Peru has made significant progress in recognizing the land and forest rights of Indigenous Peoples through laws—but limited progress implementing the titling of collective rights on the ground. Throughout Peru, indigenous communities have insecure land tenure and their lands and forests are threatened by tourism, mining, illegal logging, and infrastructure projects. These threats have resulted in decades of violent conflict.
About 49% of Peru, roughly 600,000 square kilometers, is under collective tenure where tenure rights are exercised by Indigenous Peoples and local communities in their ancestral domains. About 38% of these communities do not have clear title. An estimated 3,379 rural communities and 644 indigenous communities are at risk of losing the lands that sustain them, and in weak positions when addressing illegal logging and other threats to their lands.
Fifty-seven percent of Peru’s territory is forest, and much of that land is indigenous territory. According to the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP), more than 20 million hectares of the Peruvian Amazon claimed by Indigenous Peoples remain untitled. Lack of clear title increases the risk of deforestation and the loss of their forests, which provide vital carbon storage and are key to combatting climate change. Indigenous Peoples and local communities are the proven best stewards of the Amazon rainforest. Peer-reviewed research shows that titling community lands in the Peruvian Amazon led to an immediate and significant reduction in deforestation.
In addition to contributing to the fight against climate change, securing tenure will also reduce the conflicts that have plagued Peru and set the stage for Indigenous Peoples and local communities to lead their sustainable and equitable development. However, there are longstanding challenges to overcome. The land rights of Indigenous Peoples have not been a political priority, particularly where they collide with expansion plans for tourism, extractive industries, and infrastructure. Lack of capacity and resources within regional government institutions, indigenous organizations, and communities is also an obstacle to progress.
Decades of struggle by Peru’s Indigenous Peoples to secure their rights, and the support of USAID, other donors and many NGOs, have set the stage for advancement. Currently, donor-funded projects for titling the lands of indigenous and local communities total about US$80 million. This investment, coupled with the interest of government organizations, represents a tremendous opportunity to disseminate and replicate on a larger scale experiences, methodologies and tools for securing land rights in Peru.
The Tenure Facility’s pilot project in Peru, completed in 2017, capitalized on this opportunity by testing a unique partnership between an Indigenous Peoples’ federation, an NGO and a regional government to resolve insecure tenure rights. The project involved the Native Federation of the River Madre de Dios and Tributaries (FENAMAD), the Peruvian Environmental Law Society (SPDA), and the Madre de Dios Regional Government (GOREMAD). In just 18 months, the partners advanced titles for five indigenous communities covering 64,000 hectares and signed an agreement with the Ministry of Culture that includes measures to strengthen systems for protecting Indigenous Peoples living in voluntary isolation in the Madre de Dios Territorial Reserve, which covers more than 800,000 hectares.
In 2018, SPDA began upscaling the approaches tested in the pilot, moving beyond Madre de Dios to work with the Loreto regional government, the largest region in the Peruvian Amazon. As in Madre de Dios, the indigenous communities of Loreto have insecure land tenure and their lands and forests are threatened by tourism, mining, oil production, illegal logging, and infrastructure projects. In both regions, some communities have been granted title without the necessary geo-referencing, which determines the geographic coordinates of indigenous territories; others have georeferenced titles, but they are not yet inscribed in the public record; while others have incomplete or defective titles. Until titles are geo-referenced and recorded in the national register, they remain insecure and communities remain vulnerable to land grabs in the name of industry or conservation.
To learn more about Tenure Facility initiatives in Peru, see the project portfolios below, and visit the Peru timeline.