Overview

Peru

Decades of struggle set the stage for Peru’s Indigenous Peoples to attain legal title to their lands and forests

More than half of Peru’s territory is forest, and the country has made significant progress in legal recognition of 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 have fuelled 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.

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.

The land rights of Indigenous Peoples have not been a political priority, particularly where they clash 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 initiative builds on an innovative partnership between an indigenous federation, NGO, and a regional government, piloted by the Tenure Facility from 2015, in the region of Madre de Dios.

Who are the Indigenous Peoples of Peru?

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.

A visual history of Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ land rights in Peru

1535

The king of Spain claims title to all land in Peru and...

1535

The king of Spain claims title to all land in Peru and grants his representative unlimited authority over native Peruvians.

1825

Peru declares independence from Spain.

1825

Peru declares independence from Spain.

1909

Peru enacts a law transforming into state property all lands...

1909

Peru enacts a law transforming into state property all lands not granted under concessions.

1957

Through Supreme Decree No. 03, Peru creates 114 indigenous...

1957

Through Supreme Decree No. 03, Peru creates 114 indigenous reserves over 155,763 hectares, granting use rights, but the reserves remain state property.

1970s

A boom in gold mining fuels conflicts between Indigenous...

1970s

A boom in gold mining fuels conflicts between Indigenous Peoples and holders of mining rights.

1970s

Peru formalises property rights for 1,200 indigenous...

1970s

Peru formalises property rights for 1,200 indigenous communities in the Amazon covering 11 million hectares and 17% of the national rainforest.

1970s

The government decrees the Law of Native Communities and...

1970s

The government decrees the Law of Native Communities and Agrarian Development in the Lower and Upper Rainforests, revoking Indigenous Peoples’ property rights over forests and natural resources within their territories and granting only use rights.

1982

In response to conflicts over territory and resources, the...

1982

In response to conflicts over territory and resources, the Indigenous Peoples of the Madre de Dios region form the Native Federation of the River Madre de Dios and Tributaries (FENAMAD) to defend their rights.

1985

Indigenous communities in Madre de Dios region clash with...

1985

Indigenous communities in Madre de Dios region clash with invading miners, and a 16-year-old indigenous youth is killed in San José de Karene in 1986

Backed by AIDESEP, FENAMAD demands legislation to resolve mining issues in Indigenous Peoples’ territories.

1993

FENAMAD wins landmark ILO case against gold miner Michael...

1993

FENAMAD wins landmark ILO case against gold miner Michael Dianda

Michael Dianda illegally invades and occupies lands officially recognised by the state as belonging to the San José de Karene community. After a lengthy conflict, FENAMAD takes the case to the International Labour Organisation and the miner is forced to withdraw. The case demonstrates the power of community resistance to invasion by a rich and powerful outsider.

2009

33 die at Bagua when indigenous protesters clash with police...

2009

33 die at Bagua when indigenous protesters clash with police and armed forces

The Peru-US free trade agreement opens the Amazon to private companies. AIDESEP leads opposition to laws that open the Amazon to exploitation and threaten the natural environment. After more than 50 days of protests, the government suspends civil liberties, declares a state of emergency, and sends in the military to stop the protests, leading to violent confrontations. Congress repeals the laws that led to the protests. The violence at Bagua is a turning point in the Indigenous Peoples’ struggle for their collective tenure rights.

2013

Peru delegates responsibility for titling indigenous...

2013

Peru delegates responsibility for titling indigenous communities to regional governments, but progress is slow because the process is complicated, and regional governments lack resources and capacity

2015

FENAMAD and SPDA engage with the Tenure Facility FENAMAD and...

2015

FENAMAD and SPDA engage with the Tenure Facility

FENAMAD and SPDA launch the pilot project “Legal Security for the Indigenous Territories of Madre de Dios and Cusco in Peru” to accelerate tenure security for Indigenous Peoples, defend the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Voluntary Isolation or Initial Contact (PIACVI), resolve land conflicts, and foster good forest management. Decades of struggle by Peru’s Indigenous Peoples to secure their rights, and the support of USAID and other donors and NGOs, set the stage for the project.

2017

Five indigenous communities in Madre de Dios advance...

2017

Five indigenous communities in Madre de Dios advance collective title for their lands covering 64,000 hectares, with training and legal support from FENAMAD.

Puerto Luz is ready for official registration of land title...

Puerto Luz is ready for official registration of land title

Puerto Luz is a community of 113 families, with a population of 450. They are members of the Harakmbut ethnic group. With support from FENAMAD, GOREMAD completes all the fieldwork necessary to update the boundaries of the community’s territory and prepare for official registration.

 

2017

Shiringayoc receives title Shiringayoc is a community of 22...

2017

Shiringayoc receives title

Shiringayoc is a community of 22 families, with a population of 90. They are members of the Matsiguenka tribe from Madre de Dios. Shiringayoc has a forest management plan and operates a model sustainable timber operation, but insecure tenure limits the communities’ ability to negotiate with miners and deal with threats from illegal loggers, hunters, and farmers. With technical support from FENAMAD, GOREMAD defines the boundaries of the Shiringayoc territory. The General Assembly of the community adopts the map, and the government approves. The community receives official collective title to its territory of 11,929 hectares on 6 February 2017 and its people can now protect their land rights and livelihood.

2017

FENAMAD establishes an agreement with the Ministry of...

2017

FENAMAD establishes an agreement with the Ministry of Culture to strengthen a system to defend Indigenous Peoples living in voluntary isolation

Incursions from illegal loggers, miners, drug traffickers, and tourists are pushing Indigenous Peoples living in voluntary isolation in the 800,000-hectare Territorial Reserve in Madre de Dios to the limits of their territories, sometimes forcing them into contact, which can result in fatal epidemics and violence. Forest rangers in indigenous communities are trained to monitor the forest, record contacts, and enact an emergency protocol when needed.

 

 

2017

FENAMAD ensures that governments and private sector can...

2017

FENAMAD ensures that governments and private sector can easily know and respect the boundaries of indigenous territories by launching Peru’s first web-based indigenous map platform

With greater technical capacity for managing the titling process, FENAMAD aims to continue clarifying title in Madre de Dios and share its experience with regions throughout Peru

2018

FENAMAD and SPDA sign agreement to further the development...

2018

FENAMAD and SPDA sign agreement to further the development of Indigenous Peoples in Madre de Dios

Commemorating the 36th anniversary of the establishment of FENAMAD and the visit of Pope Francis to de Dios, the organisations sign a cooperation agreement on 18 January to strengthen FENAMAD’s capacity to support the development and protection of indigenous communities in Madre de Dios.

2018

Achuar people’s victory against Chilean oil company...

2018

Achuar people’s victory against Chilean oil company Geopark sets legal precedent that could support the titling of millions of hectares of Indigenous Peoples’ land.

Judge orders authorities to start titling the Achuar’s collective territory in the Pastaza River basin. This is a huge victory in the fight for indigenous territorial rights in the Peruvian Amazon because the current law only allows for community-by-community titles. Consequently, vast areas of rainforest that Indigenous Peoples use cannot be titled.

2018

Representatives of the Peruvian Society of Environmental Law...

2018

Representatives of the Peruvian Society of Environmental Law and the Ministry of Agriculture sign an agreement with SPDA to work together to formally recognise the land titles of indigenous communities

1438

Incas build the largest empire in the Americas, centred in...

1438

Incas build the largest empire in the Americas, centred in Cuzco and extending over a vast region from Ecuador to Chile, however, their dominance over the Amazon and its peoples is limited

1824

Simón Bolivar decrees that Indigenous Peoples have the...

1824

Simón Bolivar decrees that Indigenous Peoples have the right to own their land.

Photo courtesy of T Rowsell

1893

Peru passes a law promoting settlement of the Amazon by...

1893

Peru passes a law promoting settlement of the Amazon by foreign colonists.

1920

In response to peasant uprisings, Peru approves the...

1920

In response to peasant uprisings, Peru approves the Constitution of 1920, recognising the existence of indigenous communities for the first time and establishing Peru’s first legal provisions to protect indigenous communal lands.

1968

General Juan Velasco Alvarado seizes control of Peru in a...

1968

General Juan Velasco Alvarado seizes control of Peru in a military coup, and the following year approves the Law of Agrarian Reform permitting expropriation of large landholdings and conversion into peasant cooperatives.

1970s

Velasco’s government passes the Law of Native Communities...

1970s

Velasco’s government passes the Law of Native Communities and Agrarian Promotion in the Lowland Forests and Valleys, granting Indigenous Peoples rights that were guaranteed in the constitutional reform of 1920.

1970s

The government recognises the first indigenous communities...

1970s

The government recognises the first indigenous communities in Madre de Dios—Royal Palm and Shintuya.

1979

Indigenous Peoples create the Interethnic Association for...

1979

Indigenous Peoples create the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP)

AIDESEP is a Peruvian national federation of 57 indigenous organisations, representing 1,350 communities and 350,000 people. It is dedicated to protecting indigenous rights and improving the health, education, housing, and organisation of Indigenous Peoples.

1984

The Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon found COICA...

1984

The Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon found COICA (Coordinator of Indigenous Organisations of the Amazon River Basin) to defend their land rights, cultures and the environment.

 

“Our existence is framed in the defence of life and the Amazon to continue as a seed in the earth and preserve the forests for a living planet that will ensure the continuity of our present and future generations.”

 

 

1991

The Government’s proclamation of the Law for the...

1991

The Government’s proclamation of the Law for the Promotion of Investments in the Agricultural Sector leads to the development of a national cadastre of rural landholdings, but fuels the cutting of forests for agriculture

The law is one in a series of measures aimed at liberalizing the economy, reducing the role of the state and promoting neoliberalism.

1993

Peru dismisses two judges and forces a land-grabbing invader...

1993

Peru dismisses two judges and forces a land-grabbing invader to vacate the lands of the indigenous community of Barranco Chico, after FENAMAD brings case to the Supreme Court

2011

Peru passes the Law of Prior Consultation of Indigenous or...

2011

Peru passes the Law of Prior Consultation of Indigenous or Original Peoples, requiring Indigenous Peoples to be consulted before legislation or other actions are taken that could affect their rights

2013

Infierno receives clear title to its communal territory with...

2013

Infierno receives clear title to its communal territory with support from FENAMAD—a first in Madre de Dios.

2017

FENAMAD, SPDA, and GOREMAD pioneer a unique partnership...

2017

FENAMAD, SPDA, and GOREMAD pioneer a unique partnership among an indigenous federation, an NGO, and a regional government that can be scaled to resolve longstanding conflicts over land tenure throughout the country

Madre de Dios is a region of the Peruvian Amazon where the situation is emblematic of much of Peru. In Madre de Dios, seven Indigenous Peoples live in 33 communities, with a total population of about 890 people. More than 50 percent of these communities require legal and physical clarification of their territorial claims before they can secure their title in the public record. The lack of clear rights over their territories puts these communities at a disadvantage when defending themselves against gold mining—a major cause of deforestation. Madre de Dios is also home to Indigenous Peoples in Voluntary Isolation or Initial Contact (PIACVI), whose lives and lands are threatened by incursions from illegal loggers and miners. They have limited immunity to common diseases and contact with the outside world can be fatal.

2017

Boca Pariamanu resolves conflicts and is ready for official...

2017

Boca Pariamanu resolves conflicts and is ready for official registration of title

Boca Pariamanu is a community of 22 families, with a population of 85. They are members of the Arahuaca ethnic group. With the help of FENAMAD, GOREMAD completes the georeferencing of the community’s territory, thus resolving conflicts that evolved from overlapping forest rights and reducing the threat of illegal logging. Boca Pariamanu is ready to officially register the title of its territory. The community has not yet received official collective title. However, with its territorial boundaries clearly defined, it is able to better resolve land conflicts. Resolution of these conflicts needs to be completed before the community receives its title.

2017

Shintuya completes all field requirements to receive title...

2017

Shintuya completes all field requirements to receive title

Shintuya is a community of 65 families, with a population of 250. They are members of the Harakmbut ethnic group from Madre de Dios. With support from FENAMAD, GOREMAD completes all the field requirements for issuing title.

2017

Tipishca georeferences 40% of its territory Tipishca is a...

2017

Tipishca georeferences 40% of its territory

Tipishca is a community of 20 families with a population of 60 people. They belong to the Yine people, also known as Piro. With the support of FENAMAD, the community georeferences 40% of its territorial boundaries. The process is not complete because of an unresolved conflict related to overlapping rights with two proposed forest concessions.

2017

FENAMAD and SPDA expand government awareness of solutions to...

2017

FENAMAD and SPDA expand government awareness of solutions to insecure land tenure in Peru by publishing “A first look: the legal situation of rural land tenure in Peru”

The book by Silvana Baldovino of SPDA, recommends policy and regulatory reforms based on experience titling in Madre de Dios and other regions. SPDA distributes 2000 copies to communities, NGOs and government agencies.

2017

Peru’s judges promise environmental crimes will not go...

2017

Peru’s judges promise environmental crimes will not go unpunished

SPDA promotes the idea of a judicial pact to help stop the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, home to many Indigenous Peoples in Peru. The idea is adopted by Peru’s judiciary, the Catholic Church, indigenous organisations and the Government of Peru. Peru’s judges sign the Pact of Madre de Dios on 30 November, a commitment to respect the right to a healthy environment and a promise that environmental crimes will not go unpunished. The president of the national judiciary calls on private companies to support this cause.

2018

Pope Francis calls for the defence of the Indigenous Peoples...

2018

Pope Francis calls for the defence of the Indigenous Peoples and the environment of the Amazon.

Thousands of Indigenous People from the Peruvian Amazon, Brazil and Bolivia gather in Puerto Maldonado, capital of the region of Madre de Dios, for Pope Francis’ visit on 19 January. FENAMAD President Julio Cusurichi gives Pope Francis a document containing the demands of the Amazonian Indigenous Peoples. Pope Francis says native Amazonian peoples have probably never been so threatened on their own lands as they are at present. He highlights the large-scale economic interests that direct their greed towards oil, gas, timber, gold, agro-industrial mono-cultivation. He says indigenous territories are threatened by the perversion of certain policies that promote the preservation of nature without taking into account the Indigenous Peoples who live there. The Pope promises that he and the Catholic Church will offer them “a whole-hearted option for the defence of life, the defence of the earth and the defence of cultures.”

2018

SPDA scales up innovative partnership to build capacity of...

2018

SPDA scales up innovative partnership to build capacity of national and regional governments to title the lands and forests of indigenous communities

Funded by the Tenure Facility, the new project involves three national government ministries, two regional governments, and several federations of indigenous organizations. They include the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP), Native Federation of Madre de Dios (FENAMAD) and the federations of indigenous communities in Loreto, the largest region in the Peruvian Amazon. 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.