New institutional arrangements in climate mitigation programs show promise in Peruvian Amazon

Bridging divide between Indigenous and government-led initiatives at sub-national level
Boats hug the shoreline on a river
Sunrise in Tambopata, Madre de Dios, in the Amazon Basin in Peru. CIFOR/Yoly Gutierrez

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Indigenous federations and the Peruvian government are confronting obstacles caused by conflicts over land-tenure rights to implement effective climate mitigation programs, raising hopes that their innovative collaborative approach could be replicated in other regions, scientists say.

Efforts to introduce REDD+ programs (Reducing Emissions caused by Deforestation and Forest Degradation) on the ground have faced various stumbling blocks, including suspicion and protests related to an initial emphasis on financial carbon trading schemes and interventions designed without input from forest dwellers.

Through the Global Comparative Study of Tenure (GCS-Tenure) Reform project, researchers with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) studied two pilot projects in the Peruvian Amazon, observing that the government and Indigenous federations effectively strengthened land tenure security after reforms were introduced. The results of the study were published in Environmental Policy and Governance journal.

“Our research focused on a new wave of REDD+ initiatives and projects, which go beyond the initial market-based attempts to implement it,” said Emilie Dupuits, a scientist with the Swiss National Science Foundation. “We found that the real transformations are happening at the jurisdictional and sub-national levels where Indigenous communities are involved, and questions of Indigenous tenure security are addressed.”

Part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), REDD+ was reformed in 2013 at international climate talks in Warsaw to ensure social and environmental safeguards in the conservation of carbon-rich forests through payments based on emissions reductions. This is a major success obtained through transnational Indigenous activism.

Initially with REDD+, there was a lot of focus on international policy and frameworks, and less on the nuts and bolts of how to apply national policies on the ground, said Peter Cronkleton, an anthropologist and senior scientist with CIFOR. “In this research, we examined how initiatives with similar goals and agendas were collaborating to overcome implementation challenges at the local level due to miscommunication, perceived bias by leaders and conflicts between institutions.”

The Peruvian government, which has played an active role in REDD+ since its early days — building on earlier innovative forest management initiatives — has worked with the Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Amazon (AIDESEP) and the Confederation of Amazonian Nationalities of Peru (CONAP), spearheading a new wave of REDD+ programs.

These programs incorporate safeguards and non-carbon benefits, acknowledging the need to incorporate poverty reduction, biodiversity conservation, Indigenous tenure rights and the participation of local communities.

In Peru, where deforestation is the primary source of carbon emissions, native peoples created the Amazon Indigenous REDD+ (RIA) to secure property rights and the Ministry of Environment (MINAM) created the National Forest Conservation Program (PNCB), which offers conditional payments to titled Indigenous communities to support sustainable forest management.

These initiatives, which are active in the rainforests of Peru’s Madre de Dios region, have bridged previously existing institutional gaps between national policies, regional institutions, local needs and expectations, which have made realizing REDD+ at ground level difficult.

For example, RIA supports the demands of Indigenous Peoples for 100 million hectares of forests in the Amazon, and the titling of more than 1,200 communities. PNCB now provides financial incentives to more than 200 communities in 12 regions representing roughly 2 million hectares of forests.

MINAM and the Native Federation of Madre de Dios (FENAMAD) joined forces as a regional co-management institution in collaboration with other national Indigenous groups, which improved tenure security rights, ensured inclusion of local political considerations in government-led climate change mitigation programs designed at the national level.

“We learned that the government was facing the challenge of a lack of territorial presence on the ground in Madre de Dios,” Dupuits said. “Also, we realized recognition of vertical institutional gaps between national, regional and local cases, and horizontal institutional and cooperation initiatives are vital.”

To reach their conclusions, scientists examined 10 Indigenous communities along the Madre de Dios River that were titled between the 1970s and 1990s. They interviewed 20 key Indigenous leaders, representatives from non-governmental organizations, decision makers at national agencies in Lima and regional agencies in Puerto Maldonado, the capital of Madre de Dios, between 2015 and 2016.

This research was supported by the European Commission and the Global Environmental Facility, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

For more information on this topic, please contact Peter Cronkleton at
This research was supported by CGIAR program on Policies Institutions and Markets (PIM)
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Topic(s) :   REDD+ Peruvian Amazon