A few years ago, the Peruvian government launched a program to protect the rainforest. However, an analysis by the Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn shows that its effect is small. But the researchers also have good news: Three measures could probably significantly increase effectiveness. The study is now published in the Journal Environmental Research Letters.

In their publication the scientists analyze the “National Forest Conservation Program” (NFCP). It was launched by the Peruvian government in 2010 to curb the deforestation of the rainforest. The program is aimed at indigenous communities in the Amazon region. It is mainly funded from public Peruvian sources and by international donors.

Communities that succeed in effectively curbing deforestation on their territory and establishing sustainable production systems receive a compensation payment: the equivalent of three dollars per year and per hectare of forest. They also receive technical assistance to implement the sustainable production systems. “We have investigated the extent to which the program has successfully contributed to forest conservation,” explains Renzo Giudice. The Peruvian is a PhD candidate and researcher at the ZEF with a DAAD scholarship. His doctoral thesis is supervised by Prof. Dr. Jan Börner, whose working group investigates the economic aspects of sustainable land use.

Giudice has studied the development of forest cover in 50 indigenous communities participating in the program. For comparison, he used 50 other communities that had not enrolled in the NFCP, but were otherwise very similar to those of the first group. “We were able to prove that the loss of forest among NFCP participants was somewhat lower,” he states as a central outcome. “However, this difference was very small.”

Why was this? Giudice and his colleagues cite two main reasons for this: On the one hand, communities themselves could decide which part of their land they designated as a protected area. “They often chose the strategy that made the most economic sense,” explains the scientist: “Particularly areas that are already hardly threatened by deforestation were declared protection zones.” These are areas that are unsuitable or inaccessible for agriculture.

Read more at University of Bonn