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Tree plantations could help Peru meet forest restoration goal

A regenerated forest and agroforestry system is seen in the Nueva Ahuaypa indigenous community area in Peru. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR
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A regenerated forest and agroforestry system is seen in the Nueva Ahuaypa indigenous community area in Peru. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

Peru has set a goal of restoring forest on some 3 million hectares of degraded land, but the country still lags behind its neighbors when it comes to scaling up tree plantations to meet both environmental and societal needs.

Although tree plantations could provide ecosystem services, as well as income for communities and businesses, there is a need for more research, training, financial and fiscal incentives, and secure land tenure, according to a new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) that was also supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

“At present, it is estimated that about one-third of the global demand for sawn timber is satisfied by commercial tree plantations, and this proportion is expected to increase over time,” says Manuel Guariguata, CIFOR principal scientist and leader on forest management and restoration, and the lead author of the study.

Many countries have begun promoting plantation forestry rather than timber from natural forests, and Peru is taking initial steps in the same direction. Some progress has been made in recent years, with simpler regulations for tree plantations and several model projects, but the country still needs a long-range roadmap for realizing the potential of forest plantations in the coming decades, Guariguata says.

Peru’s forestry legislation has historically emphasized timber production from government-sanctioned concessions across its Amazonian natural forests, rather than plantations. But well-managed plantations could yield a greater return than production in natural forests, says Héctor Cisneros, coordinator of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s forestry program in Peru.

“Peru has a very rich tropical forest, but it is complicated from the standpoint of forestry production,” he says. “Plantations should be a tool for helping to protect  the natural forest. If the industry is more closely tied to tree plantations, that will reduce pressure on natural forests.”

Plantations can produce a greater volume of timber per hectare because managers can ensure uniformity in growth, diameter at harvest, and timber quality, Cisneros says. But that requires access to high-quality genetic material, adequate soils, and managers and workers trained to manage the entire value chain, from plantation to consumer.

Read also: Farm-forestry in the Peruvian Amazon and the feasibility of its regulation through forest policy reform


Although 15 Peruvian universities offer forestry majors, none has a specialty in tree plantation management, and the few courses that are offered are insufficient to meet the need for trained personnel, says Carlos Llerena, dean of the School of Forestry Sciences at La Molina National Agrarian University in Lima.

The limited area under tree plantations in Peru, estimated at just a few tens of thousands of hectares, means there are few jobs for specialists, he says. At the same time, the lack of specialists also slows development of additional plantations.

A forest trail in the Unamat forest, Puerto Maldonado, Madre de Dios, Peru. Photo by Marco Simola/CIFOR

Universities could help break that vicious circle by providing more detailed information about species, helping students obtain fellowships to study with experts abroad and return to Peru to apply their knowledge, and working with sub-national governments that seek to promote tree plantations, Llerena said during a panel discussion at the presentation of the CIFOR study in Lima in June 2017.

Universities can also contribute to improving the quality of timber from plantations, through research to improve both genetic material and timber management techniques. Peru’s National Institute of Agrarian Innovation (INIA) also plays a role, with experimental plots in different types of ecosystems around the country, Eloy Cuellar, who heads INIA’s Agrarian Technological Development Office, said during the panel discussion.

Peru’s varied ecosystems — from the dry desert coast to the Andes Mountains to the Amazonian — offer possibilities for different types of plantations, using both native and introduced species, says Leoncio Ugarte, director of forest studies and research at Peru’s National Forest Service (SERFOR).

While some plantations could produce timber for industrial use, others could meet different needs. In the Andean highlands, where only relicts of native forests remain, plantations of native species could help protect the upper parts of watersheds, providing ecosystem services for water users downstream.

Instead of harvesting the timber, communities or other landowners in those areas could receive payment for the ecosystem services their plantations provide, Ugarte says.

Read also: Reclaiming collective rights: land and forest tenure reforms in Peru (1960-2016)


Although Peru has millions of hectares of degraded land that could be used for plantations, some regulatory hurdles hamper the sector’s expansion.

First is the lack of a clear definition of “degraded”, Ugarte says.

SERFOR is currently conducting a detailed calculation of the area suitable for tree plantations. Because different species have different needs and some are better adapted than others to different soil types and climate niches, planners must consider which species are best suited for various areas of the country, Ugarte says.

That implies land-use planning on a broad scale — designating certain areas for agriculture, forestry concessions, protective forest and plantations, for example — as well as more local zoning, to determine which species are most suitable based on soil type, precipitation and other factors.

Most of the area suitable for tree plantations is likely to consist of relatively small fragments, rather than large, continuous expanses suitable for large plantations, he says. Some may be in the hands of smallholders, while others may be located in indigenous communities. In many cases, land ownership may not be clear, which is a disincentive to private investors interested in the tree plantation business.

Ensuring clear tenure is crucial for plantations, where producers require long-range investment over two to four decades, Ugarte says. Lack of clarity about land tenure can lead to social conflicts over plantations. Once tenure is clear, however, financial incentives can be designed for different types of plantations at different scales.

“People who invest in tree plantations seek to diversify their portfolio and make a profit, but they are also committed to climate change mitigation,” says Robert Hereña, general manager of Reforestadora Bánati Bosque S.A.C., a company growing teak in central Peru.

“They also know this can result in social benefits, because tree plantations are often installed in areas where a large percentage of the population lives in poverty or extreme poverty,” Hereña said during the panel discussion.

Small-scale tree producers can also play an important role across the value chain, but they need technical assistance, financing schemes appropriate for local conditions and needs, and access to markets. Private investors could also partner with indigenous communities in the Andean highlands or the Amazon region to develop plantations, although that will require building trust between the private sector and communities, which often distrust each other, the FAO’s Cisneros says.

Read also: Long road ahead to indigenous land and forest rights in Peru

An indigenous woman harvests goods in the Peruvian Amazon. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR


In planning industrial tree plantations at a small or medium scale, investors and operators must consider future market needs, says Jessica Moscoso, executive director of CITE Madera, a government-sponsored technological innovation center that focuses on sustainable timber products and assistance to furniture makers in a Lima industrial park.

Too often, plantation operators focus on the species they could grow, rather than on the species required to manufacture specific products that the market demands—or which it may need in 15 to 30 years, when the trees are ready for harvest, Moscoso said during the panel discussion.

“Plantations allow us to tailor supply to demand,” she says, adding that they also enable growers to project future needs and scale up timber volumes. “It is extremely important that we define what we want to plant, focusing on future demand.”

That implies developing — and training personnel for — the entire market chain, Cisneros says. Most plantations currently produce sawn wood, but Peru could emulate neighboring Brazil and Chile, where the industry also produces wood chips, pulp and even paper, he says.

The CIFOR study concludes that Peru still lacks a clear road map for developing the tree plantation sector so it can contribute to the country’s restoration and climate change mitigation commitments.

Planning must include not just the National Forest Service and Ministry of Agriculture, but also ministries with responsibility for economy and finance, production and trade. And it needs a long-range vision that continues from one government administration to the next.

The country should establish varied pilot initiatives in different ecoregions, which can serve as models, allowing planners to choose the ones with potential for scaling up at the subnational or national levels, Cisneros says.

All of those steps will contribute to the road map, which he says will be constructed “little by little.”

By Barbara Fraser, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Manuel R. Guariguata at m.guariguata@cgiar.org.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • Farm-forestry in the Peruvian Amazon and the feasibility of its regulation through forest policy reform

Farm-forestry in the Peruvian Amazon and the feasibility of its regulation through forest policy reform

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In 2015 the Peruvian government launched a new set of regulations associated with the forest law aimed to increase competiveness of the timber sector, ensure the conservation and sustainable production of timber on public and private forestlands, and improve rural livelihoods. Small-scale timber producers have been marginalized in the sector in the past, and the new regulations claim to provide pathways to formalization for these actors. We draw on policy analysis and field research in the central Amazon region of Peru using mixed methods to characterize smallholder on-farm timber production and evaluate the feasibility of the new regulatory mechanisms for formalizing small-scale timber producers. Through examining a case study on the production and sale of the fast-growing pioneer timber species Guazuma crinita, locally known as bolaina, we found a diversity of management practices, with the strongest reliance on natural regeneration in agricultural fallows, an informal supply chain, and no case of formal documentation at time of sale. We assessed that none of the new regulatory mechanisms will accommodate the sale of timber produced in agricultural fallow stands. We recommend the inclusion of fallow timber in the new forest plantation registry, which could result in the formalization of the supply chain and create an incentive to increase production by small-scale producers.

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  • Gender-responsive methodology for value chain development

Gender-responsive methodology for value chain development

Testing the 5Capitals-G methodology in India. Photo by Shrinivas Hegde
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Testing the 5Capitals-G methodology in India. Photo by Shrinivas Hegde

Over the past decade, value chain development has been widely promoted as a catalyst for rural economic growth.

As smallholder farmers become increasingly integrated into value chains, how can scholars and development practitioners ensure that the benefits of participation accrue equitably to both women and men? This was the topic of a workshop hosted by Bioversity International and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) at the recent Tropentag 2017 conference.

The workshop centered around insights resulting from the testing of 5Capitals-G, a gender-responsive methodology building on the 5Capitals toolkit for assessing the poverty impacts of value chain development. It addresses the principal gaps identified in existing guides for gender-equitable value chain development. These gaps include limited coverage of the way norms influence gender relations, gender-equitable opportunities in collective enterprises, and how value chain development can effectively transform inequitable gender relations.

For this reason, 5Capitals-G examines gender-differentiated asset endowments at the level of both smallholder households and the collective enterprises they are often linked with, and by identifying gender-based constraints shaped by cultural norms and values.

Read more: Piloting gender-responsive research tool 5Capitals-G in three countries

“We started with an overview of strengths and weaknesses of common guides for gender-equitable value chain development designed by international organizations” said Dietmar Stoian, Senior Scientist for Value Chains and Private Sector Engagement at Bioversity, and a coorganizer of the workshop.

“With these in mind, we presented findings from our recent validation of 5Capitals-G as to how women and men have access to, control, and build assets at household and collective enterprise level. Based on this, we can determine the extent to which asset endowments and asset building are gender equitable and adjust value chain interventions accordingly.”

Assessing the poverty impacts of value chain development

Addressing the principal gaps identified in existing guides for gender-equitable value chain development, Bioversity International and ICRAF have joined forces to strengthen the gender dimension of 5Capitals. This new version of the methodology allows for the establishment of gender-responsive baselines and the assessment of gender-differentiated impacts of value chain development among smallholders and other resource-poor groups involved in value chains.

“Two interrelated ideas underpin the design of 5Capitals-G: the poor’s access to assets is a critical entry point for their effective participation in value chains, and the poor’s capacity to build assets through value chain engagement can provide a viable pathway out of poverty,” explained Jason Donovan, Leader for Value Chains and Transformational Change at ICRAF.

5Capitals-G provides insight into what assets are available in households and collective enterprises, which of these are more controlled by men or women, and which are managed jointly. We are particularly interested in understanding positive feedback loops between asset building at household and asset building at enterprise level.”

Insights from Asia and Latin America

5Capitals-G has been tested across diverse settings in Guatemala, India and Peru, providing valuable insights for improving the design of the tool and guidance for the interpretation of results. These adjustments ensure that practioners will be able to count on a validated methodology for enhancing the design, implementation and assessment of gender-equitable value chain development initiatives.

Panelists at the workshop on gender equitable value chains held at Tropentag 2017 included Ana Maria Paez-Valencia (left to right), Trent Blare, Jason Donovan, Dietmar Stoian, Gennifer Meldrum and Hugo Lamers. Photo by Susan Onyango/ICRAF

Hugo Lamers, Associate Scientist in Socioeconomics and Marketing at Bioversity International, used the methodology in the value chains of non-timber forest products such as mango, murugulu (Garcinia indica) and uppage (Garcinia gummigatta) in Karnataka, India.

“Besides taking care of domestic activities, women contributed substantially to income generation through wage labour, farming and collection of forest products,” said Lamers. “We learned that the major bottleneck for women’s participation in local cooperatives is the rule of ‘one member per household’, resulting in a largely male-dominated member base of most cooperatives.”

Gennifer Meldrum, Research Fellow in Nutrition, Marketing and Diversity at Bioversity International, tested the methodology with local partners in millet value chains in Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh, India.

“The collective enterprise we studied has contributed to asset building across all the five capitals. Women’s participation in cooperative leadership and millet value chain activities are strongly encouraged by the Federation,” she said. “However, a male bias remains due to women’s limitations in terms of time and mobility. Physical assets households have acquired through value chain participation are very rarely controlled by women alone, but often benefit the household as a whole.”

Read more: Gender and forestry gain increasing attention worldwide

Further testing of 5Capitals-G was done in the cocoa value chain in Peru. “In addition to the important role women play in the production of cocoa, we were surprised to discover the strong influence they had in production and marketing decisions,” said Trent Blair, Markets and Value Chain Specialist at ICRAF.

“We realized that a stronger role of women in cocoa and other value chains in Peru is hampered by their limited access to information, technical assistance and training. This requires specific efforts for targeted value chain development interventions to ensure equitable capacity development.”

Interviewing smallholder households in Peru. Photo by Trent Blare/ICRAF

Stoian, together with local partners in Petén, Guatemala, tested 5Capitals-G in value chains of valuable woods including mahogany and tropical walnut, and non-timber forest products such as Chamaedorea palm and Maya nut (Brosimum alicastrum).

“We found evidence that under given conditions income derived from forest products can help people move out of poverty. In terms of reinvestment of forest-based income we learned that decision making at household level was rather equitable with regard to building human and social capitals, while investment decisions on natural, physical and financial capitals were more skewed toward men,” he shared.

“At the level of community forest enterprises, women have recently assumed stronger roles in production and decision making, particularly as regards non-timber forest products, but timber activities and related decisions continue to be largely a male domain.”

Implications for gender-equitable value chain development

“Gender dimensions of access to and control over assets and other resources have an important impact on the opportunities and constraints that women and men face when participating in value chain development initiatives,” said Ana María Paez Valencia, Gender Social Scientist at ICRAF, who moderated the workshop.

In synthesizing the discussion, she pointed out that differential access and control over assets has implications on women’s bargaining position within households to make strategic household and life decisions, as well as their ability to assume new roles or opportunities resulting from value chain initiatives.

“Looking forward, it would be interesting to use 5Capitals-G for insights into the impact of the gender asset gap on household livelihood outcomes in the context of value chain development; and to better understand the trade-offs between increased value chain engagement of women and the time they invest in other activities including those related to household care,” she added.


Participants at the workshop expressed interest in 5Capitals-G, which will be available in early 2018, along with the documented findings of the case studies. As Stoian and Donovan summarized at the end of the workshop: “5Capitals-G will be a key methodology for all practitioners interested in asset-based approaches to value chain development with a gender lens.”

By Susan Onyango, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World

This work was supported by the CGIAR Research Programs on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) and CGIAR Research Programs Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which are supported by CGIAR Fund Donors

Bioversity International and ICRAF thank Lutheran World Relief, Rainforest Alliance and USAID for funding this work. 

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  • Revisiting the ‘cornerstone of Amazonian conservation’: a socioecological assessment of Brazil nut exploitation

Revisiting the ‘cornerstone of Amazonian conservation’: a socioecological assessment of Brazil nut exploitation

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The Brazil nut (the seeds of the rainforest tree Bertholletia excelsa) is the only globally traded seed collected from the wild by forest-based harvesters across the Amazon basin.

The large geographic scale of Brazil nut exploitation and the significant contributions to local livelihoods, national economies, and forest-based development over the last decades, merit a review of the “conservation-through-use” paradigm. We use Elinor Ostrom’s framework for assessing sustainability in socioecological systems: (1) resource unit, (2) users, (3) governance system, and (4) resource system, to determine how different contexts and external developments generate specific conservation and development outcomes.

We find that the resource unit reacts robustly to the type and level of extraction currently practiced; that resource users have built on a self-organized system that had defined boundaries and access to the resource; that linked production chains, market networks and informal financing work to supply global markets; and that local harvesters have used supporting alliances with NGOs and conservationists to formalize and secure their endogenous governance system and make it more equitable.

As a result, the Brazil nut model represents a socioecological system that may not require major changes to sustain productivity. Yet since long-term Brazil nut production seems inextricably tied to a continuous forest cover, and because planted Brazil nut trees currently provide a minimal contribution to total nut production basin-wide, we call to preserve, diversify and intensify production in Brazil nut-rich forests that will inevitably become ever more integrated within human-modified landscapes over time.

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  • Challenges and opportunities for the restoration of Andean forests

Challenges and opportunities for the restoration of Andean forests

In some parts of Ecuador, communities have started to change the landscape by clearing small patches of forest for crops and to feed their animals. Photo by T. Munita/CIFOR
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The Andes mountain range as viewed from Ecuador. Restoration efforts are underway in Andean forests across the region. Photo by T. Munita/CIFOR

Views on ecological restoration in the Andes of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.

The tropical forests of the Andes in Latin America are key global ecosystems that make an extraordinary contribution to the world’s biodiversity and livelihoods. Andean forests are the source of huge rivers, and have more varied and unique species than the Amazon. But they are now are threatened by increasing demographic pressures, and by harvesting and production practices.

In the past decade, ecological restoration has become a vital strategy to recover the integrity and functionality of degraded ecosystems, to promote sustainable development, and to mitigate climate change.

Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia — the countries hosting tropical Andean ecosystems — have each set quantitative restoration targets. But what has been the real progress in these countries? And what is happening to their Andean forests?

To understand developments in tropical Andean forest restoration, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Andean Forests Program — a regional initiative of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), facilitated by a partnership between Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation and Condesan — undertook a comparative analysis to look at the progress, challenges and future prospects of Andean forest restoration in these four countries.

Over a period of 14 months, researchers examined academic, legal and policy documents and conducted more than 40 interviews. Their aim was to identify challenges and opportunities to guide the next steps in restoration policy and practice for Andean forests. The resulting analysis will prove essential in making the most of “unprecedented” levels of international attention and funds, says Manuel Guariguata, co-author of the study and leader of CIFOR’s Forest Management and Restoration Team.

“It is now essential to start the restoration process,” says Carolina Murcia, a senior researcher affiliated with the Pontifical Xavierian University in Colombia and lead author on the study. “We can’t afford to lose more natural capital; rather, it is time to start recovering it.”

Read more: Lessons from Latin America for forest landscape restoration

A peatland landscape is seen in Peru. Photo by R. Bhomia/CIFOR


A key finding of the study is heterogeneity among Andean forests. “Each of the four study countries has its own history, geography and socioeconomic situation, which determine its relationship with Andean forests and the restoration approach,” says Murcia.

Colombia is leading the movement, with 50 years’ experience in restoration and a historical focus on these forests: the Andes are home to 75% of country’s population, but are also fertile lands and a major source of its water. In addition, 70% of Colombia’s electricity is generated by water flowing through these forests.

The National Plan for Forest Restoration of Ecuador, for its part, identifies two priority criteria for fertile Andean areas: landslide prevention and water resource protection.

Meanwhile, the relationship of Peru and Bolivia to Andean forests is completely different. In Peru, these ecosystems, known as yungas, or “high rainforests”, originally covered 15% of the nation’s territory. With steep slopes and high moisture levels, they are seen as an area of passage to the Amazon. “In this region, all forests are often seen as ‘rainforests’ and are considered for harvesting purposes as a source of timber. Thus, restoration has also played a very discreet role,” says Murcia.

In Bolivia, there are large forest areas with low population density. According to the study, this “has resulted in a culture of abundance, where the notion of restoration does not even fit.” The current philosophy of the state, for example, “does not allow forest restoration outside a production scheme,” Murcia says.

Strangely, local people who have occupied the Bolivian highlands for decades are not aware of the disappearance of their forests. The study reveals that “the scarcity they may experience in periods of drought is not associated with loss or, therefore, restoration.” According to Murcia, all this shows why restoration is still in the early stages in Bolivia and Peru.

This heterogeneity in approaches to restoration is reflected in aspects such as policy frameworks, implementation mechanisms, and the links between decision-makers, biological resource managers, academia and civil society.


In spite of the differences, the four countries also face common challenges. The first is to integrate a new, holistic discipline such as ecological restoration into government policies ranging from natural resource management to development. Restoration, says Murcia, means much more than increasing forest cover and capturing carbon.

An additional challenge is to comply with international restoration commitments through national programs but with local implementation — something difficult when technical capacity, technology and information are limited.

Other challenges? One is the lack of a common definition. “What restoration means for one sector may not mean the same to another,” says Guariguata, mentioning the tasks of assessing the success or failure of programs, and meeting international targets such as the Bonn Challenge. In his view, there is also a need to develop a unified vision of the discipline, which is currently fragmented into sectors such as environment, agriculture and indigenous peoples.

Restoration is a long-term process, which can take from six to ten decades to consolidate. Success, says Murcia, cannot be achieved without community commitment, and structures for management and budgetary administration that go beyond presidential terms and “protect initiatives against political whims.”

Read more: Learning from women’s and men’s perspectives on agroforestry to enhance climate change strategies and actions in Latin America

In some parts of Ecuador, communities have started to change the landscape by clearing small patches of forest for crops and to feed their animals. Photo by T. Munita/CIFOR


Although one of the international targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity, known as Aichi #15, is to restore 15% of the ecosystems degraded by 2020, the study sets a more realistic objective: each country should start from this commitment, ensuring that in 50 years these ecosystems will be on an appropriate path of restoration for biodiversity. This means recovering the variety of species, not recovering the land for production purposes, says Murcia.

To achieve community commitment, she considers it essential to secure land tenure and to report both the effects of degradation of forest landscapes and the benefits of their recovery.

“Restoration works! What needs to be done is to guide communities and understand the social and economic drivers of degradation,” she says.

In addition, the participation of the academic sector and NGOs in program design needs to be strengthened. Verónica Gálmez, Andean Forests Program incidence coordinator, explains that “NGOs act as hinges between local and national actors and provide an overall view of territorial and sectoral levels.”

According to Gálmez, the study can help prioritize interventions and investments and determine baselines. Thus, dissemination actions are planned for the various countries.

Murcia, like Gálmez, views the future with optimism. The reason? Communities’ growing interest in recovering their forested landscapes. “In the end, restoration is much more than planting trees. It is about turning the relationship between people and nature into something positive.”

By Gloria Pallares, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Manuel Guariguata at m.guariguata@cgiar.org or Carolina Murcia at carolinamurcia01@gmail.com.

 This research was prepared by CIFOR and the Andean Forests Program, facilitated by Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation and Condesan and financially supported by CIFOR through the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors, and by the Department for International Development (DFID) through the KNOWFOR program. The Andean Forests Program is part of the Global Programme on Climate Change of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

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  • Are Brazil nuts the saviors of the Amazon basin?

Are Brazil nuts the saviors of the Amazon basin?

Brazil nut fruits are piled up, ready to be hacked open to extract the nuts. Photo by M. Simola/CIFOR
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A worker processes Brazil nuts in Madre de Dios, Peru. Photo by M. Simola/CIFOR

Study reexamines the Amazon region’s ‘cornerstone of conservation’.

Want to invest directly in the preservation of the Amazon? Buying Brazil nuts might well be your simplest strategy, says Peter Cronkleton, coauthor of a new study that assesses Brazil nut exploitation from a socioecological perspective.

The weighty, nutritious nuts seem something of a poster child for the concept of ‘conservation through use’. The trees they grow on are Amazonian forest giants that can reach over 50 meters in height and live up to 400 years.

The softball-sized fruit – each containing around 20 nuts – are collected from the forest floor in rainy months by forest-based harvesters, who maintain customary rights to the resource in many areas.

As coauthor Amy Duchelle confirms, “it’s something that’s sustaining thousands of families in that region, while essentially giving value to standing forest.” It’s a relatively sustainable system, she says – but one that’s under threat.


The southwestern Amazon region in which most Brazil nuts grow spans three countries: Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. Prior to the 20th century, the area was not clearly defined by national boundaries, but was held by rubber barons and populated by their laborers, Cronkleton explains.

When boundaries were established, different political frameworks affected how people defined access, what types of rights they had in the forest, and how well they were linked to national markets, he says. “So to a certain extent it’s a natural experiment showing how people adapt under different forest governance contexts in each country.”

Freshly harvested Brazil nuts await processing in Peru. Photo by M. Simola/CIFOR

As Duchelle adds, “it’s really interesting: you’ve got a similar forest ecosystem, but the way it’s being used is totally different just by crossing the border. We’re talking about 30 kilometers [between some study sites] and it’s a completely different world.”

On the Brazilian side of the border, in the state of Acre, Brazil nuts are “just one component of a much more diverse livelihood portfolio,” says Duchelle. The recent construction of new roads and infrastructure, coupled with a strong cattle culture, is increasing the temptation for locals to clear forested land for cattle ranching at the expense of Brazil nut-rich forest.

In neighboring Pando, Bolivia, communities are much more reliant on the Brazil nut harvest, as it’s “really one of the main livelihood activities they’ve got going on,” she says. There, a more pressing issue is contested and incomplete titles to Brazil nut tree stands, which make it difficult for residents to claim and defend their resources, adds Cronkleton.

Read more: What’s in a land title?

Similarly, he explains, in the adjacent Madre de Dios region of Peru, the complex concession system poses challenges, because concession areas for Brazil nut harvesting are not always well-defined, and often overlap with those for agriculture and mining, all of which can drive deforestation. On top of this, regulations for Brazil nut extraction and other forest products such as timber often generate conflict of use within the same concession forest.

Lead author Manuel Guariguata, a Principal Scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), adds that “our study is so far the only one drawing together a comprehensive set of literature representing the three countries which produce all of the Brazil nut consumed globally. Although there have been many studies that examined different aspects of Brazil nuts across the Amazon basin, these usually have taken a more narrow focus.”

Brazil nut fruits are piled up, ready to be hacked open to extract the nuts. Photo by M. Simola/CIFOR


While Brazil nut trees are protected from logging by law in all three countries, intensive deforestation in surrounding areas can affect the productivity of the trees, explains ecologist Pieter Zuidema, another coauthor of the study. It can also affects harvesters’ ability to cope with the high natural variation in Brazil nut tree productivity from year to year.

Usually, in low-yield years, “what Brazil nut harvesters do is go deeper into the forest [to look for nuts]. With increasing deforestation, that potential is not there anymore. So it reduces the resilience of the whole system,” says Zuidema.

However, he adds, defending Brazil nut-rich forest does not necessarily mean preventing people from doing anything else there. If done well, integrated management of multiple forest uses, such as low-intensity timber harvest and ecotourism, combined with Brazil nut harvesting, could prove both profitable and sustainable.

Read more: Moving past tree planting, expanding our definition of forests and restoration

The UN-backed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) scheme also offers an opportunity to make Brazil nut-rich forest preservation more financially viable, through initiatives that compensate locals for keeping forests standing. This will likely require more clarity about people’s rights to land and trees, as well as how benefits are distributed, agree Duchelle and Cronkleton.

Stabilizing international prices for the nuts may also help the system remain viable. Often seen as the ‘poor cousin’ of high-end products such as hazelnuts, Brazil nut prices rise and fall erratically around the fortunes of other nut types, says Cronkleton. Enhancing state and private-sector support for the resource system, and broadening Brazil nut consumption through building consumer awareness of their health benefits, seem important pieces of the puzzle.


So back to those heavy, dense nuts in the mixed-nuts packs and the health-food shops. It’s true, they’re inconveniently bigger than bite-size, admits Cronkleton, and they may not have the sweetness of almonds, or the creaminess of cashews.

But they’re high in selenium (a trace element with antioxidant properties that is deficient in many soils) and the fatty acids that help reduce heart disease. And what other Amazonian forest product could you buy with such confidence in the social and environmental ethics of your purchase?

Duchelle confesses that she doesn’t really like the taste of them any more, after eating far too many, fresh off the forest floor, during her fieldwork in the region. “But I eat them anyway!” she proclaims with laughter and conviction, “Because it’s a way to support Amazonian livelihoods.”

By Monica Evans, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Manuel Guariguata at m.guariguata@cgiar.org.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by the KNOWFOR program from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID)

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  • NTFP harvesters as citizen scientists: Validating traditional and crowdsourced knowledge on seed production of Brazil nut trees in the Peruvian Amazon

NTFP harvesters as citizen scientists: Validating traditional and crowdsourced knowledge on seed production of Brazil nut trees in the Peruvian Amazon

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Understanding the factors that underlie the production of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), as well as regularly monitoring production levels, are key to allow sustainability assessments of NTFP extractive economies. Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa, Lecythidaceae) seed harvesting from natural forests is one of the cornerstone NTFP economies in Amazonia. In the Peruvian Amazon it is organized in a concession system. Drawing on seed production estimates of >135,000 individual Brazil nut trees from >400 concessionsand ethno-ecological interviews with >80 concession holders, here we aimed to (i) assess the accuracy of seed production estimates by Brazil nut seed harvesters, and (ii) validate their traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) about the variables that influence Brazil nut production.

We compared productivity estimates with actual field measurements carried out in the study area and found a positive correlation between them. Furthermore, we compared the relationships between seed production and a number of phenotypic, phytosanitary and environmental variables described in literature with those obtained for the seed production estimates and found high consistency between them, justifying the use of the dataset for validating TEK and innovative hypothesis testing. As expected, nearly all TEK on Brazil nut productivity was corroborated by our data. This is reassuring as Brazil nut concession holders, and NTFP harvesters at large, rely on their knowledge to guide the management of the trees upon which their extractive economies are based. Our findings suggest that productivity estimates of Brazil nut trees and possibly other NTFP-producing species could replace or complement actual measurements, which are very expensive and labour intensive, at least in areas where harvesters have a tradition of collecting NTFPs from the same trees over multiple years or decades. Productivity estimates might even be sourced from harvesters through registers on an annual basis, thus allowing a more cost-efficient and robust monitoring of productivity levels.

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  • For secure land rights, indigenous forest communities need more than just titles

For secure land rights, indigenous forest communities need more than just titles

The native lands of the Tres Islas community are seen in Peru. Photo by CIFOR Photo/Juan Carlos Huay llapuma
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The native lands of the Tres Islas community are seen in Peru. Photo by CIFOR/Juan Carlos Huay llapuma

While securing a land title may be a key step for forest-dependent communities, it is not sufficient to ensure legal rights and improve livelihoods, study highlights.

Under Peruvian law, a title gives traditional forest communities rights over land, but resources on that land, such as forests, formally remain the property of the state. In order to use these resources, communities are required to follow additional procedures to obtain permits and authorizations.

This was the case faced by the indigenous community of Tres Islas in the Amazonian region of Madre de Dios – despite securing a land title more than 20 years ago, non-governmental organizations working in the region have reported that a large portion of the community’s territory is overlapped by mining permits.

Read also: Reclaiming collective rights: land and forest tenure reforms in Peru (1960-2016)

The law states that indigenous communities may be granted communal titles over agrarian lands, but rights over forests are limited to usufruct contracts – that is, the right to use, but not own, the resources found there.

Furthermore, while the government recognizes indigenous communities’ long-term-use rights over forestlands, it reserves the right to grant time-limited concessions to companies and individuals, for example for extractive activities such as timber or mining, often within the same territory. This inevitably leads to overlapping land rights and, sometimes, conflict.

In recognition of August 9 as the UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. The Tres Islas Community video was produced by Yoly Gutierrez and Martin Balbuena.

In 2010, the people of Tres Islas decided to build a fence to keep out miners and loggers who had been granted permits to use land under their title without the community’s authorization. Community leaders thought that they were exercising their rights when they decided to limit access by outsiders, but instead their fence was destroyed, and they were sued and incarcerated.

After years of conflict, the community took their case to the Peruvian Constitutional Court and won, establishing a legal precedent that ensures protection of indigenous territorial autonomy and requires community consultation in any case that directly affects indigenous territory.

Read also: Long road ahead to indigenous land and forest rights in Peru

“The case in Tres Islas shows the challenges that many traditional communities face across the globe, where titles or formal recognition don’t fully ensure rights, tenure security or the improvement of livelihoods,” says Iliana Monterroso, a researcher who leads the Centre for International Forestry Research’s (CIFOR) Global Comparative Study on Forest Tenure Reform in Peru.

An historical analysis performed as part of the study also shows that while governments continue to discuss reforms to simplify regulations, it is indigenous movements and non-profit organizations that have been instrumental in ensuring that communities receive technical support to comply with norms and establish a better position from which to benefit from the resources available in their forestlands.

“The findings suggest that continued support is needed to ensure that communities can develop the skills to take advantage of acquired rights. While a title or certification is very important, there are other things to consider as part of these reform processes,” Monterroso says.

By Yoly Gutierrez, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Iliana Monterroso at i.monterroso@cgiar.org or Anne Larson at a.larson@cgiar.org.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors

This research was supported by the European Commission and GEF with the technical support of FAO and IFAD.

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  • Reclaiming collective rights: land and forest tenure reforms in Peru (1960-2016)

Reclaiming collective rights: land and forest tenure reforms in Peru (1960-2016)

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In Peru, since 1974, more than 1,200 communities have been titled in the Amazon for over 12 million hectares, representing about 20% of the country’s national forest area. This working paper analyzes policy and regulatory changes that have influenced how indigenous peoples access, use and manage forest and land resources in the Peruvian Amazon during the last fifty years. It reviews the main motivations behind changes, the institutional structures defined by law and the outcomes of these changes in practice.

The paper discusses political priorities related to land and forest tenure, social actors involved in reform debates and the mechanisms used for recognizing indigenous rights claims. The paper argues that there has not been a single reform process in Peru; instead multiple reforms have shaped forest tenure rights, contributing to both progress and setbacks for indigenous people and communities. This working paper is part of a global comparative research initiative that is analyzing reform processes that recognize collective tenure rights to forests and land in six countries in highly forested regions.

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  • Long road ahead to indigenous land and forest rights in Peru

Long road ahead to indigenous land and forest rights in Peru

Children from the La Roya community, in the Peruvian Amazon, pose for a photograph. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR
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An indigenous woman harvests goods in the Peruvian Amazon. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

Regulatory reforms are encountering both progress and setbacks in Peru. 

Over the past half-century, more than 1,300 indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon have obtained title to more than 12 million hectares of land — about 17 percent of the country’s forest area.

The gains have come through a series of regulatory reforms that have resulted in both progress and setbacks for indigenous communities, says Iliana Monterroso, a post-doctoral researcher at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and one of the authors of a new study that forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) on land and forest tenure reforms in Peru.

“Understanding the history of the tenure reforms in Peru is important for identifying the challenges that remain and the opportunities that exist for addressing them,” Monterroso says.

The struggle for tenure has led to the rise of local, national and pan-Amazonian indigenous organizations, which have played an increasingly active role in advocating for policies that respect their territorial rights.

Read also: Obstacles to forest tenure reform deeply rooted in the past

Fifty indigenous peoples inhabit the Peruvian Amazon, depending on the forests for their livelihoods. Despite regulatory reforms, however, it remains difficult for them to obtain legal rights to full use of those resources.

Since the first modern laws governing indigenous peoples and land rights were passed more than a century ago, most legislation has promoted colonization, agriculture or private development in the Peruvian Amazon, with a mindset that views forests as possessing less economic value than farming or ranching.

Even now, property rights are granted only for agricultural land, while the state retains ownership of sub-soil resources such as minerals, and of the forests above-ground — granting concessions or usufruct rights for use of those resources, but not relinquishing ownership.

Government officials have often viewed indigenous peoples and their claims to territory as blocking progress by making it difficult to “put the forest to use,” says Monterroso.

Indigenous communities, however, increasingly call for control over all resources- both on and under their lands. Meanwhile, programs linked to Peru’s commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) offer support by including funds for titling indigenous lands.

Indigenous community members in Callería, Peru, learn the art of traditional embroidery. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

Stumbling blocks 

The first legal recognition of land rights for Peru’s Amazonian indigenous peoples was passed in 1974. A year later, the Forest and Wildlife Law placed forests under control of the government, which could grant the right to use them. This established the separate rules for forest and agricultural land that persist today.

Under current regulations, soil analysis determines whether land is classified as suitable for forest or agriculture — regardless of whether it is already forested. Only the area classified as agricultural land can be titled. Rights in the area classified as forests are limited to the right to use, known as usufruct, for which communities sign a contract with the government.

To commercialize forest products, a community must also apply for permits, or another type of official authorization. In many cases, they also must draw up and submit forest management plans.

Because this multi-step process is complicated and expensive, only about 10 percent of titled communities have actually obtained usufruct contracts, Monterroso says. Because of the complexity and cost, some communities are limited to using forest resources only for subsistence use, or to extracting timber and other products illegally.

Read also: The cost of oversimplification

Beginning in the 1980s, the Peruvian government passed a series of laws that promoted development, agriculture and colonization of forested land in the Amazon. Those efforts were stepped up in the 1990s, and continued into the 2000s.

At the same time, the decentralization of government administration meant that more responsibilities were transferred from the national government to regional governments.

Children from the La Roya community, in the Peruvian Amazon, pose for a photograph. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

Over the next decades, different agencies were in charge of land titling, and each change meant the physical transfer of hundreds of documents. Many were lost during the transitions, slowing the titling process for communities.

In many cases, non-governmental organizations that helped indigenous organizations map their territories with geo-referenced coordinates and file paperwork had more complete records than the government

Because the government had no single national registry of land titles and concessions for use of resources, its increasingly aggressive promotion of development projects resulted in overlapping concessions for timber, mining, oil and gas, tourism and reforestation.

Many of those concessions also overlapped areas where indigenous communities were applying for titles, but they could not obtain land rights until certain overlapping claims were resolved.

Conflict fuels drive for territorial rights

Tensions over land tenure came to a head with a series of 99 legislative decrees issued after Peru signed a free trade agreement with the United States in 2006.

Government officials said the measures were needed to make Peruvian legislation comply with the trade pact, but several of the decrees weakened communal land rights and opened the way for extractive industries to operate on community lands.

In 2009, indigenous organizations staged a two-month protest against the decrees, blocking a key Amazonian highway near the town of Bagua. In June 2009, security forces attempted to clear the roadblock, resulting in a violent clash in which 34 people were killed and more than 200 injured.

The events at Bagua marked a turning point for indigenous rights. The most contentious decrees were repealed, and long negotiations led to enactment of Peru’s prior consultation law in 2011. The measure requires that indigenous people be consulted about any development project, or administrative measure, that could affect their collective rights.

The first legislation submitted to consultation was the new Forest and Wildlife Law, which re-established the exclusive rights of indigenous communities to use forest resources in their territories. That right had been revoked by a natural resources law in 1997.

By 2016, 1,365 Amazonian communities had obtained title to more than 12 million hectares of land, while 644 claims, totaling nearly 5.8 million hectares, were pending.

As an alternative to individual community titles, indigenous organizations had also won the designation of 2.8 million hectares of reserves to protect semi-nomadic groups that shun contact with the outside world, and another 2.2 million hectares in “communal reserves”, protected areas encompassing various communities.

Although Bagua put communal land rights on the policy agenda, however, titling has been slow in recent years and only a handful of usufruct contracts have been issued.

Meanwhile, promotion of development in the Amazon has persisted, and conflicts continue over the use of resources on community lands.

A regenerated forest and agroforestry system is seen in the Nueva Ahuaypa indigenous community area in Peru. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

Reforms must not ignore history 

This long and complex history highlights a series of reasons why implementing land and forest tenure reform in Peru has been difficult, Monterroso says.

Lack of clarity about procedures and about which government agency is responsible slows the process. That is further complicated by an unclear and expensive procedure for classifying land use based on soil analysis, and the unclear and costly process for obtaining usufruct contracts.

Peru still lacks a single map of titles and concessions, so boundary disputes and conflicting claims continue to hamper progress on community titling.

Over the past two years, there has been a renewed effort to title indigenous communities in the Amazon, partly because of funding from climate-related programs aimed at preserving forests. That could offer an opportunity for overcoming some of the obstacles, Monterroso says.

“It’s important that there is a clear road map, so the benefits of land and forest tenure reforms reach the communities they were meant to benefit,” she says.

The responsibilities of national and regional government agencies in the titling process must be clear, they need to coordinate among themselves, and they must have the necessary staff and budget funds, she says. Indigenous communities also need allies in those agencies who can help them navigate the system.

Tenure reform can also be linked to sustainable resource management in communities. Indigenous groups in Peru have proposed an “indigenous REDD+” scheme, which uses climate-related funding to promote titling and livelihood plans.

“Opportunities for improvement are clear,” Monterroso says. “Unfortunately, if the challenges are not resolved, there is a risk of continued conflict.”

By Barbara Fraser, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Iliana Monterroso at I.monterroso@cgiar.org or Anne Larson at a.larson@cgiar.org.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

This research was supported by the European Commission, Global Environment Fund, International Fund for Agricultural Development, and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

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  • Peatlands: The view from space

Peatlands: The view from space

The Congo River is pictured in Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
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The sky is seen above the forest canopy after logging in the Unamat forest, Madre de Dios, Peru. Photo by Marco Simola/CIFOR

How can satellites help map and monitor critical peat landscapes?

Dense, damp and often remote, tropical peatlands are notoriously difficult to map and monitor on the ground. So how about from space?

New methods using satellite data are finding increasing success in assessing the extent, distribution and even the volume of peatlands around the world, as well as monitoring threats to their sustainable management.

Some of the latest developments in this area were presented by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and partners at a side event during the UNFCCC Bonn Climate Change Conference held in Germany from May 8-18.

The findings continue to challenge widely-held assumptions about where peat is located, how much of it is out there, and how it can be conserved and sustainably managed to contribute to efforts on global climate change mitigation and adaptation.


Frank Martin Seifert from the European Space Agency (ESA), a cohost of the side event in Bonn, shared the ongoing work of the European Copernicus satellite program, which currently operates a fleet of dedicated satellites for environment and civil security monitoring.

Five of the satellites, known as ‘Sentinels’, are already in orbit, imaging the surface of the Earth. The resulting data are available for free and open access by anyone, anywhere in the world.

But what about peat, which mainly lies below the Earth’s surface? Can a satellite detect that?

Watch: More peat in the tropics: Implications for climate change

“Most peat is not directly visible from space,” Seifert says. “But you can still derive a lot of the characteristics of peatlands, and any critical changes, from satellite images.”

Two of the Sentinels are particularly useful for mapping wetlands and peatlands, Seifert says. Sentinel-1 is a radar mission with cloud-penetrating, night-and-day imaging capability, while Sentinel-2, the high-resolution optical mission of the Copernicus program, can map the entire land surface of the Earth in a matter of days.

Together, these two satellites can detect extent, moisture and water levels of wetlands and peatlands, as well as threats to their environmental integrity, such as land conversion for agriculture and urban developments, logging in swamp forests, degradation and damage caused by fires.

As global efforts move toward conservation and restoration of peatlands, the data will also be useful for monitoring, reporting and verifying successes on the ground.

The Congo River is pictured in Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR


As part of the Global Peatlands Initiative (GPI) launched at the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum in Marrakesh, ESA is developing and demonstrating methodologies for mapping and monitoring peatlands globally, and deriving best practices for use in the assessment of peatlands.

Demonstrations will take place in GPI’s three pilot areas — Indonesia, the Congo Basin and Peru — and further areas in the temperate and boreal zone. The findings will be useful for local, national and global efforts to conserve, manage and restore peatlands, as well as to tackle climate change.

In Indonesia, for example, satellite data can support ongoing efforts to better manage the country’s critical peatlands.

At the local level, peatlands in Indonesia support livelihoods and regulate essential ecosystem services. But draining, burning and conversion of peatlands for agriculture and other purposes is threatening the sustainability of the relationship between peat and people. Conversion and burning of peatlands are also a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, posing an increased threat of climate change.

Read also: Eyes on the livelihoods of peatland communities

The national government has responded by forming a Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG). But this body will need solid data to carry out its mandate and track its progress. So where will it find the information it needs?

“Satellite data has the advantage of providing a panoptic overview of an area, as well as indicators of threats,” Seifert says. “This makes it easier to control; easier to see what’s happening.”

The Sentinel-1 satellite was able to pick up areas burned by forest fires in Indonesia during the El Niño crisis of 2015. By combining this data with international peat inventories and national data on forest cover, researchers were able to calculate an estimate of the total greenhouse gas emissions from the fires.

The issues involved in managing Indonesia’s peatlands were further discussed in a new infobrief from CIFOR shared at the side event in Bonn.


Combined with ground data and modelling, satellites can help to ensure consistency and transparency of data, enabling international comparisons. ESA is also sensitive to the demands of countries to manage their own resources using their own data, and making their own assessments.

The Copernicus satellite data is available for free and open access, but capacity is needed to interpret and analyze it. Data analysis toolboxes can help build this capacity – for example, a new toolbox will be released later this year on wetland inventories and habitat mapping in Africa, to manage wetlands, assess threats and detect changes.

CIFOR and partners have also begun to develop data toolboxes, such as the Global Wetlands map, the CarboScen land-use scenario simulator and the Indonesia Peatland Network Toolbox, for managing peatlands in relation to climate change.

But even with these advanced tools at hand, further research will always be needed at the ground level to see how dynamics play out in the landscape.

“The challenge is how to bring these approaches together,” Seifert says.

By Catriona Croft-Cusworth, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Daniel Murdiyarso at d.murdiyarso@cgiar.org.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. This work is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • Interview: Leveraging peat to beat the heat in Peru

Interview: Leveraging peat to beat the heat in Peru

Peatlands are home to diverse fauna and flora like this colorful butterfly. Photo by Jeffrey van Lent/CIFOR
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A researcher measures peat degradation in Peru. Photo by Kristell Hergoualc’h/CIFOR

FTA researchers are working to recognize the potential of Peru’s rich peatlands in tackling climate change.

Peru – Peruvian peatlands are of huge environmental importance, not only locally but also globally. They not only house enormous stores of carbon, but are home to diverse flora and fauna, and provide essential ecosystems services that support local livelihoods.

Located in Amazonia, the Pastaza Marañon Basin stores an amount of carbon in peat soil equivalent to more than 100 years of the country’s anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG).

However, most of this carbon has only been partially protected and now, Peruvian peatlands are showing clear signs of degradation. At this vital crossroad, these peatlands can either become part of the problem, or the solution in the global battle against climate change. This depends greatly on the country’s actions towards their sustainable management.

In work that forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, Kristell Hergoualc’h, a scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), has been studying Peruvian peatlands for CIFOR’s Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Program (SWAMP).

Based in Peru, Hergoualc’h was part of a team of scientists who recently published a pilot study that was the first one to attempt to map and characterize the degradation of palm swamp peatlands in the Peruvian Amazon. The study combined remote sensing data and carbon in biomass from inventories.

Read also: FTA seeks to influence debate at GLF on peatlands

Peatland is pictured in Peru. Photo by Kristell Hergoualc’h/CIFOR

“Providing solid and credible estimations of the impacts of degradation is an essential step in planning and adopting conservation strategies,” says Hergoualc’h. “Peruvian peatlands should be considered as priorities in any national conservation program for climate change mitigation.”

Hergoualc’h discussed the study’s results and the pressing need for the country to develop strategies and policies that ensure their sustainable management.

What are peatlands and why are they important, particularly in the context of Peru?

Peatlands are wetland ecosystems located in depressions that remain flooded during most of the year. The continued oxygen-poor conditions in the soil lead to a slow decomposition of the dead branches, leaves and roots and result, over thousands of years, in the accumulation of a soil layer extremely rich in carbon.

This layer can be very deep. For example, in Peru, peat deposits with a depth up to nine meters were found in the Amazon basin. Peatlands are therefore very important in terms of carbon storage and cycling. Peru holds a substantial area of peatlands, most of which is located in the Amazon basin, but there are also peatlands in the Andes. Lowland peatlands are mostly forests hosting a high density of Mauritia flexuosa palms – locally known as aguajes.

What is causing the current degradation of Peruvian peatlands?

There are different types of activities causing peatland degradation, such as peat extraction in the Andes or illegal gold mining in the region of Madre de Dios. We’ve been looking more specifically at the degradation of the palm-dominated forests that spans the entire Amazonian basin.

People consume the fruit of the aguaje palm and a weevil – called suri– that develops inside the dead trunk of the palms. These products are important sources of vitamins and proteins, especially for rural communities. Unfortunately, the harvest of the fruit has not been very sustainable. It has been extensively cultivated in the past decades by cutting down the entire palm instead of climbing it.

Water ripples in a peat landscape in Peru. Photo by Kristell Hergoualc’h/CIFOR

What are some of the conclusions of your recent study into the drivers of Peruvian peatland degradation?

We’ve been working in an area of about 350,000 hectares in the region of Loreto and combined data obtained by remote sensing and data collected on the ground to evaluate the extent of degradation and the impact of degradation on the structure and composition of the forest.

We found that 73 percent of the area of palm swamp forest on peat was degraded. Our results suggest that degradation induces a shift in forest composition; the forest becomes dominated by woody trees instead of palms.

We also found that degradation translates into significant reductions in tree carbon stocks with initial stocks decreased by 11 percent and 17 percent following medium and high degradation.

Are Peruvian peatlands being protected?

Some areas that include peatlands like the Pacaya Samiria reserve in Loreto are protected. However, Peru doesn’t have a regulatory framework for specifically protecting its peatlands. The country doesn’t have a soil classification map and has not adopted a definition for peat soil or peatlands. The term “peatland” appears in only one official document – The Wetlands National Strategy – where it is used to designate high-altitude peatlands in the Andes.

What actions should be taken to ensure their conservation?

The peatland areas that are legally under protection were effectively conserved which is encouraging, but these sites remain limited and should be extended. Initiatives such as REDD+ projects should be regarded as an opportunity for more peatland protection.

There is also a general need to bring awareness about what peatlands are and why they are important for Peru at the decision-making level in the national and regional governments, as well as in academia.

Peatlands are home to diverse fauna and flora like this colorful butterfly. Photo by Jeffrey van Lent/CIFOR

You have studied Indonesian peatlands as well, which have been largely deforested and degraded. What are some recommendations you have for Peru so that it does not encounter the same scenario?

Indonesian peatlands have been devastated as the result of large governmental programs aimed at relocating people within the country, expanding agriculture, and extracting timber. For these purposes peatlands have been drained and, as a consequence, turned into fire-prone areas. The environmental, social and economic damages caused by land-use change and fires in Indonesian peatlands are considerable and are of major international concern.

Read also: Managing peatlands in Indonesia: Challenges and opportunities for local and global communities

Peatlands are not suitable areas for agriculture because the soil is acid and nutrient-poor and most crops can’t cope with flooded conditions. It is unexpected and dicey for the Peruvian national strategy for forests and climate change to recommend technical capacity-building on wetland drainage as a way to reduce migration of communities towards fertile soils and/or forested areas.

The main lesson we learned about peatlands worldwide is that they should not be drained. There are other sustainable options for livelihoods in these ecosystems, and these need to be defined and developed in tandem with the communities living within them.

By Yoly Gutierrez, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Kristell Hergoualc’h at k.hergoualc’h@cgiar.org.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

This research was supported by USAID.

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  • Can conservation funding be left to carbon finance? Evidence from participatory future land use scenarios in Peru, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Mexico

Can conservation funding be left to carbon finance? Evidence from participatory future land use scenarios in Peru, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Mexico

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Authors: Ravikumar, A.; Larjavaara, M.; Larson, A.M.; Kanninen, M.

Revenues derived from carbon have been seen as an important tool for supporting forest conservation over the past decade. At the same time, there is high uncertainty about how much revenue can reasonably be expected from land use emissions reductions initiatives. Despite this uncertainty, REDD+ projects and conservation initiatives that aim to take advantage of available or, more commonly, future funding from carbon markets have proliferated. This study used participatory multi-stakeholder workshops to develop divergent future scenarios of land use in eight landscapes in four countries around the world: Peru, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Mexico. The results of these future scenario building exercises were analyzed using a new tool, CarboScen, for calculating the landscape carbon storage implications of different future land use scenarios. The findings suggest that potential revenues from carbon storage or emissions reductions are significant in some landscapes (most notably the peat forests of Indonesia), and much less significant in others (such as the low-carbon forests of Zanzibar and the interior of Tanzania). The findings call into question the practicality of many conservation programs that hinge on expectations of future revenue from carbon finance. The future scenarios-based approach is useful to policy-makers and conservation program developers in distinguishing between landscapes where carbon finance can substantially support conservation, and landscapes where other strategies for conservation and land use should be prioritized.

Publication Year: 2017

ISSN: 1748-9326

Source: Environmental Research Letters 12: 014015

DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa5509

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  • What’s in a land title?

What’s in a land title?

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Sergio Perea, president of the Tres Islas community in Peru, presenting Brazil nuts. Photo credit: Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR
Sergio Perea, president of the Tres Islas community in Peru, presenting Brazil nuts. Photo credit: Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

Originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

The indigenous community of Tres Islas in southeastern Peru seems to have it all—good fishing; a vast forest of timber, Brazil nut, palm and other trees; and natural beauty any ecotourist would pay to enjoy.

But the villagers have learned that having communal land rights does not guarantee the enjoyment of all these rights.

“Our community received its land title more than 22 years ago through the efforts of our parents and grandparents,” said Sergio Perea, president of Tres Islas, one of the communities included in a global forest-tenure study conducted under the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. “We thought having this title would give us the right to all the resources on our land.”

But this isn’t the case. Possessing a land title doesn’t guarantee the rural villagers in Tres Islas’ tenure security or improved livelihoods .

In this region, the forests are considered state property, and communities must obtain permits to use timber and non-timber resources. That is often a difficult, time-consuming process that requires technical expertise and payment of fees that communities cannot afford.

What’s more, the community’s current land title does not cover the entire area that the villagers claim as their territory. This has led to conflicts with people who hold timber rights or other concessions on land that the community considers its own.

Even on their titled land, villagers must have a government permit to harvest timber. They also face conflicts with outsiders who hold mining concessions that overlap with their land, as well as with miners and loggers who operate on their land illegally.


But the villagers of Tres Islas have found innovative ways to organize and obtain the assistance they need to find solutions.

“Because of the challenges they faced, they had to organize quickly,” said Iliana Monterroso, a post-doctoral fellow at CIFOR, who leads the Peru part of the comparative study, which also includes Uganda and Indonesia. “They also developed new skills, as they had to engage with the government and with non-governmental organizations, and the courts. Some of the lessons from their experience can be useful to communities elsewhere that find themselves in similar situations.”

Under Peruvian law, a title gives indigenous communities land rights, but resources such as forests remain the property of the state. While indigenous communities can receive permits to harvest timber, they must file annual operating plans.

Most communities lack the expertise to develop such plans, so they hire outside forestry experts. The high cost of preparing the plan can exceed the expected revenue from timber sales.

On public lands, the government grants concessions to private individuals or companies for a specified time. These concessions may be for extractive activities, such as timber or mining, or for Brazil nut harvesting, reforestation, conservation or ecotourism.

For decades in Madre de Dios, the region where Tres Islas is located, these concessions were handled by different ministries, which did not coordinate with one another. As a result, today there are many overlapping claims.

On a single piece of land, different concession holders may have rights for timber, Brazil nut harvesting, tourism, farming and mining. Sometimes, outsiders’ claims overlap indigenous communities, even though the communities possess the title.

To further complicate matters, some concessions, such as oil and gas and large-scale mining, are controlled by the national government, while regional governments manage others.

Although the residents of Tres Islas gained title to their land more than two decades ago, the entire community falls within two oil and gas leases. By law, the Peruvian government must hold a prior consultation with indigenous communities about any development project that would affect their communal rights.

After some internal conflict, the community voted in January 2015 not to participate in any prior consultation about exploration in the oil and gas leases. That effectively cut off oil and gas development in the area for the moment, although the issue is likely to come up again.

The battle against mining was longer and more complicated. Madre de Dios has a long history of small- and medium-scale placer gold mining, much of it unregulated. Several government-granted concessions overlapped Tres Islas, while other miners operated illegally within the community’s boundaries.

With the mining camps came problems of illegal logging, commerce of contraband gasoline for motors, and trafficking of women for prostitution, according to community leaders.

In 2010, the community decided to retake control of its lands by limiting access by outsiders. Transportation workers who provided services to illegal miners sued them and won. The community then took the case to Peru’s Constitutional Tribunal, which issued a landmark ruling in 2012 upholding the community’s autonomy and its right to control access to its territory.

Villagers in Tres Islas are now preparing for a future that they hope will be more sustainable. With the help of non-profit organizations, they developed a timber management plan, which complies with regulations that require them to have an annual operating plan and keep meticulous records. They also have plans for harvesting Brazil nuts and other non-timber forest products, and they are launching a community-based tourism enterprise.

Each activity is coordinated by a committee, and the members of the committees pay a portion of their earnings into a fund that is used to benefit the entire community.

“The community needed to organize internally in the short term to handle its legal problem, so it established a committee to work with the lawyers,” said Monterroso. “Then they began to realize that they needed to organize other groups for other important activities, such as managing non-timber forest products, like Brazil nuts.”

At the beginning of each year, community members gather the cannonball-shaped Brazil nut pods that fall from huge trees (Bertholletia excelsa). They skillfully split the pods open and spread the Brazil nuts out to dry. In the past, they sold the nuts to intermediaries, often at unfavorable prices.

With outside support, Tres Islas has now acquired equipment for drying and processing Brazil nuts so the community can increase its income. Members of the community’s Brazil nut committee are already experimenting with new products, such as Brazil nut sweets.

Plans are also under way to process palm fruit, although the plant has not yet been equipped. An ecotourism committee is also developing plans to attract visitors. With two of Peru’s major nature tourism attractions, Manu National Park and the Tambopata National Reserve, Madre de Dios is a magnet for tourism.


Although the Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling means the community’s land rights are more secure, the villagers still face challenges in bringing their plans to fruition.

They are awaiting installation of electricity for the Brazil nut processing plant. Financing the preparation of annual operating plans for timber management will also be a challenge, said Perea. And in the tourism business, they will be competing with established agencies.

They are not alone: the challenges of Tres Islas are common to all three countries that comprise CIFOR’s global comparative study on forest tenure reform according to preliminary findings.

“In all these countries, they are facing three main problems: land grabbing and competing land uses; lack of support to defend their rights and fully benefit from the forest resources; and limited capacity, in terms of capital, to make their resources more profitable,” said Mani Ram Banjade, a post-doctoral fellow at CIFOR involved with this project.

Baruani Mshale, who leads the study in Uganda, shares a similar view. “In the case of Uganda, we are also finding that providing a certificate or a title is absolutely essential, but not an end in itself. There is a lot more that needs to be done, and it goes beyond the forest. It goes beyond the title deed. It is a matter of understanding what else is needed by the forestry communities.”

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How participatory research gets to the bottom of forest tenure

Cattle graze on agricultural land in Maluku, Indonesia. Photo by T. Herawati/ CIFOR
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Agricultural land at Seram Barat District, Maluku. Photo by Tuti Herawati/ CIFOR
Agricultural land at Seram Barat District, Maluku. Photo by Tuti Herawati/ CIFOR

Adapted from CIFOR’s Forests News

What are the biggest obstacles that local communities face when ensuring rights to their forest resources? Community leaders say it’s the red tape and the cost of travel from rural villages to the towns where government offices are located. They also see poor-quality education and health care as additional hurdles that make it more difficult for communities to organize. Meanwhile, government officials note other obstacles, such as a shortage of staff or the difficulty of traveling to remote villages. Because these groups do not often engage in dialogue, problems can persist and forest-tenure reforms can stall. A recent workshop in Peru organized under the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry brought both sides together with technical experts to discuss land tenure and land use rights. Barbara Fraser spoke to the researchers involved.

Participatory Prospective Analysis (PPA) is an innovative approach to discussing tenure problems that combines the knowledge of technical experts and decision makers with the knowledge of people from the communities. This happens in workshops which are part of the Global Comparative Study on Forest Tenure Reform, undertaken by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Peru, Indonesia and Uganda. This helps to identify factors affecting forest-tenure reform and design scenarios that could lead to better policies.

The workshops show participants how they can best address the complex issues of forest-tenure reform. Thy identify potential pitfalls, such as obstacles to the reform and to putting it into practice. This allows them to come up with strategies for mitigating negative factors.

“The first challenge is identifying the stakeholders, because you don’t know the people and their skills,” says Iliana Monterroso, coordinator of the study in Peru. “The process itself takes time, given the amount of discussions and brainstorming. And people have to listen to each other, so you don’t want people who are too dominating.”

It all begins with a workshop in which participants identify the social, technical, economic, political and environmental factors that affect the process of securing land tenure.

GCS-Tenure Project, Ambon  Seram island. Photo by Tuti Herawati/ CIFOR
GCS-Tenure Project, Ambon
Seram island. Photo by Tuti Herawati/ CIFOR

The researchers enter this information into a computer program, and participants use the results to examine how those factors influence each other directly and indirectly. After eliminating factors that they cannot control, they choose about five that they agree are most important. They then envision different scenarios to explore how land-tenure policy could change, depending on those factors and the actions that they and their organizations take.

This sounds complex, but it is worthwhile, says CIFOR researcher Nining Liswanti. “Discussing these scenarios help people think about strategies for avoiding outcomes that would not be as positive.”

Focus on Maluku, Indonesia

In Indonesia, the workshops included community leaders, officials from government forest, land and water agencies, and representatives from the private sector, non-governmental organizations and universities.

The goal was to design scenarios for implementing forest-tenure reforms on the densely populated island of Maluku, where no reforms have taken place, and for improving the livelihoods of people who depend on forests in the district of Lampung, on the southern tip of Sumatra, where most people are migrants and reforms are already under way.

The participants outlined possible future scenarios that ranged from the ideal—in which all stakeholders would make some concessions—to others in which the government or private interests had more power.

Participants all considered the government’s willingness to support forest-tenure reform as crucial for positive scenarios. Enforcement of forest regulations, community participation in forest management and respect for local cultures were also mentioned frequently.

Forest landscape in Uganda. Photo by Douglas Sheil for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Forest landscape in Uganda. Photo by Douglas Sheil for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Migration part of the picture in Uganda

In the western district of Kibaale, Uganda, immigration has swelled the number of people who depend on forest resources. This creates uncertainties about tenure and rights, which are further complicated by absentee landholders.

Masindi, also located in western Uganda, is marked by the destruction of forests for corporate farms and ranches, as well as the imminent possibility of oil production, which could harm forests, but which could also create better-paying jobs that might reduce people’s dependence on forests.

The Ugandan participants envisioned scenarios in which the government made and enforced clear rules for immigration and resettlement, budgeted for forest management and provided enough personnel to enforce regulations, while traditional community leaders received training in sustainable forest management.

Madre de Dios in the Peruvian Amazon is the third location of the study. Photo: CIFOR
Madre de Dios in the Peruvian Amazon is the third location of the study. Photo: CIFOR

PPA in Peru

In Peru, the analysis was done with government officials and representatives of non-governmental organizations and leaders of communities scattered along rivers in the Amazonian regions of Loreto and Madre de Dios.

One persistent obstacle for the indigenous communities is that that they are not free to make decisions about forest use, because forests are considered a public good, governed by national laws as well as regional regulations. This makes building local and regional scenarios difficult, because they are still subject to the limitations imposed by national laws, according to researcher Alejandra Zamora, who is leading the application of the methodology in Peru.

Tensions also arise over overlapping land rights. Community leaders said they felt regional governments lacked the will to resolve tenure problems, while government officials said they were limited by budget constraints.

“These discussions help participants arrive at implementation processes that are more effective at improving tenure rights and resource access, as well as identifying who should be responsible for these actions,” says Monterroso. “They discover that there is not only one possible scenario, but rather various potential futures.”

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