Palm Oil in Peru:
a New Threat


Deforestation from Oil Palm plantations is something you might be used to hearing about in Papua New Guinea, not the Amazon. But small palm oil plantations are having a big impact in Peru’s forest.1 The central Amazon region is experiencing high levels of forest loss. In many areas, palm oil is responsible. These are not the vast, multinational-owned plantations spreading across miles and miles in places like Papua New Guinea. These are small, less easy to spot, and infinitely harder to police.

The central Amazon region is experiencing high levels of forest loss. In many areas, palm oil is responsible. These are not the vast, multinational-owned plantations spreading across miles and miles in places like Papua New Guinea. These are small, less easy to spot, and infinitely harder to police.

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“Large-scale oil palm often gets a bad rap, but what safeguards are in place to ensure that smaller-scale projects are not driving deforestation as well?”

Matt Finer, Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP)

According to a recent MAAP report, small and medium deforestation events – those of 50 hectares or fewer – represent the majority of recent rainforest destruction in Peru. And there have been many. The team estimates that last year alone, Peru lost an estimated 163,238 hectares of forest, 99 percent of which came from small and medium-scale deforestation events.

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Much of this deforestation is likely to be illegal. The areas that the report looked at were not officially zoned for agriculture, which suggests the palm oil plantations they found are not authorised.

This research echoes what we already know about how forest destruction is changing. Small scale deforestation now accounts for 60-80% of tropical deforestation. That rises to 90% in the Peruvian Amazon.2 The scale means it can evade regulations and is rarely stopped by conservation policies.

And because it is a process driven largely by poverty and negotiations at village level, where money changes hands on dirt tracks, it doesn’t respond to the traditional levers of conservation.

This is where Cool Earth’s model comes in. We work at the village level, where we can offer an alternative to cash offers on a dirt track. Putting control back into the hands of indigenous people is the best protection we have against this kind of small-scale deforestation.

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