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Tribes in Peru to get $0.68/acre for protecting Amazon forest

Indigenous communities in Peru will be paid 5 soles ($1.70) per hectare ($0.68/acre) of preserved forest under a new conservation plan proposed by Peru’s Ministry of Environment, reports the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) in its bi-monthly update.

Antonio Brack, Peru’s Minister of Environment, says the scheme could generate $18.3 million dollars for forest communities, which control some 11 million hectares of forest in the country, beginning in 2010. Brack says money has already been set aside for the program in the 2010 budget.

The $1.70-per-hectare figure is low by international standards, especially given the value of Amazonian land. Under a proposed mechanism that compensates countries for reducing deforestation (REDD), forest land could be worth $800 or more per hectare for its carbon (225 tons of carbon/ha), depending on its level of threat. Forests in areas of high deforestation would be compensated at a higher rate than inaccessible forests at low-risk of development.

Deforestation rates in Peru, 1999-2005. Image by Rhett A. Butler

Nevertheless the program will represent a substantial increase in funding over the $30,000 per year indigenous communities presently receive in direct international support for forest conservation, according to Brack.

The announcement comes less than a month after Japan agreed to loan Peru $120 million to protect 55 million hectares (212,000 square miles) of Amazon rainforest over the next ten years. Brack estimated the initiative would avoid emissions of 20 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions, or more than 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2005.

Peru — home to the fourth largest extent of tropical rainforests after Brazil, Congo, and Indonesia — has historically had one of the lowest annual deforestation rates in the Amazon basin, but forest loss has been increasing in recent years due to illegal logging, mining, agriculture, and expansion of road networks, including the paving of a highway that provides access to a remote and biologically-rich region in southeastern part of the country. In 2005 — the most recent year for which data is available — at least 150,000 hectares of forest was lost, while a similar area was degraded through logging and other activities.

Conflict over land between developers and native communities has been escalating over the past year. Last month the government said it would send in the army to quell discontent among indigenous groups protesting moves to promote energy development. Indigenous groups are angry over the government’s decision to auction vast tracts of the Amazon to oil and gas developers. More than 70 percent of the Peruvian Amazon is now under foreign concession.

Deforestation and land use change accounts for roughly 70 percent of Peru’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC). Spanning a variety of ecosystems, including the dry coastal region, the tropical Amazon, and the high Andes, the country is particularly vulnerable to climate change. The Peruvian government estimates that the country’s glaciers have shrunk by more than 20% in the past 30 years and expects them all to disappear by 2040. The loss of glaciers, which are the source for as much as 50 percent of the water in the upper Amazon, could have a significant impact on agriculture and urban water supplies as well as the Amazon rainforest. Indigenous communities are believed to be especially at risk from climate shifts.

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