary forest – and is
proposing that approximately 16,719 ha are set
aside for plantations. Independent studies assessing
the potential environmental impact reveal that the
company is avoiding the restrictions on primary
forests by classifying them as secondary forests,
despite the fact ‘in different official studies they are
clearly defined as primary forests. In addition, they
also refer to land that was ‘classified in prior studies
as lands with forestry and/or protection potential’
as land in the agricultural ‘greater land use capacity’
category.81 Worse still, according to these studies,
up to 23,143 ha of primary forest and permanent
production forests will be deforested – 6,424 ha more
than Palmas claims.82
In summary, through a series of questionable
or irregular measures on the part of permissive
authorities, primary forest can be converted to an
oil palm plantation in a way that is both legal and
with the consent of regional and national opinion
using the argument that it leads to increased growth,
79 Por medio de resolución Administrativa N° 208-2008-INRENA-IFFSATFFS-
SANMARTÍN, con fec ha 29-08-2008.
80 CRS, 2012: 34.
81 EIA, 2013, cited in
investment in the jungle and employment.83
Weaknesses implementing the law
Investment in oil palm is seen by Peru’s central and
regional governments as one of the principal means
in the agricultural sector to secure the supposed
‘development’ of the Amazon. As a result there are
policies promoting it and legal loopholes facilitating
it that are being used by certain companies. However,
in practice the situation is even worse because the
laws, contradictory or flexible as they already are, are
so rarely enforced. Like so many well-known cases
in Indonesia,84 the operations of some companies
in Peru are extremely questionable and possibly
illegal and criminal. Several of these operations are
associated with palm oil plantations in Malaysia and
a commercial group referred to as “the Malaysians”
which has established 13 different companies in
Peru to implement projects in Loreto and Ucayali,
including the 2 cases which we examine next.85
the tamshiyacu case
The company Cacao del Perú Norte SAC acquired
its land in Tamshiyacu by acquiring 45 rural
properties of 50 ha each. One recent study alleges
that ‘each property was bought by extortion and
intimidation, according to denunciations made by
the farmers themselves.’86 In subsequent research,
other Tamshiyacu residents denounced that they
are being pressured to sell their land by threats and
“at the very same time, we’re threatened that if
we don’t sell we’ll be invaded and that without
rights we can’t stay... i don’t want to sell and
never will. these lands are for my sons and
Others have denounced that their land has been
invaded and destroyed:
“the problem is that the company [cacao del
norte sac] is carrying on without anyone’s
authority... We can’t take one step there, but they
84 For example see:
85 Dammert, 2014 and
86 SPDE, 2013.
87 Denunciation by Tamshiyacu residents interviewed
for Panorama (August 2014):
medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed %3A+
Servindi+ %28Servicio+de+Informaci %C3 %B3n+Indígena %29
can enter when they want and do what they want
with our land – which we have title for.”88
In this particular case the company failed to conduct
either a soil classification study or an environmental
impact assessment,89 and failed to obtain permission
for changing the land use. These offences have been
confirmed by subsequent research that found that
‘all the relevant regional government institutions
washed their hands of the matter: DISAFILPA
exempted itself by saying the lands were private
property, and the Forestry Program argued it had
never authorized the forest clearance.’ Meanwhile, the
Regional Agrarian Office said that the deforestation
would be offset by ‘planting those lands again’ and
the company manager said, ‘According to Peruvian
law, no permit is required.’90 By the end of 2013,
Cacao del Perú Norte SAC had deforested more than
2,000 ha as can be observed in the above images.
88 Ibid.
89 SPDE, 2013.
the case of plantaciones ucayali
Another example is the company Plantaciones
Ucayali SAC which bought 4,759 ha from Loreto’s
regional government, despite the fact it was classified
as primary forest and therefore an illegal practice.
The company did not only deforest the area it had
acquired, but clear-cut forest beyond its property’s
boundaries. ‘Workers with heavy machinery and
armed security guards were involved, causing serious
damages to the lands and goods of small-scale
farmers and cattle-ranchers from 21 neighbouring
mechanisms of deforestation
A recent study analysing the Tamshiyacu and
Plantaciones Ucayali cases summarises the different
methods used to acquire land and turn it into
91 SPDE, 2013.
image 8: deforestation in
tamshiyacu. september 2013.
google earth image showing
illegal deforestation of more
than 2,000 ha by the company
cacao del perú norte which,
in just a few months, dwarfs
the impact on the forest of
hundreds of people occupying
the area for decades.
image 9: deforestation in
tamshiyacu. december
2013. further expansion of
approximately 1,000 ha of the
plantations in only 4 months.
"The business groups with interests and investments
in oil palm cultivation acquire rural properties by
offering economic incentives to traffic land, to extort
and intimidate small-scale farmers into forcing them to
sell, and to invade them, and by liaising directly with
state officials. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture
and the regional governments of Loreto and Ucayali
continue promoting deforestation for oil palm by
adjudicating forests as rural lands, by re-classifying
lands suitable for forestry as suitable for agro-industry,
by authorizing changes of land use, and by approving
Environmental Impact Assessments for agro-industrial
Another study that is ongoing highlights the bad
practices of the companies associated with the
Malaysian investors of encouraging and enabling
colonists to clear forest, mobilise those with influence
to title their lands and then, because the colonists are
92 Ibid: 1.
indebted, facilitate the expansion of the plantations at
the expense of primary forest.93
exponential growth
In the second half of 2013, oil palm companies
deforested 13,076 ha of primary forest in Ucayali and
Loreto alone, making oil palm the second biggest
cause of deforestation after migrant agriculture,
although it should also be considered as part of this
Examples such as these suggest that oil palm
cultivation is one of the biggest threats to the
Peruvian Amazon in the near future, and it is entirely
possible that it reaches the scale of the disaster
occurring in Malaysia and Indonesia. The cause
93 Oxfam America, presentation of advance version of report
in Lima, 2014.
94 SPDE, 2013.
Box 10: applications for the adjudication of lands for the implementation of oil palm plantations
in loreto
n° owner project size of area location
1 Empresa Agrícola La Carmela S. A. Tierra Blanca 10,000 ha District of Sarayacu, province of
Ucayali, Loreto
2 Empresa Desarrollos Agroindustriales
Sangamayoc S. A.
Santa Catalina 10,000 ha District of Sarayacu, province of
Ucayali, Loreto
3 Islandia Energy S. A. Manití 8,850 ha
2,051 m2
District of Indiana, province of
Maynas, Loreto
4 Palmas del Espino S. A has currently
transferred its ownership to Palmas del
Amazonas S. A. / Plantaciones del Manití SAC
Santa Cecilia /
Plantaciones del
6,676 ha District of Indiana, province of
Maynas, Loreto
5 Plantaciones deTamshiyacu Plantaciones de
8,850 ha Caserío Santa Cecilia, distrito de
Indiana, provincia de Maynas,
6 Plantaciones del Perú Este
Plantaciones del Perú
10,000 ha Tamshiyacu highway, district
of Fernando Lores – Indiana,
Province of ~Maynas, Loreto
7 Plantaciones del Perú Este Plantaciones del Perú
10,000 ha Tamshiyacu highway, district
of Fernando Lores – Indiana,
Province of ~Maynas, Loreto
8 Plantaciones de San Francisco SAC Plantaciones de San
10,000 ha Tamshiyacu river, district of
Fernando Lores – Indiana,
province of Maynas, Loreto
9 Plantaciones de Marin
Plantaciones de
5,771 ha Tamshiyacu highway, district
of Fernando Lores – Indiana,
Province of ~Maynas, Loreto
10 Plantaciones de Loreto
Plantaciones de
Loreto Sur
9,389 ha Tamshiyacu river, district of
Fernando Lores – Indiana,
province of Maynas, Loreto
11 Plantaciones de Loreto
de cultivos
10,000 ha Sapuena – Yaquerana Sector,
District of Jenaro Herrera,
Province of Requena, Loreto
for alarm is the speed and its apparent immunity
from any form of control with which it is advancing.
This is made even more serious when we see the
applications for new plantations in Ucayali and
Loreto (Box 10).
Box 10 with data from 201295 describes only some
of the applications for lands to grow oil palm which
no doubt will follow the same pattern of tricks
and corruption and lead to the destruction of over
100,000 ha of primary forest.
2.2.3 papaYa
In Ucayali, San Martín and Madre de Dios one
crop has emerged that is significantly increasing
deforestation rates: papaya. According to official
figures, there are 10,000 ha of papaya cultivation in
these three regions – 5,000 ha in Ucayali – producing
approximately 180,000 tons.96 In Peru, papaya is
almost entirely for domestic consumption (99 %),
and supermarket chains like Wong and Metro
have entered the production chain (R. Guimaraes,
The problem with papaya is that there are no
varieties resistant to what is known as ‘papaya
ringspot virus’, which reduces production by 60 %.
According to experts, the only way to avoid the
virus is to establish plantations in new locations.97
The involvement of the supermarket chains explains
the surge in popularity of papaya as a crop, and the
current solution to the virus means farmers are being
aggressive in finding new land as they need to open
up new land every 4 years. This is why ‘papayeros’
are now appearing on the agricultural frontiers of
Loreto, Ucayali, Amazonas, San Martín and Madre
de Dios. Assuming that farmers must open up new
land every four years, this means they must deforest
approximately 2,500 ha per year in order to maintain
current levels of production.
Renting land is the most common way of obtaining
access to it. In the Paranapura river basin, papaya
farmers pay a fee between 800 and 1,200 soles per
year per hectare to smallholders or even indigenous
people. L. Huanzi (FERISHAM) describes how the
papayeros operate:
“they clear the forest completely, for 10 to 15
hectares, much, much bigger than what is cleared
traditionally. they remove all the vegetation, they
make channels, they do the sowing, and they
use herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer which,
95 Juan Luis Dammert, 2014: 45-46.
along with their litter, contaminate the water.
it’s already a problem for some communities.
sometimes the papayeros take advantage of the
situation and illegally take out wood.”
According to K. Quicque, from the Hara kmbut
people and president of FENAMAD, in Madre de
“the papayeros are agricultural businessmen
with a lot of capital and mainly from san martín.
they rent land from communities and small-scale
farmers. that’s how they’re able to access new
land so quickly. By renting, they avoid problems
caused by multiple ownership, the authorities, and
overlaps. some indigenous communities in madre
de dios experimented with renting land for papaya
and other crops, but in the end they stopped
because of the deforestation and contamination.”
2.2.4 cocoa, coffee, Banana and otheR
Cocoa, coffee and bananas were mentioned by the
indigenous peoples interviewed for this report as
the crops receiving most support from the central
and regional governments. Some crops, like coffee
and rice are very well-established (San Martín), but
others, like sac ha inchi or copoazú in Madre de Dios,
are more novel. As will be seen in Part 5, San Martín
produces more agricultural products than any other
region. While rice has been cultivated there for many
years, the regional government, in common with
other regional authorities, is now promoting cocoa,
coffee, sac ha inchi and palmito.
In 2012, there were 405,000 ha of coffee under
cultivation in Peru. Between 2002 and 2012, the
area under cultivation increased by 140,000 ha at an
average of 14,000 ha per year.98 As yet, there are no
studies that indicate what proportion of these new
plantations were established on former plantations,
degraded, secondary or primary forests and so there
is no means of estimating the deforestation resulting
from its cultivation.
To produce all of these crops, third parties often
obtain land from the state and buy or rent to
small-scale farmers or sometimes members of
indigenous communities. In other cases, it is
indigenous peoples themselves who find the capital
to establish production on a small scale. State
support comes and goes, although, according to the
indigenous peoples interviewed, it has increased
in recent years, possibly as a result of efforts by
DEVIDA (national commission for development
and a life without drugs) to substitute coca with
alternative crops such as palm and cocoa. However,
the State often fails to integrate production
with a secure market. In other words, the State
encourages production, but doesn’t support the
commercialization of the future product.
According to A. López, from ACODECOSPAT:
“in loreto the regional government supported
sac ha inchi cultivation, but didn’t do any
feasibility studies and the plantations failed.
despite that, agrobanco is carrying on with it. it’ll
probably fail again and the only things to show
for it will be deforestation, some colonists here to
stay, and indigenous peoples in debt... there are
many cases of people getting excited, deforesting
3 to 5 hectares, and then finding themselves
in debt because later they abandon cultivation
because the yield is too low or there’s no market.”
2.2.5 agRicultuRal colonization and
land tRafficKing
Despite some progress in the titling of indigenous
lands, colonists continue to invade titled
communities, particularly if they are close to the
most important roads where deforestation rates are
high. Longstanding efforts by indigenous peoples,
such as the Awajún, to raise these issues with local
authorities and the justice system have often received
little or no support, and failures by the State have
often led to violence. This is what occurred in the
case of the community of Naranjos where some
of the community land title was titled in favour of
colonists and, in 2002, 15 people died as a result (see
section 3.2.1).
However, despite lack of support from the State,
many indigenous peoples have managed to protect
their lands by evicting colonists peacefully.
For example, the Kechwa community of Yurilamas
in San Martín has its own system of ‘community
protection’ (‘vigilancia comunal’) in which every
three months members patrol their land and often
with positive results.
“in January 2014 we evicted some colonists
who had entered our community and cleared 2
hectares of forest.” Yurilamas resident
Many of these problems have emerged because,
despite community land titling from the 1970s
onwards, satisfactory processes to annul prior claims
(‘saneamiento’), including individual land titles held
by colonists, were never properly introduced. The
result has often been a complex web of claims that
image 10: the impacts of gold-mining in madre de
dios near the community of puerto luz involves total
removal of the forest and up to 5 metres of soil.
Source: FENAMAD/Solveig Firing Lunde
remain unresolved and continue to act as a source of
conflict. For example, in the Kechwa community of
Cachipampa in San Martín, most deforestation has
been caused by just one colonist and his family who
held title to the land prior to communal title. This
continues to be a source of conflict despite successful
legal victories for the community:
"this colonist didn’t leave when cachipampa
obtained community title and he has cleared
approximately 200 hectares. he has deforested
almost all of his own land and is now venturing
elsewhere and inviting his family and friends. this
is all going on despite the fact the community
has won lawsuits against him twice." Leader,
These problems are exacerbated when community
lands lack formal recognition. The difficulties facing
indigenous peoples wanting to obtain title has led
to violent conflicts, particularly in areas where
deforestation rates are high. Leaders opposing land
grabs have been killed by hired assassins working for
land traffickers. In addition to the assassination of
4 leaders from Saweto in September 2014 (Box 12),
another recent incident occurred in April 2014 when
the leader of a Kampu Piyawi (or Shawi) settlement
in the upper River Shambira in San Martín was
assassinated while trying to mobilise residents to
secure title to their lands.99 Local Shawi leaders
report increasing waves of colonization while their
lands remain untitled, and the colonists defend
themselves by claiming they have permission.
“indigenous leaders are defenceless and face
repeated death threats from land traffickers,
mafias, and business groups opposed to the
recognition and titling of our communities.”
FERISHAM declaration, April 2014
􀏮􀍘􀏯􀀃 􀀧􀁋􀀾􀀘􀍳􀁄􀀯􀁅􀀯􀁅􀀧
Peru is currently the biggest gold producer in Latin
America and the 6th biggest producer worldwide,
generating billions of dollars in exports every year.
These figures don’t include Peru’s illegal, informal
mining sector which has grown at an exponential
rate over the last few years due to the increase in
gold prices and improved road access, and has meant
thousands of colonists migrating from the Andes to
the Amazon to participate in small- and mediumscale
mining, sometimes on indigenous lands and
in supposedly protected areas. The increase in
gold-mining has paralleled the rise of international
prices, which quadrupled between 2002 and 2011
and peaked at US$1,800 per ounce, although it has
been found that deforestation rates linked to mining
increased more rapidly than the price of gold.100
Recent research shows that informal gold-mining
accounts for between 15 % and 20 % of all Peru’s
gold production, and has much in common with the
market for cocaine.
‘‘gold surpasses cocaine—it’s peru’s largest illicit
export. it’s pretty staggering... it’s important to
look at the parallels and difficulties of combating
drug trafficking: huge profits, bribing local officials,
and greed, in an area that’s a ‘no man’s land’.”101
One recent study102 using high resolution LIDAR
technology, and therefore more able to detect
small-scale operations, estimates that the total
deforestation caused by gold-mining in Madre de
Dios alone has increased from less than 10,000 ha in
1999 to more than 50,000 ha in 2012.103 Prior to 2008,
100 Swenson et al., 2011.
102 Asner et al., 2013.
103 This is almost triple what was estimated by Brack et al. who
reported that at least 18,000 ha had been destroyed by mining in
Madre de Dios, at an average rate of 400 ha per year.
map 5: current focal points of deforestation and
degradation in peru.
Source: FIP technical team, November 2013
Frontera de deforestación
Mosaico agricultura-purma
Bosques primarios y bajo degradación
200 100 0 200
dominios de bosque
the deforestation rate was estimated at 2,166 ha per
year, but this study estimates it is now three times
higher at 6,145 ha per year.
The impact of gold-mining on indigenous peoples
is extremely high because it involves permanently
destroying the forest and contaminating the rivers
on which they depend. That is to say nothing of the
violence, conflict, and social problems gold-mining
brings with it, as described in more detail in Part 4.
“We used to fish in the River puquiri, but it’s not
a river anymore due to the tailings and sediment.
the miners work there now and there’s no fish. it’s
all mud.” Indigenous leader, Madre de Dios
Despite efforts by the government to sanction illegal
mining, it has still failed to formalize a significant
number of the gold-miners, meaning that negative
impacts can’t be controlled. Impacts include the
invasion of indigenous and non-indigenous lands
with or without rights to use resources, destruction
of the riverbanks, and contamination of the rivers by
There is now artisanal and small-scale gold-mining
(ASSM) in every region in Peru, but no estimates of
the deforestation it has caused other than in Madre
de Dios. However, clearly total deforestation as a
result of gold-mining in Peru will be significantly
greater than in Madre de Dios alone.
2.4 logging
In Peru, logging has been and continues to be one
of the main direct and, above all, indirect causes of
deforestation and degradation. This is despite the
fact that logging in the Peruvian amazon tends to be
selective, focuses only on the most valuable species,
and leaves 50 % or more of the forest cover standing,
unlike in south-east Asia. In Peru, the tendency is
to extract one tree per hectare or less, meaning that
deforestation as a direct result of logging is limited to
road building, the spaces left by the felled trees, and
the areas cleared to store them.
In recent years, Peru has become synonymous with
illegal mahogany logging. This is partly due to the
decrease in mahogany production in Brazil and
Bolivia in the late 1990s and the ban on Brazilian
exports in 2001, all of which led to a spectacular
increase in exports from Peru where weak
governance could not stop a flood of illegally-sourced
wood, mainly from Madre de Dios and Ucayali.104
the failure of the concession system
In 2001, in an attempt to control illegal logging, a
new forestry law established a concession system
map 6: deforestation caused by gold-mining
combined with deforestation along the length of
roads in the river guacamayo region, madre de dios.
Source: FPP
involving 40 year contracts, inventories, and annual
operating plans (AOPs). However, studies evaluating
the impact of the concession system on deforestation
have shown that they caused a significant increase
in deforestation in other areas. For example: ‘ ...
outside the concession areas granted in 2004 in
the remote northern Iquitos region, disturbance
and deforestation rates increased by 468 % and
304 %, respectively. This leakage effect was also
prevalent in the central Pucallpa logging region,
where deforestation and forest disturbance outside
concessions rose almost 400 % to a combined rate of
1,086 km2 in 2005.’105
These findings coincide with other more recent
studies showing that 80 % of wood exported from
Peru is illegal,106 despite national laws, efforts by
some companies to obtain certification from the
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and international
commitments like the Forest Sector Governance
Annex of Peru’s recent trade agreement with the
USA. Between 2008 and 2010, at least 100 of the
permits approved by CITES (the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild
105 Oliveira et al., 2007: 1235.
106 Urrunaga, 2012.
Fauna and Flora) to export mahogany and cedar to
the USA included wood from concessions where
OSINFOR, the forestry sector supervising agency,
found evidence of numerous illegalities.107 Essentially,
the concession holders were using, and continue to
use, the concession system to launder illegal wood
from adjacent indigenous lands and protected areas.
This process involves combining the legal and illegal
wood, and using the concession permits to avoid
The illegalities in Peru’s concession system were
made even more apparent by a study published
in 2014 reviewing OSINFOR documents which
concluded that of the 388 concessions investigated
(out of a total of 609 concessions):108
􀁴􀀁 46 % have been cancelled due to confirmed
􀁴􀀁 55 % are operating outside concession boundaries
and 68 % are using permits to facilitate extracting
illegal wood.
􀁴􀀁 Almost 80 % committed violations regarding
108 Finer et al., 2014.
Box 11: mahogany and cedar threaten the survival of indigenous peoples in isolation
In Ucayali, illegal loggers have established roads to support their operations in the Murunahua
Reserve (Image 11). The loggers have been repeatedly denounced by indigenous organizations
and NGOs, such as the Upper Amazon Conservancy (UAC), which has helped journalists fly over
the region and proved the existence of logging camps and felled trees in the reserve.I According
to the UAC, the new road network ‘also serves as a funnel for further settlement by farmers,
drug traffickers, hunters and miners, and allows loggers using tractors to drag the mahogany
across a watershed divide to the Ucayali River, where the logs are floated downstream to
Pucallpa and eventually trucked to Lima.’II
In 2001, in Cusco, the Kugapakori-Nahua Reserve was invaded by 150 loggers who cut more than
300,000 board feet of mahogany and cedar. This led to violent conflict with the Nahua in initial
In 2003, the recently-created Madre de Dios Reserve continued to be invaded by illegal loggers.
One hundred and seventy-six logging camps were documented along the River Las Piedras in
the reserve and the adjacent Alto Purús National Park, despite repeated denunciations by local
indigenous organization FENAMAD. The loggers declared that, in 2001 and 2002, they had 18
distinct encounters with indigenous peoples in isolation.IV In May 2005, two loggers died after
being shot with arrows along the upper River Las Piedras – the number of indigenous peoples
who died isn’t known.
III Shinai, 2004.
IV Schulte-Herbrüggen, 2003.
the concession’s management plan and annual
operating plan. These violations mainly consisted
of false declarations about the existence of trees
in the concession so they could be extracted from
somewhere else.
This high level of illegality probably explains the low
deforestation rates in the concessions themselves
reported by official sources (0.07 %). Other studies
have found more forest disturbance outside the
concessions than within.109
“The exploitation of the forestry concessions is as
irrational, unsustainable and damaging in social and
environmental terms as completely informal logging.
It’s just the scale of it that’s different. The informality
within the formal system is at its most scandalous
with the current law’s ‘reforestation concessions’ in
which nothing is ever planted but wood is extracted
with practically no restrictions... Wood is frequently
stolen from forests that aren’t in the concession itself by
invading other concessions, public land, protected areas
or that belonging to indigenous people.”110
Forest degradation from logging goes hand in hand
with deforestation as it often constitutes the first
wave of attack against forests which is then followed
by agricultural colonization. Up to 14 focal points
of degradation and deforestation were identified by
MINAM in Peru (Map 5) during the design phase of
the Forest Investment Programme (FIP).
impacts on indigenous peoples
The most damaging impact of logging is without
a doubt how it violates indigenous peoples’ rights
and affects their lives and lands. An extreme
example can be found in the most isolated parts
of Ucayali and Madre de Dios where, until a few
years ago, indigenous peoples were enslaved or
forced into labour. Informal loggers used a system
of ‘habilitación’111 to make indigenous men work for
them indefinitely, often without pay or while they
became increasingly indebted. This forced them
to work for the loggers during the next harvesting
Today, an increasing number of logging companies
pressure indigenous communities to permit them
to extract wood from their territories, with the aim
of ‘legalising’ and laundering the timber that they
extract from other areas. All across Peru illegal
loggers and supposedly ‘legal’ logging companies
109 Oliveira et al., 2007.
110 Dourojeanni et al., 2009.
111 A system of debt peonage.
112 Bedoya and Bedoya, 2005. Based on the denunciations of AIDESEP
in 1988 to the ILO about the case of Atalaya.
employ devious and manipulative strategies to obtain
access to indigenous communities’ resources, as has
been particularly the case in the upper River Purús
(Box 13). The loggers and logging companies often
invent informal written agreements, or sign formal
agreements with leaders, without the knowledge
or consent of the rest of the community. In many
communities there are no effective processes for
collective decision-making, and the loggers exploit
this by negotiating deals with particular individuals
or small groups.
“it’s tragic! the new concession owners are using
their contracts with the government to cover up
illegal logging. they continue entering indigenous
territories and protected areas adjacent to their
concessions to extract mahogany and cedar.
they’re doing the same with the communities’
own logging permits and the tax codes, which they
use to launder the illegal wood secretly extracted
from elsewhere. the only things they leave behind
are a depleted forest and enormous debts that the
community has no way of paying.” The late Kruger
Pacaya, former president of ORAU113
“communities are pushed towards the webs of
the big loggers. on the one hand, the state neither
believes in nor supports or invests in community
forest management. instead it has turned its
back and on the contrary prioritises, supports
and subsidizes the big timber companies. not
only does it let them extract and transport their
illegal timber with impunity but backs it up with
an extensive network of state corruption. in this
context, communities that want to implement
their own forest management confront a closed
door and are only enabled to end up trapped in a
cycle of debt, which is the only option available,
in which they end up signing contracts, almost
always misleading, with timber companies to
let them extract their wood. however, in the
end, the logger takes 99 % of the profits while
the community suffers 100 % of the damage, in
addition to any future fines from some “official
supervisors” who know that the loggers are all
responsible but all fines and punishments are
imposed on the community; who in order to be
able to pay must initiate yet another perverse
and damaging cycle with the same loggers. this
cycle must be broken where it began: change the
indifference of the state and invest significantly
in community forest management. Rhetoric
promoting the latest law and forestry regulations
is not enough, instead they must move from paper
to the field of action to change this historical
113 Speaking in 2004 and quoted at:
abuse perpetrated by the state itself.” Jorge Pérez,
Even when the communities reach an agreement
with the logging companies, the latter often fail to
comply with it. According to one Asháninka leader
from the River Tambo:
“in reality, these loggers aren’t working like they
should, cheating people and cutting wood where
it isn’t permitted. When they do have permission,
they don’t take it from there anyway. they go
somewhere else. We asháninka don’t know where
they are and this does not constitute respect for
us.” CART leader, 2011114
impacts on indigenous peoples in isolation
Most of the remote areas where the loggers are
operating are part of indigenous peoples’ traditional
territories, including some who live in isolation and
are particularly vulnerable. Although some of their
territories have been recognized as reserves where
logging is specifically prohibited, in recent years, as
the more easily accessible areas have been exhausted,
loggers have been venturing increasingly deeper into
the forest and such reserves in search of the most
114 CRS, 2012: 10.
valuable timber: mahogany (swietenia macrophylla)
and American cedar (cedrela odorata).
the failure of government intervention
The Peruvian government has launched a series of
initiatives to combat illegal logging under pressure
from regional indigenous organizations such as
FENAMAD, collaborating with NGOs and other civil
society organizations.115 In addition, it has adopted
various measures to specifically protect indigenous
peoples in isolation, including, in April 2002,
establishing a reserve in the headwaters of the River
Las Piedras in Madre de Dios and, several months
later, signing an agreement with FENAMAD to set
up control posts along the reserve’s southern limit
(known as Line 343).
115 In 2005, at least 20 out of 24 companies exporting mahogany from
Peru – equivalent to 83 % of the total – exported illegally-sourced
mahogany, according to this report: http://www.forestpeoples.
11: illegal logging road through the murunahua
reserve for isolated indigenous peoples. logging
companies active in the peruvian amazon often
cut timber outside their concessions on indigenous
peoples’ forest lands and launder the timber through
their ‘legal’ concessions. Source: Chris Fagan, UAC
Box 12: a death foretold: assassinations and illegal logging in saweto
In September 2014, Edwin Chota, a leader of an Asháninka community called Saweto, was
assassinated together with Jorge Ríos Pérez, Leoncio Quinticima Meléndez and Francisco Pinedo.
Chota had spent more than a decade fighting to secure a land title for Saweto, and the four men
were assassinated just days after a visit by Peru’s forestry authorities to document illegal logging
in their lands. Chota had received frequent death threats made by loggers working in the region
in response to his campaigning, but repeated appeals by Saweto to the government to resolve
the situation were ignored. It is suspected that a logging mafia was behind the assassinations.
Unfortunately, the experience of Saweto, a village in the Upper Tamaya river, is very common in
the Peruvian Amazon. Like many communities, their land title is still pending even though they
applied for it more than 10 years ago and the community secured formal recognition in 2002.
Despite that, logging concessions overlapping Saweto territory were established in 2001. The
concessions are officially inactive, but according to community members the concession owners
have encouraged rampant illegal logging. Chota described the situation in April 2014: “as long
as we don’t have land title, the loggers won’t respect our property. they threaten us. they
intimidate us. and they’re armed.” date [april 2014], no concrete results of the fight against illegal logging can be seen...
it has intensified in the headwaters of the River cañanya, an affluent of the River putaya, and
in the upper river tamaya along tributaries such as the grimaldo, coto (shenontse), Jergón
(chengare) and shanshuya.”I
In a tragic premonition of what was to come, in April 2014 the community informed the
forestry authorities that their lives were in danger because of their denunciations of the illegal
logging: “in retaliation the death threats and baseless allegations made against me and other
community members are increasing. i request that any attempt on my life be prevented.”II
Chota repeatedly denounced the failings in the government’s monitoring system. The nearest
control post to Saweto is several days travel away, downriver, meaning that when the loggers
arrive at the post they can claim the wood came from a nearby concession when actually it
comes from Asháninka territory.
The assassinations took place just two days after an OSINFOR inspection. Saweto’s leaders had
previously denounced OSINFOR for failing to visit areas where loggers were operating illegally,
despite offering to guide them. They had little faith in the investigation.
“Welcome to the land without law,’ chota said. ‘from that inspection post all the way back
here, there is no law. the only law is the law of the gun.”III
I Letter from the Alto Tamaya indigenous community to the Executive Director of Ucayali’s Forestry and Wild Animals Office, 23
April, 2014.
II Ibid.
In October the same year the government established
a Cross-sectoral Commission to Fight Illegal
Logging, and, as part of national and regional roundtables
on forestry policy, invited proposals about how
to deal with illegal operations. In addition, numerous
decrees and resolutions have been made to regulate
logging, punish illegal operators, and investigate
However, despite all this, indigenous peoples say they
have seen little real change.
“We’re tired of so much dialogue and forestry
round-tables. the government wants to keep
talking about how to combat illegal logging, but
it isn’t disposed to do anything serious about it.
even the new concession system encouraged wood
laundering. What we need now is a series of real
measures to apply the law and protect indigenous
peoples’ lands. now is the time to properly apply
all the decrees, resolutions and agreements.” Jorge
Payaba, former president of FENAMAD116
One government initiative, in 2000, was a total
ban on mahogany and cedar in four river basins,
including the Purús. As recent studies have shown,
the logging companies evaded it by reaching
agreements with indigenous communities to extract
other species instead.
“Based on the [Annual Operating Plan] of the
indigenous communities along the river Purús, during
2003 to 2007, when there was a complete ban on
mahogany and cedar, the forestry authority permitted
felling the equivalent of 2,293 mahogany trees and
933 cedar trees!... A significant amount came from
protected areas, territorial reserves for indigenous
peoples in isolation, and other prohibited areas.”117
Nevertheless, since 2007 the illegal logging of
mahogany and cedar has decreased – apparently in
large part due to the much stricter export quotas
established for both species (mahogany was reduced
to 715 in 2008).118 For example, since 2007, loggers
from the town of Sepahua on the boundary between
Cusco and Ucayali reported that there had been a
significant reduction in the demand for mahogany
which still existed in relative abundance in nearby
rivers. Members of the Nahua, an indigenous peoples
in the area informed that this had resulted in a
significant drop in pressure of loggers to extract
mahogany from the Mishagua watershed.119
116 Speaking in 2005 and quoted at:
117 Rubio del Valle, 2013: 18.
118 %20
119 C. Feather, personal communication, 2014.
These quota reductions in turn were the result of
persistent efforts by indigenous organizations and
NGOs in Peru to denounce the flagrant violations
of indigenous peoples’ rights, the destruction of the
environment, and Peru’s legal obligations following
its ratification of CITES and its recent trade
agreement with the USA.
overlapping logging rights and indigenous
The problems experienced by Saweto, discussed in
Box 12, are representative of a much wider problem
across the Peruvian Amazon in which indigenous
territories are frequently overlapped by logging
Logging interests have even been able to determine
the boundaries of the reserves for indigenous peoples
in isolation. For example, the eastern boundary of the
Madre de Dios Reserve borders logging concessions
despite the fact that the studies conducted to
establish the reserve demonstrated the presence of
isolated people in those areas. That was corroborated
in 2013 by a team of FENAMAD and SERNANP
representatives who visited the region and found
evidence of them. Jorge Payaba, a FENAMAD leader,
said at the time:
“this shows that their traditional territories
extend beyond the boundaries of the reserve
and include areas that have been opened up to
logging. We are demanding that logging activities
in the areas bordering the reserve are abandoned,
and that the reserve itself is expanded according
to the actual extension of their territories.”120
environmental impacts
Although the impacts of forest degradation are
perhaps not as dramatic as wholesale forest
destruction, because of the extensive areas over
which they take place they cause a considerable
impact on the forest and on the lives of its
inhabitants: these impacts include the following:
Local extinction of fauna
Logging companies often contract a ‘mitayero’, or
hunter, to supply game to their workers.
J. Huanaquire, from a community near the
Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Regional Conservation Area,
“i’ve worked in logging. When we arrived in
an area for the first time the mitayero brought
everything: monkey, peccary, and agouti. We ate
meat all day. But then the amount of game got
scarcer, and the mitayero took longer to return
and had less with him every time.”
Hunting doesn’t just devastate local animal
populations, but has serious impacts for indigenous
peoples who live in the region and depend on them
for their subsistence. A 2003 study on the River Las
Piedras in Madre de Dios found that, in just one
year, loggers killed 54,190 primates, including whitebellied
spider monkeys (Ateles belzebuth), equatorial
saki monkeys (Pithecia aequatorialis) and red howler
monkeys (Alouatta seniculus). As a result, there was
a serious decrease in white-bellied spider monkeys
and red howler monkeys in areas near logging
Local extinction of valuable tree species
Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), the most valuable
wood of all, is an emblematic example. Despite
awareness of how difficult it is to regenerate and the
efforts made by the forestry authorities to control
mahogany logging, in practice it has continued and
mahogany in Peru is now commercially extinct. Only
a few stands remain in the most remote parts of the
country, such as the Alto Purús National Park.122
Reduction of carbon stock
The extraction of the largest trees causes a
considerable decrease in the carbon stock of the
areas where forestry extraction takes place. One
recent study uses estimates of up to 30 % reduction
in biomass. In addition it also points out that the
GHG emissions from the degradation caused by
121 Schulte-Herbrüggen et al., 2003.
122 National Agrarian University-La Molina, 2010.
the forestry concessions (204 million MT) could be
higher than emissions from projected deforestation
itself in the next ten years (140 million MT).123
Impacts on the ecological functions of the forest
and other species
Logging increases the forest’s exposure to the sun and
therefore the risk of fire, reduces food sources for
animals, changes species composition, and results in
a cascade of other impacts that now are reinforced by
the impacts of climate change.124
An indirect cause of deforestation
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, logging
facilitates access to the forest by establishing roads
which colonists use to enter previously inaccessible
areas and settle along. In addition, the colonists
often complement their income by selling timber
from their land or adjacent areas. As stated above,
logging concessions appear to have little impact
on the forest but deforestation rates increase in the
surrounding areas,125 either to supply the concession,
or because concession workers settle temporarily or
permanently, or because of the access provided to
colonists, or other third parties, created by the
Some of these impacts have been noted by R.
Guimaraes (FECONAU):
“loggers transform the social dynamic.
communities allow them to enter in exchange for
payment that usually doesn’t reflect the value
of the wood, and later they see how gradually
123 Asner et al., 2014.
124 Meijaard et al., 2005.
125 Oliveira et al., 2007.
image 12: illegal timber
from the river tamaya
denounced by leaders and
residents of saweto.
Source: UAC
Box 13: ongoing destruction of forests and indigenous peoples: industrial forestry in
the upper River purús region
Between 2003 and 2007, recent investigations estimate that more than 2,000 mahogany trees
and 900 cedar trees were felled, supposedly in lands titled to indigenous communities in Alto
Purús, despite the 10 year ban on mahogany and cedar that started in 2000. This is how Emilio
Bardales Montes, the current leader of the Federation of the Native Communities of Purús
Province (FECONAPU), remembers this traumatic period:
“Between 2000 and 2006 the loggers were operating in every [river] basin. they almost
finished off all our wood and mahogany trees... they had no respect. they entered the
communities and made off with the paiche in our lakes, insulting us.”
The loggers took advantage of the fact that, like everywhere else in the Peruvian Amazon,
the communities in Purús couldn’t run their own operations without resorting to help from
intermediaries because of the high costs and complex bureaucracy involved.
One recent investigation shows how this was rigorously exploited in Purús by companies which
financed and supported the logging but were often facilitated by an intermediary, usually a local
lawyer or trusted company ally equipped with power of attorney to represent the community.I
“given that the permit and subsequent operations are complex and costly for the
communities, there’s an opportunity for the logging companies to intervene... in practice,
in the majority of cases, [those who do so] exploit for their own benefit the communities’
ignorance about the legal requirements as well as community needs for material goods and
lack of alternatives to acquire them ... and so take advantage of the fact that the communities
give them a ‘carte blanche’ to do what they want with the forest.”II
This happened despite the fact that the logging companies operated using forest management
plans, which included specific GPS coordinates for each mahogany and cedar trees they planned
to fell. In practice, this information was ‘invented’ and later ‘verified’ by forestry authority
officials from their desksIII to enable laundering from neighbouring protected areas – very
probably, in this case, the Alto Purús National Park.
“the people who have most excelled at these illegal activities are the forestry consultants
preparing the pgmf and the aop stating they have identified the number of trees, which
really is invented, and the state official responsible for verifying it and issuing a report saying
they have been located with gps ... when really it’s all lies.”IV
This was observed by a member of the Nuevo Luz community. “When the permit for our
community was being processed an engineer came and took the coordinates for a lupuna tree.
nothing else. that [annual operating] plan was written in someone’s office.”V
According to the agreements between the loggers and the communities, the profits were
based on the volume of the wood extracted. This often favoured the loggers disproportionately
because the wood was valued at a risibly low rate – 50-60 centimos for each board foot of
mahoganyVI – and they received 80 % of the profits while the communities received only 20 %.VII
Worse, most community members didn’t fully understand how volumes were calculated and
therefore could easily be ripped off even using this derisory valuation.
“[they] didn’t know anything about how the volume was calculated. they’d get 100 soles for a
tree that would later be sold for 30,000.” Emilio Montes Bardales, FECONAPU

The loggers also had complete control over the costs of the operations, which they discounted
from the community’s profits and for which they did not provide evidence.
In Santa Rey, the community’s ‘representative’ Lizandro Levod “claimed he had spent 98,000
soles on the permit process…as for the value of the goods advanced, levod often named a
price without providing receipts.”VIII
The loggers didn’t only inflate their costs. They also inflated the value of the goods which they
advanced to the communities as payment instead of money.
The forests were devastated and the communities benefited little. In 2007, these problems were
compounded when payments weren’t made to the government tax department (SUNAT) and
an OSINFOR inspection revealed the illegality of the operations. The result was the annulment
of the communities’ permits and severe fines including penalties of more than US$30,000 for
the communities of La Colombiana and El Triunfo, as well as threats of imprisonment for up to
6 years for the village leaders. Meanwhile, the logging companies and their intermediaries all
escaped punishment.IX
I Rubio del Valle, 2013.
II Ibid: 33-34.
III In some cases they visited the area to conduct verification but, according to community reports, they stayed in the
communities and did not visit the actual logging sites.
IV Rubio del Valle 2013: 34.
V Ibid: 70.
VI Ibid: 47.
VII Ibid: 45.
VIII Ibid: 46.
IX Ibid: 27.

image 13:
illegal logging camp located on the border of the alto purús national park near the sepahua River. despite
government commitments, illegal logging remains rampant in the peruvian amazon. Source: UAC
the loggers start to expand and use more of the
forest and its resources, particularly the wild
animals. this impacts the amount of food available
and the communities’ food security. on many
occasions coca cultivation or illegal mining begins
to appear, either inside the communities or in
the surrounding regions, adding to the cocktail of
problems that arrive with migrants from the andes
or the upland forest escaping violence and poverty
such as those coming still from the apurímac and
ene valleys (vRae). these people all put more
pressure on fishing and hunting.”
A. López, from ACODECOSPAT, says the same
problem occurs in Loreto:
“the first problem is logging rights overlapping the
ancestral rights of indigenous communities. some
concessions overlap land title requests. that’s
why such requests have gone nowhere. some
communities have been titled with help from the
regional government, but the area titled has been
cut so they border with a concession. the loggers
aren’t just cutting wood: they’re cutting our
ancestral territories too.”
a new forestry law: the same old problems
In 2011, Peru passed a new Forestry and Wild
Animal Law (no. 29763), a measure that drew many
critical observations from indigenous organizations
(see Box 14). One of the fundamental problems with
the new law is its continued bias against indigenous
territories which aren’t legally recognized. It only
prohibits overlapping concessions or other forestry
permits of territories that have ‘title or are in the
process of obtaining it.’126
126 ‘Extraction permits for timber or wildlife will not be awarded in
areas in which procedures are underway for the recognition, titling
or extension of peasant and native communities’. 5da Disposición
Final, Ley forestal y de Fauna Silvestre No 29763, 2011.
Box 14: Key failings of the new forestry lawi
􀍻􀀃 The boundaries of the permanent production forests (PPF) remain the same, ignoring
indigenous peoples’ rights to the territories overlapped by them.
􀍻􀀃 Communities are only protected from an overlap with forest concessions if procedures to title
their lands are already underway.
􀍻􀀃 Customary rights to lands of indigenous peoples are limited to those who happened to be
engaged in ongoing ‘procedures’ to secure a land title. Instead, such customary rights should
be treated as inalienable and in which case the term ongoing ‘procedure’ should simply refer
to a simple declaration that the area is occupied. This is the case for over 1,100 communities
without secure rights to land.
􀍻􀀃 It doesn’t consider excluding areas in concessions where encounters with indigenous peoples
in isolation have been reported.
􀍻􀀃 It doesn’t respect indigenous peoples’ rights to products seized in their communal territories
which on the contrary are often designated to other beneficiaries by the local forestry
􀍻􀀃 It fails to improve the only regulation regarding community forestry management (RJ
232-INRENA); through ensuring the necessary funds are allocated and that it is not treated as
inferior to large-scale logging enterprises.
􀍻􀀃 Community forestry management doesn’t receive the same benefits as plantations. These
include waiving payment for exploitation rights for the first 6 years, and nor does it enable
titling of forest lands.
􀍻􀀃 It places too much emphasis on plantations and permits the accumulation of lands, and it
doesn't adequately address the dangers of privatization and effectively tackle corruption in
the forestry sector. In this sense it is as weak and permissive as the current legal framework.
I As noted by AIDESEP in numerous statements and letters. For example:
In the process for developing the regulations for
the new law, and after many days of debate with
the State and significant resistance on the part of
officials, some important modifications were made
to advance the recognition of indigenous peoples’
rights. Nevertheless, a formal process of consultation
as required by law is still pending. Despite these
advances, indigenous organizations observe that
on many occasions commitments on paper are not
“in peru we are flooded by laws that are not
applied, stuck in bureaucracy, distorted or “frozen”
for lack of funding or political will. We are tired
of so many commitments made on paper so that
peru can appear favourably in the eyes of the
world but then never materialize or worse still are
distorted to continue to trample on our rights. this
is why we always say that ‘anything can be written
on paper’ and that ‘once the law is made, the trap
is set’. it costs nothing to speak, now we want to
see that they follow up these commitments.” Nery
Zapata, Coordinator CORPIAA
2.5 oil and gas opeRations
By 2012, Peru had taken the decision to concession
up to 84 % of its Amazon to oil and gas interests,
more than any other Amazon country. In this time,
almost 70 % of all oil and gas concessions across the
map 7: map of
the peruvian
amazon covered
by oil and gas
Source: PerúPetro,
Amazon were located in Peru.127 These concessions
take a variety of forms but can persist for 30 years or
more, and permit both exploration and exploitation.
Between 2003 and 2013, concessions went from
covering approximately 15 % of the Peruvian Amazon
to more than 80 %, and they now overlap more
than 66 % of recognized indigenous territories.128
Currently, the area covered by these concessions has
diminished, but it still overlaps a significant portion
of native communities and natural protected areas.
Despite supposedly low social and environmental
impacts of hydrocarbon operations in the Peruvian
Amazon, including those which have been subjected
to considerable national and international scrutiny
(e.g. Camisea), the impacts on indigenous peoples
have been extremely serious and harmful.
For the Kukama-Kukamiria, oil operations in a
concession called Lot 8x, within the Pacaya-Samiria
National Reserve, is an ongoing conflict. They have
repeatedly denounced the failure to restore seriously
contaminated areas:
“oil operations lead to deforestation, heliports
are built, and there are well-platforms in the
aguajales (palm swamps) which have dried up,
but most importantly they contaminate the forest
and the aguajales. it’s irresponsible that they’re
still using the same tubes – with leaks everywhere
– as they have done for more than 40 years, but
the company accuses us of sabotaging them. on
5 december 2013 the president [ollanta humala]
was lauding the benefits of perenco operating
to the highest standards in lot 67 when a spill
occurred there.129 the company officially reported
it a month after the spill took place.” A. López,
Another example is the Camisea gas project where,
since the beginning of operations in 2001, hunting
and fishing stocks have been considerably reduced,130
and a study by Peru’s Council of Ministers (PCM)
found that, far from improving conditions for
indigenous people, the changes caused by the
project have been for the worse. For example, child
malnutrition increased from 54 % in 2000 before the
start of the project to 70 % in 2012.131
127 According to RAISG (2012), 1,082,704 km2 across the Amazon are
covered by hydrocarbon concessions, 659,937 km2 of which are in
128 According to RAISG (2012: 26-27), 659,937 km2 of the Peruvian
Amazon’s total 782,820 km2 are included within hydrocarbon
130 Castro de la Mata et al., 2011.
131 Information presented by an official from Peru’s PCM during one
of the annual meetings organized by the IDB about the Camisea
However, even more controversial are the plans
by the Camisea project consortium to expand
operations deeper into the Kugapakori-Nahua-Nanti
and Others Reserve (KNNOR), a supposedly strictly
protected area for indigenous peoples in isolation
and initial contact. Reflecting the different political
influences of various state institutions as well as
an understanding of the social and environmental
impacts of hydrocarbon operations on indigenous
people, the EIA for the expansion was approved in
January 2014. This was despite the fact that, just 6
months before, the formal assessment of the EIA by
the Vice-Ministry of Inter-Culturality concluded that
the ‘health’, ‘traditional economic activities’, and ways
of life of indigenous peoples in isolation and initial
contact in the KNNOR would be seriously affected
by the expansion, and that two peoples, the Nanti
and the Kirineri, could be made ‘extinct.’132
social and environmental impacts
Hydrocarbon operations are complex and impact
the Amazon and the people living there to different
degrees. The following is a summary of the impacts
of exploration, exploitation, production and
Exploration involving seismic detonations causes
only limited deforestation (heliports, campsites
and access roads to the seismic lines) and limited
or temporary degradation (seismic explosions,
large numbers of workers), but it also provides
opportunities to third parties, such as hunters and
loggers, who ultimately cause bigger impacts. In
addition, exploration can affect local economies and
disturb the social equilibrium: e.g. members of the
younger generation suddenly have a lot more money.
For indigenous peoples living in isolation specifically,
the exploration phase is extremely dangerous because
it opens up enormous areas, generates unwanted and
hostile encounters, including forced relocation as
in the case of Camisea,133 and makes it possible for
diseases to be transmitted to them.134 For example,
the Nahua’s population decreased by almost 50 %
after contact with loggers in 1984 caused in part by
the explorations of Shell which had opened up the
A typical hydrocarbon concession covers hundreds
of thousands of hectares and overlaps any other
kind of land use category, except national parks and
national sanctuaries, despite Peru’s obligations to
respect indigenous peoples’ rights under national
law and policies. For example, the exploration phase
132 Vice-Ministry of Inter-Culturality, 2013.
133 Forest Peoples Programme, 2014.
134 Napolitano and Ryan, 2007.
135 Shepard, 2003.
of the Camisea project expansion in the KNNOR
involves at least 200 km2 of 2D seismic lines and
more than 300 km2 of 3D seismic lines, with each
line 2 metres wide, and perforating 18 exploratory
wells and clearing forest for 80 heliports,136 scores of
fly camps,137 and 3,800 drop zones.138
Exploitation/production causes some limited
deforestation that can involve, in particularly
large operations, several 100 ha. In the past, such
operations also caused severe contamination because
of the inadequate management of waste products.
This included discharging untreated production
waters into rivers and lakes which destroyed forest
cover, killed fish stocks by increasing salt levels, and
contaminated the food chain with heavy metals that
have eventually found their way into the blood of
local inhabitants.139
To date, 700 wells have been perforated in the
Peruvian Amazon with approximately one billion
barrels of oil produced, and it is estimated that,
136 Each heliport will be 0.24 ha (Pluspetrol and ERM, 2012: 217).
137 Approximately 0.14 ha each (Ibid: 219-220).
138 Approximately 0.003 ha each (Ibid: 219).
139 MINSA, 2006.
for each barrel of oil, between 10 and 20 barrels
of production waters are extracted. This means
that, in 2005 alone, approximately 2 m3/second
of production waters were discharged into the
River Pastaza, River Corrientes and River Tigre.140
Although such waters were diluted by the rivers, the
almost total lack of fishing in the River Corrientes
has become notorious and the contamination of local
inhabitants has been proven. FECONACO and other
indigenous organizations fought to ensure that from
2010 onwards the company running the operations,
Pluspetrol, which took over from Petroperu and
Occidental, reinject 100 % of its production waters
– after 40 years of dumping. Whether this has
led to tree death has not been established, but the
disappearance and/or changes to aguajales in the
River Trompeteros basin in Lot 8 is widely known.
140 Assuming daily production of 60,000 barrels, 180 litres per barrel
and 15 litres of water per litre of oil the result is 1.88 m3 per
image 14: oil spill, timu entsa, river corrientes, lote
1aB. Source: FECONACO
W. Pineda Ortiz, from PUINAMUDT,141 which
represents 4 indigenous organizations, summarizes
the serious impacts on the River Pastaza, River
Corrientes and River Tigre of these operations:
“there are direct impacts from the construction
of campsites, the platforms, the wells, and the
pipelines. the communities can’t fish because
the levels of heavy metals caused by the
contamination are too high. the game is moving
elsewhere. food security in the communities
is deteriorating. the groundwater is also
contaminated, to the point that it’s not fit for
human consumption. one 2006-2007 study of
achuar children and teenagers found that more
than half had dangerous levels of lead and
cadmium in their blood due to contamination by
oil operations.”
Transporting the oil, via pipeline and/or boat,
also causes only limited deforestation, but this
is potentially deceptive. In the north-east of the
Peruvian Amazon a good part of the installations
were built in the 1970s and have never been replaced,
meaning that leaks in the pipeline cause low-level,
constant contamination that gradually spreads
further afield into the forest, rivers and lakes.142
141 PUINAMDUT is a ‘platform’ of indigenous organizations united
in its position with respect to hydrocarbon operations in the
northern Peruvian Amazon. It is made up of FECONACO, FECONAT,
142 ELAW, 2014.
In addition, transporting the oil often involves
accidents that have more serious, more visible
impacts. For example, the pipeline transporting oil
from the northern Amazon to the Pacific coast has
ruptured numerous times, and the pipeline moving
gas from Camisea ruptured 7 times in the 2 years
following the start of production. In the River Pastaza
alone, monitoring by indigenous organizations such
as FEDIQUEP recorded 112 spills between 2007 and
2011. “More than half of these have their origin in
pipeline failures. The other main causes are tanks
and pools overflowing.”143 Another major cause is
weak regulations permitting oil to be transported
by boats with low performance standards, including
those with just a single hull, which has meant
repeated accidents spilling thousands of barrels of oil
and contaminating rivers and lakes.
In sum, hydrocarbon operations have impacts on the
forest that can’t be simply measured by the number
of hectares deforested. They affect the water, various
elements of the ecosystem and, ultimately, as Aurelio
Chino, a FEDIQUP leader observes, the entire
143 Congressional Commission on the Environment, Ecology and
Andean, Amazonian and Afro-Peruvian Peoples, 2013: 32.
image 15: pastaza river, remains of what used to be
the giant ushpayacu lake, lote1aB. Source: FEDIQUEP
Box 15: 40 years of oil exploitation in the northern amazon – chronicle of a human
and environmental tragedy
In 1971, Occidental Petroleum began operating in the River Tigre, River Corrientes, River Pastaza
and River Marañon basins in northern Peru. In 1996, Pluspetrol Norte SA acquired the rights
to Lot 8 in the River Corrientes and Lot 8X in the River Marañon within the boundaries of the
Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, and in 2000 it acquired the rights to Lot 1AB in the River
Pastaza, Corrientes and Tigre – the ancestral lands of the Achuar, Kechwa, Kichwa and Kukama
During the 44 years of operations, indigenous organizations have repeatedly denounced pipeline
spills, toxic waste leakage, and large-scale discharging of production waters with temperatures
up to 90 degrees Celsius and high barium content into the rivers. In 2005 alone it was estimated
that Pluspetrol discharged the equivalent of approximately 1.1 million barrels of waste into
the River Corrientes, River Tigre, River Pastaza and River Marañon. These operations have had
a devastating impact not only on indigenous peoples’ territories, but on their health and the
animals and fish forming the basis of their diet. Despite numerous protests, demonstrations
and abundant evidence, it was only in 2012 that the government established a cross-sector
commission to investigate the true extent of the devastation. The commission’s conclusion was
to declare, in May 2014, a ‘health and environmental emergency’ across the four river basins.
River pastaza: environmental emergency in march 2013
􀍻􀀃 Potentially fatal levels of heavy metals and hydrocarbons – up to 352 times over legally
permitted levels – found in soil samples and water.
􀍻􀀃 Extremely high concentrations of hydrocarbon derivatives – up to 1,000 times over legally
permitted levels – found in sediment in the River Ullpayacu and the Chirunchicoc ha Lake.I
River corrientes: environmental emergency in september 2013
􀍻􀀃 All 29 points monitored by the ANA (National Water Authority) exceeded international
Environmental Quality Standards (EQS) for cadmium in sediments.
􀍻􀀃 22 points monitored exceeded international EQS for Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon (TPH).
Heavy metals such as barium, zinc and arsenic found in alarming proportions.
􀍻􀀃 Out of 48 soil samples, 35 exceeded by more than 50 times the maximum permitted limits for
River tigre: environmental emergency in december 2013
􀍻􀀃 39 out of 45 water samples contaminated with lead.
􀍻􀀃 No water fit for human consumption in the communities.
􀍻􀀃 5 sources of water that were evaluated are contaminated with TPH, including the tap for the
source of drinking water. 9 sources contaminated with nickel, 16 with iron and aluminium, and
all have traces of coliforms.
River marañon: environmental emergency in may 2014
􀍻􀀃 Soil samples contained high levels of TPH, and heavy metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic
exceeded up to 95 times the permitted levels.
􀍻􀀃 The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve was not saved from contamination. High presence of
chlorides and petroleum derivatives were found in the Lot 8X area. Fluorene, chrysene and

pyrene were found in lakes in the PAC (Supplementary environmental plan). All have terrible
health impacts.
health implications
It is proven that all these metals cause a variety of illnesses, including cancer, and affect the
nervous system, the brain, heart, kidneys, liver and blood, and lead to abortions and infertility.
This almost certainly explains the numerous cases of strange deaths and illnesses – including
cancer and birth defects – that indigenous peoples living in the area have denounced over many
social and environmental responsibility failures
A report by a Peruvian congressional commission found that the Adaptation and Environmental
Management Programme (PAMA) had not been complied with between 1996 and 2002, and the
Supplementary Environmental Plan (PAC) had not been complied with between 2005 and 2009.
The report also stated that Occidental and Pluspetrol are ‘responsible for the environmental
damage caused by exploring, exploiting and producing oil’ for 4 decades, and that the Peruvian
state was ‘co-responsible’ for ‘not having appropriate control mechanisms to ensure that
corporate-led development respects indigenous communities and the environment.’
Despite the legal requirement to clean up their own waste as well as the contamination
left behind by their predecessors, indigenous organizations have denounced Pluspetrol for
their failure to do so. In 2013, the company was fined more than US$17 million for failing to
implement a recovery plan in Lot 8X, and for causing irreversible environmental damage to
Shanshococ ha lake in Lot 1AB in the River Pastaza region. Despite this, Pluspetrol has appealed
these administrative fines, which remain unpaid.
The Ministry of Energy and Mines declared the indigenous territories within Lot 1AB as an
industrial zone which allowed them to permit abandoning contaminated sites with up to 30
times the concentration of hydrocarbons TPH permitted by international norms.
The Ministry of Energy and Mines has also permitted that the company Pluspetrol North update
its oil pipeline to be aligned with current environmental standards only by August 2015 at which
point their contract expires. Meanwhile, along the length of the pipeline in the last 3 years the
state has registered approximately 60 spills, while community monitors have registered over a
Only in 2013 were environmental quality standards for soil approved, but to date there are still
no similar standards in place for sediments. Meanwhile, the standards for water do not establish
limits for all organic contaminants. Only recently (2013) was an environmental management tool
approved that permits the decontamination of soils, but to date no similar tool exists for the
decontamination of water bodies.
indigenous demands
In 2011, four indigenous organizations (ACODECOSPAT, FEDIQUEP, FECONACO and FECONAT)
formed a ‘platform’ organization, PUINAMUDT which channels the organization’s demands.
This coalition of organizations, alongside ORPIO and AIDESEP with which they are affiliated, are
demanding that the government:

“the deforested areas have impacted, and
continue to impact, the ‘chapana’ zones – places
where people go to hunt game. there are more
than 500 km of pipeline and so many roads. all
this has not only changed the landscape but the
communities’ way of life. now they have to go
much further to hunt.”
Using a technology that allows high resolution
measurement of carbon, a recent study sustains that
forest degradation and destruction generated by
oil and timber exploitation means that 30 % of the
carbon from primary forests in these concessions
is at imminent risk of being emitted. Taking into
account the huge surface area of these concessions,
these carbon emissions from forest degradation
would be more than those caused by the next ten
years of deforestation if deforestation rates mirror
those of the previous decade.144
cumulative impacts
It is also rare that oil and gas activities operate in
isolation; instead they tend to be accompanied
by other operations as they promote the
144 Asner et al., 2014. The study notes that oil and timber concessions
in the carbon rich lowland areas pose an imminent threat to
0.58Pg C based on a 30 % loss rate. Meanwhile, oil exploitation in
the montane forests threatens approximately 0.08Pg C. This far
outstrips the 0.14 Pg C which is estimated to have been released
since 2000 as a result of deforestation from agriculture and
infrastructure projects.
industrialization of an area and multiple projects
once one project and its associated infrastructure
has initiated. This situation could be observed in
numerous locations, including along the River
Napo in 2012 where hydrocarbon operations were
effectively industrializing the region. Lot 39 and
Lot 69 both overlap areas inhabited by indigenous
peoples in isolation:
“lot 39 is in a densely concessioned area... it
borders lots 67 (perenco), 121 (subandean), 129
(Burlington), 117 (petrobras) and 1aB (pluspetrol),
two of which are in the production stage. this
area is threatened by the cumulative impacts that
hydrocarbon operations and others like logging,
highways, river transport, and settlement could
bring with them, and about which no kind of
strategic evaluation has ever been conducted.”145
Such cumulative impacts are rarely considered
in state planning or environmental assessments,
despite the legal obligations to do so. Indigenous
communities are often presented with a project
apparently limited to just one area, but with no future
scenario taking into account the impacts of other,
nearby projects and associated infrastructure.
transformation of local economies
One of the biggest, most damaging impacts of
145 CRS, 2012: 46.
􀍻􀀃 Conducts a comprehensive assessment of the damage to the forest, soil and water caused by
the oil industry in indigenous lands
􀍻􀀃 Protects water sources
􀍻􀀃 Starts to decontaminate the soil and water
􀍻􀀃 Title community lands including those occupied by the companies
􀍻􀀃 Provides remediation for their territories
􀍻􀀃 Provides compensation for use of community lands
􀍻􀀃 Provides compensation for impacts and harms caused
Despite the government’s declarations of a health and environmental emergency in these
4 river basins, no remediation process has begun and communities continue to drink water
contaminated with toxic substances.
zona-de-extracci %C3 %B3n-petrolifera-del-r %C3 %ADo-Pastaza.pdf

hydrocarbon operations is the way they transform
local, regional and, to a certain extent, national
economies. Partly, this is a result of what is known
as ‘Dutch Disease’, in which hydrocarbon operations
inhibit the development of any other economic
activity because they make them comparatively much
less profitable.146
Investment of capital into a regional economy
in Peru always has a significant impact, but the
impact is even greater if it involves hydrocarbons
and now that the region receives 50 % of the
royalties which must be distributed between the
producing and non-producing regions. This money
must be spent according to specific government
guidelines (SNIP- National system for public
sector investment), but given the lack of strategic
planning or implementation capacity, or out of
political expediency, the simplest course of action
for regional and municipal governments is to spend
it on infrastructure projects. Such infrastructure in
turn encourages other threats to the Amazon, such as
the expansion of the agricultural frontier and other,
unsustainable natural resource extraction.
The Camisea project is an emblematic example.
The direct impacts of exploration, exploitation and
transportation are clearly lower than they would
have been decades before, and the decision to forgo
building a road, together with the fact that most of
the lower River Urubamba is titled to indigenous
146 Wunder, 2003.
communities, has meant deforestation rates are
low, despite the huge royalties received by the
municipality. However, these royalties constitute a
Damoclean Sword for the future of the region.
The royalty law has meant that royalties from
Camisea has earned the district of Echarate hundreds
of millions of soles in annual income. Between 2007
and 2010, the Ministry of Finance and Economics
(MFE) transferred 560 million soles per year to
Echarate – 123 million of which was spent on
building roads suitable for cars and trucks, mostly in
the upper River Urubamba. Yet this road network is
now beginning to impact the lower River Urubamba
too,147 so that precisely what took so much effort
to avoid in planning the Camisea project – i.e. the
construction of a road – will now be built with
money from the royalties.
For example, the road between Kimbiri and
Kepashiato inaugurated in 2010 crosses the
Vilcabamba mountain range and effectively connects
the upper River Urubamba with the VRAE, one
of the most troubled areas in Peru. One direct
consequence has been an increase in violence,
including the occupation of Matsigenka schools
in some communities by police unsuccessfully
attempting to control the movements of narcotraffickers
and other subversive groups. Indeed,
it is estimated that 400 tons of cocaine leaves the
VRAE per year via the road built with funds from
147 Propuesta ciudadania, 2011.
image 16:
oil spills from
wells and
pipelines in the
peruvian amazon
(as pictured here
on the marañon
River in 2000)
are causing
pollution of water
sources leading
to severe damage
to human health,
fisheries and
forest animals.
Camisea royalties, before it is transported by boat to
clandestine runways along the River Urubamba and
River Ucayali and then flown to Bolivia or Brazil.148
2.6 infRastRuctuRe and
One of the reasons approximately 90 % of Peru’s
Amazon forests are still standing is the scarcity of
roads across the majority of the region. As Map 2
shows, most deforestation in Peru occurs along the
length of the major highways. For this reason, the
experiences of San Martín and Ucayali, where roads
have been promoted over the last 50 years, have been
quite different to the rest of the country.
However, in recent years this situation has begun to
“Peru’s Amazon is experiencing a new cycle of public
and private investment aimed at exploiting natural
resources. The volume, diversity and aggression is
do roads mean progress?
Peru has always promoted road building in the
Amazon by arguing it will lead to ‘progress’ and
generate economic growth, and tending to focus on
the possible benefits but playing down the negative
consequences for the forest and the indigenous
peoples living there.
Indigenous peoples are fully aware that a road is like
a ‘double-edged sword’ and emphasize that much
depends on the reasons it is built. Although they may
provide opportunities for communities to improve
communication, roads are usually built for other
purposes. As one Asháninka leader has said about
the River Tambo where roads have been built by
loggers and failed to benefit the communities:
“the road is for the loggers... it has reduced the
flow of river transport. now there’s no way for us
to regularly get our products to market.” 150
R. Guimaraes (FECONAU) says:
“a road can be beneficial to the communities,
but it has consequences that end up accelerating
149 Dourojeanni et al., 2009.
150 CART leader in 2011, cited in CRS, 2012: 12.
Claims about progress and economic growth were
particularly invoked to obtain support for the Inter-
Oceanica Highway connecting Peru to Brazil, but
indigenous peoples’ experience with the southern
stretch, the Inter-Oceanica South, which connects
Madre de Dios to Acre in Brazil, has forced them to
question government discourse about the supposed
advantages brought by roads. K. Quicque, from
FENAMAD, says:
“the government said it would benefit peruvians
because products would be exported to Brazil. But
all it’s done is enable Brazilian products to enter
the iiRsa project in peru
The Inter-Oceanica South is part of the Initiative for
the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South
America (IIRSA), including a network of roads,
which, once completed, will connect the Atlantic
coast ports in southern Brazil with the Pacific coast
ports in Peru and, according to IIRSA itself, provide
a key channel for the integration and development
of both countries. However, an independent study
of the project warned that the lack of attention and
debate, as well as the absence of an Environmental
Impact Assessment of the entire initiative, will cause
massive deforestation.152 In total, IIRSA includes
approximately 500 different projects spanning the
infrastructure, energy and communications sectors,
among others, across the whole of South America.
To date, with support from the Development
Bank of Latin America (CAF), the Inter-American
Development Bank (IDB) and Fonplata, IIRSA has
managed to finance a significant number of these
projects, some of them in Peru.
The following three transport ‘corridors’ have been
proposed for Peru within IIRSA. The stated aim is to
better integrate Peruvian and Brazilian markets, and
to act as a gateway between Brazilian markets and
Chinese markets:153
􀁴􀀁 IIRSA south, now complete, connecting the
ports of Ilo, Matarani and Marcona with Puerto
Maldonado and the Brazilian border.
􀁴􀀁 IIRSA central, extending the Lima-Pucallpa
highway to connect with Cruzeiro do Sur in Acre.
􀁴􀀁 IIRSA north, including a waterway from
Yurimaguas to Iquitos in the central navigable
channel of the River Huallaga, River Marañon and
River Amazon.
152 Zambrano et al., 2010; Babbit, 2009; and Dourojeanni, 2009.
Many of the IIRSA projects in Peru were proposed
years ago, but the difference now is that they are
being implemented much more rapidly and several
have been completed. This is partly because of
the amount of capital available from multilateral
banks (a result of globalization), the amount of
capital available from the State (a result of increased
royalties and tax collection), and, ultimately, the
fact that successive governments have opened
Peru to domestic and foreign investment and have
encouraged integration with other countries.154
indirect impacts of roads
Although the construction of roads leads directly
to deforestation – for example, the 400 km of the
Inter-Oceanica South with a 25 metre right-of-way
required deforesting 1,000 km – it is the indirect
impacts that are even more significant as this is the
key factor that creates the conditions for uncontrolled
and unplanned migration and occupation of forest.
Since most migrants to the Amazon come from
the Andes, roads also change the composition of
the population. In north-east Loreto, where there
are almost no roads, there are almost no people of
Andean origin, but in Madre de Dios, where there
has been a road for decades, a significant part of the
population is from the Andes.
“a key impact of the roads is migration. lets take
154 As stated by Dourojeanni et al. (2009).
the case of the iiRsa south, which has increased
the number of settlements along the road and the
gold-mining that the government is finding so hard
to control. imagine what will happen when they
build the road from cruzeiro do sul to pucallpa.” R.
Indigenous peoples’ experiences of the indirect
impacts of roads in the Peruvian Amazon have been
confirmed by numerous studies, concluding that
the majority of deforestation is around the most
important roads and colonists’ settlements. One
study analysing deforestation in Madre de Dios and
Acre found the following:
“Three-quarters of deforestation ... between 1978
and 1994 was within a 50 km radius of a main
road (normally paved).”155 Indeed, in the Peruvian
Amazon between 1999 and 2005, 75 % of forest
disturbance was found within a 20 km radius of a
road.156 Another study evaluated the relationship
between deforestation and road building in
Huallaga, Aguaytía and the VRAE, and found that
one kilometre of highway was linked to deforesting
approximately 1,000 ha over the following 15 years.
This was concentrated in the first 10 km of forest on
both sides of the road.157
155 Alves, 2002, cited in Zambrano et al., 2010.
156 Oliveira et al., 2007.
157 CDC, 2004.
Box 16: iiRsa projects involving perui
name of project participating countries stage in peru
Binational Centre for Border Drainage Bolivia and Peru Completed
Paita-Tarapoto-Yurimaguas road, ports and logistics centres Peru Completed
Lima-Tingo Maria-Pucallpa highway, ports and logistics
Peru In concessioning processII
Paving the highway between Iñapari-Puerto Maldonado-
Inambari and Inambari-Juliaca/Inambari-Cusco
Peru Completed
Bridge over the River Acre Brazil and Peru Completed
Social and environmental aspects of the upper reaches of
rivers draining into the Amazon
Colombia, Ecuador and Peru Information unavailable
Use of current infrastructure and new connections to increase
communications infrastructure
Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador,
Peru and Venezuela
Binational Centre for Border Issues (CEBAF) Huaquillas-Aguas
Ecuador and Peru Completed
Alignment of the regulations for the electricity, oil and gas
Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador,
Peru and Venezuela
I Information based on IIRSA document (2011).
II PROINVERSION has had to suspend the bidding process for the last 3 years due to problems associated with the stretch leaving Lima, but
apparently this will be resolved imminently.
The roads whose impacts have attracted most
publicity to date are the Inter-Oceanica South
and the Inter-Oceanica North, but perhaps more
serious and more damaging are the hundreds of
roads being built by logging companies and regional
and municipal governments. This is something
completely new for the Peruvian Amazon, and
can largely be explained by the economic bonanza
derived from oil, gas and mining royalties.
The concentration of forest damage along the road
between Iquitos and Nauta is one clear indication
that controlling roads and the access provided by
them could be the most important way to control
deforestation rates and degradation in the remote
Peruvian Amazon, where the enormous distances
and complex network of rivers probably act as the
best form of protection, and where logging could be
limited to the access provided by existing roads.158
indigenous peoples’ scepticism
Experiences of IIRSA, logging and the impacts they
cause fuel indigenous peoples’ scepticism about
numerous government initiatives to build more roads
crossing some of the most remote regions of the
Loreto’s regional government has invested tens of
millions of soles in feasibility studies for building a
railway that will supposedly cause less deforestation
than a road, yet many doubts remain. A. López
“i don’t believe the train will avoid encouraging
huge migration and therefore a lot of
deforestation along the railway line.”
One notorious example of a proposed road that has
been opposed by indigenous organizations in both
Purús and Madre de Dios is one that would run
between Puerto Esperanza and Iñapari (Map 9).
“this is why we don’t want the road, there
are big trees growing in abundance, animals
in abundance. there’s no deforestation or
colonization like in other places. We live
peacefully, without any kind of problems, and
we don’t need a road. a road will bring criminals,
colonization and murder.” Emilio Montes Bardales,
158 Oliveira et al., 2007.
paRt 3
indiRect causes of defoRestation
3.1 national and inteRnational
maRKets and investments
The Amazon is sufficiently productive to support its
inhabitants in a sustainable manner. However, due to
globalization, the potential market for products from
the Amazon has increased and it is now expected
that the Amazon produces not just for the local
population but for the larger population elsewhere in
Peru, as well as internationally.
Global trade has had a serious impact on Peru’s
forests and this has increased in recent years due to
the reduction in international trade barriers. Peru
is one of the Amazon countries that has lowered its
tariffs the most through free trade agreements with
the USA, the European Union, China and other
Peru is also one of the easiest countries in which
to invest, particularly for foreign companies. The
legal stability of mining and oil and gas contracts,159
the relative abundance of resources, and the
political support provided in many recent cases
involving ‘bureaucratic’ obstacles (e.g. Camisea)
or local opposition (e.g. Conga) make Peru an
attractive country for foreign investment in resource
extraction. The positive consequence is that Peru has
become recognized as the second freest economy in
Latin America after Chile, which is far ahead of every
other country.160 In recent years, Peru has attracted
more foreign direct investment in proportion to the
size of its economy than either Brazil or Mexico.161
This means that products from the Amazon can be
exploited, by large Peruvian or foreign companies,
159 A typical contract lasts for 15 years in which the tariffs paid remain
stable regardless of what happens to the price of the product in
the market.
with few restrictions. These companies can operate
at scales that make it possible and profitable to do
things that couldn’t be done before, such as renting
or buying land through front men in order to acquire
huge areas for oil palm plantations (see section 2.2.2).
In addition to these factors, major economic growth
in countries like China and India, for example, has
led to the emergence of a middle class numbering
millions of people with new demands for gold,
energy and vegetable oil, among other products. Due
to globalization, these demands can be met by the
As we have seen in part 2 of this report, production
in the Peruvian Amazon involves a great degree of
informality and illegality, especially for products such
as gold and wood. In both these cases two parallel
markets exist, one legal and the other illegal, with the
majority of people operating in both.
The resources in the Amazon for which there is the
greatest international demand are the following:
Between 2002 and 2011, the international price
of gold rose by seven times from US$285 per
ounce to US$1,885 per ounce,162 causing a jump
in deforestation in Madre de Dios and which is
spreading elsewhere in the Peruvian Amazon.163
Although the price decreased a little since 2011 and
then stabilised between June 2013 and June 2014
at around US$1,300 per ounce, and despite efforts
by the government to reduce operations outside
163 The enormous increase in gold prices is connected to the global
commodities boom in this period which in turn is connected to
the growing and apparently incessant demand for commodities
from China and other BRIC countries. Gold was particularly
valuable because it served as a safe investment during times
when there was little trust in the financial system: http://www.
the permitted areas, deforestation due to mining
continues to increase. Peru legally exported 150 tons
of gold in 2012, but it is estimated that a further
20 % was illegally exported, which would make
Peru the 5th biggest gold producer in the world.164
The majority is exported to Switzerland, where
approximately 70 % of the world’s gold is refined.
Universal Metal Trading exported 19.2 tons of gold
worth US$901 million to Switzerland in 2011, most
of it from Madre de Dios (thereby almost all of it
illegal), making it Peru’s biggest gold exporter (see
section 3.4).
oil and gas
Since January 2014, Peru has the 8th largest crude
oil reserves in Central and South America, with 633
million barrels of proven reserves, much of which is
located in the Amazon. The international price for
oil has increased by 5 times since 2002165 and 2014
– partly as a result of a growth in the demand from
BRIC countries – and has driven exploration of more
than half of the Peruvian Amazon.
Current oil production in Peru doesn’t meet
domestic demand for light crude used for transport,
which means it must import the shortfall. Most
of what Peru produces is heavy crude which can’t
be processed in Peruvian refineries and must be
exported – largely to the USA.
Peru’s oil deficit has been offset by the production
of natural gas and natural gas liquids from the
Camisea project, and the conversion of part of the
country’s energy infrastructure to gas. In 2014, the
proven reserves of natural gas in Peru were 436,100
million cubic metres, the third highest in Central
and South America, behind Venezuela and Mexico.166
Peru became an exporter of natural gas in 2010 and
exported 5,918 million cubic metres in 2013 to Spain,
Japan, South Korea and Mexico. At the same time,
domestic consumption has increased sharply, from
453.1 million cubic metres in 2002 to 11,840 million
cubic metres in 2012.167
In 2012, Peru overtook Colombia to become the
world’s biggest producer of coca, the raw material for
cocaine, after ‘Plan Colombia’ reduced the area under
cultivation with a series of measures including the
167 Ibid.
use of glyphosate as a fumigating agent.168 The price
plummeted in the late 1990s, but in recent years it
has recovered. It is estimated that Peru produced 317
tons of cocaine in 2009, most of which is exported to
Europe and the USA.169
Despite the recent restrictions on export quotas,
precious hardwoods, especially mahogany170 and
cedar, continue to account for a significant part of
the total value of Peru’s total wood exports, which
exceeded US$168 million in 2010, despite the
fact that the bulk of the wood exported was other
species, mostly sawn timber, frames and plywood.171
However, some recent studies estimate that up to
80 % is exported illegally. Both mahogany and cedar
are highly valued for doors, furniture, windows
and other aspects of high-end interior design,
and interest in cedar has grown since the export
restrictions on mahogany were imposed in 2008. By
volume, other hardwoods used in floors, veneer or
construction, such as cumala,172 lupuna,173 tornillo174
and shihuahuaco,175 now constitute the bulk of
Peru’s principal markets – the USA (including Puerto
Rico), China and Mexico – account for 89 % of the
total sales value of Peruvian wood. After doubling in
the first decade of the 21st century, exports stabilized
following the global economic crisis. However, the
amount of timber exported to China has increased
rapidly in the last decade and compensated for a
decrease in exports direct to the USA. Chinese
importers are particularly interested in species that
can be used for flooring, while Mexico imports the
majority of Peru’s veneer and plywood and the US
market is reserved for high value sawn timber.
Peru produced 331,000 tons of coffee in 2011 and
had 405,000 ha under cultivation in 2012, making it
Latin America’s 3rd largest producer after Brazil and
Colombia.176 Ninety-four percent is exported177 and
25 % is certified organic, making Peru the world’s
top organic producer. Between 2002 and 2012, the
169 Pedroni and Yepes, 2011.
170 The current price is approximately US$1,900 per cubic metre.
172 Virola spp., Iryanthera sp.
173 Chorisia integrifolia.
174 Cedrelinga cateniformis.
175 Dipteryx micrantha, Dipteryx spp.
area under cultivation increased by 140,000 ha at an
average rate of 14,000 ha per year.
the role of international financial institutions
International financial institutions such as the
World Bank, the IDB, the CAF and Brazil’s National
Development Bank (BNDES) have changed their role
in financing natural resource extraction megaprojects
in the Amazon. In the past they tended to finance
entire projects, but today they also play a crucial
role in leveraging funds from private banks or other
multilateral banks. For example, in 2004, as part
of its involvement in the Camisea gas project, the
IDB committed US$75 million of its own funds
and leveraged a further US$850 million to build a
pipeline.178 In this way it effectively gave a ‘green
seal of approval’179 to the controversial project, while
ensuring that the remaining capital came from the
CAF, BNDES and Peruvian bonds.
The Camisea project is also a useful example of how
ineffective the self-imposed social and environmental
standards of banks can be. Civil society efforts
to ensure that the state institutions and various
companies involved meet the commitments imposed
win-deal-of-the-year-2004-awards,1978.html and http://
179 The expression used by the Minister of Energy at the time.
by the IDB in return for its loan, only managed to
partly modify the implementation of the project.
An independent study180 of the compliance of 21
commitments agreed by Peru’s government in return
for the IDB loan shows that the majority were only
partly met, while some were not met at all. This
contrasts with the IDB’s own assessment concluding
the commitments had been met which enabled the
disbursement of the loan. One common response by
IDB officials was that they couldn’t intervene in a
country’s internal affairs, although it was clear that
the reverse was true by supporting what should never
have gone ahead.
The reality is that the IDB played a catalytic role
in the Camisea project in 2002 and 2003 despite
having no specific policy for projects impacting on
indigenous peoples. When the bank adopted one in
2006, it ignored a key provision to respect the rights
of indigenous peoples in isolation by subsequently
granting a US$400 million loan to develop a
natural gas liquefaction plant in 2007. In addition,
the purported efforts by the bank to ‘protect’ the
KNNOR for indigenous peoples in isolation has
proved ineffective and been completely undermined
180 Gamboa, 2008.
image 17: felled timber in the port in pucallpa.
Source: UAC
by the approval of subsequent plans to expand
operations deeper into the reserve.181 Moreover, the
people affected by these operations can’t seek redress
through the IDB’s complaints or accountability
mechanisms, because complaints must be made
within 2 years of the final dispersement.
Both private and public (e.g. BNDES) banks
currently have much more capital available than
a few decades ago. Public banks are increasingly
financing infrastructure projects by making indirect
investments or loans to private banks or private
investment companies, making it even more difficult
to ensure that they are publicly accountable. For
example, in 2010 more than half of the US$18,000
million loaned by the World Bank’s private sector
arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC),
was made to these financial intermediaries.182 With
so much capital available from alternative banking
sources, it is difficult to apply much pressure to the
World Bank, the IDB or other development banks
since they clearly have higher standards than private
banks. A typical remark by IFC or World Bank
officials considering financing the second phase of
the Camisea project with a US$400 million loan
was that if they rejected it, the project’s promoters
would resort to private banks that didn’t have any
kind of social or environmental standards. It is
difficult to know whether an alternative to the World
Bank or IDB would have been worse in terms of the
environmental and social performance.
In many cases the lobbying by a project’s backers
makes it difficult to confront. For the proposed dams
in Peru supplying electricity to Brazil, for example,
the Brazilian government is using geopolitical
arguments while BNDES is providing some of
the funds, and large Brazilian companies such as
Odebrecht are winning large contracts, in this case
to secure electricity which in part will cover future
energy demands in Brazil. National interest in Peru
appears to be limited to secure large-scale foreign
investment and the royalties, while apparently not
considering strategic considerations such as energy
sovereignty and the cost of mitigating the social and
environmental impacts.
3.2 land oWneRship and use Rights
In general, the issue of land in the Peruvian Amazon
has always been characterized by unclear ownership
and overlapping rights. According to analysts, this is a
182 %20
- %20_ftn3
barrier to the success of projects using ‘degraded’ land
as a way of reducing pressure on forests, particularly
in the upland areas, where there are more roads and it
is closer to the Andes.183
3.2.1 indigenous teRRitoRies
There are currently approximately 1,300 titled
indigenous communities covering an area of almost
11 million ha in the Peruvian Amazon. However,
and as this Achuar leader from the river Huasaga
describes, in the vast majority of cases these titled
areas only represent a portion of their traditional
“this state land title is not fit for purpose. from
times gone by our parents and grandparents
lived and occupied the land in all this space way
beyond the land title. they made it theirs, they
made a farm, they hunted animals and got skins
and their remains lie there still, far away. far over
there lie their bones. they occupied this area for
generations. in addition, our rivers and streams
rise in the most isolated areas of our territory and
form a part of all that is ours from which we live.
in this big space there is water, animals and plants
that sustain us and that gives us life. all this we
consider to be ours. We do not see it as the land
of other people, it is ours. We do not want other
peoples or companies to come here, we do not
want them to harm or contaminate our place.”
Currently and according to indigenous
organizations,184 requests for approximately 20
million ha more remain pending. The details of these
claims include the following:185
􀁴􀀁 The integrated titling of collective territories in
their entirety of the following peoples: Ese’Eja,
Achuar, Kampu Piyawi, Shiwilo, Kandosi, Kukama,
Kechwa, Awajún, Wampis and Shapra alongside
those other peoples who are preparing files to
support their claims.
􀁴􀀁 Hundreds of indigenous communities whose
very existence has no state recognition, which
means they are currently ‘invisible’ in the eyes of
the State but have customary rights of possession
and resource use. This recognition is the first step
towards securing a land title.
􀁴􀀁 More than 294 communities currently identified
but pending legal recognition.
􀁴􀀁 616 communities which are legally recognized but
whose title remains pending.
183 Dourojeanni et al., 2009.
184 AIDESEP, 2013.
185 Peru’s Directory of Native Communities (IBC, 2012a) provides
similar figures: 1,270 titled communities, 537 communities
recognized but without title, and 126 communities which haven’t
been recognized or titled.
􀁴􀀁 More than 262 titled communities whose
expansion remains pending. These communities
now have few resources as they were titled 40
years ago when the only criteria used was the
availability of agricultural resources rather than
any other resource use.
􀁴􀀁 6 communal reserves pending establishment
which cover more than 3.9 million ha and whose
technical files have already been submitted to the
􀁴􀀁 5 territorial reserves for indigenous peoples in
isolation and initial contact pending creation.
These would cover more than 4.1 million ha.
􀁴􀀁 Overlap of indigenous territories by protected
natural areas pending resolution. The protected
natural areas include Pacaya Samiria, Manu,
Bahuaja Sonene, Ichigkat Muja, Escalera, Imiria
and Chayu Nain.
􀁴􀀁 The correction of erroneous maps which in effect
reduce the areas used by communities.
legal loopholes
The legal framework governing indigenous land
ownership186 has 2 key weaknesses.
1. The constitutional provisions safeguarding
communal territories and establishing indigenous
communities’ land as inalienable, imprescriptible
and untransferable – in other words, they can’t be
sold or dissolved – were weakened in 1993. Only
186 Law No. 22175 for ‘Native Communities and Agrarian
Development in the Forest’ passed in 1978, and Law No. 26505
Law for ‘Private investment in the development of economic
activities in national territory and in native and campesino
communities’ passed in 1997.
the protection of imprescriptibility remains.
2. The State retains ownership over the forests and
divides indigenous land titles into 2 parts:
a) Land suitable for agriculture and cattleranching
which the community has the right
to sell. This normally includes settlements,
areas used to cultivate crops, and purmas.
In the past this has meant giving title to
communities for areas that were too small to
satisfy growing numbers and non-agricultural
activities such as hunting and fishing.187
b) Land suitable for forestry, which continues
to belong to the State but can be ceded to
the community by contract. In theory, these
lands can revert to the State if a community
breaks the contract or abandons the area.188
Although this has never taken place due to
the vigilance of indigenous organizations,
the concept generates a permanent level of
apprehension. Since the 1970s, AIDESEP
has been demanding the annulment of this
187 Chirif and García, 2007.
188 In the context of the signing of the Free trade agreement with the
US, the Peruvian government assumed extraordinary powers to
enact laws. As a result, various laws were decreed that threatened
indigenous peoples’ land ownership rights and rights to use
natural resources. Among other things, the laws encouraged the
privatization and sale of collective lands, the recognition of the
rights of ‘squatters’ on indigenous lands, and the possibility of
opening up unproductive and ‘unused’ lands in the Amazon to
agro-industry – all of which led to massive, but peaceful, protests
by indigenous peoples throughout the Peruvian Amazon. In June
2009, continued protests and the government’s violent and
repressive response culminated in the regrettable violence in
Box 17: principal categories of indigenous land ownership in the peruvian amazon
category ownership and use rights according to peruvian legislation
Indigenous community Ownership rights over agriculture and fishing. Forest rights are assigned separately, but ownership
is retained by the state and commercial exploitation requires permission from the forestry
authorities. According to Peru’s 1993 Constitution, ownership titles are no longer inalienable
or untransferableI with the objective of promoting the sale of communal lands, a situation that
AIDESEP continues to fight to ensure it will never occur.
Territorial reserves for
indigenous peoples in
Titles without demarcation protecting land until the inhabitants establish themselves as
indigenous communities. No settlements or commercial activities are permitted, although this
has been violated by the oil and gas industry in the Camisea region and a controversial 2007 legal
loophole that was created permitting it if deemed to be a ‘public necessity’, which is always a
debateable concept.
Communal reserves Indigenous territories recognised as protected natural areas that are co-managed by the relevant
State authority, SERNANP, together with a local indigenous organization contracted to do so.
Subsistence and some commercial activities are permitted by neighbouring communities,
according to a management plan approved by SERNANP. Commercial use of the forest is
prohibited, and the State retains the rights over the exploitation of subsurface resources.
I Article 89 of Peru’s Political Constitution: ‘Ownership of their lands is imprescriptible, except if they are abandoned. . .’ Article 163 of the
Political Constitution from 1979 recognized the communities as ‘imprescriptible, untransferable and inalienable.’
unconstitutional provision (according to legal
experts) and the integrity of collective land
titles of indigenous peoples and communities.
“In reality what we’re facing is a quiet expropriation
of indigenous peoples’ right to own their territories,
something which is absolutely unconstitutional ... [It]
also violates the International Labour Organization’s
Convention 169 on indigenous peoples which describes
territory as covering ‘the total environment of the
areas which the peoples concerned occupy or otherwise
The insecurity of indigenous peoples’ ownership
rights was heightened in July 2014 by a packet of
legal measures (no. 30230) intended to promote
investment in development projects and removing
supposed obstacles such as environmental regulations
(see section 3.6) and property guarantees. In this way
189 IDL, September, 2014:
it puts in danger the legal guarantees for communal
property via ‘extraordinary actions to enable the
legal and physical clarification of parcels contained
within the area of direct or indirect influence of an
investment project independently of the actual or
future use of the parcel.”190
“the state has become well practiced in talking
about cats in place of hares; in other words to
speak of one issue while inserting another through
the back door. in 2009 the pretext was to align us
with the free trade agreement and now in 2014 it
is to reduce the bureaucratic obstacles and now
with the law 30230 they are trying to close the
door on the ever increasing demand of indigenous
peoples to secure their territories”. Roberto
Espinosa, Technical team, AIDESEP
Legal specialist, Vladimir Pinto has summarized in
190 Ley 30230, título III, capítulo I, el artículo 37°.
Box 18: law 30230: threat to the property rights of indigenous peoplesi
The investment projects that are referred to are those declared by law as in the public or
national interest, those in the interest of national security and large-scale projects which are
declared in the national interest either before or after the coming into force of the present law.
These include concessions awarded by the national government or with the participation of
PRONVERSION or ministerial authorisations either prior to or subsequent to the coming into
force of this law (article 38). In other words, practically any project could be deemed to be in the
national interest depending on the criteria of the central government, including those projects
which only exist in the form of project proposals, potentially triggering a whole series of rights
The Law 30230 legitimises ‘territorial regularisation’ in favour of these investments in the face
of any other rights and would lead to the violation of any rights previously recognised to third
parties. Articles 46 and 47 highlight the prevalence of these rights over and above any prior
inscription in the national land registry (SUNARP) where there are errors in the georeferencing,
where coordinates are overlapping with those of others or in which there is any cadastral or
technical contradiction. This is “the case of hundreds if not thousands of native and peasant
communities” and we should remember of course that these ‘errors’ are a result of State policies
and practices.
To ensure that this space remains wide open, article 48 of the law establishes that: “None
of the circumstances contained in the current subchapter can be constrained by other rules,
requirements or procedures established in other normative texts. SUNARP will not need to use
any other criteria other than those established in this law and its regulations”
In other words, nobody can amend the registration of lands in favour of these large-scale
investment projects. The only recourse for indigenous peoples would be via the courts which
would be lengthy, costly, highly impartial and weighted against indigenous peoples while
any delay would favour these mega projects which ironically constitute the main drivers of
deforestation in Peru.
I Blog “la”, 23.10.14.
Box 18 the following articles of the Law 30230 that
affect indigenous peoples.
Even more dangerously, Section 57 of the Law
confers on the SBN (National Superintendency
of State Assets) powers to facilitate ‘the reversal,
retirement or termination of ‘contracts of use’ to
the State and thus opens the possibility of seizure of
forests within the titles of native communities that
are not recognized as property but as ‘contracts in
use’, an area which represents a vast proportion of the
titled lands of communities in Peru.191
Given the seriousness of the threat, the Human
Rights ombudsman Eduardo Vega Luna expressed
concern regarding the legal uncertainty affecting the
property rights of many indigenous communities.
He recommended the simplification of procedures
for recognition and titling in order to adequately
protect the right to communal property. “The norms
governing the procedures for recognition and titling
of communities are complex, dispersed and in some
cases contradictory. This added to the fact that
regional governments do not have precise guidelines
that enable them to resolve disputes in the event of
overlapping rights in the lands of communities that
are engaged in an ongoing titling process paralyses
the titling process, to the detriment of rights of
communities seeking recognition of their property
rights,” he explained.192
In an official document sent in October 2014 to
the President of the Council of Ministers, Ana Jara,
he noted that, “This law, having not undergone a
process of consultation, can not alter the collective
right to land ownership of indigenous and peasant
communities. The interpretation or application of
regulatory changes on communal property without
prior consultation process is in violation of the
In order to build trust with indigenous peoples
that the State would ensure the protection of their
collective rights, Vega said the executive should issue
a public statement indicating that Act No. 30230
can not imply any change in the property rights of
a community as it has not undergone a process of
191 The SBN is empowered to issue resolutions declaring
the reversion, or transfer, termination of appointment or
extinguishment of “contracts in use”, state reserve lands, or
other forms of designation, allocation, approved even before the
enactment of this Act if they have not complied with the assigned
purpose, regardless of the device, act or hierarchical level to which
they have been granted...“ Article 57, Supplementary Provisions,
Chapter III, Law 30230, July 11, 2014.
193 Ibid.
ineffective procedures
In addition to these legal problems, there are also a
series of technical and political obstacles impeding
millions of hectares of indigenous territories from
being titled and acquiring even a minimum form
of protection. A. Lopez from ACODECOSPAT says
that in Loreto the titling process has been blocked by
logging concessions:
“the first problem is forestry rights overlapping
the ancestral rights of indigenous communities.
there’s one concession that runs from the mouth
of the [River] tigre to the nahuapa basin and
overlaps various communities. that’s why they
don’t have title. although some communities have
been titled by goRel [the regional government],
they were reduced in size because of the
concession. that’s to say, they’re not just cutting
wood: they’re also cutting the communities’
This situation is the same along the River Napo:
“The communities of Pinsha, Negro Urco, Nueva
Libertad, Cerro de Pasco, Floresta and Nueva
Antioquía have spent years in vain demanding their
land titles, but COFOPRI reply saying it can’t be done
because the area is concessioned for 40 years to one
señora Rivadeneira. The majority of these communities
have now been recognized formally, but it’s of little
use to them because the forests of their ancestors,
where their fathers, grandfathers and great-greatgrandfathers
hunted animals to feed their children
and obtained plants to cure them, palm leaves to build
their houses and trees for canoes to travel, are still not
theirs. I heard similar stories from people living along
the River Marañon and River Tigre during a recent
indigenous gathering about the forestry problem.”194
In practice, the titling process is so costly and slow
it is almost impossible for a community to avoid
seeking help from intermediaries. In Loreto, the costs
amount to more than US$10,000.195
“We shouldn´t just rely on our own resources
to obtain title. We should try to convince the
state institutions to cover the costs of the travel
they require us to do.” Emilio Montes Bardales
Given these difficulties, many communities strike
194 Interview with José Álvarez Alonso quoted at:
source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed %
3A+Servindi+ %28Servicio+de+Informaci %C3 %B3n+Indígena %29
a deal with logging companies which pay for and
handle the titling process in exchange for access to
the forest.197
“Almost always, and under pressure from the loggers,
the Apu grants absolute power to a logging company
front man who takes control of the community’s
forests as part payment for arranging the communal
title. Triplayera Martín SAC, TRIMASA, is one of
the companies reaping benefits. It operates with 30
communities in the [River] Putumayo basin and is
expanding into the River Napo and River Pastaza, and
exports lupuna and cumala to Mexico.”198
The Peruvian State has come to adopt an ambiguous,
or at least a very variable, position on indigenous
198 Ibid.
land titling. In recent years, community titling has
advanced very slowly:
“Between 2006 and 2008 only 8 new titles were
granted to native communities, and none at all in
2009 and 2010. This trend continues today, with the
regional governments now responsible for titling.”199
Box 19 provides an historical overview of this trend.
Although it was during the government of Fujimori
that most communities were titled, it was also
during his administration that the key constitutional
safeguards (untransferability and inalienability) of
community lands were removed.
For many observers, this constitutes an explicit policy
in favour of the extractive industries.
199 COFOPRI, cited in IBC, 2012a.
Box 19: titled communities by date and governmenti
government communities average size titled area (hectares)
Juan Velasco 1974 – 1975 133 5,765 766,758
Francisco Morales 1976 - 1980 198 7,341 1,453,705
Fernando Belaúnde 1981- 1985 177 8,788 1,555,553
Alan García 1986 – 1990 91 5,235 476,406
Alberto Fujimori 1991 - 2000 549 5,505,479
Valentín Paniagua 2001 - - -
Alejandro Toledo 2002- 2006 64 10,028 347,604
total 1,212 8,337 ha/community 10,105,505 has.
I Extracted from García (2013).
Box 20: indigenous communities and overlapping rights
logging concessions In 2011, an initial analysis recorded at least 47 cases of concessions overlapping community lands.I
However, this analysis did not include those communities whose recognition remains pending, so this
figure is in reality much higher. For this reason, as part of the formal consultation of the regulations
for the new forestry law, AIDESEP has insisted that the map that delineates the permanent production
forests should be suspended until these overlaps are addressed.
In 2012, they covered 84 % of the Peruvian Amazon including 5 communal reserves (natural protected
areas), more than 66 % of indigenous communities and 95 % of those areas proposed as territorial
reserves for isolated indigenous peoples.II Although in the last two years the area covered by such
concessions has reduced.
mining concessions In 2012, there were 1,813 mining concessions in production, exploration or on offer which overlapped
titled indigenous communities,III and thousands of concessions and requested concessions overlapping
traditional territories that have not been legally recognized. Mining concessions overlap 1.56 % of
indigenous communities and 48.6 % of campesino communities.IV However, the reality is much higher
due to the rise of informal and illegal mining, added to the fact that native communities are not
considered to have ownership rights over subsurface resources.
I IBC, cited in ILC and RRI, 2011: 30.
II RAISG, 2012.
III RAISG, 2012.
IV CooperAccion, 2013 Mapa de tierras de comunidades campesinas y nativas con superposición de concesiones mineras.
“In Loreto 14 communities were titled in 2002. Since
then, first PETT and then COFOPRI, which took over
from PETT, abandoned titling native communities
and opted to focus on urban titling instead. This was
tactical and strategic and aimed at leaving them legally
unprotected so that rampant extractive industries
could take advantage of their lands and territories. It
was never just innocent neglect or oversight.”200
In conclusion, ownership title only corresponds to
land which can be used for agriculture and surrounds
the houses and population centres. Even then, the
communities obtain it only after a long, bureaucratic
process which is frequently blocked by state officials
and other interested parties. In the recent case of
the assassination of the leaders from Saweto, the
regional government of Ucayali had used the fact
that the area was covered by a Permanent Production
Forest to avoid proceeding with the land titling.201 It
is symptomatic of the wider problem that four of the
concessions of the area belong to the Vice-president
201 This issue was clarified by a Ministry of Agriculture resolution in
the aftermath of the murders that clarified that there is no legal
or administrative reason why the regional government of Ucayali
should not be able to finalise a land title in an area overlapped by
a Permanent Production Forest. Ministerial Resolution No 0547-
2014- MINAGRI.
of the regional government of Ucayali and which
have been cancelled by OSINFOR because of their
flagrant timber laundering.202 In the words of Marcial
Mudarra, Awajún leader and President of CORPI:
“the government wants to do business with
the forests, that’s why it doesn’t want to title
indigenous territories.”
overlapping rights
An additional problem is when indigenous lands,
both titled and untitled, are overlapped by other
claims. Even when land is titled and regularised, it is
possible that the title holders lose access to lands and
resources. In some cases this is simply the result of
error, negligence, the lack of an up to date database,
or sometimes bad faith on the part of the State.
One example of the latter was when INRENA began
to grant logging concessions between 2002 and
2005. INRENA blamed an apparent lack of available
information about communities for the overlap
of scores of communities who suddenly found
concession operators installing themselves on their
Box 21: logging rights overlapping the Kugapakori nahua Reserve: forest destruction
through government inefficiency and incompetence
In 2001, more than 150 loggers from Sepahua invaded Nahua territory in the Kugapakori Nahua
Reserve, following a Ministerial Resolution by INRENA (RM n.º 0249-2000-AG, 2 May, 2000)
declaring a large part of it as an area of freely available forest. Despite repeated complaints by
various NGOs and indigenous organizations and the recognition by INRENA itself that ‘it is not
possible to grant forest exploitation contracts in the State Reserve for the Nahua and Kugapakori
ethnic groups’,I the resolution wasn’t annulled. This gave the loggers a green light to enter the
reserve. The Nahua actively opposed the loggers who invaded their community but were issued
with death threats and so they travelled to Puerto Maldonado and Lima to find a solution with
the authorities. After a long campaign, the loggers signed an agreement in February 2002 to
permanently leave the reserve and respect Nahua territory. The loggers also provided some
compensation for the damages done. The resolution was finally repealed in July 2002, more than
2 years after it was passed.
The Nahua were able to reassert control over their territory and stop others from entering
as soon as the loggers left, yet new concessions were established that same year. This meant
that some concession owners based in Sepahua were able to operate in some of the streams
downriver of the community but still within the reserve. Despite repeated denunciations by the
Nahua, these concessions were only modified in August 2004, once again more than 2 years
after they were established.
I Letter from the Director of the Forestry Authority to the president of AIDESEP, 18 October, 2001.
lands to extract timber and hunt game. In some
cases the state institutions responsible resolved the
problem in favour of the communities, but only after
extremely lengthy and inexplicable delays which
allowed the loggers to continue operating. This
was even the case with the KNNOR which found
itself overlapped by concessions on 2 occasions and
invaded by loggers from Sepahua (Box 21). Indeed,
even with favourable rulings by the courts it has been
impossible for indigenous communities to overturn
overlapping concessions.203
On other occasions overlaps occur as a result
of ineffective local authorities and gaps in their
mapping databases. This was particularly striking
in the case of Los Naranjos, an Awajún community
in the Cajamarca region which obtained communal
land title in 1977. However, in 1997 the regional
agrarian authorities and state institution responsible
for land-titling allocated 793 hectares to a group
of 116 colonists known as ‘Flor de la frontera.’ Los
Naranjos took legal action but, despite winning, the
authorities, including the police, did nothing to evict
the colonists. The result was violence in 2002 and at
least 15 deaths. Peru’s Ombudsman concluded that:
“The conflict between the Naranjos indigenous
community, members of the ‘Flor de la frontera’
agricultural association, and colonists from San Pedro
demonstrates the lack of real protection for indigenous
communities in the Peruvian Amazon... The legal
framework is advanced, but state action to protect
203 Urrunaga et al., 2012.
their rights to ownership and possession, as well as
their rights to use, manage and conserve the natural
resources in their lands, is still insufficient... One of
the reasons for indigenous communities’ rights to
their lands being affected is the failure to implement
a rural mapping database that would avoid overlaps
and conferring rights over communal territories to
third parties. This problem must be resolved in order
to provide legal protection for indigenous communities
owning their ancestral territories as well as those
other people who, as a result of an error, harbour false
expectations about the very same territories.”204
In addition to these serious problems highlighted
by the Human Rights ombudsman, indigenous
organizations point out that behind these delays in
the recognition of indigenous territories is a lack of
political will on the part of the state.
“Why does it take so long for the state to respond
to our denunciations and complaints about the
threats we receive, the invasions of our lands, the
contamination that affects us or the demands for
our land titles that never become reality? is this
simply a question of weak government institutions
or a lack of resources? We see that it is the other
way round when it is a question of a transnational
company whereby everything is resolved quickly
and in favour of the corporation. these delays
in responding to our demands is just one more
example of the agenda to prioritise business
interests over the rights of indigenous peoples
204 Defensoría del Pueblo, 2002.
Box 22: ecoamérica v Kampu piyawi (shawi) and Kechwa communities
The situation is even more precarious when territories have no form of legal protection at all
which is the case, according to AIDESEP, of approximately 20 million ha. One emblematic case
involves a timber company called Ecoamérica SAC which, in 2006, applied for a concession of
72,000 ha in San Martín, overlapping 2 Shawi communities and 1 Kechwa community. These
communities were unaware of the application, and their territories had still not been titled
despite being recognized as communities for several years. The case went to court and, in 2012,
the Constitutional Tribunal ruled in their favour.I
However, as long as requests for title remain unresolved, the communities can never feel secure.
“in our mother earth there are the forests that are home to the plants from which we obtain
our medicines, animals which we hunt to feed our families... We want secure lands with titles
and to be consulted when they want to insert logging, mining and oil and gas concessions in
our territories.” Ely Tangoa (FERISHAMii
II Ibid.
and the depth of racism towards us at both
national and institutional levels.” Marcial Mudarra,
President of CORPI
overlapping mining and hydrocarbons rights
In the case of mining and hydrocarbon operations
the issue is more fundamental. Using the argument
‘we are not interested in the surface, all that we’re
interested in is the subsoil’, mining and oil and gas
exploration and exploitation can be carried out
anywhere in the Amazon. The only off-limit areas are
those that have been explicitly declared ‘urban’ or are
under strict protection, such as national parks and
national sanctuaries.
To date, mining in the Peruvian Amazon has resulted
in the establishment of thousands of concessions
overlapping indigenous communities and protected
natural areas.205 In Madre de Dios in 2012, for
example, there were 26 titled concessions and 43 in
process overlapping the Tambopata National Reserve
(an ANP and ancestral territory of the Ese’Eja), and
1 titled concession and 15 in process overlapping
the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve (an ANP and
traditional territory of the Hara kmbut), and a total
of 6,591 km2 of mining concessions across the region
as a whole.206 In the case of the Awajún-Wampis, it
is estimated that 150 mining claims made without
consulting them overlap their territory.207
“unfortunately, minam has been created with
the objective of protecting the forest, but instead
of this it is negotiating with these resources. our
territory and its resources have become a business
to hand over to investors and capitalists. they
create the protected areas, the parks, communal
reserves but it’s the same state that overlaps
these areas with mining and oil concessions.”
Teobaldo Chamik, Wampis leader, River Santiago
In the case of hydrocarbon concessions – covering
84 % of the Amazon in 2012 – the maps used to
auction them have only marked strictly protected
areas since 2006. However, even today, indigenous
lands don’t appear on PerúPetro maps (Map 7) (and
of course, untitled indigenous lands don’t appear
either) despite the fact that companies must consult
titled indigenous communities.
Despite the fact that Peru’s international human
rights obligations require it to respect indigenous
peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent,208
Peruvian legislation is not aligned with such
205 RAISG, 2012.
206 MINAM and IIAP, 2011.
207 ILC, 2011.
208 See jurisprudence relevant to Peru in FPP, 2013: 36.
obligations and makes it almost impossible for
communities, titled or not, to block concessions from
overlapping their territories. The result is seismic
lines for oil exploration running right through
villages, and local inhabitants feeling forced to allow
gold-mining to go ahead. Although there have been
a few successes confronting miners, many titled
indigenous communities have been unsuccessful,
while untitled communities have much fewer options
(section 5.2.1). In practice, gold-mining trumps
any other kind of activity, whether an agreement
has been struck between parties or an invasion that
effectively means communities have no choice.
conservation areas
Overlaps with indigenous territories are not only
related to extractive industries but also to areas
protected for conservation purposes. As Luis Huanzi
(FERISHAM) reflects on the situation of the Kampu
Piyawi and the Cerro Escalera Regional Conservation
“the Kechwa and shawi peoples’ territorial
rights are being violated. on one side, there
are the cocoa, coffee and sac ha inchi programs
supported by the state. on the other, there’s the
cerro escalera Regional conservation area in both
san martín and Yurimaguas which overlaps our
ancestral lands.”
These overlaps create conflicts particularly when
communities are not titled, as is the case of the
Kechwa of the lower Huallaga river.
“now the communities of Ricardo palma and
allanayacu are overlapped by the cordillera azul
national park administered by seRnanp and
created without consultation. in the past it was
their ancestral territory where they hunted but
today this is totally forbidden.” Carlos Cenepo
Pizango, FEPKISAN (Indigenous Kechwa federation
of the lower Huallaga of San Martín)
3.2.2 otheR amazonian peoples
It is not only indigenous peoples who experience
land tenure conflicts. Although there are some
campesino (peasant) communities in the Amazon
with forest cover, more important for the question
of deforestation are the ribereño settlements. For
AIDESEP, these in reality are the indigenous peoples
who have lost their language but not their culture
and should be titled as such, and not as peasant
communities or worse still as individual land parcels.
Many of these ribereño communities were founded
during the Rubber Boom and are particularly
vulnerable because Peruvian legislation considers the
floodplains where they are located as unproductive
land that the State can do with it as it pleases –
such as including them in concessions. Although
they have no legal personality per se, six ribereño
communities managed to obtain titles as campesino
communities in late 2011, and another 70 have
attempted to do as indigenous communities.209
incentives to deforest private land
Other people it is important to consider are
individual landholders, some with title, and some
without. One requirement to obtain title to rural
land is proving direct possession and economic
exploitation for more than 1 year,210 and the activities
that are recognised by this criteria are agriculture and
cattle-ranching211 – in other words, deforestation.212
This is encouraged not only by Peruvian legislation,
but incentives offered by agro-industrial companies.
In recent years in San Martín, small-scale farmers
have deforested land in order to obtain a certificate
of possession which they sold or rented to farmers
to cultivate oil palm or papaya, given that in theory
it is prohibited to convert forest into agricultural
land. One example that we have already seen
involves the Romero Group operating in Shanusi
where, following a denunciation of illegal logging,
the public prosecutor’s office collected testimonies
of small-scale farmers who in 2008 sold their land
after finding themselves surrounded by the Romero
“According to the prosecutor, the deforestation of 600
hectares was the result of the sale by 58 people of land
allocated by the state to the Grupo Palmas. What is
alarming about this transaction is that it ‘went ahead
after the area was totally deforested at the request of
the company.’ According to the prosecutor, the perverse
incentive was paying more for deforested land. The
price for a deforested hectare was 1,900 soles, while a
hectare with forest was sold for just 600 soles.”214
3.3 goveRnance and institutional
Despite Peru’s sustained economic growth at an
average annual rate of 6.4 % between 2002 and
209 IBC, 2012a.
210 Article 12 of Supreme Decree no. 032-2008 and the regulations for
Legislative Decree no. 1089.
211 SPDA, 2009.
212 Legislative Decree no. 667 (Law to Register Rural Properties) states
that, when applying for ownership title, the applicant must prove
possession of the land for a year and the land must be cultivated.
This could be an important incentive to encourage deforestation in
the Peruvian Amazon (MINAM, 2009).
2012215 – much of which was due to the exploitation
of natural resources, including from the Amazon
– governance and institutional capacity is not
developing at the same rate and in some cases the
situation is stagnant or getting worse.
Weak environmental management
Environmental management is often equated simply
with environmental impact assessments (EIA), with
companies, state officials and even public opinion
apparently content to assume or conclude that the
existence of an EIA ensures that a project won’t
bring greater risks and the social and environmental
impacts can be managed. However, as has been
demonstrated by reports by the Independent
Advisory Panel on Development Issues in South-
Central Peru,216 which evaluates and monitors the
impacts of oil and gas projects in the southern
Peruvian Amazon, EIAs have been transformed into
cumbersome check-lists that don’t fulfill their stated
objectives. The Panel has identified the following
􀁴􀀁 Conflict of interests within the Ministries which
both promote the projects and at the same time
approve the EIAs.
􀁴􀀁 Limited state capacity to approve the EIAs,
meaning that it takes between 5 and 6 times
longer than those stipulated by law.
􀁴􀀁 Deficient content, including poor analysis of social
and environmental impacts and the use of prior
EIAs as the basis for new ones.
􀁴􀀁 Lack of technical capacity or support to enable
local inhabitants to respond adequately.
􀁴􀀁 EIA’s normally only consider the impacts of the
specific project rather than also considering the
cumulative, long-term impacts resulting from, say,
future expansion of the project or migration into
the region by people looking for work.
These weaknesses were compounded in July 2014
with the promulgation of Law 30230 that modified
environmental regulations with the explicit aim of
promoting investment in development projects (see
section 3.2.1).
lack of cross-sector planning and coordination
“an unplanned road, built without the
participation of local inhabitants or anyone in
control, just adds to the problems that already
exist and in the end will only make them worse.”
R. Guimaraes, FECONAU
216 Castro de la Mata et al., 2011, at
It is this lack of planning that was identified by a
recent study identifying the causes of social and
environmental conflicts in the Peruvian Amazon. It
concluded that EIAs only see projects in isolation,
when in reality there might be many such projects in
any one given area and no way to assess interaction
between them. “There is no land planning, no
Ecological and Economic Zonification, and no
Strategic Environmental Assessment.”217
According to this study, conflicts arise because of a
lack of “planning that permits establishing adequate
mechanisms to prevent, mitigate and transform
impacts,”218 and because laws and feasibility studies
relating to proposed projects do not provide a clear
idea of what the impacts on indigenous territories
will be, “given that they are not based on strategic
environmental assessments and the land planning
process doesn’t take into account indigenous peoples’
territories or socio-cultural perspectives.”219
These failings have been identified by others who
confirm that in Peru:
“There is currently no planning mechanism to design
and openly discuss our common future. Neither is
there a process coordinating national and regional
initiatives before decisions are made ... [and] nor is
there, obviously, an Amazon Development Plan.”220
cross-sector contradictions
Indigenous peoples often encounter contradictory
discourses from different state institutions. An
emblematic example is the Ichigkat Muja National
Park which INRENA, supported by Conservation
International, convinced Awajún communities to
accept as a way to protect their ancestral territory.
However, when the park was established in 2007 it
was cut back from the 152,873.76 ha agreed to by
the Awajún to 88,477 ha, so that mining concessions
could be granted to Afrodita, a mining company.221
“We see that the state does not accept that there
are indigenous territories in the area, it forces or
convinces indigenous peoples to accept a park
and then hands it over to a mining company but
always favouring the interests of the companies
over those of our own, the people.” Edwin
Montenegro, President, ORPIAN
The priority given to economic interests over
indigenous peoples’ rights is even more explicit
217 CRS, 2012: 51.
218 Ibid: 12.
219 Ibid: 51.
220 Dourojeanni et al., 2009.
221 ODECOFROC, 2009.
in the case of reserves for indigenous peoples
in isolation. Although Law 28736 declares such
reserves intangible, it also permits certain activities
if deemed in the ‘public necessity’,222 despite the fact
that the Inter-American Court on Human Rights
has clearly ruled that ‘public utility’ is not sufficient
justification for interfering with indigenous lands and
The situation is even more serious for indigenous
peoples in isolation in areas where no reserves have
been established. In 2004, a reserve was proposed in
the Napo-Tigre region by AIDESEP, but the process
to establish it has been paralyzed due to its overlap by
oil concessions (Lots 39 and 67) and the continuous
efforts of Repsol and Perenco, who had acquired
rights over the area, to deny that it was occupied by
isolated indigenous peoples. The Vice-Ministry of
Inter-Culturality conducted a thorough investigation
and, in June 2013, it officially recognized the
existence of indigenous peoples in isolation in the
area and declared its support for the reserve.224
This decision was subsequently appealed by
PerúPetro, the state authority responsible for
promoting oil and gas operations, in close
collaboration with the companies involved. The
result was that the Ministry of Culture recommended
that the Vice-Ministry review its position. Following
the resignation of the Vice-Minister and appointment
of a successor, the decision was revoked and the
reserve remains unrecognized while Perenco
continues its operations.225
As a result of situations such as these, different
state institutions are systematically undermining
indigenous peoples’ rights and the little faith that
indigenous peoples have in the State. As one leader
from Madre de Dios remarks:226
222 Law 28736, Article 5 states: ‘Rights involving natural resource
exploitation will not be granted [in reserves for indigenous
peoples in isolation and initial contact], except for subsistence
practices carried out by the people living there and exploitation
using methods that do not affect the rights of the indigenous
peoples in isolation or initial contact... If natural resources
are found and whose exploitation is in the public necessity,
exploitation will go ahead according to the law.’
223 Saramaka people vs. Surinam, Sentence of 28th November 2007
paras. 127 and 128.
224 This communication viewed favourably the recognition of
indigenous peoples in isolation probably those related to the
Arabela, Iquito, Taushiro, Zapara, Waorani and Abirija and the
creation of the Indigenous reserve Curaray, Napo, Arabela,
Nashiño, Pucacuro, Tigre and its tributaries. See VMI 190-2013.
225 For a chronology of events see:
226 This leader requested to remain anonymous.
“We see the contradiction in the way the state
grants mining concessions in an area that is
supposed to be protected as a reserve. it’s the
same thing that happened in lot 76 overlapping
the amarakaeri communal Reserve. it is supposed
to protect the [river] basin. a very well-known
miner from the delta 1 area was given a
conservation concession, even though puerto
luz [an indigenous community] was opposed to
it and it was known she was mining there... she
couldn’t be a conservationist, but they gave her
the concession.”
For this reason, those initiatives either public or
private to extract resources, construct a highway or
convert lands are always accompanied by promises
to resolve the question of isolation and poverty.
Meanwhile, the absence of plans or visions about the
direction of development almost always means that
the approval of these projects is assumed while those
voices that question these initiatives due to a lack
of transparency, a lack of coherence with existing
resource use or proven effectiveness are almost
always silenced.
Weak oversight
In addition to the loopholes and contradictions
within existing law, the legislation that exists isn’t
effectively enforced and the authorities responsible
for oversight and supervision are ineffective.
An emblematic example is the River Tigre, River
Corrientes, River Pastaza and River Marañon basins
where the extreme levels of contamination were
repeatedly denounced by indigenous organizations
for years. However, their denunciations were
ignored by OEFA and OSINERGMIN, the state
institutions responsible for controlling, monitoring,
assessing, overseeing and regulating the operations.
Indeed, indigenous peoples took to denouncing
OSINERGMIN officials themselves for failing to
assess the contaminated areas despite continued
As one Achuar community monitor remarked in
“the people in osineRgmin don’t come here
to see the contamination. they keep to the
company’s base. the company looks after them
well.” Wilson Sandy
This apparent lack of professional integrity can
be seen in the forestry sector too. One example
is the community of Saweto, which was visited
by OSINFOR in September 2014 just before the
assassination of Edwin Chota and three other
Asháninka leaders. According to Chota, OSINFOR
failed to visit the areas where loggers were operating
illegally and refused offers to guide them there.227
Analysis has shown that in general, a model of
retrospective supervision of the logging concessions
have failed completely. Worse still, the new forestry
law proposes the same procedures.228
227 Chris Fagan, personal communication, September 2014.
228 Finer et al., 2014.
image 18:
construction of
the camisea gas
pipeline, upper
urubamba, 2002.
the camisea
gas project is
opening up old
growth forests and
threatening the
way of life of, and
very survival of,
isolated indigenous
peoples inhabiting
the Reserve for
the Kugapakori,
nahua, nanti and
other indigenous
Source: A. Goldstein
incomplete decentralization
A process of decentralization began in 2004 and
has exacerbated the problems of poor governance.
This is particularly the case with environmental
management, where the transfer of responsibilities
has been conducted amid confusion and often
without the corresponding transfer of funds to
enable regional governments to meet their new
responsibilities. For example, MINEM transferred its
responsibilities for small-scale and artisanal mining
(SSAM) in 2004, but it didn’t transfer sufficient funds
(GOREMAD official, personal communication).
The rise in price of gold resulted in the uncontrolled
growth of mining without the corresponding ability
of the State to respond.
3.4 coRRuption and cRiminalitY
The forestry sector is one of the most powerful
sectors in the Peruvian Amazon and possibly one of
the most corrupt, despite having been restructured
various times in recent years. Even for a species
such as mahogany, which is protected by CITES
and is much more strictly controlled than other
species by both Peru and the USA, it was found
that 35 %229 – almost certainly an underestimate
– of export permits included wood obtained
‘informally’. The Ministry of Agriculture and regional
governments neither have the capacity to oversee
229 Urrunaga et al., 2012.
the concessions or to stop illegal operations, such
as falsifying inventories to increase the amount
of valuable wood in a concession, using transport
permits to launder wood from protected areas,
indigenous lands, territorial reserves and other
areas outside concessions, and, finally, bribing
officials. Indeed, OSINFOR reports show that at
least 55 %230 of concessions investigated to date have
been laundering wood from outside concession
boundaries, including protected areas and indigenous
territories. As explained above with regards to Purús
(Box 13), this can only happen if forestry officials
and independent forestry engineers collude on
issuing and verifying falsified certificates about wood
stocks in each concession.
Corruption in the forestry sector has been
denounced by public prosecutors specializing in
the environment who have discovered that loggers
pay officials to provide or approve false documents.
One prosecutor has said that he himself was offered
approximately US$5,000 to abandon an investigation,
but when he denounced this to a prosecutor
specializing in corruption, he was told, “Listen, in
one year here you’ll get enough to build yourself a
house and buy a nice car. So take care of yourself.”231
In the words of a concession owner who denounced
his own partners, “illegal logging is not about thieves
going into the forest with chainsaws, chopping
down what they can, and then escaping with the
230 Finer et al., 2014.
image 19: failed
clean-up and
project in lot 8.
logs. Illegal logging is a real industry: productive,
well-organized, very well protected.”232
These are not the only ways corruption manifests
itself in the forestry sector. Complicity between the
state institutions responsible for titling communal
land and logging companies interested in covering
the costs of the titling process in exchange for access
to the land was recently denounced in Loreto:
“I give you title but you give me your forest.
This kind of horse-trading allows officials from
DISAFILPA, the Regional Agriculture Office, and
other state institutions to play their roles as agents
and operators for the logging companies.”233
In October 2014, the results of ‘Operation
Amazon’ was revealed, an initiative of Interpol, the
international customs organizations and OSINFOR
and the SUNAT focused on the criminal groups
involved in the traffic of timber in Peru. “As a result
of the operation, 10 companies were detected with
not legal basis for the export of 3,424 m3 of timber
while 165,900 m3 of timber was presumed to be from
an illegal source.”234
“once again, a perverse cycle undermining
indigenous rights. the state fails in its obligation
to title communities free of charge, washing
its hands of the issue, saying it has no funds.
in this space between a third party who will
finance everything but at a price, many times a
logger or another interested party who recovers
their investment through exploiting the forestry
resources of the community. once again the state
and big business negotiating rights in exchange
for money.” Lizardo Cauper, General Coordinator of
international drugs trafficking235
The latest research236 shows that Peru’s recent rise to
become the world’s biggest cocaine producer is the
result of improvements in the control of, and fight
against, drugs in Colombia. In Peru, the measures
to control coca expansion are much weaker and less
coherent, and there is a high degree of corruption
related to drugs trafficking. Currently, there are 19
congress-men and -women being investigated for
links to traffickers,237 including the ex-president
232 Testimony cited in Urrunaga et al., 2012.
236 Ibid.
Alan García, who has been accused of selling
presidential pardons to traffickers costing 150,000
soles each during his second term, when at least 400
convicted traffickers were pardoned.238 Inevitably, the
enormous sums made from trafficking need to be
laundered and are often invested in other operations
that contribute to deforestation. For example, an
investigation by the El Comercio newspaper in 2013
revealed that laundered money was financing illegal
gold-mining in Madre de Dios.239 On the other hand,
the export of timber lends itself to drug trafficking,
and the ex-mayor of Pucallpa was accused of being
complicit in the assassination, trafficking and
money laundering. In one of these cases they are
investigating the presence of 561 kg of cocaine in a
cargo of triplay produced by the companies of the
Illegal gold-mining in Madre de Dios creates a ready
climate for corruption. Despite the still unsatisfactory
efforts by the State which began with Emergency
Decree No 012-2010 (led by MINAM), to curb
the most well-known and visible excesses of such
operations, it is clear that the structure of the State
itself makes it difficult to resolve the underlying
problems. In March 2014, a judge who annulled
sentences incriminating members of the most
powerful family in artisanal mining was suspended
for missing a hearing, but despite pressure from
MINAM and some members of the public, the
judge was later reinstated by the president of the
Despite official efforts to combat illegal gold-mining,
the complicity of state officials is constantly being
“in the la pampa area there are 30,000 miners
controlling the military commanders, the police,
and the judges. the police earn miserable wages,
yet now they have big houses and luxurious
4-by-4s. officials pretend they’re intervening,
but in reality they do nothing.” Indigenous leader,
Madre de Dios
Recent research shows that in Madre de Dios the
majority of gold (97 %) is extracted illegally and
that very few miners comply fully with the law and
permit requirements.242 Like the forestry sector, it has
been found that, very often, the gold doesn’t come
from mining concessions and instead is laundered by
large companies and informal intermediaries known
as ‘acopiadores’ and ‘facturadores’ who buy the gold
and provide false receipts in Madre de Dios. Given
that many miners receive their wages in gold rather
than money, they must sell to these intermediaries,
who pay a comparatively low price. It is then sold
directly to large companies, or through a long chain
of intermediaries, who transport it to Lima, issue
false receipts, and launder the gold so it can be
exported.243 One of the largest companies buying
gold in Madre de Dios is Universal Metal Trading
Company SAC, Peru’s largest exporter in 2011, when
it exported 19.2 tons to Switzerland worth $US901
million.244 In February 2011, only one of the 6 largest
companies buying gold in Madre de Dios stated that
it doesn’t buy illegal gold, while the other five could
not prove the legality of their gold. In March 2012,
242 Technically, all the miners and companies who extract gold from
concessions that they do not own or for which they do not have
permission to exploit are operating illegally.
244 Together with Universal Metal Trading, other companies – such as
AS Perú & CIA, E & M Company, Minera Tambopata, Oro Fino and
Los Poderosos, all of which have offices in Madre de Dios – have
been denounced for the export of 25 tons of presumably illegal
gold to Switzerland.
the director of Hydrocarbons within the Ministry of
Energy and Mines (the state institution responsible
for combating illegal gold-mining) admitted he
was one of Universal’s owners, and that it was run
by his brother, who also owned other companies
buying and exporting gold and making jewellery.
The director was sacked, accused of tax evasion, and
faces 8 years in prison. The gold itself is melted down
in refineries in Switzerland, making it impossible to
track the supply chain.245
As an outcome of the increasing influence of
informal mining the regional elections in Madre de
Dios were won by a leader of the informal miners,
although he did not acquire the required 30 % of
votes which means that the contest has gone to a
second round.246
image 20: illegal and legal mining is causing
serious deforestation in madre de dios resulting
in encroachment and damage to indigenous forest
lands. Source: Julio Elberto Pareja Yáñez, FENAMAD
3.5 human Rights, access to
Justice and the cRiminalization of
The indigenous movement justifiably feels that
the majority of state institutions are against it.
Denunciations of invasions (e.g. the Awajún
community of Naranjos) or illegal operations (e.g.
the Ashéninka community of Saweto) are often not
admitted by the State, or if they are admitted they
are not resolved in indigenous peoples’ favour, and
even if they are resolved favourably nothing happens
in practice because there are insufficient resources
to, say, evict invaders, or the invaders themselves
appeal and draw out the process for decades, while
deforestation continues uncontrolled.
At a wider level, in January 2014 Peru passed a
law (30151) allowing security forces using arms
against demonstrations to be immune from
prosecution. This measure has even been challenged
by the Peruvian State itself as can be seen from the
statement opposing the measure by the Human
Rights ombudsman247. This opens the door to
potential abuses and intimidating indigenous
communities who resort to demonstrations once
other strategies fail. Indeed, legitimate protests
by indigenous peoples have often been treated
as subversive or criminal behaviour. In May
2014, hearings began in a court case involving 53
people (majority indigenous) in which the public
prosecutor of Bagua, in the Northern Peruvian
Amazon, is requesting life imprisonment for 7 of
them on the grounds that they were responsible for
the death of policemen during the events of 5 June
2009. Forty five other people also stand accused, yet
no one from the central government which ordered
the police to clear the protest and ultimately caused
the violence has been prosecuted.248
3.6 national development and
land use policies
National policies on development, emissions
reduction from deforestation, land and natural
resource use, and environmental issues are
incoherent and often contradictory. Peru has
committed to achieve zero-net deforestation by
2020 as part of its contribution to mitigate climate
image 21: police repression of the indigenous protest
in Bagua, 2009. during the violence which followed
over 30 people died and hundreds were wounded.
Source: Amazon Watch
change, but at the same time it continues promoting
infrastructure projects, mining, hydroelectric
dams, oil and gas exploitation, and agro-industry,
particularly oil palm, which all intensify the pressure
on forests.
Emblematic cases of contradictory policies include
the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve in Madre de
Dios and the Kugapakori Nahua Nanti and Others
Reserve in Cusco. Both have been opened up to
hydrocarbon operations that will emit enormous
quantities of greenhouse gases, but at the same time
REDD projects aimed at reducing emissions are
being considered for the very same areas.249
For almost 25 years the core of Peru’s general
strategy promoting private investment as the key
way to develop and improve the well-being of the
population hasn’t changed. This means that policies
continue to prioritise extracting and exporting
natural resources from the mining, oil and gas,
marine and forestry sectors.
The argument behind these policies was clearly
expressed in an article titled ‘El perro del hortelano’250
(‘The dog in the manger’) written in 2007 by the
then president, Alan García. This article called for
‘unused’ resources in the Amazon to be sold or
rented as large concessions attracting high levels of
investment, on the grounds that indigenous peoples
lacked the training and funds to make use of them
themselves. In the following years, and within the
framework of the trade agreement signed by Peru
with the USA, a series of laws and policies confirmed
that the government was adopting this position with
regard to the Amazon and the people living there.
The reaction of Peru’s indigenous peoples ultimately
led to the protests at Bagua in 2009 and the ensuing
These kinds of ideas are nothing new and resemble
the Belaunde government’s (1963-1968) ‘no man’s
land’ discourse that presented the Amazon as a vast,
unoccupied area and justified a series of massive
colonization projects, and which in turn influenced
the attitude of recent migrants to the Amazon
who think of it as ‘empty land.’ According to an
indigenous leader from San Martín:
“first they arrived – well, you know – when they
see a big area they say no one owns it... When
they arrived they said that no one owned that
land. they began to chop the trees down. that
was when they began to have problems with
image 22: civil society and aidesep statement against
the ‘paquetazo’, June 2014.252
The power that the idea of private investment still
commands means that economic interests are given
251 CEPKA leader, cited in CRS, 2012: 31.
Box 23: laws and policies promoting oil palm cultivation
The national government and regional governments are actively promoting oil palm cultivation
as a profitable and ecologically sustainable crop. Supreme Decree 015-2000-AG declared oil
palm to be in the ‘national interest’, a National Oil Palm Promotion Plan has been set up, and
Law 28054 promoting the biofuels market required that by 2011, 5 % of biofuels must come
from diesel, although that means that, paradoxically, Peru must currently import 180,000 tons
of biodiesel per year due to technical problems that constrain its production in the Amazon.I
These policies explicitly promoting oil palm are intensified by the loophole in Peruvian legislation
permitting deforestation by classifying the forest as suitable for agriculture (see section 2.2.2).
This law continues to be in force.
I Dammert, 2014
priority over indigenous peoples’ rights or areas high
in biodiversity. Emblematic examples are the Ichigkat
Muja National Park, which was cut from almost
160,000 ha to 88,000 ha in order to establish mining
concessions, and the approval of the expansion of
the Camisea gas project deeper into the Kugapakori
Nahua Nanti and Others Reserve,253 a supposedly
intangible area, despite the Vice-Ministry of Inter-
Culturality rejecting the expansion and stating it
threatened indigenous peoples with extinction.254255
The recently approved package of laws weakening
environmental regulations only confirms the
continued predominance of the importance placed
on private investment and rapid economic growth.
The ‘paquetazo’, as it has come to be known, was
promulgated by president Humala on 12 July 2014
and includes:
􀁴􀀁 Reduction of fines imposed by OEFA.
􀁴􀀁 Reduction of time for a ministry to issue its
binding assessment of an EIA.
􀁴􀀁 Transfer of authority to determine acceptable
levels of contamination and to establish protected
areas from the Ministry of the Environment
(MINAM) to the Council of Ministers (PCM),
thereby subjecting what are supposed to be
technical processes to a political and economic
decision-making process.
The ‘paquetazo’ was promulgated despite concern
and objections from civil society. AIDESEP leader
Henderson Rengifo stated that:
“this law presented by the government
undermines the fundamental rights and
constitutional protections that guarantee a life
free of contamination for us peoples…how is it
possible that an eia must be assessed within
30 days when fieldwork is required and all
at the same time the companies continue to
Meanwhile, other indigenous organizations including
the Unity pact expressed their deep rejection of the
“We consider that this is an enormous setback for
the environment and a blow to the democratic
rule of law. it violates the political constitution as
well as international principles and instruments
253 Directoral Resolution no. 035-2014-MEM/AAE.
protecting life and the environment. instead
of strengthening institutional governance,
management and environmental monitoring,
[it] promotes extractive operations, makes
environmental standards more flexible, and
rewards people for breaking the law.”257
One could even argue that this is a case that must
be evaluated in the context of the FTA with the US
which expressly prohibits countries to weaken their
environmental frameworks as a measure to favour
economic concerns.
3.7 peRveRse incentives
Although one of the consequences of the
liberalization of the Peruvian economy has been the
reduction of subsidies there remain some that are
relevant for this analysis.
subsidies for fuels
Tax on rent is reduced or eliminated for any
company based in the Amazon, and the general
sales tax (IGV), including on fuel, is eliminated or
reduced too (27037). Although this could be useful
on a temporary basis to support positive and robust
activities, in practice it means subsidizing any
kind of company which establishes its bases in the
Amazon. In addition, cheap fuel means subsidizing
the gold-mining industry, the biggest fuel consumer
in Madre de Dios, which effectively means the
government is subsidizing alluvial gold-mining
and therefore deforestation. The government has
now taken some steps to address this situation,
including the control of these inputs, but they remain
insufficient.258 Evidence of this is that 4 years after the
first decree there is still not a single miner operating
within the law. In addition, the same efforts to
control inputs triggered new conflicts because, after
years of permitting the flow and the subsidy of fuel
for mines, care was not taken to ensure the needs of
communities and other members of the population
for local transport was met.
deforestation to claim property rights
Another perverse incentive is the way in which
small-scale farmers feel required to prove their use
of land in order to obtain a certificate of possession
through deforestation of a significant area so that
the authorities register it in their name. In 2007
and 2008, following changes to the laws made in
connection with Peru’s trade agreement with the
USA, many people who lived in Puerto Maldonado
and claimed land along the Inter-Oceanica Highway
said they needed to ‘slash and burn a couple of
hectares to stop the State taking away their land
and giving it to big companies.’ As described earlier
(section 3.2.2), this is a response to Legislative Decree
1089 which requires proof of economic exploitation
of rural land in order to obtain ownership. This
perverse incentive has been exploited by the Grupo
Palmas in Barranquita (section 2.2.2) in Loreto where
600 ha were deforested – and subsequently bought
by Grupo Palmas from small-scale farmers – because
a deforested hectare was worth 1,000 soles while a
hectare of standing forest was only worth 600 soles.259
3.8 WeaK state Response
Indigenous peoples tend to see the State as
encouraging deforestation because of its policies
promoting intensive agricultural cultivation, its
failure to stop illegal logging and mining, and its
unplanned road building, among other reasons. As L.
Huanzi (FERISHAM) says:
“the central government favours the large
companies that deforest, and makes things much
easier for them than for indigenous communities.
Regional governments have closer relationships
to the communities, but sometimes there is
corruption or favours granted to local or national
groups. neither the national government nor the
regional governments have the capacity to enforce
the law.”
In addition to indigenous peoples’ observations that
government policies in the Amazon have encouraged
deforestation (increase in colonization and extraction
of resources), indigenous organizations have critically
assessed various efforts by the government to stop
deforestation. As J. Sangama (FEPIKRESAM) in San
Martín highlights:
“massive deforestation occurs because national
and regional policies are poorly implemented by
the central government and even more poorly
implemented by the regional government.
solutions, rather than being incentivized, are
political for example instead of controlling
migration it is encouraged. san martín has got
involved with conservation, but only now when
everything has been destroyed.”
establishing protected areas
To date, Peru’s main strategy to combat deforestation
has been establishing protected natural areas. This
began slowly in the 1960s, boomed in the 1970s
and 1980s, and now approximately 16.2 million ha,
or 23 %, of the Peruvian Amazon is under some
kind of State protection.260 However, similar to
many countries around the world,261 Peru and the
conservation organizations supporting it failed to
consider indigenous peoples’ customary rights before
establishing these areas. In some cases people were
even forcibly displaced.262 In the majority of cases
these protected areas are in geographically isolated
regions which in general neither the State nor any
company was interested in exploiting economically,
yet they were and continue to be an integral part of
indigenous territories (Box 24).
260 IBC, 2014.
261 Chapin, 2004.
262 Various Kukama settlements were forced to move outside the
protected areas when fishing. Reserves in the Pacaya and Samiria
river basins were established in the 1940s. Military boats were
used to carry out the evictions (Bodmer and Puertas, 2007).
Box 24: national parks (in the amazon) overlapping indigenous territories
national park indigenous peoples holding customary
established following consultation/consent
Manu Matsigenka, Nahua, Yine, Mashco-Piro No
Bahuaja Sonene Ese’Eja No
Yanachaga-Chemillen Yánesha Partly
Cordillera Azul Cacataibo, Conibo, Cashibo No
Otishi Asháninka Partly
Alto Purús Mashco Piro, Asháninka, Cashinahua,
Ichigkat-Muja Awajún, Wampis Partly
Gueppi-Sekime Kechwa, Secoya, Huitoto Partly
Indigenous peoples have only been partially
consulted in recent years and only in a few cases.
Several of the cases have been strongly opposed
by indigenous peoples such as the proposed Cerro
Escalera Shawi Regional Conservation Area in San
Martín which would overlap various titled Shawi and
Awajún communities from Cahuapanas as well as
the area the Shawi are attempting to secure as part of
their traditional territory.263 One Shawi leader says:
“i’m from the community of charapillo, there are
11 shawi communities, some hold land titles and
some don’t... that we have no land titles is unfair
because, as native peoples, we have always taken
care of this land, which nourishes us, provides
us with game to hunt and medicinal plants with
which to treat and heal ourselves. We don’t want
this conservation area, we want land titles first,
and then we will talk about projects.”264
Likewise, no prior consultation was done before the
establishment of the Cordillera Escalera Regional
Conservation Area, also in San Martín. Now there
are conflicts over title, possession and ancestral uses,
and criminal charges have been brought against some
indigenous peoples for use of natural resources (Box
promoting community forest management
Despite the fact that selective logging has
traditionally provided the main source of income
for the vast majority of indigenous communities in
the Peruvian Amazon, forestry policies have tended
to focus on the promotion of intensive, large-scale
logging which of course has a much greater impact
on the forest. Only the most recent forestry law,
passed in July 2011, gives communities the explicit
opportunity to manage their own forests. In all
prior laws, the emphasis was on companies and
concessions from up to 1,000 ha in the 1974 law to
up to 10,000 ha in the 2000 law, which, as can be seen
in Purús (Box 13) involved requirements that were
beyond the reach of the communities. As a result, the
2000 law ended up continuing to favour large-scale
logging enterprises and forcing the communities to
reach agreements with companies that often led to
massive deforestation and broken promises instead
of empowering communities to work in their own
It wasn’t until 2006 that the government introduced
legislation (Resolution 232-2006-INRENA) after
years of pressure and proposals from AIDESEP
and environmental organizations that specifically
263 AIDESEP, 2013.
264 Shawi leader from FERISHAM, cited in FOE, 2014: 17.
supported community forest management. This
was a small step in the right direction but the new
forestry law (July 2011) does not develop this any
further. Although the law includes ambiguous
statements about ‘managing forests with indigenous
cosmovision’, it fails to allocate the financial or
human resources to translate that into action.265 The
constant lack of support for the communities and the
State’s preference for intensive, extractive models are
two of the biggest contributors to deforestation and
environmental degradation in the Peruvian Amazon.
Respecting indigenous peoples’ right to free,
prior and informed consent
A key element in any planning process involving
large extractive projects impacting indigenous
peoples is the participation of the indigenous peoples
themselves, including during the prior consultation
phase when consent is supposed to be obtained.
Peru’s government ratified the International Labour
Organization’s Convention 169 in 1993 (in force
since 1995) and is also subject to the jurisprudence of
the Inter-American human rights system. This means
that, according to international law, Peru is obliged
to consult indigenous peoples potentially affected
by large-scale development and investment, and to
obtain their consent before such activities go ahead.
To date, in the hydrocarbon sector, in full violation
of the country’s international legal obligations,
the government has established concessions for
exploitation and exploration by allocating them
to foreign companies, either directly or via an
international auction. This has been done without
consulting indigenous peoples or allowing them to
influence the projects on their lands. It is up to the
companies themselves, at a later stage, to resolve any
overlap issues.
Since the promulgation of the Prior Consultation
Law (29785) in 2011, indigenous peoples within
concessions identified for exploration and
exploitation are formally required to be consulted.
However, indigenous organizations have expressed
serious concerns about various aspects of the law,
because at no point does it respect their rights
according to Peru’s international human rights
commitments. For example, it doesn’t respect their
right to give or withhold their consent to large-scale
projects, and it only applies to people who are
‘directly affected’ and those who the government
decides to arbitrarily determine as indigenous
265 However, following repeated requests by AIDESEP, the law
includes a temporary disposition that leaves the 2006 resolution
in force for a certain period. Meanwhile, further advances in
the regulation of the law are promised but it remains to be seen
whether these commitments are met.
peoples, a process which controversially has resulted
in the exclusion of many peoples from the Andes.
AIDESEP and other organizations have demanded
that various articles of the law 29875 are modified in
order to ensure it meets Peru’s international human
rights obligations (Box 26).
In addition and to date, indigenous peoples observe
that despite the huge impact of large-scale projects
over extensive areas, the tendency is to conduct
simple informative meetings which are supposed to
constitute consultations in each community instead
of with the whole people or at the level of
“With these major projects we know that we
are all going to be affected even though they tell
us they are using cutting edge technology, we
will all be affected from these two river basins
so they can’t carry on consulting community by
community. We are one single people and we
must defend our territory as one.” Wampis leader,
community of Galilea, river Santiago
In recent years, due to the fact that the Prior
Consultation Law had not been regulated, some
proposed projects have been suspended and no
new concessions established. In March 2014, the
new Minister of Energy and Mines said that the
requirement for EIAs for exploration, and therefore
prior consultation, was going to be eliminated, under
the argument that they are just ‘red tape’ and that in
reality the companies ‘know what they are doing.’266
Despite the fact the Minister of Environment later
denied he had signed off on this law, it is clear
that the Ministry of Energy and Mines is applying
pressure to facilitate investment in hydrocarbons
to the detriment of the safeguards previously
established. Finally, on 12th July 2014, Law 30230
Box 25: the cerro escalera Regional conservation area in san martíni
“i remember when the park guards visited our community for the first time. they called a
meeting and said, ‘collect your things and pack your bags. don’t start [clearing any more land
to plant crops] and we’ll see where you can move to.’’
That is how Miguel Ishwiza Sangama, the former head of a small Kechwa community called
Nuevo Lamas, remembers the moment when, in 2007, officials from the Cerro Escalera Regional
Conservation Area tried to relocate the community for the first time. In the next few years the
officials continued in their efforts and, as the community kept resisting, resorted to restricting
their access to the forest and prohibiting them from practicing their traditional rotational
farming. In 2010, lawsuits were filed against 3 members of the community for this practice.
Although Nuevo Lamas is the only community inside Cerro Escalera – established in 2005 by San
Martín’s regional government and extending for 132,000 ha – other communities are dependent
on it for access to vital forest resources. According to Jaime Tapulima, president of CEPKA, one of
4 indigenous federations representing the Kechwa people, “all this area is our ancestral territory
but the reserve was created without consulting us.” Many communities are affected. Lawsuits
have been filed against 8 members of the Alto Pucalpillo community for deforesting 0.25 ha to
establish a small campsite to cultivate bananas, maize, and other crops to provide them with
food during hunting and gathering expeditions. One of the 8 says:
“our community doesn’t have any land. our property title is only for our houses. this is
our only forest. We don’t have anywhere else to hunt and gather but the area they now
call a reserve. it’s our land. We’ve always gone there to pick medicinal plants and hunt
for community festivals. You can see it’s full of signs of our ancestors. there are old paths,
and palm trees planted for roofing material. there’s even a salt mine! however, they never
consulted us about the park. By the time we found out, it was already established. now
if we want to enter our own forest we have to ask san martín’s regional government for
was approved which will facilitate the ‘regularisation’
of land parcels to facilitate large-scale development
projects and which could result in the breaking up of
collective property rights of indigenous peoples.
power imbalance
Even if every law was enforced and regulated, or
even if there was a law recognising indigenous
peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent,
there remains the issue of an enormous imbalance
of power between indigenous communities and
This imbalance begins with access to information
and ends with access to power. A company will
have experience of similar situations, know the
procedures, understand the key steps in the process,
know the institutions that need to be influenced and
appreciate the consequences of certain decisions.
In addition, it has the support of the State, it has
much greater financial resources enabling it to
win over a community, legitimately or not, and it
can rely on professionals from different fields who
understand how to convince state officials – often
people who have worked for both the company
and the State before or will do in the future (the so
called ‘revolving door’). Meanwhile, according to
the government, the communities don’t even have
the right to say ‘no’, and all that they can hope for
Box 26: aidesep observations and proposals about the prior consultation lawi
With respect to the mistaken decision of the government – via the Ministry of Culture and
the Vice-Ministry of Interculturality to approve and publish today the regulations for Law No
29785, Law for the prior consultation of indigenous and original peoples – AIDESEP declares the
The intention of the national indigenous Amazonian peoples organization has always been to
request the modification of articles 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 15, 19 and the 2nd supplementary provision of
Law 29785 for the following reasons:
Article 1. Must include ALL those affected, not only those ‘directly’ affected and must consider
all source of international law and not only the UNDRIP or ILO convention 169.
Article 2. Must protect ALL indigenous rights, not just ‘collective’ rights, and must invalidate all
actions that have not been consulted with indigenous peoples.
Article 4. The principle of consultation should be expanded from just 7 to the 18 points agreed
with the State in April 2010.
Article 7. Should consider as indigenous ALL those descendants who survive since colonial times
and not only limit them to those ‘direct’ descendants who conserve ‘all’ cultural elements which
excludes highland communities and indigenous peoples on the coast.
Article 15. Clarify that the ‘final decision’ of the State is obliged to secure consent when it
involves a large-scale project, disposal of hazardous materials and relocation of populations or it
affects their survival leading to a second period of dialogue to ensure it does not affect the right
to a balanced environment.
Article 19. The Vice-Ministry of Interculturality cannot be judge and jury of demands regarding
both when consultations must take place and ensuring that agreements are complied. Instead
what is required is an independent and autonomous indigenous institution within the structure
of the State.
2nd supplementary provision. Review and consult all imposed Acts that have violated ILO
convention 169 since 1995 and not legitimate them nor confuse ‘participation’ with consultation.
I In a declaration on 4th April 2012.
is that the state or company will care enough about
potential bad publicity for their opposition to be
Given this context, it is unlikely that negotiations
between the communities, the government and a
company ever take place on an equal footing. On
the contrary, as many communities have denounced,
companies often incite division and conflict within
a community or between different communities,
and employ intimidating tactics to persuade them
not to oppose their operations with the objective of
obtaining a so called ‘social license’.
Kakinte communities in Peru’s central jungle
have been the victims of many of these strategies,
implemented by Repsol, as one recent study
denounces.267 In April 2013, they issued the following
“We are committed to maintaining one sole
position, as the caquinte-Kakinte people, in
relation to the company Repsol, taking into
account that it is harassing and persecuting us
(through a criminal case). We denounce the
bad practices of this company. it is dividing
and splitting our people, its survival, its
identity, its ancestral territory and rights to
In recent years the State has promoted forest
conservation policies linked to climate change
mitigation and adaption strategies. At the national
level this has involved REDD+ programs financed by
the World Bank aimed at facilitating payments for
conserving forests or avoiding deforestation. Since
the launch of these programs in 2009, indigenous
organizations have observed that, given that so many
applications for legal recognition of their territories
remain pending, REDD constitutes a threat to them
because it will encourage a search for ‘empty forests’
to sell the carbon stocks in supposed international
markets and could restrict access to the forest.
“Redd projects could even be more dangerous
than those of oil, gas or timber because hidden
details in the contracts could end up taking away
their control of their forests.” Alberto Pizango
The merits of these warnings have been confirmed
by various attempts made by unscrupulous investors
267 %20
Repsol %20Peru/PeruRepsol_versionweb.pdf
to sign exploitative contracts with indigenous
communities, and which have only been avoided
following intervention by indigenous organizations.
Residents from a village called Yurilamas in San
Martín explain:
“We didn’t really understand all his business talk.
What is more, the contract he wanted us to sign
was written in a foreign language. it was all too
complicated. When he first came he talked about
a 2-year contract, then 5 years, then finally 40
years… they explained that it would be forbidden
to clear the forest and that we had to stop using
wood for cooking but use gas instead. But we
don’t use gas here, we prefer to cut down a tree
and dry out the wood for fuel… they wanted to
take all our forest, that’s 33,000 hectares, but the
people were against it because agriculture is our
At the same time there is now greater interest on
the part of investors and NGOs in establishing
conservation areas in order to benefit from future
REDD projects recognized by the State. Following
intensive negotiations, AIDESEP managed to obtain
various important commitments from the State
to align Peruvian legislation with its international
obligations to protect indigenous peoples’ collective
territories and to start the process to recognize them
legally. Also achieved was a commitment to advance
the legal recognition of indigenous territories as
an ‘enabling condition for forest and REDD related
policies’ and the allocation of specific funds for these
actions in projects financed by the World Bank (FIP
and FCPF). Despite these commitments, no changes
to the legislation have been made to date and as
always pressure from indigenous peoples needs to
be maintained. Meanwhile, the ongoing land-titling
programs financed by the Inter-American Bank
(PTRT3) threaten to undermine collective rights
to land and have been denounced by indigenous
“there are analyses and environmental
agreements and climate agreements... promoting
efficient management of forests to restrict the
main cause of deforestation: colonists migrating to
the amazon. later they contradict themselves by
announcing that the ptRt3 will ‘formalize 430,000
pieces of land’... which is an open call for further
invasions and the destruction of any commitments
to reduce our forest related emissions... and is
making us look ridiculous in the eyes of the world
in the run-up to the cop20.”270
269 FOE, 2014: 36-7.
270 AIDESEP, 24/6/2014, carta al PCM:
Box 27: national policies and initiatives to combat deforestation
policy or initiative description indigenous peoples’ observations
2008 National Forest
Conservation Program
Aims to achieve zero-net
deforestation by 2020.
􀍻􀀃 􀀃􀀘􀅽􀄞􀆐􀅶􀍛􀆚􀀃􀄚􀅝􀆐􀆚􀅝􀅶􀅐􀆵􀅝􀆐􀅚􀀃􀄏􀄞􀆚􀇁􀄞􀄞􀅶􀀃􀆉􀅯􀄂􀅶􀆚􀄂􀆚􀅝􀅽􀅶􀆐􀀃􀄂􀅶􀄚􀀃􀆉􀆌􀅝􀅵􀄂􀆌􀇇􀀃􀄨􀅽􀆌􀄞􀆐􀆚􀆐􀍕􀀃
and is contradicted by policies encouraging oil palm.
􀍻􀀃 􀀃􀁴􀅝􀅯􀅯􀀃􀆉􀆌􀅽􀄏􀄂􀄏􀅯􀇇􀀃􀄨􀄂􀅝􀅯􀀃􀅐􀅝􀇀􀄞􀅶􀀃􀆚􀅚􀄂􀆚􀀃􀄚􀄞􀄨􀅽􀆌􀄞􀆐􀆚􀄂􀆚􀅝􀅽􀅶􀀃􀅚􀄂􀆐􀀃􀅶􀅽􀇁􀀃􀅝􀅶􀄐􀆌􀄞􀄂􀆐􀄞􀄚􀀃
and it is expected to continue rising due to uncontrolled illegal
mining, the rapid expansion of oil palm plantations, and plans
to build 70 dams. In addition, if the concept of forest is poorly
defined then, within the concept of ‘net deforestation’, the
expansion of oil palm plantations could be defined as forest
2011 REDD+ Preparation
Plan: preparing the
country for national
emissions reduction
Partner: Forest Carbon
Partnership Facility,
World Bank
Important commitments
have been made to reform
national legislation so that
it respects indigenous
peoples’ customary lands
and territories as stipulated
by international human
rights law.
􀍻􀀃 􀀃􀁗􀅯􀄂􀅶􀀃􀆌􀄞􀅵􀄂􀅝􀅶􀆐􀀃􀆵􀅶􀅝􀅵􀆉􀅯􀄞􀅵􀄞􀅶􀆚􀄞􀄚􀍘
􀍻􀀃 􀀃􀁅􀅽􀀃􀆐􀆚􀄞􀆉􀆐􀀃􀅚􀄂􀇀􀄞􀀃􀄏􀄞􀄞􀅶􀀃􀆚􀄂􀅬􀄞􀅶􀀃􀆚􀅽􀀃􀄏􀄞􀅐􀅝􀅶􀀃􀆚􀅚􀄞􀀃􀅯􀄞􀅐􀄂􀅯􀀃􀆌􀄞􀄨􀅽􀆌􀅵􀆐􀀃􀆚􀅽􀀃􀆌􀄞􀆐􀆉􀄞􀄐􀆚􀀃
indigenous peoples’ land rights.
􀍻􀀃 􀀃􀀒􀅽􀅶􀆚􀆌􀄂􀄚􀅝􀄐􀆚􀅽􀆌􀇇􀀃􀆉􀆌􀅽􀅐􀆌􀄂􀅵􀆐􀀃􀄨􀅝􀅶􀄂􀅶􀄐􀄞􀄚􀀃􀄏􀇇􀀃􀆚􀅚􀄞􀀃􀀯􀀘􀀑􀀃􀆚􀅚􀆌􀄞􀄂􀆚􀄞􀅶􀀃􀆚􀅽􀀃
undermine indigenous peoples’ collective rights to land and to
increase colonization in the Amazon, through recognition of
730,000 individual land ownership titles while only dedicating
minimal attention to the pending land applications of
indigenous peoples.
2013 Forest Investment Plan
Partner: Forest
Investment Program,
World Bank
Agreements reached
with indigenous
communities to prioritise
financing recognition of
indigenous lands and
support community
forest management and
􀍻􀀃 􀀃􀀄􀀯􀀘􀀜􀁞􀀜􀁗􀀃􀄂􀄐􀅚􀅝􀄞􀇀􀄞􀄚􀀃􀆚􀅚􀄞􀀃􀄂􀅯􀅯􀅽􀄐􀄂􀆚􀅝􀅽􀅶􀀃􀅽􀄨􀀃􀁨􀁞􀀘􀀃􀏭􀏰􀍘􀏱􀀃􀅵􀅝􀅯􀅯􀅝􀅽􀅶􀀃􀆚􀅽􀀃
address ‘enabling conditions’ which are indigenous demands
including: titling of indigenous territories (USD 7 million),
forestry management (USD 3.5 million) and community forest
governance (USD 4 million).
􀍻􀀃 􀀃􀀘􀄞􀆐􀅝􀅐􀅶􀀃􀆉􀅚􀄂􀆐􀄞􀀃􀅝􀆐􀀃􀆵􀅶􀄚􀄞􀆌􀇁􀄂􀇇􀀃􀅝􀅶􀀃􀏯􀀃􀆌􀄞􀅐􀅝􀅽􀅶􀆐􀀃􀄏􀆵􀆚􀍕􀀃􀄂􀆐􀀃􀄂􀅯􀇁􀄂􀇇􀆐􀍕􀀃
indigenous pressure will need to be maintained to make sure
it fulfills its commitments and that appropriate steps are being
taken regarding indigenous peoples’ rights.
􀍻􀀃 􀀃􀁤􀅚􀄞􀆌􀄞􀀃􀅝􀆐􀀃􀅵􀅽􀆌􀄞􀀃􀆉􀆌􀅽􀅐􀆌􀄞􀆐􀆐􀀃􀇁􀅝􀆚􀅚􀀃􀆚􀅚􀄞􀀃􀀘􀄞􀄚􀅝􀄐􀄂􀆚􀄞􀄚􀀃􀁄􀄞􀄐􀅚􀄂􀅶􀅝􀆐􀅵􀀃
for indigenous peoples which has formed a management
committee composed of representatives of national indigenous
organizations (CONAP and AIDESEP), and has developed
criteria for the approval of projects and initiatives.
2014 ER-PIN (concept note
for an emissions
reduction program)
Partner: The Carbon
Fund, World Bank
Preliminary plan to achieve
reductions of 10 Mt of CO2
via activities in 3 regions.
􀍻􀀃 􀀃􀀄􀀯􀀘􀀜􀁞􀀜􀁗􀀃􀆉􀄂􀆌􀆚􀅝􀄐􀅝􀆉􀄂􀆚􀄞􀄚􀀃􀅝􀅶􀀃􀄚􀄞􀄏􀄂􀆚􀄞􀆐􀀃􀄂􀅶􀄚􀀃􀄂􀄐􀅚􀅝􀄞􀇀􀄞􀄚􀀃􀅝􀅵􀆉􀅽􀆌􀆚􀄂􀅶􀆚􀀃
advances such as ‘prioritisation of the titling of indigenous
territories’, inclusion of Indigenous REDD in the national
strategy and participation in coordinating bodies.I
􀍻􀀃 􀀃􀀘􀄞􀆐􀆉􀅝􀆚􀄞􀀃􀆚􀅚􀅝􀆐􀍕􀀃􀆚􀅚􀄞􀀃􀆉􀅯􀄂􀅶􀀃􀄐􀅽􀅶􀆚􀅝􀅶􀆵􀄞􀆐􀀃􀆚􀅽􀀃􀄏􀄞􀀃􀅵􀅽􀄚􀅝􀄨􀅝􀄞􀄚􀀃􀄂􀅶􀄚􀀃􀅚􀄂􀆐􀀃􀅶􀅽􀆚􀀃
yet been subjected to formal consultations with indigenous
􀍻􀀃 􀀃􀀯􀅶􀄚􀅝􀅐􀄞􀅶􀅽􀆵􀆐􀀃􀆉􀆌􀄞􀆐􀆐􀆵􀆌􀄞􀀃􀇁􀅝􀅯􀅯􀀃􀅶􀄞􀄞􀄚􀀃􀆚􀅽􀀃􀄏􀄞􀀃􀅵􀄂􀅝􀅶􀆚􀄂􀅝􀅶􀄞􀄚􀀃􀆚􀅽􀀃􀄞􀅶􀆐􀆵􀆌􀄞􀀃
that it resolves underlying issues such as pending requests for
indigenous land titles and reducing the principal direct drivers
of deforestation, such as extractive and infrastructure projects.
2014 Letter of intention
with the Peruvian
government and
the governments of
Norway and GermanyII
USD 300 million until 2020
in exchange for improving
transparency, accountability
and participation, improving
land tenure (including titling
5 million ha for indigenous
communities) and reducing
emissions of GHG from
􀍻􀀃 􀀃􀀬􀄂􀆐􀀃􀄏􀄞􀄞􀅶􀀃􀄂􀆉􀆉􀅯􀄂􀆵􀄚􀄞􀄚􀀃􀄂􀆐􀀃􀄂􀀃􀆉􀅽􀆐􀅝􀆚􀅝􀇀􀄞􀀃􀆐􀆚􀄞􀆉􀀃􀅝􀄨􀀃􀅝􀆚􀀃􀆉􀆌􀅽􀄚􀆵􀄐􀄞􀆐􀀃􀄐􀅽􀅶􀄐􀆌􀄞􀆚􀄞􀀃
􀍻􀀃 􀀃􀀜􀅵􀆉􀅚􀄂􀆐􀅝􀆐􀄞􀄚􀀃􀆚􀅚􀄂􀆚􀀃􀆚􀅽􀀃􀄂􀄐􀅚􀅝􀄞􀇀􀄞􀀃􀅝􀆚􀆐􀀃􀅽􀄏􀅩􀄞􀄐􀆚􀅝􀇀􀄞􀍕􀀃􀆚􀅚􀄞􀀃􀆉􀆌􀅽􀅐􀆌􀄂􀅵􀅵􀄞􀀃􀇁􀅝􀅯􀅯􀀃
need to challenge entrenched interests and legal loopholes
which prevent the recognition of indigenous territories.
The threat of this PTRT3 has since increased with the
projection of titling 730,000 colonists in the Amazon
which will not be compensated for by the titling of
only 190 communities.
In 2010, Peru established the National Forest
Conservation Program for Climate Change
Mitigation in which it committed to conserve 54
million ha of the Amazon,271 which is effectively
the sum of all the protected natural areas, titled
indigenous lands, reserves for indigenous peoples
in isolation, and permanent production forests
combined. Two years later the program began to be
implemented with 17 communities in Amazonas
and Junín, and by 2013 there were 48 communities
involved covering a total area of 431,500 ha and plans
to include another 34 communities.272 The program
provides 10 soles per hectare on the condition that
community projects are set up and an agreed area is
The programme is still in its early phase but initial
experiences in Wampis communities in the River
Santiago indicate that communities appreciate
State support to strengthen health and education
services, in addition to dedicating resources to
productive projects such as the rearing of small
birds, fish or cultivation of cocoa. Despite this, a
series of issues with the administration of funds
has been identified and they are calling for a better
system of administration that involves indigenous
organizations such as the Socio Bosques programme
of Ecuador. In addition, people retain a certain
degree of mistrust as they highlight that they don’t
know the real interest behind the programme.
“We are evaluating if this is in good faith as we
also do not trust the state and we want to know
what is it really thinking.”273 Wampis leader, River
273 FECOHRSA, 2014.
3.9 population and
enviRonmental footpRint
Undoubtedly, there is a connection between
population growth and deforestation - the greater
the number of people in cities and rural areas, the
greater the number of basic needs to be satisfied, and
therefore the greater the need for agricultural land.
However, it is not a simple correlation. Deforestation
rates for 1975 were estimated at approximately
150,000 ha per year when the population in the
Amazon was less than half what it was in 2007, when
deforestation rates were equal or less.
The impact on the forest also depends on who
the settlers are and what kind of economy they
adopt. Traditional rotational farming is proven to
be sustainable and very different to commercial
agriculture which, depending on the product, the
machinery and the labour, can deforest 2-5 ha per
year. Different again are the companies investing
large sums of money that deforest thousands of ha
per year, as in Tamshiyacu and Barranquita.
Everything indicates that in the last few years Peru
has been experiencing a sustained economic growth.
Although this growth hasn’t reached the whole
population, it has generated greater employment,
revitalized local economies and increased income in
the Amazon, particularly in the urban areas.274 The
increased average purchasing power of the urban
population and some people living rurally, even
in regions like the Amazon, translates into greater
capacity to invest in activities that involve using
natural resources. In other words, in addition to an
increasing population, the environmental impact
per capita of a considerable part of the Amazon
population is also beginning to increase.
Box 28 shows that the population in the Peruvian
Amazon increased by almost 8 times between
1949 and 2007, and went from 6.7 % of Peru’s total
population to 13.4 %. This is the result of a growth
274 CSA, 2012.
Box 28: population in the peruvian amazon, according to the national census.i (growth has been
greater in the amazon than the country as a whole).
Year 1940 1961 1972 1981 1993 2007
Total in Peru 6,207,967 9,906,746 13,538,208 17,006,210 22,048,356 27,419
Amazon 414,452 865,210 1,341,922 1,796,283 2,832,254 3,675,292
% of total 6.7 8.7 9.9 10.6 12.8 13.4
I INEI, 2008.
in population of indigenous peoples, but above all in
the number of colonists migrating from the Andes as
well as their own subsequent population growth.
There are a variety of reasons for people migrating
from the Andes, including political violence,
environmental degradation, impact of large-scale
mining, and historical, structural problems that laws
and policies have failed to resolve.275 In particular, the
state policies that maintain the myth of the Amazon
as ‘an empty amazon’, ‘the agricultural basket of Peru’
and now as an ‘agro industrial goldmine’.276 Indeed,
one of the main aims in building roads into the
Amazon over the last 50 years has been to increase
opportunities for people to migrate from the Andes.
San Martín’s forests are on the frontier of these two
ecological regions and as a result have been subject
to particularly intense migration, particularly from
Cajamarca, where paradoxically everyone should
be happy because of the ‘development’ due to an
increase in mining and compensation payments. In
recent years, migration has been increasing to the
montane forest as one non-indigenous member of a
campesino community describes:
“people come from Bolivar and also from
cajamarca. We give them a plot to build their
house and 5 hectares of land in the rural zone
for free for them to cultivate [“chacras”]. this is
an opportunity they won’t find elsewhere, word
gets round and they invite others to come. in
cajamarca, because of all the mines, the chacras
are no longer fertile, so how are people to
survive? if people have the good fortune to own
a little plot of land they sell up and leave to find a
better life and in villages like canaán and añazco
pueblo, things are easier. that’s why people are
275 Migration from the Andes to the Amazon is an issue that requires
further research.
276 The causes of Andean migration to the Amazon is an issue that
requires further investigation.
277 FOE, 2014: 23.
paRt 4
neW thReats: futuRe tRends in
Recent trends identified in this report suggest that
in the next few years or decades deforestation will
increase in Peru as a result, above all, of an increase
in large agricultural or agro-industrial operations for
oil palm and other crops and infrastructure for the
energy and transport sectors.
4.1 Roads
The current connection between roads and
deforestation is likely to continue. Studies on the
Inter-Oceanica Highway in Madre de Dios state that
it will continue to attract colonists to the region and,
in turn, this will probably increase deforestation even
in areas that are already owned or occupied.
“Those who migrate to the area will either have to
encroach upon existing private or government lands
(i.e. national parks, indigenous reserves, and logging
concessions) or buy lands from sellers. Those who
encroach upon land are more likely to have to clear
forest to grow their own food (i.e. slash and burn
agriculture), potentially increasing risks for wild fires
in previously intact forested areas. Those who are able
to buy land usually come from bigger cities and are
likely to have the necessary resources to clear larger
areas of forest more quickly than previous landowners.
In the worst case, buyers could be companies with
strong interests in cattle-ranching or in crops that
are known to require deforestation of large areas,
such as soybean or palm plantations. Either way,
migration to the area will certainly result in increased
278 Zambrano et al., 2010: 168.
4.2 oil palm
Official figures state that there are currently 57,000 ha
currently under oil palm cultivation in the Amazon,
but there are plans to expand considerably on the
part of government and commercial actors as we
saw in section 2.2.2. In 2001, oil palm was declared
in the ‘national interest’279 in a bid to, among other
things, establish plantations and contribute to
the recuperation of land deforested by migrant
agriculture and illegal operations. State projections
say there are up to 1.4 million ha suitable for oil
palm.280 As we can see in an event organised by the
BCRP, the Grupo Palmas interprets the definition of
such appropriate lands as all those lands deforested
by migrant agriculture in addition to all those forest
lands with capacity to support permanent crops
and pasture except those within protected areas and
indigenous territories.281 The government is currently
updating its 2010-2012 National Oil Palm Promotion
Plan with the objective of reaching 80,000 ha.282
Oil palm is also being promoted at the regional
level. In Loreto, there are currently 12 applications
for plantations totalling 106,213 ha being processed
by the Regional Agrarian Office.283 In Ucayali, in
late 2013, despite denunciations of deforestation
caused by oil palm, officials “stressed their interest
in continuing to promote oil palm cultivation by
selling and titling forest land, as well as helping with
the administrative process, co-financing projects
and putting in order any irregularities that had been
279 Ministerial Resolution no. 0155-2001-AG.
280 According to the National Oil Palm Plan 2000-2010 the lands
suitable for cultivation were more than 1.4 million ha, and the
Ministry of Agriculture (MINAG, 2012) estimates 1.135 million
committed, all in order to achieve a minimum of
50,000 ha of oil palm in the region.”284 Similarly,
San Martín’s regional government has a policy
to “accelerate the compulsory commercialization
of biodiesel and gasohol, make it easier to obtain
permits, and support the operation of plants
producing biofuels at the [regional] level.”285
There has also been an application from businessmen
from Malaysia to cultivate up to 1 million ha of
oil palm in Loreto, but which was rejected by the
regional government.286 In 2013, Peru made an offer
to Sime Darby, a Malaysia-based company, to develop
a 70,000 ha oil palm project as part of a strategy to
combat coca cultivation.287
In sum, there is a great deal of optimism
among government entities (especially regional
governments), small-scale farmers and investors
284 SPDE, 2013.
285 Regional Ordinance no. 017-2011-GRSM/CR. Proposal ‘Energy
policy development in San Martín, 2011-2015.’
286 Dourojeanni et al., 2009.
about the potential of oil palm.
Despite this official promotion, the
government still doesn’t have any
detailed soil studies to implement oil
palm monoculture plantations, yet
continues to promote their expansion
in forest areas.288
The Romero Group, through its
subsidiaries Palmas del Espino and
Palmas del Shanushi, currently
has approximately 22,000 ha in
production. In addition, it has 4
projects currently being evaluated
that would involve the use of 35,000
ha, including 23,000 ha of primary
forest,289 and it has stated that by
2021 it is projected that it will have
120,000 ha under cultivation.
If we consider that the Grupo
Romero’s activities are the most well
established in the sector, and if we add
to this the evidence of incapacity and
complicity on the part of the Peruvian
government to prevent the destruction
of primary forest, as well as the new
actors from Malaysia with a history
of ecological destruction in their
own country, the most likely scenario
is that these practices will continue to threaten
increasingly larger expanses of the Amazon.
In addition to illegally clearing forest in complicity
with the authorities, Peru’s National Confederation
of Oil Palm Growers and Oil Palm Companies
(CONAPAL) has launched initiatives to classify
oil palm as a forest species. Observers point out
that this would promote “massive deforestation,
forest burning, settlement, and incentives for land
trafficking to establish monoculture plantations.”290
4.3 eneRgY sectoR infRastRuctuRe
It is very probable that in the near future the energy
sector will become one of the main causes of
deforestation. Particularly important are the direct
288 MINAG published on its website statements by the Minister of
Agriculture Milton von Hesse saying that there are more than
600,000 ha identified, assessed and registered for oil palm in
the Peruvian Amazon, and that oil palm would be cultivated
‘principally in deforested areas or that are suitable for forestry,
but not in primary forests.’ However, a MINAG report (no.
35-2013-AG-DVM-DGAAA-DERN-66728-13) states that MINAG
‘doesn’t have a cadastre nor has it identified deforested areas for
agro-energy cultivation.’
290 SPDE letter:
map 8: proposed dams in the peruvian amazon on
the river marañon. Source: LAB
and indirect impacts of a series of dams built to
generate hydroelectric energy.
Peru plans to invest US$8.1 billion in energy projects
in 2014 and has more dams built (26) and proposed
(79) with capacity greater than 2 MW than any other
Andean country in the Amazon basin – a situation
justified by the government for the need to ensure
‘competitive costs in mining and other sectors’, rather
than supplying electricity to poor people living in
rural areas. Two-thirds of the planned dams are large
or overambitious projects, and although Peru’s largest
existing dam, Mantaro, can generate 798 MW, there
are 11 proposed dams with even greater capacity and
43 planned projects between 100-999MW. Almost
half of these dams are already in advanced stages of
planning. In April 2011 the president, Alan García,
signed a decree declaring the construction of 20
dams, all located on the main trunk of the River
Marañon, to be in the ‘national interest.’ These would
all exceed 100 MW, and include 3 ‘mega-dams’ (over
1000MW) (Escuprebraga, Rentema and Manseriche).
The river with the second highest number of
proposed dams – at least 30 – is the Ucayali. Six large
dams on its upper tributaries already supply a large
part of Peru’s hydroelectric energy, and now there are
plans to build another 19, including four mega-dams,
near the confluence of 2 of the Ucayali’s main
tributaries, the River Tambo and River Urubamba.
The financial, social and environmental costs of
large dams are well-known. They flood vast areas
of land, often forcibly displace thousands of people,
and are unprofitable to invest in when compared to
small-scale renewable electricity generation.
impacts of large dams
The deforestation caused by a large hydroelectric
dam goes far beyond the area flooded. Although the
estimates for the direct deforestation caused by the
proposed Inambari dam is approximately 40,000 ha,
it is argued that total deforestation could reach up
to 1.5 million ha as a result of, among other things,
running the electricity cables through the forest
and future development projects encouraged by
the dam.291 One recent study has shown that more
than 80 % of the proposed dams across the entire
291 Serra, 2010.
Box 29: the peru-Brazil energy agreement threatens to flood asháninka lands
In 2010, Peru signed a bilateral agreement to supply at least 6,000 MW of hydroelectric energy
from dams in the Amazon to Brazil for the next 30 years. The five proposed dams cited in the
agreement – Inambari, Mainique, Paquitzapango, Tambo 40 and Tambo 60 – are considered
potentially high-impact due to the size of the area to be flooded, fragmentation of different
habitats, and associated infrastructure such as roads and electricity cables.
The two largest – Paquitzapango and Inambari – would directly affect Andean peoples (in the
Inambari region) and up to 10,000 Asháninka – at least 3,500 would be forced to relocate. In
addition they would flood more than 120,000 ha (Paquitzapango, 75,000, and Inambari, 45,000).I
In total, it is estimated that the five dams would flood or degrade approximately 700,000 ha
of forest, including the areas directly flooded and the degradation caused by the construction
of roads and electricity cables in addition to the degradation caused by the relocation of
settlements. In the case of Paquitzapango, it alone would require cutting 400 km through the
forest in order to run electricity cables to Brazil.II Inambari has been suspended mainly because
of opposition from the local indigenous Andean population. Meanwhile, Paquitzapango is also
on standby as a result of the defence of their rights by indigenous Amazonian communities as
Ruth Buendía, president of the Asháninka organization CARE, explains:
“the terrorists of sendero [luminoso] displaced us in the name of the future, and now our
own government wants to displace us in the name of ‘development.’ how are they alike?
neither of them has asked us... Why must we always pay the price of progress? they’ve always
treated us as second class peruvians but ask us to make first class sacrifices.”iii
Amazon would lead to deforestation from new roads,
electricity cables or flooding.292 Many indigenous
peoples fear that their construction would result
in their disappearance as a people as leaders of the
Awajún and Wampis express who are threatened
by dams on the river Marañon (Escuprebraga and
“large dams are a direct threat to our way of
life. flooding territories along the rivers would
mean death for indigenous people. We are totally
opposed to dam construction.” H. Kinin, an ORPIAN
leader, from the Awajún people
“the manseriche dams will flood all the way to
nieva and cenepa flooding all the communities
and relocating them to olmos and chiclayo. in
practical terms this will be like putting us in a cell
and teaching us to live in a reduced area. this we
will never accept.” teobaldo Chamik, Wampis, river
Although some projects have been postponed, the
general perception among indigenous peoples is that
they will be resurrected in the future. K. Quicque
(FENAMAD) says:
“inambari will start up again in the future. But
i say, if energy is needed on the [pacific] coast,
produce it on the coast using, say, wind or solar
energy. Why do they have to damage the amazon?
Who will pay the extremely high social and
environmental price?"
In addition to the question of socio-environmental
impacts which cannot be priced, a recent study
shows that in the long-term all large dams worldwide
end up costing almost double what was initially
projected, and on average take more than 60 % longer
than expected to start production.293
292 Finer, M., Jenkins, C. N., 2012.
293 Ansar et al., 2014.
paRt 5
defoRestation at the Regional level
San Martín and Madre de Dios represent two
different extremes of deforestation, both of which
are useful cases for illustrating the dynamic of
deforestation. Both regions have a tropical climate in
their lowest altitude areas and a dry season between
May and October, although Madre de Dios’s is
longer and more pronounced. A significant part of
both regions is mountainous with peaks over 4,000
metres above sea level, although the proportion of
mountainous areas is greater in San Martín. The
main cities in both regions are connected to the
national road network by a paved highway, although
the road in Madre de Dios was only been paved
between 2005 and 2010.
There has been more deforestation historically in San
Martín, in the north-west of the Peruvian Amazon,
than any other region. Today it has the highest
current rates of deforestation, it is Peru’s number
one agricultural producer, and it has an economy
and regional government that rank among the most
established anywhere in the Amazon.
By contrast, Madre de Dios, in the south-east of
the Peruvian Amazon, has seen less deforestation
than any other region and currently has the lowest
deforestation rates. It is a typical ‘frontier society’,294
with only fledgling state institutional capacity
and an economy dominated by informal or illegal
There are a significant number of indigenous
communities in both regions with similar
experiences of deforestation by third parties who
managed to overcome indigenous opposition using a
variety of legal and illegal strategies.
5.1 san maRtín
San Martín’s population is primarily colonist or
non-indigenous and grew from less than 100,000
294 Santos et al., 2002.
people in 1940 to more than 700,000 in 2007295
(Box 30) as a result of intense migration. However,
similar to the situation nationwide, there is no direct
correlation between population size and deforestation
rates, which reinforces the idea that what is most
important in determining deforestation rates is the
economic activity people pursue, not the number
of people per se. In turn, that economic activity
depends on social and economic circumstances,
infrastructure, and the market as well as what the
State is promoting.
The indigenous peoples in San Martín include the
Kechwa, Awajún and Kampu Piyawi. Politics and the
economy are dominated at the regional, provincial
and district levels by non-indigenous people,
although there are some exceptions.
San Martín has been identified as one of the starting
points for recent deforestation296 in Peru, as a
result of incentives provided by the State, special
colonization projects, and possibly the driest climate
anywhere in the Peruvian Amazon, which makes it
more suitable for slash-and-burn agriculture.
Using the figures of FUNDECOR297 (Foundation
for the development of the central volcanic range)
presented by the GORESAM (Regional government
of San Martín) and MINAM298 it is possible to obtain a
rough idea of the peaks and troughs in deforestation
in San Martín over the last 70 years (see Box 31).
For many years San Martín has had the highest
deforestation rates in the Peruvian Amazon. There
was a significant increase following the construction
of the Carretera Marginal between Tarapoto,
Moyobamba and Juanjui in the 1960s and 1970s, and
295 INEI, 2007.
296 San Román, 1994.
297 Presentation by Silvia Reátegui del San Martín’s regional
298 2012a and 2012b.
rates remained high during the drug trafficking years
in the late 1970s and early 1980s, before decreasing
in the late 1980s when violence forced many people
to abandon rural areas. There is little information
available for the period between 1990 and 2000.
The new millennium began with low rates, possibly
because of Peru’s economic crisis, and it is only
recently from the 2005-2009 period that high rates
returned, around the same time that Peru’s economic
growth began to soar. In 2010/2011, the rate was
almost as high as the years following the initial
construction of the highway.
It has been estimated that by 2000 approximately
1.3 million ha in San Martín had been deforested.
However, as mentioned above, this overall figure
is subject to much imprecision. Between 2009 and
2011, approximately 70,000 ha were deforested. Maps
2 and 4 show that deforestation in San Martín has
been concentrated along the main roads built as
part of the Alternative Development Project led by
As was entirely predictable, a good part of these
lands have now lost their natural productivity and are
covered by bracken, a fern that establishes itself in
depleted soils worldwide (Image 23).299
299 MINAM, 2009.
5.1.1 causes of defoRestation
agriculture and cattle-ranching
The main cause of deforestation in San Martín over
the last 5 decades has been the combination of roads
and migrant agriculture.
This report considers agriculture and cattle-ranching
as a single element because of their close connection
and the methodological difficulties in distinguishing
between them. In many cases, land is initially
deforested in order to cultivate crops and then, when
the soil loses its productivity, it is converted into
cattle pasture. However, frequently the conversion
of forest to pasture starts at the outset. For example,
latest figures indicate that San Martín cultivates
93,687 ha of coffee, 46,915 ha of cocoa and 60,480 ha
of Brizanta grass300 with ‘a cattle herd population of
228,826, 103 % more relative to that registered in the
census of 1994 (112,586).’301
San Martín continues to be a pre-eminently
agricultural region. In 2011, it was Peru’s top rice
producer (78,000 ha), second for bananas (3,300 ha),
Box 30: san martín’s population growth 1940-2007
Year 1940 1961 1972 1981 1993 2007
Population 94,843 161,763 224,427 319,751 552,387 728,808
Box 31: historical reconstruction of deforestation in san martíni
Period Hectares deforested annually Causes
1940-1960 8,000 Colonization
1960-1975 50,000 Colonization and building of the Marginal Highway
1975-1979 42,750 Colonization and building of secondary roads
1979-1987 21,000 Colonization, advance of the agricultural frontier, and agrarian credit
1987-1989 15,708 Abandonment of area from drugs trafficking and terrorism begins
1989-2000 2,765 Abandonment of rural areas
2000-2005 9,310 Beginning of agricultural recovery
2005-2009 27,502 Economic growth, commercial agriculture, oil palm
2009-2010 39,760 Economic growth, commercial agriculture, oil palm
2010-2011 30,798 Economic growth, commercial agriculture, oil palm
I Based on FUNDECOR (2007) cited in a presentation by Silvia Reátegui of San Martín’s regional government; and MINAM (2009,
2012a and 2012b).
third for coffee (16,400 ha newly planted
in 2011), and fourth for maize (50,400
ha). Agriculture accounts for 28 % of all
gross value added, making it the region’s
most important economic activity.302
Regarding coffee, San Martín (66,660
tons)303 is one of the three main
producers in Peru, along with Junín
(75,750 tons) and Cajamarca (51,510
tons). It has substantially increased its
production by exploiting technological
advances and receiving strong support
from both the State and internationally
through the Alternative Development
Program encouraging alternatives
to coca. Although many coffee
plantations have been established in
areas that produced coffee in the past or were already
deforested, they involve such large areas that it is
essential to monitor its future development with
regards to deforestation and indigenous peoples’
There are two developments currently taking place
in San Martín which to a degree are unprecedented
in the Peruvian amazon, both of which could lead to
a qualitative and quantitative leap in deforestation.
The first is deforestation on an ‘industrial’ scale and
secondly, the high levels of deforestation in some
indigenous lands on the upper River Mayo.
Industrial scale deforestation is the first of these
phenomena accompanied by substantial investments
in processing in order to integrate production and
added value in San Martín itself. For example,
among the most prominent investments made by the
BCRP (Central reserve bank of Peru) in San Martín
in 2011 was a US$55 million project to cultivate
5,000 ha of stevia and build a refinery financed by
private Canadian, Belgian and Peruvian capital,
the construction by Palmas del Espino of a US$15
million plant for extracting palm fruit, and a US$2.2
million project backed by Italian capital to cultivate
500 ha of Jatrop ha Curcas (piñón blanco) to produce
The scale of the areas involved in this ‘industrial’
deforestation is more than 3 times larger than the
areas deforested by indigenous communities or even
migrant agriculture (Map 3). The most well-known
case is Palmas de Shanusi in Barranquita which
deforested 6,900 ha in just a few months to establish
oil palm plantations.304
302 Peru’s Central Reserve Bank, 2011.
303 Ibid.
304 WWF, 2010.
As section 4.2 describes, oil palm is seen as one of
the main ways to bring development to the Amazon.
It involves large investments and, in theory at least,
the participation of small-scale farmers who would
benefit from processing centres and the capacity to
sell to large-scale producers. However, according to
the indigenous peoples interviewed for this report,
indigenous peoples are not benefitting. They have
denounced how it impacts their untitled land and
that “they end up as servants working on the
plantations.” J. Sangama FEPRIKESAM, personal
The need for such large areas of land is currently met
by illegally clearing primary forest or land trafficking,
as reflected in the numerous lawsuits involving the
Romero Group.305 Other negative impacts include
contaminated rivers, decreasing game and fish, and
restrictions on freedom of movement.306
The second unprecedented development in contrast
to the situation in other parts of the Amazon are the
high rates of deforestation on indigenous lands in
the upper River Mayo. In these cases the pattern of
deforestation is very different from what is normally
associated with migrant agriculture. According
to different indigenous leaders, some of this
deforestation is occurring in indigenous communities
which have been invaded by colonists, or, most
importantly, is related to the communities’ proximity
to the highway and the special colonization projects
promoted in the 1980s (see Box 32). After decades of
306 %20
image 23: land degraded by coca cultivation and now
covered by bracken (pteridium aquilinum).
Source: IIAP
resistance, some Awajún communities have given in
to pressure from colonists and permitted them to use
their lands to cultivate rice, maize, papaya, coffee and
other crops.
One study describes how in the case of these
communities on the Upper Mayo this situation began
with an invasion by colonists307 who rented land as
a temporary solution, and how some indigenous
leaders played into their hands by ‘selling’ or renting
land without consulting the rest of the community.
307 Garcés and Echevarría, 2009.
Once the communities realized the colonists had
no intention of leaving, that what they thought was
temporary would become permanent, and that the
number of colonists would increase in number over
time, they began to pressure them to leave. Finding
that impossible, the communities took legal action,
but despite often receiving favourable sentences, they
have never been enforced. The final result is violent
conflict or a financial arrangement in which the
community cedes its lands to the colonists and with
an unusually high level of deforestation within the
boundaries of community lands.
image 24:
deforestation of
almost 7,000 ha in
grupo Romero’s oil
palm plantations
Source: Proyecto
Loreto Sostenible/
“despite being an exceptional case, it is typical
for the case of the upper mayo to be used to
deny or restrict indigenous demands on the state
to change its policy and budget in order to title
indigenous territories and promote community
self-management of their resources. While it is
obvious that one case can not affect what are
indigenous substantial rights, we should analyse
what is behind the upper mayo case: it is again
the state and its irresponsible and chaotic
highway policies, the promotion of rice growing
and farming in forest, the special development
projects and the never ending campaign which
continues to promote the idea that ‘communal
title will make you poorer, an individual title will
make you richer.’ the case does not undermine
an indigenous approach but instead represents a
complete ‘victory’ for state policy that prioritises
privatisation and results in the destruction of the
amazon, which must be stopped and redirected
as called for by both aidesep and organized
indigenous movements.” (Roberto Espinoza,
AIDESEP technical team)
other causes
Historically, deforestation due to the combination of
agriculture and road construction has been far and
away the most significant factor. Logging has played
a key role in causing deforestation in San Martín
because the roads established to transport wood have
provided access into previously isolated, inaccessible
Coca was important in San Martín between the
1970s and 1990s, but it has now been pushed back to
the south of the region to the Huánuco border (River
Mishollo and River Tocache). Coca cultivation and
associated activities no longer dominate the region.
Artisanal and small-scale mining is fledgling and
there have been little oil and gas operations, and
currently no exploration or exploitation taking place.
5.1.2 Regional goveRnment’s Response
Despite such high rates of deforestation both today
and in the past, the San Martín regional government’s
official discourse, when compared to other regional
governments, is the one which refers most to issues
such as sustainability when considering how to
combat deforestation. San Martín was the first
region after decentralization to strengthen forest and
environmental governance, and it has made greater
advances in REDD+ and supporting community
forestry management than any other region.308
This greater institutional strength could be a
reflection of a greater social maturity as a result
of a society which has been strengthened by the
experience of putting up with and subsequently
overcoming the impacts of political violence and
drug trafficking, but it could also be as a result of the
negative impacts due to large-scale deforestation.
conservation overlapping indigenous territories
Despite this, the vision of regional development
still excludes indigenous peoples. One example is
in Lamas province where the Kechwa’s right to land
isn’t being respected. Regional programs dictate
the priorities, on the one hand providing assistance
to cultivate cocoa, coffee and sac ha inchi, but on
the other hand Kechwa protests against the Cerro
Escalera Regional Conservation Area, which was
established in 2005 and overlaps communities’
applications for land title, are ignored. The Kechwa
use the area to hunt, gather, and cultivate crops (see
Box 25).
One of the affected communities is Alto Pucalpillo.
Its experience is typical. Although some communities
have obtained ownership title for a small part of
their traditional lands, many, like Alto Pucalpillo,
only have title to the area immediately around their
houses, while others don’t even have that much.
According to one recent study of San Martín, there
are at least 32 communities with title that only
include their houses, and at least 13 that officially
don’t exist at all.309
As Walter Sangama says, then president of
CODEPISAM (Coordinator for the defence and
development of indigenous peoples of San Martín):
“We’re fighting for the recognition of our rights
and to be able to claim our ancestral lands, but
the regional government has other ideas. it
acknowledges our existence, but won’t give us
While indigenous peoples’ applications for title
have been gathering dust in government offices, the
132,000 ha Cerro Escalera Regional Conservation
Area was created along with private conservation
concessions totalling hundreds and thousands of
hectares and granted to private companies and
NGOs protecting the environment. Peru’s biggest
conservation concession, the 143,928 ha Alto
Huayabamba concession, is in San Martín, as are
three more recently established concessions that
form part of the Martín Sagrado project, cover more
than 313,687 ha, and have applied to the Climate,
309 AIDESEP, 2014.
310 FOE, 2014: 16.
Box 32: deforestation in indigenous communities in the upper River mayo: testimony
of a local resident
In spite of the fact that deforestation rates are generally low in indigenous territories there are
some exceptional cases where deforestation rates in indigenous communities are very high. One
example is the left and right banks of the upper River Mayo in San Martín where, according to
satellite analysis, the three communities with the highest deforestation rates are Huascayacu
(5.05 %), Alto Mayo (3.28 %) and Shimpiyacu (2.43 %.),I although the trend is repeated in other
communities in the area.
The main direct cause of deforestation is the commercial cultivation of coffee, cocoa, rice and
papaya and an unusual scheme in which community members rent individualII parcels of land
under 7 year contracts to local businessmen. This began in the 1980s through the state project
to promote colonisation which included a rice irrigation initiative in Bajo Naranjillo (left bank),
and a system promoted by certain members of the community, together with businessmen, to
divide communal land into individual lots. This happened as a result of a combination of unusual
factors which tend to be uncommon in indigenous communities including those of other Awajún.
These include:
􀍻􀀃 Extreme proximity of the communities to the colonists who arrived in the 1970s due to the
construction of the Fernando Belaunde Terry Highway (previously known as the marginal
highway) and the establishment of various settlements, such as Puente Naranjillo and San
􀍻􀀃 Building of the side roads that depart from the banks of the River Mayo and go through the
communities. The road attracts colonists to the region and makes agricultural products sold in
Rioja and Nueva Cajamarca more profitable.
􀍻􀀃 The existence of the Special Alto Mayo project (PEAM) in the 1980s which continues to date
with irrigation projects in Yuracyacu, San Francisco, Atumplaya and Valle de la Conquista,
amongst others.
􀍻􀀃 Fertility of the land permitting permanent agriculture in the lower areas.
􀍻􀀃 Division (an internal but not a legal arrangement) of the communities into individual lots of
approximately 70 ha per community member.
One community member of the region provides this analysis of the situation:
“in the 1970s, before the communities were formed, people lived spread out. there were
estates of the esteño family on both sides of the rivers with cattle and rice, maize and manioc.
it all began with the rice irrigation project in Bajo naranjillo and the machinery that was
donated to the oaam organization. some people commandeered it to cultivate their own
fields. seeing how much was being produced, local businessmen began to encourage the
people of Bajo naranjillo to rent their land, and the same people who had commandeered the
machinery – the community’s leaders – began to divide up the land between families, 50 or 70
hectares each one. they began to cultivate everywhere and now in Bajo naranjillo there isn’t
any forest left. the entire community is deforested. no trees. all you see is rice. in the 1990s,
this same practice began to infect the other communities on the left bank of the river, like
shampuyacu and alto mayo, and when the two indigenous organizations (oaam and oRiam)
from the two sides of the river joined together to create a new organization (feRiaam) the
right side was infected too, including the villages of shimpiyacu, san Rafael, morroyacu,
huacayacu, Yarau and dorado.”

Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) for
approval for a voluntary market REDD project.
According to research by the NGO Paz y Esperanza,
in 2013, concessions for conservation totalled
1,984,720 hectares, representing almost 40 % of the
region, with a conservation goal covering at least
50 % of the province by 2014. However, despite the
outstanding territorial claims of indigenous peoples
throughout the region, the regional government
recognizes that indigenous communities have
230,000 hectares.311
As with the logging, mining and oil and gas
industries, private conservation concessions often
overlap indigenous communities. Weaknesses in
Peruvian law mean it is not obligatory to obtain
the consent of untitled communities whose land
will be overlapped, as has happened with Canaán,
a non-indigenous community, inside the Martín
Sagrado concession. Canaán’s inhabitants say that
no attempt was made to obtain their free, prior and
informed consent:
“We never decided on anything. no decision has
been recorded. all that they told us was that the
concession had been established. they never met
with all of us. sometimes there were meetings,
but few people knew. they can’t say we all agree
with it. Because not all of us are in agreement.”312
One recent study investigating the establishment of
conservation concessions in San Martín states that,
although the regional government approved the
Martín Sagrado concession application in April 2012,
the first visits to the communities in the region were
made 8 months later in December 2012. Neither was
there a satisfactory consultation process during an
audit made by the CCBA,313 which neither visited
the communities nor verified they had given their
312 FOE, 2014: 28.
313 Certification standards for private REDD projects that aims to
facilitate the sale of carbon credits in the voluntary carbon market.
314 FOE, 2014.
The private contracts generally last for 7 years and rent is paid per harvest (e.g. rice) or each
year (coffee or papaya) once production starts. The community receives a minimum sum for
each contract signed.
“there’s no control of their agriculture. so they all use chemicals. the community receives no
benefit apart from a minimum sum, like 1,000 or 1,200 soles for each contract. unfortunately,
people don’t use the money well. they spend it in a month and then don’t have anything
for the rest of the year, but since there’s no forest to hunt in, there isn’t any food. so to earn
something they rent their land in advance. the majority of people in Bajo naranjillo have
rented their land until 2025 but at a much lower rent. it’s exploiting their needs. in the end,
it’s a vicious circle from which people can’t escape.”
The Awajún themselves, particularly the adults and elderly men and women, view this situation
with considerable concern:
“it’s not just an environmental issue. the older generation is concerned about the loss of
culture and community. from the community of Bajo naranjillo this evil has invaded every
community of the upper mayo. the older generation ask where our people will go because
we’re not from the city, but the boundaries of our land are very clearly defined, very reduced,
and the population keeps growing.”
How can this situation be resolved? There are initiatives to address this situation including
reforestation projects along the banks of rivers (Shampuyacu) as well as the reaching of
communal agreements to limit the extension of land that can be rented and leave the remainder
to regenerate as forest.
I RAISG, 2012: 31.
II These are plots of land that have been internally divided up by the community but legally remain communally owned.

As described in Box 25, the establishment of the
Cerro Escalera Regional Conservation Area in
2005 which covers almost 150,000 ha is an issue
of serious concern for indigenous peoples who
point out that they were not consulted and that
their rights have now been restricted. In addition,
they point out that the reserve’s management plan
doesn’t guarantee their participation and that a
hydrocarbon concession (Block 103) overlaps the
area, although exploration has been suspended until
the management plan for the reserve is completed.
This conflict reflects the differences in vision of
the forest, rights and the respective asymmetries of
power between government agencies and indigenous
5.2 madRe de dios
There are 8.2 million ha of forests in Madre de
Dios and the total area deforested by 2000 was
146,000 ha.315 Given its geographic isolation, it has
experienced much less migration than other parts
of the country and it has always been, and continues
to be, the region with the lowest population in
the country (Box 33), although a growth of 3.5 %
between 1981 and 2005 was the highest in Peru.316
The first censuses omitted significant numbers of
indigenous people. According to estimates, there
were approximately 20,000 in Madre de Dios in
1940, but only 9,800 in 1961.317 AIDESEP questions
the census data on indigenous peoples due to the
multiple cases in which the census does not visit
those isolated areas away from the main roads and
Madre de Dios’s original population included the
Ese’Eja, Amarakaeri, Ksambaeri, Pikirieri, Sapiteri,
Toyoeri, Wachipaeri, Iñapari, Machiguenga and
Piro, among others. The Ese’Eja once numbered
approximately 10,000 people318 and the Hara kmbut
30,000,319 but it is estimated that by the late 19th
century there were less than 1,500 Hara kmbut and
approximately 800 Ese’Eja.320
315 MINAM, 2009.
316 IIAP, 2008.
317 García, 2003.
318 Chavarría and Mendoza, 1991 cited in García, 2003.
319 Moore, 1985.
320 García, 2003.
The Incas were in contact with some people in the
Amazon, in western Madre de Dios specifically,
where it is mostly mountainous, but failed to
conquer the lowland areas. The Rubber Boom in the
late 19th century caused the ‘demographic decline
of the original societies in Madre de Dios’, given
the abuses that were committed and diseases that
were introduced. Indeed, rubber workers brought
indigenous peoples from other regions to Madre
de Dios: e.g. the Shipibo-Conibo and Piro from
the River Ucayali basin and Kechwa from the River
Napo, among others.321
history of colonization
Puerto Maldonado was founded in 1902 and Madre
de Dios as a region was established 10 years later,
with a population of approximately 3,000 people. The
main access route was a track cleared by the Inka
Mining Company running from Tirapata (connected
by railway to Puno and the coast) to Astillero, a port
on the River Tambopata,322 which was used to export
rubber. After the collapse of the rubber market,
commercial activity contracted and many indigenous
peoples began to return to their original lands. In the
Iberia region, near Brazil, one rubber operation was
converted into a semi-feudal estate where the main
product was sugar cane liquor.323 This area continues
to have high deforestation rates.
In the 1960s, roads were built and the State provided
its first incentives to cattle-ranchers through the
newly-founded Agrarian Research Office, whose
mission was to expand ranching and improve cattle
genetically.324 This was later complemented by credit
programs and new management practices and grass
species imported from Brazil.325 The road now
connecting Puerto Maldonado to Cusco began to
be built in 1963, and in 1968 another road was built
to Shintuya, in Manu province. Madre de Dios’s
main products were precious hardwoods, Brazil nuts
and, increasingly, gold. The gold boom in the 1970s
increased the number of migrant miners from 1,000
in 1972 to approximately 20,000 in 1980.326
321 Ibid.
322 Ibid.
323 Rummenhoeller, 2003.
324 Varese, 1999.
325 Zambrano et al., 2010.
326 Moore, 2003.
Box 33: population growth in madre de dios 1940-2007
Year 1940 1961 1972 1981 1993 2007
Population 4,950 14,890 21,304 33,007 67,008 109,555
In the 1980s, the government began to colonize
Madre de Dios with settlement programs and
building more roads. For example, between 1983
and 1988 the Madre de Dios Special Project moved
colonists from Camaná and Puno to rubber-growing
areas along the unpaved road between Iberia and
Iñapari.327 This road, which connected Iberia
and Iñapari to Puerto Maldonado, was improved
considerably in numerous phases by the National
Development Institute (INADE). By 2000 it was
passable all year round, and by 2009 it was entirely
After the Law of Native Communities was passed
various communities were titled. The first were the
Ese’Eja in Palma Real, Queros and Shintuya in 1974.
Today, 23 communities have title, 6 are pending title,
3 are pending recognition of their legal existence
and 17 have extensions that are pending. This covers
more than 380,000 ha in total, not including the
territorial claim of the Ese’Eja (within the Bahuaja
Sonene National Park and the Tambopata National
Reserve) which covers nearly 5 % of the region.328
In 1982, the Native Federation of the River Madre
de Dios and Tributaries (FENAMAD) was founded.
Initially it was mostly Hara kmbut communities, but
it quickly integrated all the indigenous peoples in
Madre de Dios.
The low population density partly explains why
approximately 45 % of Madre de Dios is under some
form of state protection, while only 5 % is titled
to indigenous communities. The establishment of
the Manu National Park and the Bahuaja Sonene
National Park has generated a series of conflicts
over ancestral rights (Box 24). The Matsigenka
who live in Manu are protected from invasions by
colonists, loggers and treasure hunters, but can only
remain there if they continue with their traditional
subsistence way of life. Firearms are banned, and
food can’t be produced for sale,329 constituting a
source of permanent social and cultural conflict.
5.2.1 causes of defoRestation
Madre de Dios has one of the largest areas of primary
forests anywhere in the Western Amazon, including
the Manu and Alto Purús National Parks as well
as the reserves for isolated indigenous peoples that
surround them.
At the same time the extensive mining not only
causes deforestation by removing the vegetation
cover, but removes topsoil and several metres
327 García, 2003.
328 AIDESEP, 2014.
329 Shepard, 2003.
underneath as well as altering drainage patterns. In
other words, mining permanently destroys the forest
and severely reduces the possibility that it will ever
In 2008, it was reported that 170,368 ha, or
approximately 2 % of Madre de Dios, had been
deforested by a combination of agriculture, cattleranching
and mining, among other factors.330
Given that the same source estimated that mining
was impacting 9,729 ha in the same year (which
was estimated to be 6,145 ha in 2013331), it can be
expected that the total deforested area now exceeds
200,000 ha.
agriculture and cattle-ranching
The main cause of deforestation in Madre de Dios
has been agriculture and cattle-ranching as a result
of the road running to Puerto Maldonado by 1963
and which in turn, from 1978, connected Puerto
Maldonado to Iñapari on the border with Brazil
(Maps 2 and 6). For a long time it was essentially a
seasonal road, only easily passable in the dry season,
but in 1998 Madre de Dios’s Regional Government
Provincial Council justified paving it on the grounds
that it might expand the agricultural frontier by
400,000 ha, produce 4 million tons of products to
sell, and contribute US$760 million to GDP.332 Paving
the road was finished in 2009. The result has been a
significant increase in deforestation not as a result of
agriculture, as was feared, but as a result of mining.
The cumulative impacts of constructing a road that
enables the transport of heavy goods vehicles in
less than 14 hours between the 2 important urban
centres of Cusco and Río Branco (capital of Acre
in Brazil) remain an issue which has not been
The Regional Agriculture Office333 registered
approximately 55,000 heads of cattle and 10,000 ha
under cultivation, mainly for yellow maize, rice,
manioc and bananas, in Madre de Dios in 2013.
However, it has also been estimated that the area
under cultivation across the whole region is actually
approximately 44,000 ha.334
According to some studies, agricultural production
in Madre de Dios enables a rapid regeneration of
secondary forests, while cattle-ranching is associated
with permanent deforestation. This is due to poor
soil fertility and the fact that many farmers don’t
have fertilizers or herbicides, which means they often
330 IIAP, 2008.
331 Asner et al., 2013.
332 Naughton, 2004.
334 IIAP, 2008.
abandon the land after 2 or 3 years and the forest
regenerates. By contrast, grassland is used for many
years, and even if it is ever abandoned it takes much
longer to regenerate. In every case, the greater the
distance from the roads, the greater the amount of
mature forest.335
Satellite remote-sensing and analyses of past
deforestation in Madre de Dios show the highest
rates of deforestation between 1986 and 1996. This
was probably the result of an increase in commercial
agriculture following the agrarian credit provided by
the Agrarian Bank and the foundation of the Rice
Commercialization Company S.A. (ECASA) which
bought rice and maize. The subsequent regeneration
of forests in the 1990s was almost certainly to do
with the closure of ECASA and the Agrarian Bank in
1991.336 This appears to suggest a central paradox, a
proportional relationship between deforestation and
state promotion of agriculture which rise and fall
at the same time and is one of the principal factors
that remains invisible in the national debate on
An indicator that perhaps at least the discourse
is changing can be found in the strategies for
agriculture in Madre de Dios outlined in the
2008-2015 agricultural plan of the Regional
Government.337 This prioritizes the improvement
of productivity, titling individual parcels of land
and establishing supply chains. It does not refer to
335 Zambrano et al., 2010.
336 Ibid.
337 Plan estratégico regional del sector agrario Madre de Dios 2008-
the expansion of the agricultural frontier and also
includes a proposal to reforest 11,000 ha.
Until 2000, the majority of the 146,000 ha deforested
in Madre de Dios by 2000 was caused by a
combination of agriculture and roads, with the
exception of Huepetuhe where gold-miners were
operating. However, in 2004 gold prices started to
increase significantly and new mining methods
began to be adopted – one of which involves digging
up and destroying the banks of the main rivers. In
addition, the recent completion of the Inter-Oceanica
Highway has dramatically reduced the amount of
time, from days to a matter of hours, required to
travel to Madre de Dios from places like Cusco and
Puno. This, together with the spectacular increase
in gold prices, has encouraged a growth in migrant
workers, and in 2011, the government estimated
there were more than 50,000 small-scale miners in
Madre de Dios.338
These radical changes have had devastating
consequences for indigenous people.
“in setapo all you can see is rock. nothing can
grow there except lianas and small bushes. even
in the communities where there isn’t any mining
there are so many cases of people contaminated
by mercury. this shows the extent to which it has
entered the food chain.” Indigenous leader, Madre
de Dios
338 Verite, 2013.
image 25: aerial
view of the region
deforested by
gold-mining in madre
de dios.
Source: Terra Perú/
Today in Madre de Dios, small-scale mining
currently causes more deforestation than all the other
causes put together.339 In 2013, it was estimated that
mining has deforested more than 50,000 ha in Madre
de Dios, with a current annual rate of 6,145 ha per
Much of this deforestation occurs on alluvial terraces
considered the most biologically productive, where
there are the most fertile soils for agriculture and
which have always been one of the most sought-after
areas for people to live.
A COHARIYMA leader says that “nothing can grow
where the mining operates. it’s all stone. all that’s
left is grass and small bushes.”
If all current mining rights are exercised, 400,000
ha341 of Madre de Dios stand to be deforested. These
are precisely the rarest of all forest ecosystems:
seasonally flooded forests which sustain a substantial
part of the population through their ecosystem
339 Asner et al., 2010 and Asner et al., 2013.
340 Asner et al., 2013.
341 Brack et al., 2011.
services (fish, wild animals, wood, other materials
and products, and climate regulation).
One study has been conducted evaluating the impact
of mining and other human activities on the palm
swamps (aguajales) and lakes along the lower River
Madre de Dios and its main tributaries between
the River Colorado and the frontier with Bolivia. It
analysed 2,521 aguajales covering 174,065 ha and 246
lakes covering 10,642 ha, using Landsat images from
1986 to 2013, and concluded that 116,577 ha (67 %)
of the aguajales had been impacted in some way by
Perhaps the most concerning issue is that mining
is concentrated in the areas inhabited by fish stocks
– fish being the main source of protein for both
indigenous peoples and other rural, non-indigenous
people. Mining not only reduces the amount of fish
available but also contaminates the environment
342 Janovec et al., 2013.
map 9: proposed highway between puerto esperanza
and iñapari.
Box 34: mining and indigenous communities in madre de dios
Indigenous communities and FENAMAD have trodden a complex path in which the role of the
state has been counterproductive and resulted in frequent changes of direction. In the 1970s
and 1980s, indigenous peoples were totally opposed to mining but this was countered by the
State which encouraged it by granting concessions to third parties, usually migrants from the
Andes, who were given the supposed ‘right’ to invade indigenous territories on the grounds
that communal title excludes the subsoil and riverbanks. As a result of confrontation over this
issue, FENAMAD suffered state repression and persecution. Indigenous resistance was overcome,
although ultimately this strengthened FENAMAD’s identity and organization.
However, by the late 1990s the wave of gold-mining had become unstoppable and the
communities found themselves surrounded and outnumbered by an alliance between the State,
ministries, police, migrant colonists, miners and large companies buying the gold.
One FENAMAD leader remembers:
“Between 1989 and 1999, there were many violent encounters between native communities
and miners in the buffer zone of the future amarakaeri communal Reserve [proposed in
1995 and established in 2006]. there were fights with machetes and shotguns, and people on
both sides were injured. a truce was agreed when the miners offered various benefits to the
communities, and now the miners say they were invited by them and call the area a mining
zone for invitees.”
With no support from the state to deal with the violence, for some communities there was no
other alternative than to start mining themselves and running their own ‘indigenous mining
concessions’ before others invaded.I This averted one danger but brought others: deforestation
and degradation from within the indigenous world. One response was to propose a form of
self-regulation, an ‘alternative indigenous program’: a special regulation for mining activity
in indigenous lands”II which involved fixing a limit on how much of the community could be
mined and demarcating the chosen areas. Obtaining a legal concession meant preparing an
environmental impact assessment and management plan, and then getting the state’s approval.
Technology had to be improved to avoid or reduce the serious mercury contamination in Madre
de Dios’s population, the rivers and lakes, and the flora and fauna.
Once again, as in the 70s and 80s, the reaction of the State after the year 2000 was a profound
misunderstanding of the complexity of the Amazon and indigenous peoples. After tolerating
and covering up the massive Andean mining invasion of MDD, the State then switched to
legalise it and strongly suppress all lawlessness. In this new approach the indigenous position of
community regulation was rejected. Paradoxically, if the miners who had invaded communal land
legalized their mining then they would have more rights than communities, while communities
would be even further away from regaining control. The state position of not allowing any
extraction in indigenous community lands (neither the informal Andean mining or the formal
Amazonian indigenous model) continues to create uncertainty, since the alleged “legalization”
may end up contributing to extraction by large companies.
I According to leaders from FENAMAD and the ECA-RCA.
III Executor of the administration contract, Amarakaeri Communal Reserve.
IV Based on interviews conducted with indigenous leaders as part of the elaboration of “Informe sobre REDD Indigena en Madre
de Dios” 2014, Consultancy IDB-COICA project.
because of the various kinds of mercury used in the
mining process.
It has been highlighted that the mercury content
in a person’s body depends on the amount of fish
consumed, the place where he or she lives, and his
or her sex. Content is higher in mining areas than in
Puerto Maldonado. The percentage of people with
more than 16 micrograms/g of mercury in their
bodies is 11 % in mining areas, compared to 5 % in
the towns. Men have higher rates of exposure than
women.343 In 2012, it was discovered that threequarters
of adults in Madre de Dios had 300 % more
mercury in their bodies than the level considered
Another study shows that a person weighing
60kg who on average eats two 300g portions of a
fish called mota punteada every week would be
consuming 11.3 micrograms of methylmercury,
which is 7.06 times more than the limit
recommended by the World Health Organization.345
This level of fish consumption is very common
amongst the indigenous population living along
Madre de Dios’s main rivers.
As pointed out above (section 2.3), most mining is
illegal. “In 2009 Madre de Dios had more permits to
mine rejected than any other region in the country.
In 2011, after Peru passed a law to combat illegal
mining, the Vice-Minister of Mines estimated that
97 % of mining in Madre de Dios was illegal.”346
After the collapse of the rubber economy, migration
and commercial activity in Madre de Dios contracted
until the roads were built to Shintuya and Puerto
Maldonado. There was a first logging boom in
1979 when 6.2 million board feet of mahogany347
and cedar, timber that grows in low densities, were
extracted, mainly from the Tahuamanu province.
After a period of relatively low production in the
1980s, the State encouraged logging with a series of
laws, including one permitting agrarian agencies to
establish concessions up to 1,000 ha. In addition,
construction of the road from Puerto Maldonado
to Iñapari enabled loggers to enter new, previously
inaccessible areas, including forests inhabited by
indigenous peoples in isolation.348 By 1999, extraction
had reached 26.8 million board feet, accounting
343 Ashe, 2012.
344 Verite, 2013: 44.
345 Fernández and González, 2009.
346 Verite, 2013: 37.
347 Huertas, 2003.
348 Ibid.
for 7 % of Peru’s wood nationwide, but due to the
informality and illegality of operations it didn’t bring
any economic benefit to the region.349
The recent history of logging in Madre de Dios
is similar to Peru as a whole: corruption, illegal
operations, and invasions of indigenous lands –
sometimes with the consent of certain indigenous
leaders. In the late 1990s a foreign company,
Newman, established a clandestine road running for
more than 180 km between the River Tahuamanu
and River Acre.350
The impact of logging on indigenous peoples in
isolation has been serious.
“the massive number of loggers currently in
territories inhabited by isolated indigenous
peoples has turned what were once occasional
sightings into violent encounters, leaving people
wounded, disappeared and probably dead...
another problem caused by loggers in areas
inhabited by isolated indigenous peoples is the
so-called territorial relocations or the changes
[that the isolated peoples are forced to make to]
their migration routes.”351
These relocations have involved crossing national
borders and caused serious impacts on the
Asháninka, Manchineri, Yaminahua and Cashinahua
in the neighbouring state of Acre in Brazil.352
After the new forestry law was passed, concessions
started to be established from 2002 onwards that
will last for 40 years and extend up to 50,000 ha.
In Madre de Dios, the concession process was
disorganized and a number of companies began to
operate. According to OSINFOR, there are currently
82 concessions covering a total of 1,248,037 ha. Nine
concessions were recently declared obsolete, and 2
are facing fines.
In Madre de Dios, there are also 983 concessions
for Brazil nut353 extraction covering 864,000 ha,354 as
well as 24 concessions for rubber totalling 161,000
ha. A change in the law permits logging in Brazil nut
concessions and, according to reports, more wood
in Madre de Dios is coming from those concessions,
where volumes of 5 m3/ ha have been reported,
than the logging concessions, where the amounts
reported are much less.355 This puts paid to the
349 Ibid.
350 Ibid:
351 Ibid: 358.
352 Ibid.
353 Bertholletia excelsa.
355 Cossio et al., 2011.
supposed complementarity of logging and Brazil nut
Some indigenous communities extract Brazil nuts
formally. The Indigenous Forestry Association
of Madre de Dios (AFIMAD357), which recently
obtained fair trade certification,358 brings together
7 communities and promotes extraction and
commercialization. One hundred and twenty families
are involved and produce approximately 430 tons of
Brazil nuts per year.
5.2.2 Response of the Regional
Institutional capacity in Madre de Dios is fledgling
and inadequate. The decentralization process is still
incomplete, and due to the fact that in the past many
state bodies were based in Cusco there is a critical
lack of human resources. Given that Madre de Dios
is an attractive place for conservation and REDD+
projects, the regional government (GOREMAD) has,
or participates in, a variety of initiatives, but capacity
remains limited and it depends considerably on
That said, it doesn’t help that so much commercial
activity in Madre de Dios involves natural resource
extraction that is very difficult to control and
regulate. Employment in the timber industry
accounts for 30 % of the economically active
population and gold accounts for 40 % of regional
GDP, and the majority of both are illegal or informal.
Perhaps reflecting this situation, successive presidents
of GOREMAD have been accused of corruption and
mismanagement, and different levels of the judiciary
have also been severely questioned.359 The increasing
number of miners will ultimately lead to someone
representing their point of view elected as regional
president.360 This would clearly undermine the
conservation efforts made by NGOs over the last few
decades, and would almost certainly increase mining
pressure on indigenous lands.
356 Ibid.
357 This is a technical body supporting various member communities
of FENAMAD and which is affiliated to the regional indigenous
360 The second round of the regional elections for Madre de Dios
were set for the 7th December 2014. The candidate who received
most votes was the miners candidate.
paRt 6
indigenous alteRnatives and solutions
6.1 defoRestation Rates in
indigenous teRRitoRies
According to a recent study, between 2001 and
2010, 75 % of deforestation took place beyond the
boundaries of indigenous territories (this definition
includes officially recognized indigenous lands
and some of the territories whose legal recognition
remain pending) and natural protected areas of
which a significant part are indigenous territories.
361 Another study shows that, between 1999 and
2001, only 9 % of all deforestation in Peru occurred
in indigenous territories and just 1 % in natural
protected areas, and concludes that “these two
forms of land-use allocation can provide effective
protection against forest damage.”362
In addition, at a national level and despite the
distortions in the statistics and some exception
cases (upper River Mayo and agricultural expansion
promoted by the State), other figures363 show that,
between 2000 and 2010, deforestation rates in titled
indigenous communities were 0.11 % per year,
compared to 2.27 % on private land and a national
average of 0.14 %.
These relatively low deforestation rates can be
attributed to a series of factors, including traditional
361 The IBC study (June 2014) describes 254,707 ha of deforestation
between 2001 and 2010 in indigenous territories (20,701,961 ha)
which corresponds to 0.123 % of the surface total of these
areas per year. This figure includes legally recognised areas as
well as more than 5 million ha of lands which do not yet have
recognition. This represents 18.5 % of the deforestation in the
entire Peruvian Amazon for this period while the area covers over
26 % of the Amazon. These rates of deforestation are significantly
higher than those reported by MINAM (Box 6) and should be
treated with caution as methodological limitations mean that the
satellite monitoring systems used are not able to differentiate
between temporary forest clearance such as rotational farming
and permanent forest removal. Even then, this figure is reduced
significantly if we consider those indigenous territories classified
as protected areas (at the very least 2.9 million ha according to the
study) within the category of indigenous territories reducing it to a
rate of deforestation of 0.107 %/year in indigenous territories.
362 Oliveira et al., 2007.
363 INDUFOR, 2012.
rotational farming, communal resource management,
and the crucial importance of a healthy forest to the
identity and subsistence economies of indigenous
Rotational agriculture: a sustainable production
“if there aren’t any infestations of pests like ants
or if there are no conflicts one can remain in the
same place over many years. in Washintsa my
family has cultivated the same patch of 4 hectares
over more than 32 years for example.” Achuar
leader from the river Huasaga
The effectiveness of traditional farming systems is
perfectly demonstrated by a long-term study of the
Gran Pajonal region in the selva central comparing,
since the 1950s, the impact on the forest of the
Asháninka people with colonists from the Andes.
The study concludes that the Asháninka have
maintained almost exactly the same amount of forest
in proportion to agricultural land, and more than
91 % of forest cover, despite the fact that population
has tripled. By contrast, the colonists’ population
has stayed almost the same as the 1980s, but
deforestation has increased by almost 50 % (Box 3).364
This sophisticated management of integrated farming
systems is articulated by a Wampis leader from the
community of Huabal on the River Santiago.
“our forest is still intact, we have always
maintained intimate relations with the natural
world because the resources that surround us
are for our subsistence, for our food, for our
indigenous plants. We have always maintained
integrated farms growing different plants. there is
a plant, chici (dalé dalé), that for example provides
water to the others and our ancestors told us that
it should never be left out of any farm.”
364 Hvalkof, 2013.
image 26: indigenous peoples like the nahua are closely attuned to their forest environment and often spend
weeks trekking deep in the forest on hunting and gathering trips. Source: Johan Wildhagen
Box 35: indigenous territories as a barrier to deforestation in the amazon and at a
global level
The stalling effect on deforestation due to indigenous occupation is not a phenomenon exclusive
to Peru but is repeated throughout the Amazon. A recent analysis of the World Resources
Institute (WRI) shows that in the Brazilian Amazon between 2000 and 2012, the loss of forest
was only 0.6 % within indigenous territories in comparison with 7 % outside these lands.I
Meanwhile, in Colombia during the same period, the loss of forest cover in indigenous reserves
was only 0.3 % in comparison with 3.2 % of the remaining extent of the Colombian Amazon.II
At a global level, Nelson and Chomitz (2011) concluded that the areas where sustainable
logging is permitted are on average more effective than strictly protected areas, and that those
managed by indigenous peoples (officially designated as such in Latin America only) were the
most effective of all. On the other hand, a worldwide study comparing forests managed by
communities with protected areas concluded that, on the whole, the former had lower, less
variable annual deforestation rates than the latter (Porter-Bolland et al., 2011).
I WRI and RRI, 2014.
II Ibid.
the forest as a key element in indigenous culture
All the indigenous peoples interviewed for this
report emphasize that the forest is an integral part
of their territory, and that territory is considered as
central to their identity as people. A. López, from
“Without territory, without forest, we have no
culture and we cease to exist as people... our
principal right and priority is territory. all the
other rights derive from that.”
“We feel threatened when we hear that we are
overlapped by concessions because what we want
is our territory as this is where we have lived, this
is where the bones of our grandparents lie and
this is where we will continue to live. this is not
the concept of the capitalists who can sell the land
and abandon it. this is not our way; we are going
to continue living here.” Teobaldo Chamik, Wampis
leader, River Santiago.
The indigenous peoples interviewed also agree
that the existence of the forest is crucial for their
economies and futures, and that it lies at the heart of
living well or living a ‘plena vida’ (‘full life’).
“the future is still in the forest. it’s where the
palm trees and products come from, the wood
for our houses, clean water, peace and security,
and the spirit of the shawi people.” L. Huanzi,
In addition, those indigenous peoples who have
been seriously impacted by the destruction of their
forests insist that before approving any expansion of
such operations, it is essential that steps are taken to
rectify the damages and guarantee that past errors
will not be repeated. This is the case with the Kechwa
from the River Pastaza:
“We now have official recognition that our
territories are contaminated, there is an analysis
that remains to be effectively disseminated
amongst all the agencies of the peruvian state,
and with respect to the recognition of our
territories this remains a central demand which is
a key condition before any process of consultation
begins (for the new concession). in terms of the
environment, our fundamental demand is that
our territories are cleaned-up and restored. that’s
what we’re working on now.” Aurelio Chino,
image 27: the indigenous environmental monitors
of feconat documenting pollution in the tigre river
basin. Source: FECONAT
Given this very close relationship, indigenous peoples
in many parts of the Peruvian Amazon have taken
critical action to protect their forests (Box 37) from
extractive industries and promoting the sustainable
use of, or the restoration of, their resources.
indigenous peoples’ defence of the forest
Low deforestation rates in indigenous peoples’
territories are proof of the many measures (Boxes
36 and 37) taken by indigenous peoples themselves
to protect their lands and forests, titled or untitled.
This reflects the situation elsewhere in the Amazon
and around the world, as has been shown by various
regional and global studies together with recent
satellite imagery (Box 35).
6.2 confRonting defoRestation:
a challenge foR indigenous
Despite these efforts and successes, this report has
documented the many factors that impede and
undermine efforts by indigenous peoples in the
Peruvian Amazon to protect their forests. These
factors include amongst others:
Box 36: Resistance of the achuar on the River pastaza
The Achuar live on the River Pastaza basin on both sides of the border between Peru and
Ecuador. In the past they lived in family groups from hunting, fishing, gathering and the
cultivation of crops. However, for the last two generations or so they have lived in larger
settlements, although they continue to practice their traditional economic activities. In Peru, the
Achuar number approximately 8,000 people and occupy an area of approximately 10,000 km2
which includes the Rivers Huitoyacu, Huasaga, Manchari and Pastaza. The State has granted
ownership title to their communities – which doesn’t include ownership of the forests – but
despite its legal obligation to do so, it has failed to title other areas of resource use and ancestral
For more than 15 years the Achuar along the River Pastaza have been forced to defend their
territory from various foreign oil companies attempting to use a concession called Lot 64. Fierce
resistance by the Achuar, supported by various ally organizations, has resulted in the withdrawal
of a series of companies, such as Arco, Burlington, Occidental and most recently Talisman.
However, Lot 64 is now in the hands of Petroperu, the state oil and gas company, which intends
to carry on exploring against the wishes of the Achuar who haven’t been consulted or given their
consent and fear that exploitation will destroy the forest and their way of life. Oil companies
have caused serious damage to other parts of Peru’s northern Amazon for over 40 years. On
hearing that Petroperu is planning to enter their territory, Achuar men, women and children
from more than 20 communities launched a protest against this exploitation. They demand that
beyond the consultation of ‘negative oil development’ which they have not requested and they
reject, more importantly that their own ‘development priorities’ which are contained within their
own ‘Life plans’ are respected and promoted by the State in compliance with ILO Convention 169
(Art 7).
One Achuar leader from the river Huasaga describes the effectiveness of Achuar control of their
“today, the traders and loggers respect us and do not enter our lands to extract our resources,
only to trade in products. We ourselves from checherta control our own resources. our own
community members know the rules and agreements of ati governing our natural resources
and we respect them. contrary to this, the state however does not respect us, wants the
companies to come in and does not recognize our own rules.”
Sources: FENAP and the Rainforest Foundation Norway. The Achuar from the River Pastaza are
represented by the National Achuar Federation of Peru (FENAP) and its affiliates ATI, ORACH and
Box 37: examples of indigenous efforts to protect their forests and territories in the peruvian
type of process location (people) description
Territorial demand of
an estimated 20 million
National level (AIDESEP) Studies (inventory, map and budget) and national level advocacy
about 9 components: integrated territories, possession,
recognition, expansion, territorial reserves, communal reserves,
overlap with protected areas and rectification of incorrect maps.
Ucayali (Shipibo) 23 committees working to avoid the incursions of third parties to
their lakes and the use of toxic substances to fish.
Life plans and territorial
Datem Province in Loreto
(Achuar, Wampis, Kechwa,
Chapra, Awajún and Kandosi)
Upper Amazonas (Shiwilo,
Kukama and Kampu Piyawi)
Participatory processes to map territorial occupation and use,
determine boundaries with neighbours, and prepare life plans for
sustainable resource use.
Communal monitoring San Martín (Kampu Piyawi)
Lamas (Kechwa)
Cenepa and Cajamarca (Awajún)
Community boundary monitoring and eviction of invaders.
Resistance Pastaza (Achuar)
Mishagua (Nahua)
Achuar determination and resolve to oppose the incursion of oil
companies (Box 36).
Expulsion of 150 illegal loggers and the establishment of a
communal control post (Box 21).
Resistance, remediation
and resilience
Corrientes (Achuar) Taking over pumping facilities in Lot 1AB and Lot 8 after exhausting
other procedures with the government. This culminated in the
Act of Dorissa which, among other things, forced the company to
reinject 100 % of its production waters.
Political advocacy National indigenous movement
(AIDESEP and its regional and
local affiliates)
Mobilisation and campaign in 2008 and 2009 legislative decrees
threatening to weaken indigenous peoples’ territorial rights and
increase deforestation.
Advocacy on the design and implementation of a series of laws,
policies and projects promoted by the state, including the Forestry
Law, the Prior Consultation Law, and the REDD+ programme
including the FIP, FCPF and the Carbon fund amongst others.
Control of mining
Secure forests
Madre de Dios (Shipibo)
Favourable ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal which upheld the
right of the community to prohibit illegal miners from operating in
their communal territory.
Precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights to protect a reserve for indigenous peoples in
isolation in Madre de Dios from invasions by illegal loggers.
Political advocacy to
protect territory
Amarakaeri Communal Reserve
(Hara kmbut)
Otishi National Park (Asháninka)
Establishment of protected natural areas over customary
indigenous territory as a strategy to obtain some form of legal
Sustainable management
of commercial resources
River Ene (Asháninka)
Madre de Dios (AFIMAD –
Ucayali (Shipibo-Conibo)
Pichis (Asháninka)II
Atalaya (Asháninka)III
San Martin (Kampu Piyawi)
Amazonas (Awajún)
Organic coffee
Brazil nut production
Community forest management
Management of water bodies and fish farming
Loreto (Kechwa and Kukama) Community monitoring of environmental damage caused by oil
operations in Lot 1AB and Lot 8, including spills and contamination
of water and soil.
Madre de Dios (Hara kmbut) Pilot project to restore 20 ha of forest devastated by gold-mining.
I Elaborated by the authors on the basis of information provided by indigenous organizations.
II For example, the community of Santa Rosa de Chivis.
III For example, the community of Puerto Esperanza.
a) Unjust, illegal and contradictory policies in
addition to a normative framework that violates
ILO convention 169 and other international laws
(including the jurisprudence of the IACHR), that
fail to recognize and undermines indigenous
peoples’ rights over customary lands or their
collective rights.
b) Persecution and criminalization of indigenous
communities’ efforts to protect their forests
and territories based on their rights to self
c) Use of violence, threats and coercion to
intimidate or divide indigenous communities
and organizations in order to obtain their
d) Priority given by the state to the promotion of
large-scale extractive industries over and above
the support of small-scale, community-based
The situation in the Upper River Mayo demonstrates
the impact that a variety of converging factors
can have in causing deforestation in indigenous
lands. Such factors include state policies promoting
colonization and agricultural expansion, together
with pressure imposed on communities to move
from a collective system of land management
to systems of individual land ownership. This
relationship has also been documented in other
countries, such as Mexico, where deforestation
rates are higher on privatized ‘ejidos’ (communallyowned
land) than those which remain communallyowned.
economic anxiety
In addition, many such pressures are exacerbated by
the increasing dependency of indigenous peoples on,
and their integration into, the market economy. This
is further compounded by the degradation of their
resources by extractive industries and road building
(and the resulting immigration), as well as an
inadequate legal recognition of indigenous peoples’
rights to lands and resources. In part, the problems
derive from the opposition of the state to recognize
customary systems of land ownership, in addition to
the promotion of settled communities permanently
established in an area that is determined by
exclusively agricultural criteria instead of promoting
365 Some ejidos have been completely divided into individual
parcels of land, without any communal forestry resources at
all, whilst others conserve their collective forest resources
(DiGanio, cited in WRI, 2014).
Box 38: the programme for a ‘full amazonian life’i
territorial security: resolution of pending demands by indigenous peoples for territories
extending to approximately 20 million ha.
agroforestry, aquaculture and bio-industrial production
forests and ecosystem services management: support for community forest management,
indigenous life plans, and comprehensive management of the forests.
intercultural education and health: strengthen bilingual education and health care.
socio-environmental monitoring and mitigation: strategic socio-environmental assessment of
extractive industry policies and projects and support for indigenous monitoring systems.
empowerment of indigenous women
indigenous individual and collective rights: an end to the political persecution of indigenous
peoples and the defence of those leaders on trial. Modification of unjust laws and alignment of
national legislation with international commitments.
indigenous communication and advocacy
I Adapted from AIDESEP’s Amazon ‘Full Life’ National Plan, 2012.
integrated and traditional modes of land use. The
situation is made even worse by the state’s
incapacity to provide satisfactory education and
medical attention to indigenous communities, or to
support appropriate income-generating opportunities
such as community forest management. The
government’s continued bias in favour of large-scale
projects over local communities is reflected in these
“they shouldn’t impose a road onto the problems
that already exist. Without planning, or control,
or the participation of people, it will make things
worse. one million soles have already been spent
on a barely credible study for a road from pucallpa
to Brazil, but the state has never spent that sort
of money to solve problems in the communities
regarding education and health.”
R. Guimaraes (FECONAU)
“With all the income from the royalties (from oil)
that loreto has received for over 40 years, the
state has only once ever invested any money in
my community. that was in 1991 for a primary
school that is now in very bad shape.” A.Lopez
The result has been a gradual transformation in
indigenous peoples’ ways of life as the resources
in the immediate vicinity of their villages get
more scarce, which increases their dependency on
purchased food, supplies and new tools such as
shotguns, fishing nets and motorboats that enable
hunting and fishing in more distant areas or where
the normal fish and game has been depleted. This
is compounded by the perceived need to generate
income from the forest in order to buy these kinds
of goods and pay for education or medical attention
that the state fails to provide.
The economic anxiety that results ends up
creating internal tension about how this must be
resolved. One result leads to the prioritisation of
these short-term economic needs over long-term
collective well-being which is subsequently exploited
by third parties with vested economic interests
in the communities. These vested interests often
encourage the creation of individual land ownership,
the division of communities and the co-option
and corruption of some leaders with the aim of
engineering their consent for certain development
Another route to challenge this is through collective
efforts to secure the necessary reforms in public
policies and market regulations, while at the same
time respecting the complexity of all the various
spaces and the distribution of benefits across all
levels including those of individuals (by generation
and occupation), villages, peoples as well as between
different peoples.
In this way, many indigenous peoples are conscious
and critical of the dangers of the dominant economic
model and the benefits of a world view that is less
ambitious in economic terms, and so they are trying
to reach a balance through smaller scale enterprises
that do not result in environmental damage.
“We have enough resources from fishing or from
cacao and enough animals for hunting, there is no
reason here to get tied up with oil companies or
loggers. We must not worry only about money but
about the good life.” Sabina Ahmanchi, Wampis
leader, River Santiago
The question of which of these models will win out
depends to a great deal on the local context, the
state of the State and the market, the history of local
organizations as well as the trends in national and
regional policies.
6.3 indigenous solutions and
The prevailing opinion among the indigenous
peoples interviewed for this report is that the
solution to deforestation, in terms of indigenous
peoples in particular, depends on 4 factors:
1. That operations inciting deforestation and
agricultural colonization of the Peruvian Amazon
(road building, establishment of individual lots
on collectively held land, the weakening of laws
amongst other factors) cease to continue.
2. That existing environmental and human rights
laws are enforced and there is improved access to
justice regarding environmental management, the
recognition of indigenous territories, and respect
for indigenous peoples’ rights to participation,
consultation and consent.
3. That the capacity of indigenous peoples’
organizations at local and national levels is
4. That the State provides satisfactory education and
medical attention to indigenous communities,
and promotes productive, sustainable economic
activities instead of extractive activities for
indigenous communities as well as migrants.
In reality, these four routes are all contemplated by
the ‘plena vida’ (‘full life’) program proposed by
Peru’s indigenous organizations (Box 38), but the
leaders interviewed for this report proposed other
additional initiatives too, some of which are listed
below. These are grounded in the biological diversity
of the Amazon and are different to those put forward
by the state, which are dominated by intensive
or semi-intensive agriculture. As many of those
interviewed stated, the “solutions are as varied as our
biodiversity”, but require sustained state or private
Such proposals include:
paRt 7
conclusions and Recommendations
This report has found that the existing official
focus on agricultural migrants as the prime cause
of deforestation in Peru is superficial and flawed
and is resulting in misguided interventions to tackle
deforestation. Instead, it is clear that, since the
existence of an independent Peru, deforestation has
been driven by a state policy of road construction
and colonisation of the Amazon, a reflection of the
prevailing idea of nation building. Since the middle
of the last century this has been powered by the
construction of roads that permitted the migration
of small-scale farmers from the highlands to the
Amazon. This policy continues to be the main factor
driving continued deforestation, it is implicit in the
logic of rules regulating landownership and in the
incentives for development perhaps now more than
ever before with decentralisation still in its early
phase. In addition to road building, this policy is
manifest in major infrastructure and investment
projects including mega dams, oil, gas and mining
projects as well as the expansion of the agribusiness
sector, particularly for oil palm.
Despite the existence of some laws and institutional
mechanisms designed to prevent deforestation and
regulate ‘development’ in the Amazon, this report
has found that these mechanisms are consistently
undermined by the continued preference for the
interests of large-scale investment projects over and
above environmental considerations, long-term
planning or the rights of local communities including
indigenous peoples. This in itself is bolstered by a
prevailing attitude amongst decision-makers that
‘development’ is associated with extractive industries
and major infrastructure projects and ignores the
fact that for the vast majority of Peru’s population,
who live in and directly depend on forests, such
projects have failed to deliver the so called ‘benefits
of development’ and instead have frequently
undermined their livelihoods and their own
priorities for the future. In turn, this is aided and
abetted by legal loopholes, endemic corruption and
criminality that permit uncontrolled and often illegal
deforestation. This prevents the implementation of
any local or regional initiative that does not conform
to this logic of illegality or informality.
At the same time, approximately half of Peru’s
tropical forests lie within the customary lands of
indigenous peoples which have consistently been
characterised by low rates of deforestation. Despite
this, the State has consistently failed to recognise the
vital contribution made by indigenous territories
and their inhabitants to preventing and slowing
deforestation. To date, the State has failed to legally
recognise many of these territories, let alone
guarantee their security and integrity from invasions
or contamination nor to support indigenous
peoples’ own development priorities. The intimate
relationship between indigenous peoples and their
forests means that very often a forest that is both
standing and healthy is viewed as vital for their own
current and future well being. Despite this, the state
has continued to undermine the efforts of indigenous
peoples to protect their forests by overlapping them
with concessions for mining, timber, oil or gas
and protected areas while attempting to dismantle
indigenous peoples’ collective rights to land and
persecuting those peoples and individuels who
choose to challenge these policies.
7.1 conclusions
1 the current and past causes of deforestation
and degradation
Past deforestation rates in Peru are relatively low in
comparison to other tropical countries. Rates peaked
in the 1980s, with more than 250,000 ha deforested
per year, but then decreased to between 100,000 ha
and 150,000 ha over the last decade.
Most deforestation in Peru occurs within 20 km of
a road. The high rates of deforestation in the 1970s
and 1980s were the result of state policies promoting
colonization through specialised development
projects, road building and the provision of agrarian
credit, which later resulted in coca cultivation and
drug trafficking. The IIRSA south and IIRSA north
roads which were completed towards the end of
the last decade also increased deforestation rates in
Madre de Dios and San Martín.
Migrant agriculture encouraged by road building
and colonization programs continues to be the
main cause of deforestation in Peru. In terms of
the number of people and the area deforested, the
main direct cause of deforestation continues to be
what is known as migrant agriculture practiced
by first or second generation migrants primarily
from the Andes, who it is estimated are responsible
for approximately three-quarters of the total area
deforested. However, migrant agriculture has not
grown in recent years and its percentage contribution
to the total deforestation appears to be decreasing.
At the same time this migration, mainly from the
Andes, continues to be driven by State policies and
programs promoting development and ’agricultural’
expansion in the Amazon.
Commercial agriculture, illegal gold-mining
and oil palm plantations have rapidly become
the main direct causes of deforestation. In recent
years oil palm (more than 14,000 ha per year),
illegal gold-mining (more than 6,000 ha per year)
and possibly papaya (more than 2,000 ha per year)
account for an average of 20 % of annual rates of
Widespread and uncontrolled illegal logging is
one of the main causes of forest degradation.
Approximately 80 % of timber exported from Peru
is illegal. Although deforestation rates in logging
concessions is low, ‘leaks’ abound, and more than
50 % of concessions are involved in illegal operations
beyond their limits frequently, in both protected
areas and indigenous lands.
Oil and gas concessions cover more than 50 %
of the Peruvian Amazon. The direct and indirect
impacts of oil and gas operations on the forest and
its rivers is particularly severe in areas inhabited
by indigenous people, if we look beyond simply
direct deforestation. These include high levels
of contamination in the soil, rivers and lakes,
the transformation of the local society and their
economy, increases in pressure on natural resources,
and the indirect but massive impact of royalties
which to date have mainly been spent on building yet
more roads (e.g. Camisea and Urubamba).
2 Weak governance and environmental
Endemic corruption and fledgling governance
in the mining and forestry industry (both public
and private sector) permits high levels of illegal
operations. It is estimated that 80 % of timber
exported is illegal, despite the fact the forestry sector
was reformed to address illegal logging in both 2000
and again in 2011. In Madre de Dios, 97 % of gold
produced is illegal and deforestation continues to
increase 4 years after the Decree of Urgency No.
012-2010, the first government measure to try and
address the problem.
Criminal organizations of drug traffickers, gold
traders, loggers and land traffickers promote
corruption and money laundering – the latter
invested in other illegal operations, thereby
undermining fledgling environmental governance
(e.g. Gold in Madre de Dios).
Lack of environmental assessment and strategic
planning which are long-term, transparent, free-ofconflict-
of-interests and which consider not only
the impacts of specific projects through an EIA, but
the cumulative impacts of projects at regional levels.
Currently, no independent mechanism exists for
approval of EIAs for large-scale projects. Meanwhile,
spatial planning mechanisms and environmental
management are fledgling and of little relevance in
There is no universal cartographic system to avoid
and resolve overlapping rights.
Priority is given to large-scale extractive projects
over protection of the forest and human rights.
The establishment of strictly protected areas such as
national parks or reserves for indigenous peoples in
isolation is often trumped by extractive operations
(e.g. Ichigkat Muja).
State systems for environmental control, monitoring
and regulation are inappropriate, inefficient and
getting weaker. This is even the case in the oil and
gas sector which has had a better starting point to
establish good governance of large companies who
can be subjected to government and civil society
scrutiny, in comparison with the informal chaos
of the agricultural, mining or logging sectors.
Nevertheless, the authorities responsible for oversight
have been unable to control, combat and punish
negligent practices by oil companies, despite decades
of denunciations by the affected communities (e.g.
River Corrientes). Recent legislation weakens still
further the effectiveness of this environmental
3 Weak, incomplete and incoherent legal and
regulatory frameworks
Loopholes permitting deforestation through
classification of primary forests as suitable for
agriculture (e.g. Grupo Palmas).
Contradictions permitting exploitation in
supposedly intangible areas on the grounds of
‘public necessity’.
Regulatory framework permitting the
accumulation of land by large companies through
purchase of recently deforested lands or of renting
Regulatory framework encourages deforestation to
claim ownership rights of land.
4 failure to value, support and respect
indigenous peoples’ contribution to protecting
forests in peru
Indigenous peoples have played, and continue
to play, a leading role in protecting the Peruvian
Amazon. As defenders of the forest they have
blocked laws, roads, dams, oil and gas companies
and invasions by colonists and their associated
deforestation. Meanwhile, traditional agricultural
systems are proven to be a sustainable way of using
the forest (e.g. the Asháninka in Gran Pajonal).
Indigenous territories are an effective barrier
against deforestation. Current mechanisms to track
deforestation in Peru inevitably overestimate rates of
deforestation produced by the swidden agricultural
systems of indigenous and other Amazonian peoples
as they cannot distinguish between temporary
and permanent deforestation. However, even
if these figures are used we find that in legally
recognized indigenous communities alone, covering
approximately 11 million ha, only 12,000 ha, or 0.1 %
per year or about 0.04 ha / person are deforested in
comparison with a national rate of between 0.17 and
0.23 %. However, even using these distorted figures,
if these lands are combined with the territories
of indigenous peoples in isolation, the customary
indigenous territories that are classified as protected
natural areas or have not been legally recognized,
rates are significantly lower. Nevertheless, there
are some exceptional examples involving some
communities, particularly in the upper River Mayo
in San Martín, or in Peru’s selva central along the
highway linking Pucallpa to Lima, or Madre de Dios
(impacted by IIRSA south) where severe pressures
from both public and private sector have resulted in
high rates of deforestation.
The national legal framework fails to meet Peru’s
binding international obligations to respect
indigenous peoples’ rights, such as the right to free,
prior and informed consent (e.g. Prior Consultation
Law), the right to customary lands (e.g. Forestry
Law), and the right to collective territories as peoples
as the State only recognizes communities rather than
peoples and retains ownership of forests that are
only ‘awarded’ to communities in the form of a
Criminalisation and persecution of indigenous
peoples and leaders legitimately seeking their
self-determination or protesting in defence of their
rights and territories (e.g. impacts of the violence in
State disregard for denunciations of illegal
operations made by indigenous people. Miners,
loggers and colonists invade indigenous lands with
little response or active support from the state or
even facilitated by a specific sector (e.g. Naranjos,
Massive overlap of indigenous territories by
mining, logging and oil gas concessions, as well as
protected areas, including both titled and untitled
indigenous lands and territories. This is conducted
without any consultation or frequently against the
express wishes of the people.
Approximately 20 million ha of indigenous
territories remain without any official legal
recognition. These 20 million ha include
communities which have not been legally recognized
as existing, those awaiting land titles, or those
requiring land title extensions, This is complemented
by applications from at least 12 different indigenous
peoples for title to their collective territories,
5 reserves for indigenous peoples in isolation,
8 communal reserves, and resolution of areas
overlapped by protected areas.
Efforts are being made to weaken collective rights,
to forests and prioritise individual rights, thereby
encouraging deforestation. Despite the fact that
individual, private parcels of land have the highest
rates of deforestation (2.27 %) in Peru, the State
continues trying to undermine collective rights by
eliminating constitutional guarantees (Law 30230),
the suspension of titling of indigenous communities,
and the promotion of individual property rights
through projects such as PTRT3, financed by the
IDB. This strategy departs from a neoliberal premise
that private land ownership will help indigenous
peoples to access credit, commodify their resources
and as a result emerge from ‘poverty’. On the upper
Mayo river, where the individualization of communal
property has occurred, these outcomes have not
resulted. Instead it has undermined the probability
that in future these communities might improve their
quality of life.
Intimidation and persecution of indigenous
leaders by those with vested economic interests in
their territories which in some cases has resulted in
assassinations (e.g. Saweto).
Large-scale logging operations are prioritized over
community forestry initiatives. The latter continue
to suffer from a lack of legal and technical support,
while large-scale operations remain the priority.
This forces many communities to sign exploitative
agreements with logging companies (e.g. Purús). The
commercial extinction of mahogany is a reflection of
the incapacity of the state to control the extraction
of resources, while for those commercial interests it
reflects their desire for the greatest profit margin in
the shortest possible time frame.
Division of indigenous organizations and
communities with threats and strategies intended
to intimidate and manipulate them by extractive
industries (loggers and oil and gas companies, e.g.
5 future threats
Informal gold-mining, the expansion of oil palm
and the construction of mega-dams are the biggest
threats to the Peruvian Amazon. More dams have
been proposed in its Amazon region – 79 – (with a
capacity of more than 2MW) than any other Andean
country in the Amazon basin. Amongst these, over
50 have more than 100MW capacity while 11 have
more than 1000MW. New laws have turned biodiesel
production into a national priority, and up to 1.4
million ha of primary forest have been classified as
suitable for oil palm plantations. There are also legal
proposals to classify oil palm as a forest species. On
the other hand, efforts by the government to control
the exploitation of illegal gold-mining have come to
nothing. In Madre de Dios, more than 50,000 ha have
been destroyed by illegal gold-mining in recent years
following an increase in international gold prices and
the construction of the Inter-Oceanic Highway.
It is expected that deforestation and degradation
will increase significantly in the immediate
future. In the years ahead, the interaction of the
following indirect factors and conditions will create a
favourable environment for a significant increase in
forest degradation and deforestation:
a. The increase in demand (and prices), at both
the national and international levels for natural
resources such as timber, gold, oil, gas, hydro
energy, oil palm and papaya, among others.
b. The increase in investment in mega-projects
in the Amazon in programs such as IIRSA, for
example for hydroelectric dams, major roads and
communications, as part of a strategy to integrate
global markets alongside the aspiration to develop
the Amazon through the export of natural
c. The increase in local and regional capacity to
build networks of roads and invest in commercial
agriculture due to royalties from mining and oil
and gas projects.
d. The failure to prioritise sustainable, profitable
and feasible alternatives in the short, medium
and long-term at all levels (but particularly for
communities and small-scale businesses) that
keep the forest standing.
7.2 Recommendations
This report has found that Peru now stands at a cross
roads. Important political and legal commitments
have been made to protect forests and reduce
deforestation and for the first time in the history
of Peru, substantial resources have been pledged to
support this process. However, at the same time,
deforestation continues to rise unchecked and is
projected to increase exponentially in the near future,
particularly due to the expected growth in oil palm,
the construction of large dams and more roads as
well as the continued growth of illegal mining. Key
measures for implementing a low deforestation path
have been identified by this report and others. They
include the recognition of indigenous peoples’ lands
and rights to determine their own development
paths and the legal, financial and technical support
to assist them in this process. It also includes the
closure of legal loopholes that continue to permit
forest destruction, the effective control of illegal (and
those legal but unsustainable) practices including
mining, logging and palm oil plantations in primary
forests, in addition to the implementation of robust
planning mechanisms to ensure economic interests
do not trump all other considerations. In conclusion,
the solutions exist and the funds are available, but
it remains to be seen whether the political pledges
to combat deforestation are reflected in the shift in
attitudes and values that are required to turn these
commitments on paper into a reality in the Peruvian
a) Respect and protect indigenous peoples’
rights and territories, including:
1. Attend to indigenous peoples’ demands for
territory rights in the Amazon, including title
for peoples and communities in addition to
proposals for communal reserves and reserves for
indigenous peoples in isolation, in compliance
with Peru’s international obligations requiring the
recognition of customary territories: in total an
estimated 20 million ha.
2. Implement a land regularization process
to resolve the multiple conflicts and claims
involving indigenous territories, titled or untitled.
Amongst other measures this requires annulling
concessions and other rights that overlap
indigenous territories.
3. Align national laws and policies with
international obligations in order to recognise
indigenous peoples’ rights to:
a) Free, prior and informed consent (FPIC)
if extractive projects are proposed in their
b) Ownership rights, not just leasehold rights
over their territories
c) Ownership rights over their customary
d) Territories titled in the name of ‘peoples’
and not only in the name of individual
4. Establish effective, transparent and
independent measures to enable indigenous
peoples to exercise their right to free, prior and
informed consent (FPIC), thereby respecting
their diverse opinions and allowing them to take
their own decisions about extractive operations in
their territories, including mining, logging and oil
and gas operations.
5. Respect and value (rather than persecute or
treat as criminal), indigenous peoples’ legitimate
denunciations and proposals in response to legal
reforms, state policies, conservation initiatives
and large-scale extractive projects that threaten
their rights and forests.
6. Improve access to justice for indigenous peoples
and individuals denouncing the destruction or
contamination of the forest.
B) implement effective and transparent systems
of forest governance
1. Control, and punish those responsible for
deforestation and contamination caused by
illegal mining, illegal logging, coca cultivation,
irregular changes of land use for agri-business,
and invasions of indigenous lands. Break up the
public and private sector mafia that work together
behind the scenes of this forest degradation and
2. Resolve overlaps between logging concessions
and ‘permanent production forests’ with
applications for title by indigenous and ribereño
3. Implement mechanisms to oversee and
regulate logging concessions in order to prevent
laundering of timber extracted outside concession
4. Restructure the system of forest concessions
permitting only those companies who have
not been penalized to continue operating,
withdrawing concessions from those companies
where serious failings have been identified and
suspending activities in all those remaining
concessions while there is a process of supervised
5. Recognize and promote independent
community environmental monitoring (that
includes community forest monitoring) which
has emerged in the absence of independent and
effective mechanisms to monitor, control and
supervise extractive industries.
6. Establish a national inventory of primary
forests that must not be subject to changes in
land use.
7. Establish a universal cartographic system to
avoid overlaps of lands and rights.
8. Establish a forest management system
capable of distinguishing between temporary
deforestation resulting from traditional rotational
agriculture and permanent deforestation.
9. Provide technical support to community forest
management and other initiatives by indigenous
peoples, such as rosewood oil production in
Ucayali, mahogany seed management in Purús,
and other projects aimed at protecting and using
the forest sustainably.
10. Modify the laws and policies promoting biofuel
production and the expansion of oil palm.
11. Develop the concept and strategy of Indigenous
REDD proposed by AIDESEP, together with
COICA (and accepted by MINAM), that captures
indigenous peoples’ demands and concerns to
ensure that emissions reduction projects respect
indigenous peoples’ rights and contribute to a
‘vida plena’.
c) promote coherent state and cross-sector
policies to protect the forest
1. Review national laws and policies promoting
investment in sectors such as agriculture,
energy and transport to ensure the state meets
its commitment to reach zero net deforestation
by 2020. This must be conducted within the
framework of the agreement with the government
of Norway to contribute US$300 million towards
the conservation of forests.
2. Align the social and environmental standards
of multilateral banks with the United Nations’
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples, and improve their enforcement in
order to mitigate and avoid impacts from mega
infrastructure, energy and agri-business projects
on forests and indigenous peoples’ rights.
3. Establish effective, transparent and
independent procedures to assess and approve
EIAs for large-scale projects, ensuring they have
the capacity to assess cumulative impacts and the
impacts of other projects in the same region.
4. Implement effective decentralized
environmental governance, allocating sufficient
resources to regional governments to enable
them to properly assume their roles to supervise
activities that affect forests and prevent those
associated with deforestation at the same time
that these regions are receiving increasing income
as a result of the royalties derived from oil, gas or
mining operations.
5. Implement participatory processes to enable
strategic and spatial planning processes
throughout the Peruvian Amazon, including
methodological tools to ensure this is aligned
with the holistic visions of forests held by
indigenous peoples.
d) land tenure
1. Modify the mechanisms and requirements for
titling of private lands in order to avoid creating
perverse incentives to deforest.
2. Desist from promoting, either through laws or
in practice, the division of collectively held lands
into individual land holdings.
3. Prioritise the recognition of indigenous
peoples’ collective lands over titling private and
individual parcels of land, where deforestation
rates are highest in Peru.
4. Prioritise the use of public funds to address
indigenous peoples’ territorial demands
(9 components and around 20 million ha). These
include the RPP-FCPF (US$ 3.6 to 8 million), FIP
(US$ 50 million), PTRT3 (US$ 50 million) and
the Norway agreement (US$ 300 million). There
is more than enough finance, what is required is
political will to balance this historic debt.
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‘All of this space is Achuarti Nungkári, the territory of the Achuar. From these lands,
forests and waters we obtain the food we need to live and the materials we need to
construct, weave and make our houses, products and crafts. In the remote areas the
animals that we hunt live and grow. We depend on them and respect their spaces. We
get every kind of forest resource that allows us to feed our children and grandchildren.
From the waters we get fish to eat and with the crystal clear water from the springs and
waterfalls we wash and clean ourselves. Here is where our ancestors lived and relied on
the same resources and the same land. They looked after it and they left it for us as a
reserve which we use today. Because of this we can live, and because of this we have life.’
Achuar leader, Huitoyacu River, Loreto region