Facilitating natural production techniques in Peru
The San Martin region of Peru has the highest rate of population growth and deforestation in the country as a result of migration to the region from other areas of Peru generated by the construction of the jungle-bound access road in 1973 and pro-migration policies of the Peruvian government. Practical Action is working within this region in the provinces of Rioja and Moyobamba, together known as the Alto Mayo region. Alto Mayo has a total surface area of 770,000Ha, of which 75% is forest or protected forest. 140,000 Ha of this land is home to indigenous Awajún communities.
There are conflicts between indigenous Awajún and migrant settlers who have taken control of the land, either through direct invasion or by renting the land. Agricultural practices in the region have seen large tracts of forest cut down and crops planted that result in soil erosion. This degradation of natural resources threatens the food security of Awajun communities, who depend on the forest for their survival. In addition, the agricultural practices by the settler community also increases the vulnerability of this community as current techniques result in the destruction and abandonment of land and crop production that decreases soil fertility and results in low yields. Both communities are exposed to higher occurrences of disasters due to natural threats and pollution of their water sources. With increasing vulnerability and competition over resources there are increasing conflicts over land between the indigenous community and settlers.
Practical Action has been working with 14 Awajun communities in the Alto Mayo region with a total population of 4,559 as well as 2,600 settlers around the area. The project has promoted a comprehensive strategy to reduce conflict and result in a more equitable and sustainable system for the access to and use of the land with the effective participation of Awajun and settler communities. The project also facilitates better implementation of technologies for the utilization and recovery of forests increasing the productivity of the communities through increased seed production of food plants indigenous to the Amazon and planting of natives trees in coffee farms. Practical Action has also been involved in training the community in better agricultural techniques, this has included training three community extensionists in techniques of reforestation through a multi strata approach, replanting coffee and other local trees whereby it improves soil quality and prevents erosion. Natural cropping techniques have also been supported so there are no agro-chemicals used and intercropping is used to prevent pests. In addition small livestock raising and fish production are being supported by the project to achieve better livelihood security and water and sanitation systems have been installed for the health and wellbeing of the communities affected by water pollution.
In the Awajun community of Shampuyaco there have also been positive outcomes for the management of their natural resources. Due to the community’s close proximity to the road there is a high incoming population who come to the area to farm. Community members are gradually taking back their land as once rental agreements are over, they take back their land to start their own production.