The Palm Scribe Content Manager, Bhimanto Suwastoyo, was selected by the UNDP’s Good Growth Governance initiative to visit Peru with other journalists around the world to see how Peru is coping with the growing palm oil. This article is one of a series of reports from him.

LIMA, Peru- As a country with the second largest expanse of Amazon forest after Brazil, Peru has a legal framework that leaves an open door to deforestation, a UN expert on climate change said.

“The most underlined cause of deforestation is that there is a legal framework that is not necessarily aligned with forest conservation,” said James Leslie, a technical advisor on Ecosystem and Climate Change from the United Nations Development Programme addressing journalists taking part in a two-day training organized by the Good Growth Partnership, on Saturday (11/5).

Under the Peruvian legal system, Leslie said, access to land ownership is based on an applicant being able to prove to have occupied a plot of land for some times and of having derived economic benefit from it. This practice, Leslie explained, provides enough reasons for people to deforest land and plant it, in order to gain land titles.

The matter was further compounded by the fact that half of the land in the Amazon is uncategorized and thus are open for the taking. Under Peruvian laws, the forest is state-owned but uncategorized land is considered as “no man’s land”. This, among others, encourages migration from the arid Andes down to the lush Amazon basin.

Official statistics show that Peru has some 73 million hectares of natural forest or 53.9 percent of the Peruvian surface.

The same statistics also show that most of the deforestation taking place is by small increments, leading to the explanation that it is done by small scale subsistence farmers.

Leslie said that under-resourced, rural poor had an incentive to cut down the forest to get a legal occupation of a piece of land, whether for their own use or to sell it to other owners in a land trafficking scheme. Larger landholders acquire big pieces of land that is already cut down by smallholders.

“The root cause (of deforestation) is assigning land rights based on cutting down forests,” he said. Aggravating it further is the fact that there is no clarity as to whom in the broad public apparatus, has the responsibility for the implementation and interpretation of the regulation

In Peru, half of the Glasshouse Gas Emission is said to have come from deforestations and 70 percent of that is related to agriculture or deforestation.

In the case of deforestation, 54 percent is driven by an interest in directly producing in agriculture, while some 40 percent comes from an interest in livestock and another six percent due to gold mines.

Meanwhile, Director of Programs for Peru’s Environmental Investigation Agency, Julia Urrunaga said that although Peru passed a new forest law in 2011 that required land-owners to conduct an environmental impact study and obtain approval from the central and regional government as well as that 30 percent of the land be kept as forest, its implementation has been weak.

“The way the law has been implemented, it is understood as deforest the land and plant it,” Urrunaga said at the same occasion.

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