In Peru, we’re proud of our cultural heritage and world-famous cuisine. But alongside Machu Picchu and ceviche, nature is right up there as part of our national identity. From the Pacific coast to the Andes to the Amazon, we’re blessed with an amazing natural heritage, much of which remains unspoilt.
After Brazil, Peru holds the second largest area of the Amazon rainforest. We rank number one in the world for our variety of butterflies and freshwater fish, second for birds, fourth for amphibians and fifth for mammals and reptiles. The whole planet benefits from the vast amount of carbon stored within the Peruvian Amazon, and its ecosystems help guard against both droughts and floods, which appear to be intensifying in Peru as result of climate change.
But we need to look after these natural treasures. As the economy expands, our nature is coming under increasing pressure. We’re losing more than 150,000 hectares of forest every year to agriculture, and (often illegal) gold mining and logging, and the roads built to reach these developments. Deforestation also accounts for half of Peru’s greenhouse gas emissions.
One important way of conserving nature and benefiting people who depend upon them is through protected areas like national parks. For every $1 invested in the effective management of natural resources in protected areas, we get $100 worth of value in benefits for people — in the form of clean water, food, natural medicines and more. Peru has a good network of 76 protected areas. Half of these are in the Amazon. But for protected areas to really be effective, they need to be well managed and properly funded over the long term.
While there’s been increased government support over the last decade, there remains a large gap between current spending levels and the funding actually needed for an effective protected area network — from the costs of staffing and equipment, to infrastructure, wildlife monitoring and engaging local communities.
But a solution is in sight in the shape of Patrimonio Natural del Peru (PdP), known in English as “National Parks: Peru’s Natural Legacy.” This innovative public-private partnership led by the Peruvian government aims to provide funding to ensure the long-term stability of the country’s protected areas, using a mechanism called Project Finance for Permanence. WWF is one of several partners involved.
It works like this. Together, the partners agree on a long-term vision and plan for managing the whole protected area network, and work out how much it will all cost. Donors from the public and private sector, including international development agencies, foundations and businesses, contribute funds to cover the shortfall, on the condition that after an agreed period of time, the country’s government will take on all the costs itself. It’s an approach that’s being used successfully in a growing number of countries — WWF has previously helped set up similar programmes in Brazil and Bhutan.
This month, the PdP project celebrated a major milestone — a commitment of US$140 million in funding from international donors and the Peruvian government, to strengthen and expand Peru’s protected areas network, starting in the Amazon.
This is a huge cause for celebration. It means we can pursue a unified, integrated vision for Peru’s protected areas for the long term with agreed plans and priorities. Rather than funding being insufficient and piecemeal, guaranteed revenue streams will be available where they are needed. This will allow us to build a stable structure and a strong system for conserving Peru’s natural heritage.
Better management of our protected areas will also bring greater benefits for people living in or near them. One of the PdP conditions is that all protected areas should have a management committee that represents local communities and other stakeholders. A long-term aim is to create more opportunities for local people to benefit from the sustainable use of natural resources, including nature tourism.
It’s my hope that PdP will lead to a greater appreciation of the importance of our protected areas. I would love to see more Peruvians as well as international travellers visiting protected areas in the Amazon. And for a country that cares passionately about food, we should remember how many of our fish, fruits, nuts and wild crops originate from protected areas — we need them to continue to produce the flavours we love and that are unique worldwide.
And this is a milestone not just for Peru but for the whole Amazon. PdP follows in the footsteps of the ARPA for Life programme, which secured US$215 million for 60 million hectares of protected areas across the Brazilian Amazon. And WWF is currently partnering in a similar effort in Colombia, where the next largest area of Amazon rainforest is found.
Combined, ARPA, PdP and Heritage Colombia will ensure permanent protection of around 12 per cent of the whole Amazon biome. That’s something we can all be proud of.