How tenure rights affect forest management in the Peruvian Amazon

This project analyses how de jure (i.e. government issued land titles) and de facto (i.e. customary rights) tenure affect forest management and conservation in communities in the Peruvian Amazon.

The regularisation of forest communities´ land and forest rights is generally a key element in REDD+, conservation, and livelihood projects and policies in tropical forests. This practice is based on the common belief that communities are able to invest in sustainable management or conservation of their forests only when they have secure tenure rights over these. Without such secure rights, there is the risk that third parties, instead of the community members, will benefit from the investments (i.e. through stealing the resources or taking over the land). This risk is assumed to be too big for the investment to be worth its while. In the international policy arena, secure tenure rights are often equated with formal or de jure property rights, such a communal land title. This leads to a somewhat limited but common approach, in which large scale REDD+, conservation and livelihood initiatives focus almost exclusively on land titling, a rather expensive and time-consuming activity, in the first phase of implementation. The body of literature which focuses on how formal property rights contribute to REDD+, conservation and livelihood objectives show mixed results. An increasing number of scholars argue that equating secure tenure rights with de jure rights is not an ideal approach, as they consider that perceived tenure security, instead of formal property rights, influences communities´ decisions on how to use and manage their forests. This is the case when community members consider tenure security from de facto rights as stronger than from de jure rights, especially when the private institutions (i.e. traditional leaders, customary methods) which enforce de facto rights are strong. In most remote areas, government enforcement mechanisms related to formal land rights tend to be weak.

The project will include the following publications:
The viability of ‘communal land titles’ for community REDD+ in Peru´s peatlands
This paper will analyse the viability of ´communal land titles´ as a policy tool for community REDD+ projects, especially in peatlands. The investigation, which uses a quasi-experimental approach comparing titled and non-titled communities, focuses on two key characteristics of communal land titles: ´the carbon stored in community forests’ and the ´rights of communities regarding their forest resources´. The research area for this paper is Datem del Marañon province, located in the Pastaza-Marañon river basin in the northern Peruvian Amazon. This river basin is part of the most extensive peatlands and most carbon-dense landscape in the Amazon. It is a remote area, largely inhabited by native tribes and mestizo communities, where 95% of the forest is still standing and the threat of destruction from direct human impacts is relatively low.

The local reality of tenure in forest communities
This paper will describe how forest communities react to externally introduced formal, semi-formal, and informal tenure arrangements (e.g. communal land titles, permits for forest resource extraction, local conservation area,) and how these do, or do not, influence the local rules agreed upon in the community regarding land and forest use and management. Based on a multivariate analysis of data from 60 native and mestizo communities in Datem del Marañon province in the northern Peruvian Amazon, we find that the relationship between introduced tenure arrangements and community forest management rules is not direct. Instead, the introduced tenure arrangements become part of the existing reality in communities, including its local dynamics and traditions, power-relations, and economic and other interests. Communities tend to adapt the introduced rules to fit with these traditions and interests, which all together define their rules regarding the use of land and forest resources.

´Good enough´ tenure arrangements in community REDD+ and conservation initiatives
This paper identifies ´good enough´ or ´strong enough´ tenure arrangements as a basis for community REDD+ and conservation projects, and evaluates their viability. Based on twelve small case studies in the San Martin and Loreto region in the Peruvian Amazon, the paper shows that such arrangements generally appear where communities protect their forests, but are not linked to large REDD+ or conservation projects. In those cases, communities tend to rely on existing and/or affordable tenure arrangements that they consider solid enough. These arrangements are based on existing realities in the communities, including unique traditions, norms, values, and economic and other interests. They range from completely informal to completely formal, and include simple agreements within and between communities, co-managed municipal conservation areas, conservation concessions, private conservation areas, and conservation agreements. The paper applies a Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) to conduct some cross-systematic comparison. It shows communities with a combination of (1) strong local management arrangements in the community and (2) either strong perceived tenure security or formal tenure arrangements tend to be successful in their conservation or sustainable forest management initiatives.

Municipal conservation areas as an example of multi-level bricolage
In Peru, to date more than seventy Municipal Conservation Areas (MCAs) exist, and new ones are constantly created. At the same time, the legal status of MCAs is rather unclear. MCAs are mentioned in the Organic Municipalities Law, but no formal rules exist regarding which authority creates and manages such areas. Yet, these conservation areas have shown to have social and political value, as they are supported by the local population and government. A well-known example is the Cerro Quilich in Cajamarca, in the northern Peruvian Andes. This MCA, which was created in 2000, harbors important water sources used by the population of Cajamarca. It is, however, also under a mining concession. In 2003, the Constitutional Court ruled that the mining company could explore and exploit the area after conducting an environmental impact assessment, even though there was an MCA. This lead to protests of between sixty and seventy thousand citizens that requested the intangibility of the Cerro Quilich. This pressure, in the end, resulted in a resolution that obliged the mining company to cede its work. This paper describes how MCAs and the interpretation of legislation on MCAs in Peru is being ‘bricolaged’ by different actors at different levels (national, communal, community) to fit a variety of different purposes.