Peru harbors approximately 67.2 hectares of high biodiversity tropical forest. These vast expanses of forested lands are publicly owned by the Peruvian State. Specifically, the National Institute of Natural Resources (INRENA) is the principal authority that administrates and controls forest resources and natural protected areas in Peru.

The original Forestry and Wildlife Law No. 21147 was decreed in May of 1975 under the military government in an effort to promote economic development in rural areas through the exploitation of forest resources. It seemingly guaranteed State control, regulated the rights of others, and promoted conservation and trade of forest products. Under this law, contracts and permits to access public forests were allocated directly by the government to individuals and companies. In particular, this system encouraged loggers to enter the forests and exploit the resources as a means to generate economic development. In practice, 1,000 ha. parcels of land were set aside specifically for small loggers for a period of one year, but those loggers rarely had their name on the contracts. Rather habilitadores (middle men) disposed of technical or financial support to extract the timber, obtained the 1,000 ha. contracts, hired small loggers to extract the timber, and extracted the mahogany illegally from different areas and then negotiated with a contract owner in order to acquire the needed permits.

Over time, it became evident that Law No. 21147 did not foster a system that promoted economic development, equality of access, or sustainable natural resource use. In fact, corruption, deforestation and a feudal commercial system were the primary products of this regime. There was little regard for management practices as it was easy to contract another 1,000 ha. parcel when the previous one was economically exhausted. The 1,000 ha. parcels were too small for economically viable sustainable management and there were very few incentives for long-term investment. The relationship between the timber industry and resource poor loggers further developed into a exploitative one as the larger timber industries sold heavy machinery to the loggers for anticipated timber - particularly mahogany. Thereafter, small-scale loggers were often forced to sell to the timber companies at less than market, as they had been locked into debt payments. This situation perpetuated a vicious cycle of environmental degradation and impoverishment.

In the year 2000, the Peruvian Government approved a new forest law No. 27308 that promoted the reform and modernization of the forest sector. The new law provides innovative solutions to the past problems of corruption, informality, environmental degradation and lack of economic development. A few of these innovations include:

  • Concessions are granted through a public bidding process as a mechanism for transparency in allocation of rights to access forest resources.
  • Concessions are of at least 5,000 ha. for 40 years - renewable nearly automatically - promoting sustainable management and long-term planning.
  • Concessions are granted within Permanent Production Forests (BPP) where the State concentrates infrastructure investment to facilitate sustainable production.
  • Two levels of planning are required for operating legally within a forest concession: General Forest Management Plan (GFMP) which specifies strategic business and environmental projections for the long-term; and Annual Operational Plan (AOP) that are submitted each year with precise mapping of the trees to be extracted using GPS.
  • The law promotes the export of processed timber with added value, increasing export revenues and generating employment.
  • Recognition that the forests also provide ecological services (soil protection, regulated water cycle, carbon sinks, etc).
  • The law establishes a reorganization of government agencies with the hope of redistributing distinct functions to achieve greater transparency, accountability, and limit the possibilities for corruption.
  • The law promotes Voluntary Forest Certification (CFV) and access to international markets for certified wood products.
  • Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines and the Modernization of the Peruvian Forest Sector

The Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines that can be used to analyze the process of engaging local Peruvian stakeholders in the process of forest sector modernization include:

Principle 1: Supportive policies, laws and institutions

At the national level a Permanent Dialogue and a Consensus Forest Roundtable was established to secure widespread civil society participation in the policy making process associated with the definition and implementation of the new forest law. The Roundtable was such a success that it was quickly expanded to the regional level, where it has been complemented by the establishment of watershed level forest management committees that provide a 'voice' for actors at the very local level.

Principle 2: Empowerment, rights to be responsible and accountable for the resources concerned

At the micro level, forest concessionaires are responsible for the planning and implementing forest extraction within their concessions. Together with agricultural landholders, indigenous communities, and other stakeholders, they make up the watershed management committees responsible for leading the development of participatory forest plans at the watershed level. These committees are formally recognized by the state, and receive a limited proportion of the fees paid by forest concessionaires per year for their concessions. This facilitates the development of autonomous civil society bodies that are able to lead forward sustainable watershed development, under periodic state supervision.

Principle 4: Adaptive management

Processes of adaptive management have been institutionalized within the sector through regular meetings at multiple levels that facilitate both horizontal and vertical participatory analysis and policy development.

Principle 7: Spatial and temporal scale of management

Forest management committees are being established at a watershed level, where they are responsible for the participatory elaboration of forest development plans at a watershed level, including a strategy to tackle illegal logging and conserve high value conservation forests.

Principle 12: Needs of indigenous and local communities

The process of modernizing the Peruvian Forest Sector initially involved intensive efforts to secure the active participation of indigenous and local communities. It is considered essential that serious efforts are made to continue strengthening these political spaces and the ´voices´ of these groups to successfully mitigate two important negative impacts associated with the process:

  • Conflicts associated with the establishment of forest concessions over lands traditionally used by indigenous communities; and
  • Use of indigenous community permits by middle-men, thereby undermining the forest concession process and often unfairly exploiting this marginalized sector.


Following, applying and adapting the five Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines mentioned above in order to engage local stakeholders in forest management in Peru, has secured the establishment of effective political spaces that have facilitated understanding between diverse actors and institutions, horizontal and vertical lines of communication, forums for conflict resolution, and the active and adaptive participation of diverse actors in decision making processes. Despite these important advances, it is necessary that actors within the Peruvian Forest Sector continue:

  1. Strengthening the voice of the weaker actors so as to secure their active participation in decision making processes,
  2. Developing links between sustainably harvested forest concessions with responsible buyers, and
  3. Increasing and effectively implementing sanctions against illegal loggers.

If increased efforts to these ends are not made, the civil society institutions that are working towards forest sector modernization will serve only as a façade for the unsustainable exploitation of the forest. Illegal logging, perhaps, presents the biggest challenge for Peru, particularly considering weak levels of governance and the large amounts of money associated with the trade in illegally logged mahogany. The potential rewards, however, include the development of sustainable economic enterprises for resource poor amazonian loggers, longer term investment in forest management, and increased conservation of the megadiverse Peruvian tropical rainforests.

Linda Norgrove is works with the WWF's Forestry Programme in Peru. Email: