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In response to Out of Control Deforestation - What to do?

Posts: 85
Location: Colombia - Tropical dry forest
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I want to respond to Scott Obar’s post so moving the thread to the cider press as suggested :)

Scott Obar:
The Bosque de Proteccion Alto Mayo (BPAM) where I live is being exploited at an alarming rate by the locals. This is THE most biodiverse hotspot for orchids on the planet. I'm tired of looking up at my picturesque cloudforest mountainscape to see a patchwork of clearcuts. The locals here are greedy. They don't pay for the land, and just go up into what is Protected Forest (what other countries call National Forest) and clearcut on extremely steep slopes so they can grow their corn and coffee. It makes me angry.

I'm not from Peru, and I'm not even sure who to reach out to. There's so much corruption here, I'm not even sure I'd achieve anything other than being identified as the local snitch (whistleblower) and gaining all the animosity from my neighbors. They already don't like me just for being a foreigner. Last year, for example, when we were reforesting cattle pasture with 11,000 trees, some jealous neighbor called the "guarda parques" (authorities that are supposed to protect the national forest) and said we were deforesting. When the inspector showed up at our property, we were right in the middle of tree planting with about 20 workers busy planting saplings. I looked at the guardaparques inspector and told him, "Nope, we're not deforesting here, we're REforesting! So, why don't you take a look up there in those mountains at all that deforestation. That's national forest land. Why don't you do something about that!?"

From what I gather, the authorities are useless, you can point out blatant, ongoing deforestation of Protected Forest to them; and it's obvious who's doing it, because they build they build their houses just below the illegal "plots". But no one ever gets arrested, and the deforestation continues unchecked. The authorities are probably friends or family of the people that are exploiting this natural treasure.

It's a real bummer. My wife's Peruvian, and even she and her family think it would be a waste of time to contact the authorities. What should I do?

We provide work opportunities for the locals to contribute to the maintenance of our ongoing 10 hectare food forest project, and only a couple of the villagers have worked for 1 or 2 days per MONTH! We pay an honest local daily wage, the same as what anyone else pays around here, but these people prefer to tend to their illegal coffee plots up in the national forest. We're getting desperate to bring workers from outside the area at this point, as the weeds are getting out of control!

So glad to see there are others out there facing and standing up to this atrocious predicament. It’s comforting to know that we’re not alone because sometimes the lack of care and disconnection from the disaster that’s happening with our tropical forests can become discouraging.

We’re facing the same problem in Colombia but maybe amplified due to our violent context.  Mafias are systematically devastating the forests in apocalyptic ways, last week read the latest UN report that stated that only in the Colombian Amazon were loosing around 20 hectares of rainforest an hour! The extracted wood ends up magically in Europe and Asia, everything else gets slashed and burnt, indigenous people and local farmers are displaced, ranches and massive agroindustrial complexes or even coca plantations appear and land that is protected under law and should be preserved and left untouched and even more so is listed in the UNESCO as humanity heritage sites is distributed amongst very shady and dangerous people. The government and institutions range from absurdly incompetent to completely corrupt. Viewing and living this first hand is not only heart breaking but enfuriating and can create a strong feeling of impotence. Here is a subbed short documentary to understand the dimensions of the problem: https://youtu.be/RBX7kgfzumc

The social paradigm is insanely complex and close to impossible to change, only time and facing the consequences of what’s happened can shift things towards a culture of care and here is where your work and example and of every permie out there doing the best to their circumstances comes as crucial as it will be very needed in the years to come.

I’ve received this advice from different sources in relation to your inquiry and not listening to it at first put my life in danger: “tenga cuidado, porque la ignorancia es atrevida”. We can’t coward to this people tho because someone has to fight for life but put your life and your family’s integrity first and foremost and be creative on how to approach the whole thing. Example is the path I’ve chosen, and also reaching initially the local women. Fighting the cantinas is impossible at first but in time and very slowly drunk men start paying attention too :) Also put a layer of protection and anonymity between you and the authorities if you choose to move legally. For this local ngos are great and if there are none to be found the undp could be an option: https://www.pe.undp.org/content/peru/es/home.html

We have a program here called huertas caseras y comunitarias, where we focus in creating food security at a familial level with very little resources and space, this first step creates the possibility for the locals to even start contemplating doing something different because , as you very accurately stated, the normal model and subsidiesis are all they know in order to bring food to the table. This opens up the dialogue to what permaculture can do and a demonstration site is then crucial! When we first started to do earthworks on our site and reforest what used to be a cattle ranch the community nicknamed us “los locos” (the kids were much kinder and went for “los científicos” jeje) but years after, the results are palpable and the community is intrigued and start asking questions and to imitate. This is a very slow process tho! So don’t get discouraged and use that energy that comes from the frustration of what’s happening to keep going and creating.

Lastly here is Charles perspective which helped me a lot in dire times: https://youtu.be/2mNboLb2Suc
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