Protecting Peru's rainforests and conserving biodiversity

Two men sitting at a table in the forest, reading a map

Picture: GIZ

Peru extends across various climatic zones and altitudinal belts of the Andes and for this reason is one of the countries in the world with the highest biodiversity. The tropical forests of Peru cover many millions of hectares, store enormous quantities of carbon and are home to numerous endemic species. Yet the forests are severely threatened: in the last ten years more than a million hectares of tropical forest have been lost. The people need land for extra living space and arable farming; road-building and illegal logging, along with the current favourable gold prices, only add to the problem. Rainforest clearance and degradation is depleting important carbon reservoirs and destroying vital habitat for many plant and animal species. Progressive deforestation is now the country's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Peru's system of nature reserves provides protection for a land area of around 19 million hectares. Besides the nationally-managed protected areas there are also regional, local and private conservation initiatives. EL SIRA, with an area of around 600,000 hectares, is the largest community nature reserve and is recognised by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve. Unlike with 'conventional' conservation areas, the indigenous population shares responsibility for the management of this community-run reserve. Since 2006 ECOSIRA, a local organisation representing seventy indigenous communities living around the protected zone, has been jointly responsible for park administration, together with SERNANP, the state authority.

Since 2009 an International Climate Initiative (ICI) project carried out by GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) has been helping ECOSIRA and SERNANP to extend the land area and diversity of the reserve, and to manage it sustainably with community involvement. To do this, the project developed a management model combining conservation of biodiversity with sustainable use of resources. Management plans were devised in collaboration with the indigenous community association and the reserve authority, and the staff were given further training. A study undertaken by the project partners recorded the distribution of plant and animal species in the reserve, as only in this way can they be protected effectively.  In the course of this study previously unknown species of plants and amphibians were also identified. In order to safeguard the income of the local population without endangering the forest, the project identified three value chains with positive climate impacts: achiote, natural rubber and wood. It is helping the people living around the reserve to utilise, process and market these resources. Additional sources of funding, such as through agreements with the private sector, are to underpin the long-term viability of the reserve.

The project has produced a wealth of visual information for public consumption, including a short video: movieclip (external)