Can a whole landscape approach to reducing emissions work in Peru?

Using results from the three most deforested regions of the Peruvian Amazon, researchers are investigating how to go beyond the forest to consider emissions across the entire landscape.

Organized national institutions, good governance, clear land tenure and strategies to address the drivers of deforestation are emerging as key obstacles to be overcome before an effective framework for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) can be implemented.

Climate change negotiators may not have reached agreement last year on REDD, but scientists working with the Alternatives to Slash and Burn Partnership at the World Agroforestry Centre are still actively pursuing research to determine what is needed to move beyond the forest to a REALU approach, that is, reducing emissions from all land uses.

The rationale is that land uses outside the forest - such as agroforestry - can store significant carbon while enhancing other environmental services and creating climate change adaptation benefits for smallholder farmers.

According to Julio Ugarte and Sandra Velarde from the World Agroforestry Centre, who are looking at the feasibility of REALU in Peru, if areas outside the forest are not taken into account, enormous potential could be being lost.

Over the past year, they and their team have been trying to find out what institutions are needed to implement REALU and what is really causing deforestation. They have conducted workshops with key stakeholders and synthesized existing research from Ucayali, San Martin, and Loreto; the three most deforested regions in the Peruvian Amazon.

"REALU is a very real possibility and has widespread support," Velarde says. "But in Peru, it will require changes to current laws, institutional arrangements and policies."

The State is responsible for managing forest resources in Peru as well as the goods and services they provide. Under REDD or REALU, it will be necessary to find an equitable way of distributing benefits so that conflict is avoided. This requires changes to the legislation.

As in most other countries, Peru has several government agencies with responsibilities for natural resource management. Existing institutional arrangements need to be reviewed to ensure they can facilitate the implementation of REDD or REALU.

The main driver of deforestation in Peru is shifting cultivation, linked to political and economic activities. Ugarte believes there is considerable scope for government agencies and the private sector to plan for more sustainable development across the Peruvian Amazon.

"While there are obstacles to REALU, we still believe it can be achieved," Ugarte says. "It would undoubtedly lead to greater emission reductions and larger benefits for local people."

In Cameroon, China, Indonesia, Nepal, Vietnam and the Philippines, similar studies are underway as part of the ‘Architecture of Reducing Emissions from All Land Uses' project funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation (NORAD). An analysis of each country's results will enable recommendations to be made to policy makers and climate change negotiators.

The Latin America office of the World Agroforestry Centre is in the process of publishing the findings a series of working papers on this research. Check the Publications page of our website: