Fundamental to conservation activities at our projects is efficient and effective control and surveillance of at-risk forest areas. Teams on the ground guarding threatened habitats are crucial to preventing forest loss and degradation. Meaning ‘forest and development’ in the local native language, the Nii Kaniti project in central Peru was specifically set up to prevent and mitigate deforestation through scaling up sustainable community forest management with seven indigenous communities. The project is protecting 127,000 hectares of threatened forest on the edge of the Amazon rainforest by integrating conservation activities that put a value on indigenous-led development. Underpinning all of this is a structured control and surveillance system to ensure the success of the project’s activities.
And it’s highly important. This region is threatened by land invasions for ‘slash and burn’ agriculture and land grabbing, illegal use of forest resources, and low-productivity agriculture which is driving rapid deforestation and forest degradation in the region. Today, the project area continues to face threats on community lands.
To develop a coherent system, the project’s implementation partner, local Peruvian NGO AIDER, has worked with each of the seven indigenous communities involved in the project to set up individual, community-led Control and Surveillance Committees. These committees, elected every two years by a general assembly, outline a surveillance plan with AIDER at the beginning of each year to identify patrols. These patrols occur once a month, ranging from 1 to 20 days, and utilise tools such as Google Earth Engine and community reports to seek out suspected at-risk areas to patrol. If any deforestation activity is discovered, a detailed report is filed with AIDER who reviews, advises, and contacts lawyers if necessary. The community chief then reports any illegal activities to the FEMA, Peru’s Prosecutors Office for Environmental Matters.
This system is clear and structured, and communities are hugely committed to the process. Members of the Control and Surveillance Committees feel proud to be guardians of the forest and are passionate about protecting community land. Despite complicated community and national-level dynamics, continued support from AIDER in the form of proper equipment, resources and support is enabling these committees to protect their native lands from external threats. Climate finance to Nii Kaniti is untangling a framework of deep-rooted, systemic environmental degradation, and gradually and persistently overcoming the barriers to conservation through community-led initiatives that will influence generations to come.