Peru

An image of the country's flag.

Peru’s almost 31 million inhabitants benefit from the country‘s exceptional biodiversity and abundance of natural resources. However, these are threatened by land degradation, deforestation, water pollution and weaknesses in the management of Peru‘s forests, minerals and water. Furthermore, although Peru‘s formal laws recognize the autonomy and rights of the country‘s indigenous and peasant communities, there are still land titling and disputes issues, and these groups have the highest rates of poverty in the country. In recent years, programs to develop cadastres1 and provide titles for rural and urban land resulted in roughly half the land being titled; this includes formalization of informal rights in urban and peri-urban areas. However, while women have received an increasing share of rights to agricultural land, they often participate very little in community governance decisions about land and other natural resources.

In spite of Peru‘s substantial water resources overall, the populated desert coast experiences chronic water shortages. Irrigation has been a determining factor in increasing food security, growth of agricultural productivity, and human development in rural areas of the country. 60 percent of Peru’s land mass (73.3 million hectares) is covered by forests. Deforestation, at a rate of 0.2 percent per year, is the primary source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the country (MINAM, 2011). Land conflicts are common in Peru, with the most visible arising from exploitation of minerals and timber. The formal system of dispute resolution is not considered accessible by most of the population, especially the rural poor.

GDP growth is rebounding after a regional downturn in 2014. World Bank Forecasts indicate this trend will continue. Nonetheless, problems with inequality persist. Nationwide, the rates of total and extreme poverty were 21,77 percent and 4,1 percent (2015 data according to the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (Spanish acronym INEI). The rate of poverty in rural areas is almost triple the rate in urban areas (37,9 and 13,9, respectively), with the most extreme poverty found in remote rural areas among indigenous Peruvians.

KEY ISSUES AND INTERVENTION CONSTRAINTS

  • Strengthen formal and informal land-dispute resolution systems. As Peru continues its programs to title land, and with pressure to develop natural resources (especially in the mining sector), tenure security will depend in part on the strength of its dispute resolution institutions. Accessibility continues to be a problem for Peru‘s formal judicial system. The country‘s informal systems have greater social legitimacy but lack formal authority and may not reflect the equitable principles of formal law. Donors could assist the government in strengthening both formal and informal institutions and creating a single, integrated framework to support the efficient and effective enforcement of land rights.
  • Support the forest sector and combat deforestation. USAID‘s support for Peru‘s forest sector has provided concrete assistance to the National Agricultural Innovation Institute (Spanish acronym INIA), the National Forest and Wildlife Service (Spanish acronym SERFOR), forest communities, and concession holders. Forestland presents unique tenure issues, including competing claims to land and forest resources asserted by various interests. The continued decentralization of forest resource management is likely to require continued technical assistance and support for participatory processes that include local communities in mapping forest rights, establishing concessions, and decision making. Supporting forest governance is essential to fight deforestation as illegal logging accounts for 80 percent of the country’s forest loss. The WWF has listed the Amazon as one of the world’s top deforestation fronts. The region is also threatened by illegal gold mining which is exemplified by the invasion of the Tambopata National Reserve, an important protected area in the southern Peruvian Amazon (department of Madre de Dios). USAID and other donors could continue their technical assistance and support to local communities in managing forest resources, and could review achievements to date and lessons learned in order to inform continued and expanded support for this sector.
  • Bolster free, prior and informed consent for resource exploitation in indigenous areas, and provision of communal titles. Recognition and protection of the use rights of peasant communities and indigenous people vis-à-vis conflicting legally or illegally acquired use or exploitation rights and other types of occupations. Considering there are several thousand peasant and indigenous communities in Peru, it is necessary to understand and strengthen their community and individual rights and clarify their land titles. Encouraging their inclusion in the discussion of public policy is important and could be supported by donor programs.
  • Improve women’s rights to, and control over, land and natural resources. The Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Gender and Land Rights Database (GLRD) shows a number of fundamental barriers that prevent women from securing their rights to land and natural resources in Peru. Strengthening women’s land rights has been shown to have far reaching effects as women devote more of their income to family welfare with repercussions in childhood mortality rates, nutrition, education, and human capital development. Donors could engage the government and NGOs in raising awareness about the importance of women’s land rights and women’s participation in community-level resource governance.
  • Strengthen environmental and social protections in the mining sector (including oil and gas exploration). Increasing resource extraction, especially in the mining sector, has produced tensions over the control of, and benefits related to, resources tied to land. Environmental and social safeguards have not always been respected and complacency in the public sector has generated local- level conflicts between the government and its citizens. Donors could promote best practices related to community consultation, participatory mapping and benefit sharing with the extractive industries. In the gold mining sector, the Better Gold Initiative (BGI) could be considered in future support activities of donors; and for hydrocarbon extractives, there are well established best practices in this sector, such as those realized in Loreto, Peru, one of the largest and most dynamic hydrocarbon zones in the Amazon (Finer, 2013). Also, donors could align work with strategies such as REDD+ and the Government of Canada’s project on sustainable extraction, to assess, improve and monitor environmental and social conditions related to artisanal-scale, medium-scale and large-scale mining.

SUMMARY

Peru is one of the world‘s most biodiverse countries, including in its territory portions of the Andes mountains and the Amazon rainforest, as well as coastal plains. The land provides a wealth of natural resources, including diverse forest products, a variety of minerals, and abundant water. Peru‘s formal laws recognize the autonomy and rights of the country‘s indigenous and peasant communities, which have the highest rates of poverty in the country. However, rural communities struggle to retain control of the land and natural resources that they depend on for their livelihoods. Peru is distinguished by its long-term efforts at agrarian reform. In the 1970s the government acquired and redistributed a substantial portion of the country‘s agricultural land to landless and land-poor agricultural families.

Beginning in the 1990s, the country undertook programs to develop cadastres and provide titles for rural and urban land. Roughly half the country’s land was titled as of 2007, and informal land rights in urban and peri-urban areas are being formalized. A consolidated program plans to expand into more remote rural areas. Women have received an increasing share of rights to agricultural land over the last decades, but they often continue to lack the power to manage and control land and natural resources.

Peru‘s natural resources are endangered by land degradation, deforestation, and water pollution. Most of the country‘s substantial water resources are located in the forest and mountain areas, which have low population densities. The populated coastal plains have chronic water shortages and are susceptible to El Niño floods. In 2009, the government enacted a new water law that was designed to integrate the water sector, decentralize management of water resources to the river basin level, and provide for participatory community
management of these resources.

More than half of Peru‘s land mass is covered by forest. The government has been decentralizing the management of forestland, driving the need for capacity-building and institutional strengthening at local levels. Peru has a substantial and growing mineral, oil and gas sector, which accounts for almost half of all export earnings. Subsurface claims to mineral rights extend over 20 percent of the country‘s land, and increased extraction has threatened both human and environmental health in mining communities. Land conflicts are common in Peru, with the most visible arising from exploitation of valuable minerals and timber. The formal system of dispute resolution is not considered accessible by most of the population, especially the rural poor.

Published / Updated: October 2016