Decades of struggle by Peru’s Indigenous Peoples set the stage to attain legal title to their lands and forests
Peru has made significant progress in recognizing in law the land and forest rights of Indigenous Peoples—but limited progress titling collective rights on the ground. Indigenous communities have insecure land tenure and their lands and forests are threatened by tourism, mining, illegal logging, and infrastructure projects. These threats fuel decades of violent conflict.
More than 20 million hectares of the Peruvian Amazon claimed by Indigenous Peoples remain untitled, says the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP). The government is not meeting its legal obligations to recognize new territorial and communal reserves, title indigenous territories at the village level, and complete the demarcation and cadastral updating of more than 1,000 native communities.
The lack of clear rights over their territories puts indigenous communities at risk of losing the lands that sustain them, and weakens their position when contending with illegal logging and other threats to their lands. It also increases the risk of deforestation and the loss of their forests, which provide vital carbon storage and are key to combatting climate change.
Fifty-seven percent of Peru’s territory is forest, and much of that land is indigenous territory. 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 leads to an immediate and significant reduction in deforestation. Titling indigenous territories represents a tremendous opportunity to contribute to the fight against climate change. Securing tenure will also reduce the conflicts that have plagued Peru and set the stage for sustainable and equitable development. 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 within regional government institutions, indigenous organizations, and communities is also an obstacle to progress.
The Peruvian Society for Environmental Law (SPDA) is working with two national government ministries, two regional governments, and several federations of indigenous organizations to advance tenure security for Indigenous Peoples and local communities in Peru. The goal is to support national and regional governments as they build their capacity to fulfil their obligations to title the territories of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. The initiative will contribute to the success of about US$80-million in ongoing donor-funded projects as well as national programs that aim to secure title in the threatened Amazonian regions of Loreto and Madre de Dios, and other regions of Peru. Over two years, the partners aim to directly secure 200,000 hectares in the regions of Loreto and Madre de Dios, and by leveraging ongoing donor investments, advance tenure security over five million hectares nationally. This will benefit more than 500 communities, enabling them to move forward with economic development initiatives, to protect and manage their forests, and contribute to mitigating climate change. The initiative builds on an innovative partnership between an indigenous federation, NGO, and a regional government, piloted by the Tenure Facility from 2015 to 2015 in the region of Madre de Dios.
Who are the Indigenous Peoples of Peru
According to the 2007 census, Peru has 28.2 million inhabitants. The indigenous population accounts for 14% of the national population, meaning there are more than 4 million indigenous persons in Peru divided between some 55 peoples: 83.11% are Quechua, 10.92% Aymara and 1.67% Asháninka, with other Amazonian indigenous peoples making up the final 4.31%. This remaining 4.31% comprises 51 or more different ethnic groups living in the Amazon forest across 1,786 communities. Peru is home to a large variety of ecosystems and a great wealth of natural resources. Currently, however, 21% of the national territory is covered by mining concessions, and these overlap with 47.8% of the territory of peasant communities. Hydrocarbon concessions cover some 75% of the Peruvian Amazon. This overlapping of rights to communal territories, the enormous pressure being exerted by the extractive industries, the lack of territorial cohesion and absence of effective prior consultation are all exacerbating territorial and socioenvironmental conflicts in Peru, a country which has signed and ratified ILO Convention No 169 and which voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007. (iwgia.org)