Report on Amazon deforestation points to gap between discourse and reality

1 April 2019

A recent study by Peruvian and Swedish researchers questions the Ministry of Environment’s assumption that small-scale migratory agriculture is responsible for 90% of deforestation in the Amazon region. 

The context for the study goes back to COP-15 in Copenhagen in 2009 when Peru committed to eliminate deforestation in the Amazon by 2021 in line with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The means of achieving this ambitious goal included forestry conservation programmes and carbon offset marketing initiatives.

As custodian of the planet’s seventh largest area of natural forest, policies adopted by the Peruvian state really matter; since the 1980s these have promoted migration from the Andes, large-scale road building, and projects that intensify the extraction of oil, gas and minerals.

The contradiction between these policies could not be starker. It is hardly surprising, the authors point out, that 75% of deforestation between 2000 and 2012 occurred within 20 kms of new roads and that by 2000 7 million hectares in Amazonia had already been deforested (an annual average rate of 123,000 hectares), a far cry from the COP-15 commitment.

Unlike Brazil, where commercial agriculture is widespread, industrial plantations on a large scale are relatively recent in the Peruvian Amazon, though they are rapidly expanding at the expense of longstanding smallholders and the original indigenous peoples whose agricultural practices help maintain the overall integrity of the forest.

According to the World Rainforest Movement, the forestry profession as a whole, and the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation FAO in particular, are ill-equipped to offer relevant and appropriate technical assistance to such traditional forest dwellers. WRM points to the profession’s short-sighted vision of forestry as plantation rather than management of standing forest. On 21 March, International Forest Day, WRM launched a global campaign “Educating FAO”

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