Indigenous organizations and international human rights activists say Peru is failing to protect the rights of indigenous people in its Amazon rainforest, putting at risk the individuals and the carbon stored in their lands.
The report, produced by Peru’s national indigenous group, Aidesep ,and the UK-based Forest Peoples Programme, said the Peruvian government has ignored the “real drivers of deforestation” in its vast Amazonian region, home to some of the most biologically diverse spots on earth.
The report was released as Peru is hosting COP20, the United Nations-organized climate talks aimed at creating a rough draft for a global agreement next year in Paris. The talks are seen as key to advancing a deal aimed at curbing greenhouse emissions that are causing global warming.
The authors of the report, released by email, said the government has put too high of a burden on deforestation on Andean migrants who have pushed into the jungle region in recent decades, often in search of better-paying jobs.
Instead, it says, the real culprit of the deforestation is decades of road construction and “explicit colonization programs on the part of the government.”
“These schemes actively promoted immigration and were aimed at the economic integration and agricultural development of the Amazon,” the study said.
It says that an estimated 75% of deforestation in Peru occurs within 20 kilometers of a road.
Authors of the report say that indigenous people who protect their land from illegal miners and loggers are being disregarded, or at worst, undermined.
Earlier this year, four indigenous leaders from an Ashaninka community near Peru’s border with Brazil were killed, for defending their land from illegal loggers. The community’s leading activist, Edwin Chota, had led demands for land titling and protection and had visited government offices in Lima several times, but with no success.
“The government closed its eyes and became deaf, blind and dumb. Only when they were dead did it start to take action, said Marcial Madurra, the president of the Corpi indigenous organization in San Lorenzo.
The report said that an estimated 20% of the deforestation in Peru last year was due to illegal gold mining in Madre de Dios region, located in the south-east, as well as large commercial oil palm developments in Loreto and Ucayali.
Oil palm crops are expected to see big growth, with about 100,000 hectares of forest in Loreto, located in the north-east, requested for development, the study says.
“Despite this huge expansion, oil palm is not discussed much in these debates about deforestation,” said Alberto Pizango, President of AIDESEP. “It is invisible.”
The report says the government should resolve territorial demands from indigenous groups, provide legal and financial support for them to determine their own development paths, and implement planning mechanisms to “ensure economic interests do not trump all other considerations.”