Geographical isolation and difficult access have guaranteed thus far the conservation of the Asháninka Communal Reserve, which at present is not under direct, significant pressure. Nevertheless, activities exist that put the protected area in real danger.
The main problematic activity in the zone is migration of peasants from the Andes that arrive in search of lands for agriculture, increasingly exercising more pressure and originating conflicts with the native communities. With a larger population, there is a greater demand for food, goods and services, and land. When the natural resources are gone and the environment along the outskirts has deteriorated, moving in to the territories of the communal reserve could be the next objective for the colonists.
Logging in the interior of the reserve is very restricted; above all else due to geographical factors that complicate access into the zone. Nevertheless, there are lumber groups operating in the interior of the native community territories adjacent to the communal reserve. They build roads that dangerously open the doors to the communal reserve. The extraction levels in the surrounding region of the reserve are very high and are occurring in an unsustainable and disorderly form. The loggers are taking the wood from the native communities. They create agreements, many of which are unfavorable or in some cases fraudulent, and the community puts forth their titles to the land to obtain permission for logging, from which only the lumber companies are the ones that benefit, and do so without incurring any type of obligation.
No highways exist that cross the protected area, nevertheless there is a series of highway projects on the outskirts that constitute a serious threat for the conservation of the communal reserve. The highways attract greater colonization and facilitate access for people who want to extract resources or for drug traffickers and terrorists. Highway construction in the region is directly linked to the lumber industry since it builds access roads into the forest for timber extraction and transportation, which then remain and become permanent as the colonists in coordination with local municipalities expand them.
This zone has had drug trafficking presence for numerous years. The expanding agricultural frontier to plant cocoa is a very serious threat to the zone’s environment. Additionally, the production of cocaine utilizes chemicals that are poured in to the rivers and generate high levels of contamination that negatively affect the flora and fauna and the quality of the environment. As drug traffickers seek new areas of operation, they are likely to move further and further into the zone, constituting a serious threat for the protected area.
Asháninka Communal Reserve is not currently threatened by the hunting, fishing or harvesting activities. Nevertheless, an increase in the number of settlers in the region because of increased colonization will increase the demand for forest products, generating more pressure that will affect the communal reserve. Asháninka Communal Reserve does not fall under any single administrative entity. Due to these conditions, the protected area is vulnerable to colonists and illegal resource users.
To counteract these tendencies right now and to be able to avoid impacting the protected area in the near future, a series of actions is recommended. A program for migration prevention and control should be formed. The authorities of towns and communities should restrict migrant arrival to their respective localities. Migrant colonists that arrive in search of land should be rejected. There should be coordination with the corresponding authorities so that no authorizations are delivered, ot property titles, and so no one recognizes or offers services to new localities.
The effective long-term protection of Asháninka Communal Reserve’s forest resources depends on 1) the control that the Technical Administration of Forest and Wildlife Control Office exercises on the management of the forest resources the reserve’s surrounding area; and 2) quick implementation of a vigilance and control system of the communal reserve on the part of the Natural Protected Areas Agency. It is important to promote coordinated work with other institutions that have to exercise some control over the area such as the National Police and the Army, and to involve them in efforts against illegal logging.
It is necessary to stop every initiative for opening access roads and highways that may affect the protected area. It is mandatory to monitor the existing access roads and the routes that are under construction. The continued authorization and building of roads and operation on those roads should be stopped. The institutions responsible for the control and prevention of drug trafficking, the National Police and the Army, in coordination with the local authorities of each district, should also increase their actions to ban and eradicate this illicit activity.
In relation to the use of natural resources, the expectations of the local population should be focused on activities and business centered in the community territories and less focus should be put on the reserve, at least in the short-term. It is important to consolidate the protected area’s administration. The establishment of a management committee for the communal reserve, the appointment of a leader for the area, the implementation of a system of protection and control with park rangers and infrastructure, and the signing of an administrative contract with a competent entity are all needed immediately. Asháninka Communal Reserve’s geographic isolation will not guarantee its protection for too much longer.