The indigenous tribes of Peru’s Yurua River region have been granted a conservation concession to protect 112,850 acres (45,699 hectares) of remote, intact lowland jungle near the border with Acre, Brazil. The announcement culminated over 20 years of work by the tribes and their partners to protect their homelands from logging, ranching, commercial agriculture and other deforestation drivers becoming ever so prevalent in the western Amazon.
The Concession will be managed by the new Asociación de Conservación Comunal Yurúa, comprised of local men and women from the Ashéninka, Asháninka, Yaminahua and Amahuaca tribes. In addition to harboring rare and endangered species like the arapaima fish, jaguar, river otter and spider monkey, two isolated tribes travel through the area during their annual migrations. This new protected area, if managed correctly, will help conserve the resource base for settled communities as well as some of the last isolated tribes on earth.
The process of protecting the area was started in the 1990’s by the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest, or AIDESEP, which represents indigenous tribes throughout the Peruvian Amazon. AIDESEP, along with the regional and Yurua federations, ORAU and ACONADIYSH, proposed a communal reserve to be managed jointly by the national government and local tribes. However the proposal was eventually abandoned due to lack of support from Peru’s protected areas agency, SERNANP (formerly INRENA).
In the absence of needed support from Lima, in 2011 the Upper Amazon Conservancy and its sister organization, ProPurús, began working with the tribes and their federations to promote the less bureaucratic process of creating a conservation concession, which would still legally protect the area while allowing local people to sustainably manage its resources. This process was complicated by the arrival of a group of Asháninka tribespeople from the central jungle to the Yurua who requested ownership of lands initially included in the concession proposal. After years of negotiations among all local tribes, their federations and various national and regional government agencies, an agreement was reached to title three new Asháninka communities and protect the remaining lands as the conservation concession. UAC and ProPurús led these efforts, which resulted in titling the communities of Oori, Beu and Oconashari in 2017 and 100% indigenous support for the proposed concession. Funding for all aspects of the concession process was provided by the Andes Amazon Fund along with Blue Moon Fund and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
This month’s approval of the Concession is a huge victory for the people of the Yurua, however the work has only now begun. A new 240 km under construction road will provide relatively easy access to the resource-rich forests of the Yurua for loggers, landless farmers and other speculators. Our challenge now is to provide the new Association with training and other assistance where needed to ensure the Concession is adequately protected and effectively managed for the sustainably benefit of generations to come.
For more information on the Yurua and the larger Purús — Manu Landscape, see UAC’s Story Map “Protecting the Wildest Place on Earth.”