Home and Hearth
At ground level, indigenous communities throughout the Madre de Dios region and the rest of the Amazon are taking a customized approach to a global initiative called "Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation," or REDD+. The "+" expands the program's scope to include conservation and sustainable management of forests, as well as an increase in the forests' carbon storage capacity.
Fermín Chimatani Tayori, the Puerto Luz resident who is leading his community's REDD+ effort and serves as president of the Amarakaeri reserve, sits on a porch as the rain points on the corrugated metal roofs of the village. Residents of the village were concerned about some elements of the standard REDD+ approach, he says, even as they agreed with its overall goal. So, in a joint effort with indigenous groups throughout the Amazon, they designed and proposed a new twist on it called Amazon Indigenous REDD+.
Jorge Tayori Kendero, vice president of the Puerto Luz community, wears a traditional headdress for his meeting with WWF.
All REDD+ programs require the monitoring and measuring of carbon emissions from changes in the forest, in part so that progress can be compensated financially, but also to learn what conservation strategies are most effective. Indigenous communities in the Amazon take this one step further, as they also want to monitor and measure what is most important to them—things like changes in biodiversity and the spiritual elements of nature. Their approach to doing so is spelled out in a "life plan," which provides conservation planning (as is required by REDD+) and more, such as how to manage tourism and the logging undertaken for subsistence reasons.
Their REDD+ activities also place particular emphasis on securing land rights and tenure. It's a necessary addition: land rights, or the lack thereof, is a pervasive issue in the Peruvian Amazon, where the management and ownership of large swaths of territory are unclear at best. In Peru, indigenous communities have the legal right to manage approximately 27 million acres, which represents almost 16% of the country's forested land. But they are managing another 24 million acres of forest land, too, even though it is technically unclear is they have the right to do so. They have formally asked the Peruvian government for legal authority to manage that land and are awaiting a response.
Most forest land in Peru is owned by the national government, which grants permission—often in the form of concessions—to applicants for temporary harvest of certain tracts of land. But indigenous communities, like the one where Tayori lives, want the land to be recognized as their own, permanently, in acknowledgment of their long-term use and stewardship.
"It's our own proposal to show that we indigenous people are preserving the land," Tayori says as the downpour grows stronger. "Its' not just carbon-related. It included preserving clean water, wildlife, everything that lives in the forest. It also makes it clear to the world that we, this community, own this land."
He explains that his village and other indigenous communities are motivated to do everything they can to keep their trees standing and their forests thriving. The World Bank's Forest Investment Program has dedicated US $50 million to Peru's indigenous communities, and the funding they receive for reducing carbon emissions is used to create and implement those life plans. WWF, a longtime advocate for indigenous rights, is responsible for administering these grants.