Protected forests, protected communities:
land titling in Peru

The Awajún are an indigenous people that live in the Amazonian rainforest in Peru. Historically, they settled primarily on the banks of the Marañón river, a tributary of the Amazon river in the north, near the border with Ecuador. Currently, they possess titled community lands in four regions: Amazonas, Cajamarca, Loreto and San Martin.

“The titling of our community lands has been an important step to better protect our territories and our forests,”

says Oswaldo Juep Danduck,
who grew up in the Awajun community of San Martin.

“I am happy I was able to support this rather difficult process in several communities.”

Oswaldo was one of 325 indigenous technicians trained in REDD+
processes and sustainable forest management by
the UN-REDD Programme.

While he had the opportunity to study environmental engineering at the National University of San Martin, the additional REDD+ training enabled him to implement an advisory and technical assistance role with the indigenous communities of San Martin.

As well, it strengthened his leadership in representing those communities at the regional level with the Coordination of Development and Defense of Indigenous peoples of the San Martin region (CODEPISAM) and at the national level with the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP).

After his training, Oswaldo worked extensively with the communities, sharing his knowledge on climate change and how it can affect livelihoods, the surrounding ecosystems and forests. As REDD+ processes are very technical, he had to be patient in transmitting this information to the community leaders. But because these leaders were already affected by these changes and had witnessed the gradual disappearance of the forests surrounding their villages, they were eager to learn about sustainable development.

The support to the communities in land titling appears to have made a big impact in working towards sustainable development. Land titling of indigenous people’s territories is one of the REDD+ pilot measures being implemented through a bilateral agreement between Peru and Norway. The trained indigenous technicians have made this work at the community level possible, as they have the technical knowledge on implementing the process and they benefit from the trust of the communities they belong too. Outsiders involved in this type of work are usually mistrus-ted as the communities do not know whose interests they represent. However, the process was not always easy.

Oswaldo knows that without proper land titling and zoning, forests in the indigenous communities would quickly disappear.

Though forests are very important, every member of the community has its own interests and economic needs that sometimes lead to logging or selling parts of the land. An agreement at the community level that delineates which parts of the forest will be conserved and where community members can engage in agroforestry will prevent the degradation of the forest for individual needs.

Forests are everything to
indigenous peoples,

explains Oswaldo.

An indigenous community without a forest would not be an indigenous community. The forest contains our ancestral indigenous knowledge. When the forest disappears, all this knowledge disappears, the traditions, the culture and even our language. With each forest that disappears, an indigenous community disappears along with it. Maybe the people will keep on living, but all the wisdom and the culture will be wiped away. Therefore, many indigenous leaders fight for the conservation of forests. Forests offer a school, a way of sharing knowledge gained over thousands of years. Our medicine, our cosmovision, our food, how we live, our crafts, how we dress, all is to be found in the forest. We do not only preserve the forest because it helps fight climate change.

Forests are everything to
indigenous peoples,

explains Oswaldo.

An indigenous community without a forest would not be an indigenous community. The forest contains our ancestral indigenous knowledge. When the forest disappears, all this knowledge disappears, the traditions, the culture and even our language. With each forest that disappears, an indigenous community disappears along with it. Maybe the people will keep on living, but all the wisdom and the culture will be wiped away. Therefore, many indigenous leaders fight for the conservation of forests. Forests offer a school, a way of sharing knowledge gained over thousands of years. Our medicine, our cosmovision, our food, how we live, our crafts, how we dress, all is to be found in the forest. We do not only preserve the forest because it helps fight climate change.

State of the forests in Peru

Peru is one of the countries in the world with the largest area of forests forming the main part of the Amazonian forest together with Brazil. In terms of the surface of tropical forests, the country is only surpassed by Brazil, Congo and Indonesia. At the national level the forests occupy more than half of the Republic’s territory with the Amazon being the region with the largest forest area followed by Andean and dry forests. Peruvian forests are home to a great diversity of species of fauna and flora and provide goods and services that are fundamental for the country’s development and the well-being of its inhabitants, especially the indigenous or native peoples who inhabit large parts of the forests.

Every year between 118,000 and 177,000 hectares of Peru’s natural forests are destroyed.

The UN-REDD Programme in Peru

In Peru, UN-REDD assisted the Government in setting up a framework for implementing Peru’s National Strategy on Forests and Climate Change (ENBCC), within the context of Peru’s multilateral agreement for REDD+, a JDI signed with Norway and Germany. In addition, UN-REDD advised on the approaches and stakeholder discussions required for a coherent and practical governance structure of the forest and climate change agenda in Peru. Finally, the UN-REDD Programme helped key national and subnational stakeholders – including the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Forest Service and regional governments – agree on the need to endorse land-use policy reforms to reduce deforestation and degradation and identify the principal first steps to be taken in this regard.

Story and photos by: Alice Van der Elstraeten, Regional Knowledge Management and Communications Specialist for the UN-REDD Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Videos by: Media HQ