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Interest in protecting and managing the area began over 40 years ago when Eduardo Jensen’s studies (1962) drove the Ministry of Agriculture’s Forestry and Hunting Service to propose declaring 1,464,250 hectares as a forestry reserve. Subsequently, on October 9, 1963, Supreme Resolution 442-63-AG created the Apurimac National Forest with an extension of 2,071,700 hectares. After 25 years as a national forest, in which the primary goal was forestry activities, the area was included as part of the National System of State Protected Areas as a Reserved Zone, a temporary, transition category. In 1988, Supreme Resolution 0186-88-AG created the Apurimac Reserved Zone, which covered 1,699, 2000 hectares in the departments of Junín (province of Satipo) and Cusco (province of La Convención) in order to protect the region’s forests.


Fifteen years later, on January 14, 2003, Supreme Decree 003-2003-AG declared Apurimac Reserved Zone’s final categorization and the next day they published the official establishment of two communal reserves and one national park: 1) Asháninka Communal Reserve (RCA) covers 184,468.38 hectares and is located on the western slope of the Vilcabamba Range in the province of Satipo, department of Junín. 2) Machiguenga Communal Reserve (RCM) covers 218,905.63 hectares and is located on the eastern slope of the Vilcabamba Range in the province of Echarate, department of Cusco. 3) Otishi National Park (PNO) covers 305,973.05 hectares and is located between Asháninka and Machiguenga communal reserves in the province of Satipo, department of Junín and the province of Echarate, department of Cusco.


Of the original Apurimac Reserved Zone, which covered 1,699,200 hectares, 709,347.06 hectares were recategorized into these three new protected areas. The other 989,852.94 hectares were not included because they were already titled community properties or were included as additional community properties and are now part of the buffer zone. The buffer zone borders are currently provisional and they will be determined during the participatory process used to create the master plan and will be included in the plan itself.


Asháninka and Machiguenga Communal Reserves were established in order to guarantee biological diversity conservation for the benefit of neighboring native communities. Within these communal reserves, new settlements are prohibited as are expansion of agricultural or livestock activities, and timber extraction. Communal reserve establishment does not grant property rights to the communities. Instead, the state recognizes and protects the right of traditional access to natural resources for subsistence-based activities. In this case, the state recognizes the rights of the native communities of the Asháninkas and Machiguengas, and the Yines of the Urubamba; they should exercise their user rights in harmony with the objectives of the natural protected areas as established by law.


Many institutions were involved in the process creating the three protected areas. The Asociación para la Conservación del Patrimonio de Cutivireni (ACPC, Association for Conservation of Cutivireni Heritage) was heavily involved and they were most interested in the Ene River Basin; the Centro para el Desarrollo del Indígena Amazónico (CEDIA, Center for Amazonian Indigenous Development) whose interest was focused on territorial planning in the Urubamba River Basin; the Instituto del Bien Común (IBC, Common Good Institute) who works in defining territorial borders; Conservation International (CI) contributed mostly to the biological evaluation of the area; the National Institute of Natural Resources (INRENA) is the governmental agency responsible for  National System of State Protected Areas; grassroots federations and organizations such as Asociación Regional de Pueblos Indígenas (ARPI, Regional Association of Indigenous Towns); la Central Asháninka del Río Tambo (CART, Asháninka Center of Tambo River); la Confederación de Nacionalidades Amazónicas del Perú (CONAP, Confederation of Amazonian Nationals of Peru); and the Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana (AIDESEP, Interethnic Association of Peruvian Jungle Development) also participated. Many years ago, additional institutions were involved such as the General Fauna and Forestry Office (DGFF), which was at one point responsible for the protected areas; and the National Office of Natural Resource Evaluation (ONREN), the Amazonian Center of Anthropology and Practical Application (CAAAP), and the Research and Amazonian Promotion Center (CIPA), which were involved providing information. The Missionaries (Misioneros Dominicos) of the Urubamba River also participated in the process. Initially, financing for the categorization of the reserved zone came from the World Bank’s Global Environmental Facility in coordination with Conservation International’s Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund.

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The Association for the Conservation of the Cutivireni Patrimony (ACPC) is a group whose mission is to protect and preserve the cultural and natural heritage of the native population of Asháninka living in the Vilcabamba Mountains. As the executive director of the institution Iván Brehaut recounts, from the beginning of ACPC’s activities during the 80s, the Ene Valley was being invaded by colonists. The regional authorities earmarked public investment to support the colonists’ occupation of these territories. Up until then, the indigenous population was under great risk, the communal territories were not guaranteed and there was no way of fully protecting them against the colonists’ invasion. There were intense social problems in the area. Drug trafficking and terrorism had found their way into the area. In the 1990s, the central forest was destroyed by Sendero Luminoso, a group who was bitter enemies with, and genocidal killers of, the Asháninkas. ACPC had to desert their conservation efforts in order to provide assistance to the people, "we could not let the people we were working with die from famine, illnesses, and violence. "


When the technical documents were presented, as part of the process to create the protected areas, there was disagreement between involved institutions that resulted in delays and uneasiness. According to Iván Brehaut, CI (which was in charge of the GEF – Vilcabamba program) presented out of date information, distorted the land use tendencies in the zone because their maps were poorly made, irresponsibly disseminated information, and basically spoiled the work. This caused enormous confusion. CEDIA and ACPC had developed the official land register and collected the field information. Unfortunately, the staff for GEF - Vilcabamba either misinterpreted or completely ignored this information and created an erroneous database. These technical documents were rejected by CEDIA and ACPC, “not because Conservation International did the work on their own, and not because they did it behind our backs even though we were supposedly associates, but because it was terrible work.” They used a technical method that neither the governmental Special Land Titling Project (PETT), which is responsible for legalizing land uses, nor INRENA, nor the German development agency that was helping the process could understand. The technical documents had serious problems, there were 40,000 hectares-worth of errors and they were not totally recognized by the indigenous communities since they were not consulted. While INRENA, the organizations, and the communities were in the process of defining new titled areas, in the middle of the consultation process, CI presented their report to INRENA that included an incorrect map. An entire year of work was lost; ACPC, CEDIA, IBC, INRENA and other indigenous organizations were using funds they did not have. All of the technical documents had to be redone.


The most important contribution from Conservation International to the formalization of the areas in question is the scientific investigation that they completed with the team from The Smithsonian Institute, the Chicago Field Museum, and the expeditions of the RAP team in Vilcabamba, which are the biological basis for the formalization of the protected areas. Then, in coordination with the Instituto del Bien Común they were able to complete the local survey. Today, 100 % of the communal territories adjacent to the communal reserves are indemnified, with the exception of the native community of Taini that is in process of being titled, if it was already not titled (17).


The Instituto del Bien Común (IBC) has a project called the Native Communities Information System. The project’s goal is to create georeferenced land cadastres of the titled properties that the Ministry of Agriculture granted to the communities and create maps that clearly indicate which lands are titled. Communal maps created by the state between the 1970 and 1980 are not georeferenced and because of this, it was impossible to determine the protected areas’ limits. According to IBC members interviewed for this report, the Apurimac Reserved Zone was categorized in the most appropriate way. First, the community borders were defined, then, a consultation process was conducted with the communities to see which areas they wanted in order to increase their territories. Next, the protected areas’ borders were formally determined and georeferenced. In this way, the protected areas were created harmoniously with the neighboring communities. Categorizing this reserved area was exemplary because the communities were consulted often, indigenous communities and organizations had significant participation, and technical support and advice by the consulting groups (ACPC in the west, CEDIA in the east, and IBC who created the maps and cartographically delineated the protected areas) was important.


IBC’s philosophy is that in order to create official protected areas, the neighboring communities’ limits must be defined. In order to ensure that a protected area that will be managed for long-term protection, it must be created in harmony with the neighboring communities so that the people will be willing to get involved in its management and survival. If it is created any other way, the process will turn conflictive (18).


Erick Meneses, CI’s Vilcabamba Regional Director, confirms that his institution conducts studies in Vilcabamba to determine the area’s biological characteristics. He explained that they solicited along with CEDIA and ACPC, a medium-sized World Bank GEF grant. The project’s objective was to categorize Apurímac Reserved Zone into formal protected areas. With complementary funding, they set out to create a land use plan that coincided with the legal ordering of the area using a participatory process. At the same time, they completed biological, social, and economic diagnostics that allowed them to complete the information needed to justify the categorization of the protected area. This took three years. In addition, the GEF allowed them to start to introduce the idea of sustainable development. They did so by implementing model activities for communities to see and be convinced that they can survive and prosper by implementing activities such as forest management, crafts, and fauna management.


According to Mr. Meneses, ACPC and CEDIA separated from CI at the end of the process. He said that those organizations took advantage of CI’s low profile, fieldwork and community relations to reach their objective, which was to increase the communities’ territories. The first proposal for the area’s categorization included the Cutiverini Zone, with a natural bridge (a geologic formation in the zone) and other zones of biological and cultural importance, but the communities claimed these places to increase their territorial limits even though they did not live there. This created a conflict between the project (which was backed by the entire consortium) and the communities. Because of this, ACPC and CEDIA said that they were not involved in the first proposal. It was a favorable opportunity for these organizations to reach their goals. IBC entered at this juncture because they already had experience with rapid titling in cases of territorial increases. Once the territories were increased, the communities were satisfied and then the new consortium presented another protected area proposal to INRENA (19). INRENA, with ACPC and CEDIA, was able to increase the proposed national park area (which was 280,000 hectares in CI’s proposal) to 305,000 hectares. They were also able to delineate clear borders based on geographic relief (watersheds and watercourses) rather than points and straight lines possible to draw on maps but not in the field.


Conservation International has promoted for several years creating a Vilcabamba Amboró Conservation Corridor, of which Asháninka and Machiguenga Communal Reserves and Otishi National Park are a part. The corridor is a strategy to conserve one of the most biologically diverse places on earth within the tropical Andes region. In total, the corridor is 30 million hectares and expands from the Vilcabamba Mountain Range in Peru to the Amboró National Park in Bolivia and includes a chain of 16 protected areas that contribute to the survival of thousands of species (20).



The Natural Protected Areas Agency of the National Institute of Natural Resources (INRENA) within the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for Peru’s natural protected areas. Law Number 26834, Natural Protected Areas Law passed June 30, 1997, and its corresponding Supreme Decree 038-2001-AG regulate their administration.


Asháninka Communal Reserve’s primary objective is to protect areas that serve as a source of biological resources and water for the Asháninka populations located on the right banks of the Tambo, Ene, and Apurímac Rivers, protecting the scenic beauty and intrinsic cultural values (21). These are zones defined as priority areas for conservation of the country’s biological diversity in the Master Plan of the National System of State Protected Areas (SINANPE) (22).
Article No. 17 of the Law of Natural Protected Areas establishes that the State recognizes and promotes private participation in the management of the Natural Protected Areas, for which it is possible to sign or grant contracts for administration of the area. These contracts or administration agreements are intersectorial management and administration mechanisms granted to not-for-profit, legally recognized organizations. These third party contracts neither end nor diminish INRENA’s competence or responsibilities. Nor does it reduce INRENA’s responsibility of regulation and inspection (23).


According to the legislation, the beneficiaries conduct management of a communal reserve in their way using their organizations over the long-term, in which the beneficiaries strengthen their conservation and sustainable resource use knowledge and exercise their rights and obligations with the State to administrate national heritage. In terms of managing a protected area, coordination and general supervision of a communal reserve is the responsibility of a protected area director under mandate of the Natural Protected Areas Agency of INRENA. In addition, an executor from the administrative contract is required that would coordinate the area’s management. Also, a management committee is required that would help keep the area functioning and would represent involved stakeholders and beneficiaries. This process is in its beginning stages and there is much to do to complete it.


INRENA has created a commission that includes the Interethnic Development Association of the Peruvian Jungle (AIDESEP) and other non-governmental organizations to discuss a proposal for a special communal reserve regime. According to staff from IBC, El Sira Communal Reserve began the process for forming the co-management style administration described above, but the results were less than satisfactory because the underlying law on this protected area category is not clear. Since the process ended in ruins, INRENA created a new special regime proposal. AIDESEP also has a proposal, so they are in discussions in order to bring the two proposals together in one.


Indigenous people have always seen the communal reserves as a way to extend certain control over their traditional territories, but as it turns out since the forestry law was created in 1975, the government did not promote communal reserve creation. It wasn’t until more than 10 years later that Yanesha Communal Reserve was declared in 1988; and it was declared only because of a serious internal conflict. The second communal reserve declared in Peru was El Sira in 2001, thirteen years after the first. In the time between Yanesha’s creation and El Sira’s creation, the System of National Protected Areas’ Master Plan incorporated communal reserves into the national protected areas system. As a result, the Natural Protected Areas Law determines the communal reserves’ management regime and this creates a lot of confusion. The indigenous communities thought that the communal reserves were part of their territory and that they could treat them in their way. Finally in 2001, dialog with the Multisectoral Commission of Native Communities, which coincided with the natural protected areas regulations, began to clarify the situation. 


During this dialog, the idea for a special regime for communal reserve management was included in the natural protected areas regulations. In other words, the regulations recognized that communal reserves should not be treated like a national park or a national reserve. However, how to actually manage the communal reserves in practice remains undetermined. The greatest challenge today is to clarify legal loopholes and reach a consensus on the communal reserves’ special management regime (24).


The special administration regime proposal presented by AIDESEP along with the Confederación de Nacionalidades Amazónicas del Peru CONAP, and other NGOs included creating various administrative entities for a communal reserve, since they are enormous territories with various indigenous organizations involved, each with several towns and even distinct ethnicities. It is very complicated. Because of this, IBC and AIDESEP and CONAP recommended creating an administration for each part of the communal reserve. However, INRENA rejected the idea and insisted that the communal reserves have only one administration. Now INRENA has realized that it is impossible, they recognize that the Asháninka and Machiguenga reserves are immense and this makes their administration extremely challenging.


The State maintains the responsibility of control; the communities implement the reserve’s management. The communities along with INRENA should elaborate the protected area’s master plan. In order to do so, surrounding communities should directly and actively participate. Developing participative management models and local organization are currently underway. The native communities will establish which areas are special use areas, which ones are strict protection areas, which are use areas, etc. and they will be written into the communal reserve’s master plan.



World Bank’s Global Environmental Facility GEF has provided approximately $700,000 for Apurimac Reserved Zone’s categorization process.


The Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) has provided Peru with $5 million credit to finance their institutional strengthening program, Institutional Coordinating Technical Group (GTCI), in order to accompany implementation of the Camisea Natural Gas Project. Of these funds, approximately $300,000 has been designated to INRENA, which they use to implement Otishi National Park. For example, they have designated a park director, hired two professionals and four park guards, purchased two motorcycles, two 60 HP outboard motors, and office furniture, in addition to other actions. While these activities are focused on Otishi National Park, they do benefit the communal reserves in the meantime.


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