World Rainforest Movement

Peru: Promotion of plantations based on falsehoods

Peru is one of the few South American countries where large scale monoculture tree plantations have not yet been introduced; however the government is seeking to promote their expansion. In fact the country already has a “2005-2024 National Reforestation Plan” [National Plan] and also a “Law for the promotion of private investment in afforestation and/or reforestation” [Forestation Law], the basic tools to make tree plantations justifiable and feasible. The concrete goal for 2024 is to have covered 860,000 ha with commercial plantations, basically in the Amazon, and 909,000 ha for “environmental protection” plantations, basically in the Sierra.

On reading these two documents it becomes very evident that the Peruvian government has simply copied the model already implemented in many other countries of the region and uses the same unfounded arguments to achieve the necessary citizen support, in particular in the regions where plantations are to be installed: generation of employment, reduction of poverty, development, positive environmental impacts. The promotion mechanisms are a carbon copy of those used in other countries (tax exemption, soft loans, State research, etc.) and the only innovative aspect (access to land by the private sector) appears to be the most dangerous of them all.

On setting out its aims, the Forestation Law starts off by stating that “The promotion of private investment in afforestation and reforestation is established in the framework of a strategy for the reduction of rural poverty” and also mentions – among other so-called benefits – the “generation of wealth and permanent jobs.” The National Plan provides more details regarding jobs, affirming that the plantations generate one direct job per 4 hectares, thus creating 425.000 direct work stations. The Fund for the Promotion of Forestry Development (Fondo de Promoción del Desarrollo Forestal – FONDEBOSQUE) goes even further and in its information brochure states that the plantations “generate at least one direct job per 2 hectares.” According to this figure, the total number of jobs generated by the plan would amount to 850,000.

Unfortunately all this is absolutely unfounded. The data handled in Uruguay, one of the countries mentioned as a “successful” example in the National Plan, is worth noting. According to a study by the Statistical Office of the Agriculture, Cattle and Fishery Ministry, afforestation generates 7 permanent jobs every 1000 hectares (other sources reduce this figure to 4.5 jobs per 1000 ha). This means that in the best case, afforestation will scantly generate one direct job per 143 hectares; a figure that is very far off from the absurd affirmations of the National Plan and FONDEBOSQUE. The same situation is repeated in other “successful” countries, such as Chile and Brazil, where tree plantations have shown to be the worst option possible regarding job generation. Tree plantations do not reduce poverty, but only increases it.

Regarding the environment, the National Plan maintains that tree plantations of any type (whether exotic or native, monoculture or agro-forestry, for production or protection) fulfil the same functions as forests. Their impacts will not in any way be negative, but only positive. In this respect, the Plan affirms that benefits include “regulation of the water regime in the watersheds,” “control of soil erosion,” “enhancement of soil and protection of crops,” “conditioning of the habitat for flora and fauna,” among other benefits.

Sadly, all this is also false for the simple reason that monoculture tree plantations are not forests and therefore are unable to fulfil the same functions as forests. In all the countries of the region where large scale plantations exist, their serious impacts on water have been observed, also that they favour erosion processes, they lead to soil degradation and have negative impacts on neighbouring crops and seriously affect native flora and fauna. The plantations’ negative impacts basically arise from their large scale. In the case of Peru, it is precisely large scale plantations that are being planned. Hence, the alleged environmental benefits will never materialize and, on the contrary, serious negative impacts will be felt on water, soil, flora and fauna. Plantations do not benefit the environment, they degrade it.

On the basis of these – and other falsehoods – the first article of the Promotion Law declares “that the promotion of private investment in afforestation and/or reforestation activities is of national interest,” implying that the State will provide support to the plantation companies, including tax exemptions, tax incentives, foreign debt swapping and it will be the State itself that will establish the plantations for “environmental protection,” mainly on lands belonging to Andean peasant communities. That is to say, it will be the Peruvian people who will pay (directly and indirectly) for the installation of both private and State plantations.

What is even more serious is that the plantations will become an instrument for the privatization of State land. In fact, the National Plan states that “the State will place at the disposal of the private sector, through various mechanisms for acquisition, access to private property of public lands to be given over to the establishment of industrial forestry plantations.” In turn, the Forestation Law, in its second article claims that “The State, through the Agency for the Promotion of Private Investment (Agencia de Promoción de la Inversión Privada – PROINVERSION) may allocate the sale of lands it possesses having a capacity for greater forestation use, for afforestation and/or reforestation purposes, through public auction…”

In short, these plans go against the interests of the most needy and only promote economically powerful sectors that will have access to land and to the benefits foreseen in this new legislation. It is therefore essential that Peruvian civil society organizations inform themselves and take a hand in the matter before it is too late. There is still time to halt this process.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *