In Peru, the current deforestation rate is approximately 261,000 ha per year – that’s 3.5 Singapore’s every year! – and illegal logging is a significant factor. But, the country, and its people, need to utilize the Amazon’s resources to develop, so leaving it untouched is not an option for those who rely on it for their livelihoods. The surprising solution may seem contradictory, but there is a way that meets the needs of Peru’s population without compromising the needs of future generations – and, yes, it involves cutting down more trees.
Peru is one of the ten most biologically diverse countries on earth, with thousands of species of amphibians, birds, mammals, reptiles, and exotic plant life–many of these species are seen nowhere else on earth.
“As a young boy, I remember running around in the forest, wide-eyed and curious to know everything about every creature,” says Nelson Kroll, a Peruvian Forest Manager. “At the university, I wanted to continue learning about them, including the elusive ‘Aguila come monos’ (a nickname given to the harpy eagle for its notorious prowess at hunting small monkeys).”
Nelson knows Peru’s natural treasures face substantial threats – and that a number of species are teetering on the verge of extinction.
Nelson graduated with a degree in forest management from the University of Pucallpa in 2001. As he explains, “I realized I could do a lot more good for the animals that way.”
Today this tall, slender forester oversees the private forestry company, MADERACRE, in Peru operating on 140,000 hectares of FSC-certified forest. The boy who grew up fascinated with jungle animals has been advising the company for 12 years.
Victor Solano – a veteran forester among the team – emerges from a massive machine called a ‘Skidder’, dressed in an orange uniform, white helmet, and safety glasses. A forest engineer by training, Victor manages the extraction team. With over 20 years working in forestry, and 15 years of working in certified forest companies, Victor has plenty of stories to tell of Peru’s darker days before FSC.
“We used to come into a forest, take what we needed, and go. There was no long-term thinking; no 20-year plan like there is now (a requirement of FSC forest management certification).
We don’t do that now. You need to have a plan – its important,” Victor stresses in a cool and slow voice.
This is the future of monitoring forests for better decision-making.
“And it doesn’t just benefit the forest,” Nelson chimes in, “healthy forests are a healthy investment for people.”
Victor agrees: “We have rights as workers, we have opportunities to learn. We don’t come here just to work, you can learn new skills and discipline.”
Everyone takes ownership and responsibility for their duties. Each worker feels that they’re important to the operation. Whether it’s a junior forest worker assigned to gather information and marking trees for harvest, or a seasoned worker learning how to drive the gargantuan Skeeder, or a veteran taking on the role of mentor, it is clear that every member of the group understands the importance of their role within the forest management team, and, importantly, that they’re contributing to the well-being of the forest.
“You see that bird up there?” Nelson points towards the sky. He’s quick to identify it as a swallow-tailed kite. “You’re very lucky to see it, they’re a rare sighting around the Amazon these days. But we still see them in our forests.”
When we teach the tools of responsible forest management to the curious children of the Amazon, we ensure its future is in good hands. As Victor says, “you to have a plan – it’s important”.
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