LIMA, Peru (21 February, 2013)_Forests in southeastern Peru are threatened by a hodgepodge of overlapping land-use concessions — in part because of imprecise mapping of boundaries and lack of coordination among government agencies that hand out permits.
A new Forest and Wildlife Law could help, but it will not take effect until implementing regulations are drafted and approved, a process that is currently under way.
Scientists with the Center for International Forestry Research working in the region of Madre de Dios studied and mapped conflicting land-use claims to identify key areas that the regulations should address.
Their recently released recommendations (original article in Spanish) include:
- A streamlined system for gathering, storing and validating information. The new law calls for a national biodiversity inventory and value assessment. CIFOR’s study suggests that information in various databases must be updated and validated in the field. Concession boundaries also should be mapped more precisely, because many were not defined using geographic information system techniques.
- Sharing information among agencies and with the public. Each agency involved in forest management and granting land-use rights – including the ministries of Agriculture, Environment and Energy and Mines, as well as the Madre de Dios Regional Government – gathers and stores data differently. Andrea Chávez, lead author of the study, said developing a consistent system would enable them to share and compare data among themselves and make it publicly available.
- Creating a strong forest-management system. Decision-making responsibilities are currently dispersed among various agencies, said José Luis Capella, from Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental and one of the co-authors of the study. The 2011 Forest and Wildlife Law calls for creation of a multi-agency National Forest and Wildlife System, to be headed by a new National Forest and Wildlife Service. This new system should help clarify responsibilities and roles among agencies and between the national and regional governments, Capella said. Strong oversight will also be needed to ensure that regulations designed to protect forest resources are enforced, he said.
- Clarifying land-use rights. Land-use rights should be clear and backed by contracts or other legal documents, the scientists said. Regulations must be enforced to ensure that rights are respected and other activities do not encroach – that miners or farmers do not enter Brazil nut concessions illegally, for example. Government agencies must also develop and implement mechanisms to ensure that new land-use rights are not granted in existing concessions, Chávez said, and existing cases of conflicting land-use rights must be resolved through dialogue and negotiation.
The study includes detailed maps to illustrate the extent of the overlap.
Data collected from various government agencies show more than 1.3 million hectares of Brazil nut concessions overlapped by permits for timber, agriculture and mining. The conflicting claims jeopardize the livelihoods of thousands of people who earn an income by gathering and selling Brazil nuts.
The scientists said it’s crucial that the regulations — currently undergoing public consultation — are well designed and that information in government databases be verified in the field. No date has yet been set for implementation of the new regulations.
“The transition to an appropriate legal framework for forests is key,” Capella said.
“Otherwise, even with new laws and new institutions and very capable people, unless there is planning and field work, it won’t function.”
This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and was supported by USAID.