Community Forestry in Peru

Situated in the heart of the Andes mountains and bordered by five countries and the Pacific Ocean, Peru is the third largest country in South America and boasts the second largest area of tropical rainforest in Latin America. The Andes divide Peru into three main terrestrial regions: the snow-covered peaks of the mountain range itself, the arid desert coast to the west of the Andes and the tropical forests of the Amazon Basin to the east. Within these regions, a wide variety of microclimates and ecological zones host over 10 percent of the world's flora and fauna, placing Peru amongst the top 10 "megadiverse" countries on the planet. Peru is home to about 25,000 plant species,10 percent of the world's total, and an estimated 5,528 plant species and 760 animal species that are found nowhere else on Earth.

Peru retains about 170.5 million acres (69 million hectares) of forested land, about 50 percent of its territory, and more than 80 percent of this land is classified as primary forest. According to the Peruvian Ministry of the Environment, deforestation caused principally by industrial-scale agriculture, mining, oil extraction and the building of infrastructure and roads resulted in an annual loss of approximately 370,000 acres of forest (150,000 hectares) between 1990 and 2000 -- one of the lowest annual deforestation rates in the Americas.

Peruvian Agricultural Workers - Photo by Candela

Despite Peru's relatively low deforestation rate, its forests face increasing threats from a variety of activities, among them the illegal harvesting of mahogany and other precious woods and the construction of the Inter-Oceanic Highway, which would provide access to previously unreachable areas of the Amazon. Peru's land tenure law facilitates forest degradation by allowing individuals to own land that they have occupied for five years. Furthermore, climate change poses a major threat to the country's rainforest ecosystems, as more than 50 percent of the water in the upper Amazon River is fed by retreating Andean glaciers.

An estimated 1,300 indigenous communities inhabit over 29.6 million acres (12 million hectares) of forest in the Peruvian Amazon, providing an enormous opportunity for the involvement of local people in the active management of the country's forests. However, the development of community forestry in Peru is still in its initial stages, with only 9 million hectares titled as indigenous territory presently. The Rainforest Alliance's Training, Extension, Enterprises and Sourcing (TREES) program works in collaboration with a consortium of organizations under the umbrella of the Initiative for Conservation in the Andean Amazon (ICAA) Project to help communities improve capacities to achieve sustainable forestry and build up competitive locally-owned forest enterprises.

For more information, contact your regional TREES representative.