Brazil nuts are one of the most valuable forest products to the Peruvian export economy and Brazil nut concessions cover up to 1 M ha of Amazonian forest, giving the management of these concessions a high priority locally and at the national level. The Brazil nut tree coexists with dozens of timber species whose exploitation contributes significantly to the household economies of concessionaires. CIFOR undertook a study to explore the levels of timber harvesting that can be conducted with affecting and Brazil nut production. This study capitalized on interest generated by a previous CIFOR study assessing the volume of timber extraction in Brazil nut concessions in Amazonian Peru and sought to take advantage of a window of opportunity to influence the development of new Brazil nut management guidelines focused on multiple forest use.
CIFOR’s research was conceived and implemented as a biophysical project, with an implicit logic that compelling scientific knowledge and timely well-targeted communication of results would successfully influence the drafting of the Brazil nut management guidelines in the concessions. The project sought to influence practice change in concessions through a linear policy pathway by providing technically sound information, which had been lacking since the establishment of the Brazil nut concession system in 2000.
The project quantified the amount of timber per unit area that concessionaires could extract without affecting Brazil nut production. The revised technical norms for managing Brazil nut concessions do referenced these findings, making this one of the first instances where scientific research has influenced forest policy Peru. However, the timber harvesting limits ultimately recommended in the current guidance were not fully in line with CIFOR’s findings. This inconsistency was largely the result of opposition to the change in guidance at the local level as concessionaires perceived the new guidelines as too restrictive in limiting the timber extraction. The project asked and answered highly relevant and timely questions and the project team effectively engaged with government at the central level. The mixed success of the project prompted the researchers to reflect on their strategies and provided some interesting insights to guide future work in Peru.
The project did not initially conceive of the intended outcome as requiring a multi-actor, multi-level process and focused exclusively on influencing national policy makers directly. This strategy overlooked key aspects influencing policy design and implementation such as the role of the regional government as a decentralized organization and the public participation rights acquired by resource users in decision-making processes in Peru. Peru does not have a strong culture of drawing on scientific evidence to inform forestry policy norms and guidelines. This and the fact that the forest sector is highly regulated and centrally managed through top-down technical guidelines- generated resistance to centrally mandated initiatives from concessionaires. For those actors who practice and enforce multi-use management in Brazil nut concessions to accept and adopt new guidelines, more work engaging these actors would be necessary. The project’s evaluation identified additional key actors who would have been ideal boundary partners in socializing the logic, rational and value of the research. This highlights that ensuring scientific legitimacy and social legitimacy and policy relevance require different strategies and that investing in local validation is important for acceptance and use of knowledge.
Additionally, under the new scenario of an increased public participation and decentralization in Peru, the linear policy route may not have been the most effective approach to achieving the intended impact of improved forest management. Working through alternative trusted networks to reach concessionaires may have been more effective. This points to the value of more thorough social-ecological and political economy analysis of key sectors/thematic areas prior to project design in identifying appropriate influence and engagement strategies.