Participants invited to the roundtable

Brazil nut

Ese'eja community member


Leader of

Leader of

Cofounder of
Other roundtable participants


Owner of
Madera Grande


Gold miner

gold miner


Wisconsin Energy


Brazilian Nut Harvester

Maria Silva has harvested Brazil nuts since she was a child. Her family holds a 40-year concession for harvesting Brazil nuts in a 500 hectare area of old growth forest in the Reserve. As a member of FEPROCAMD (Madre de Dios Federation of Brazil nut concessioners), and FADEMAD, Maria supported the establishment of the Reserve. Her income depends on access to old growth forest forest including large productive Brazil nut trees. Though FEPROCAMD, she recently entered into a forest carbon-credit program (REDD) with Bosques Amazónicos. Maria hopes to earn a portion of the profits once the carbon credits are sold, and hopes Bosques Amazónicos will build a local Brazil nut processing plant. Like many Brazil nut harvesters, Maria fears that illegal mining and agriculture will destroy natural forest. She recently learned that some Brazil nut harvesters outside the Reserve are now practicing natural forest management and trying to extract timber without damaging surrounding trees. She wonders if local loggers would be able or willing to log in the Reserve without damaging Brazil nut trees.

Ese ‘eja Community Member

Ramon Mishaja belongs to the indigenous Ese’eja [ay-say-ha] community of Infierno. He fears that his people are losing rights to their ancestral lands & wants Ese’eja reserves to be expanded. The Ese'eja are unhappy that the government and outsiders are making many decisions involving their ancestral lands without consulting FENAMAD. Some of his relatives have good jobs working for Rainforest Expeditions and are part owners of this ecotourism company. But many of his Ese’eja friends are wary of tourist companies. Ramon heard rumors that international investors in forest carbon projects (REDD) are negotiating a deal for the carbon stored in the forests of Tambopata National Reserve and the Bahuaja-Sonene Park, but he does not know the conditions or if the contract will benefit native communities. Ramon is trouble by reports that Ese’eja communities elsewhere in the region are unable to defend their land from miners and big loggers.

Colonist Farmers

José and Ana Herrera are recent colonists from Cuzco, a city in the Peruvian Andean mountains where there is little land and high unemployment. They arrived in Tambopata 5 years ago and made an informal claim to 30 hectares along the highway. They plant crops until the soil is ‘tired’, then convert it to pasture for cattle. They hope someday to buy a truck and sell food and goods to the miners. Some of their neighbors plan to sell their land to soybean or palm oil companies, and then move deeper into the forest to farm. Others are interested in forming a new co-op to grow organic coffee or cocoa (for certified chocolate). But the Herreras have little knowledge or experience with tree crops like coffee or coca or other forms of agroforestry. The Herreras belong to FADEMAD and keep pushing their leaders to take a firm pro-agriculture stand.

Leader of FADEMAD

Alan Moreno leads the Federation of agriculturalists of Madre de Dios, a grassroots organization that represents ~5000 rural families, both long-term residents and colonists. FADEMAD’s slogan is “United for a common ideal of having a healthy environment today and tomorrow”. He tries to defend the local poor farmers AND the forest. He grew up in the Amazon, as did his father and grandfather. He’s proud of his farm because it contains many different crops growing together in a way that protects the soil and attracts wildlife. He has worked closely with conservationists to help farmers better use their land and once flew to Washington, D.C. to speak about the positive role of small farmers in conservation. Now others in FADEMAD are becoming increasingly powerful, particularly colonists. To save his political career, Alan publicly announced that local farmers’ rights take priority over biodiversity. Many FADEMAD members also work as miners. Others struggle to keep miners off their land.

Leader of FENAMAD

Agustin Achuni leads the Federation of Native People of Madre de Dios (FENAMAD), a grassroots organization of indigenous people. Their mission is to defend their land from outside interests and gain authority to manage their lands as they choose. He is deeply frustrated by the political marginalization of his people. He believes that the entire Tambopata Reserve and Bahuaja Sonene Park belong to the Ese-eja and that SERNANP (the park service) should co-manage these protected areas in partnership with the Ese’eja. Some members of FENAMAD believe ecotourism is a profitable business for indigenous people, others see it as exploitative. Many in FENAMAD now work as miners; some have fought against colonist miners. Agustin is pained by his people’s poverty and thinks that if mining must happen it should directly benefit indigenous people. FENAMAD leaders are considering joining the miners in their public protests against mining restrictions. They want the government to expedite permits and processes so that miners can work legally.

Co-founder of Rainforest Expeditions:

Peruvian Eduardo Nycander is passionate about biodiversity conservation, but believes that saving the rainforest must be profitable to be successful. His company is committed to sharing revenue with the Ese’eja communities of Infierno and eventually turning the business over to them. Eduardo is worried and angry about the surge in illegal mining activities along the rivers. His tourists complain when they see mining along rivers and in the forest. They paid to visit pristine Amazon forest! He hopes recent crack-downs by the military will discourage mining, but fears that miners will take over the Buffer Zone area and re-enter the Reserve.

Conservation biologist from Conservation International, Washington, D.C.

Natalia Ortiz is a Peruvian who earned her M.Sc. in Conservation Biology and now works for Conservation International and is based in Lima. She feels great urgency about saving tropical rainforests. All over Latin America she has seen forests cleared for agriculture and ranching. She is frustrated that so many Peruvian parks are poorly protected. She knows that Tambopata and the neighboring Bahuaja-Sonene Park together form one of the last large blocks of intact forest on the planet and this is an important refuge for biodiversity. Natalia recently raised $200,000 from U.S. agencies for biodiversity conservation in Tambopata. Now she’s involved in fierce debate with her colleagues in Tambopata about how conservation funds should be spent, e.g. paying for park protection? or sustainable agriculture? Given her modest level of funding she has to prioritize her investment.

Owner of Peruvian logging company – ‘Madera Grande’ (Big Wood)

Vicente Molino owns Madera Grande. He knows that the Tahuamanu area (east part of Tambopata) is rich in valuable hardwoods. A few years ago, Peruvian government agents stopped Vicente’s company from logging this area allegedly because it was illegal. Vicente suspects that the government actually wants to sell rights to these forests to Asian logging companies. Worse, Vicente suspects that the government has been confiscating timber from logging companies and selling it for profit. He once paid his employees to protest logging restrictions. They marched the streets, forced entry to government property and torched the confiscated wood. Vicente believes it’s the right of Peruvian citizens to cut the forest for jobs & profit. He’s angry loggers were excluded from the roundtable, especially because his company is now making an effort to practice more sustainable logging, including natural forest management. He doubts that small scale loggers or indigenous people have the technical skills and capital to carry out natural forest management or to even meet the sustainability rules of Peru’s logging laws. Perhaps these individuals would be interested in collaborating with his company on a logging business venture?

Small-scale Logger

Ernesto Perez was granted a small concession to carry out logging in a forested area on his farm. He has to pay taxes to the Peruvian government for the timber he extracts from the forest. The government also insists that he submit logging management plans and survey all the trees on his land. This is not profitable, given high labor costs. He is thinking of working for Madera Grande, although he knows they were previously caught logging illegally and opening roads in indigenous reserves and national reserves to extract high value mahogany trees. He wants to avoid any trouble with government because they could take away his concession. Although loggers were not invited to propose maps, Ernesto’s friends in FADEMAD invited him to join the roundtable. Meanwhile Ernesto’s brother is urging him to join the illegal smallscale mining operation he started in the western part of the Buffer Zone, at least to help make ends meet.

Gold Miner

Pedro Gomez is a gold miner who has been mining the banks of the Malinowski river for 20 years. He’s considered ‘artisanal’ because he uses only modest equipment. He does not have a formal mining title or permit. Pedro submitted the paperwork three times, but the government keeps rejecting his submissions and asking for more environmental impact studies that he cannot afford. He’s frustrated that government officials do not have the manpower or expertise to expedite the permit process and some police are corrupt. Since Pedro has been operating illegally, the military has destroyed his mining equipment twice. Now he must work for another miner and hope for a decent share of the profits. He is alarmed by increasing violence in mining area & sees other old-timers arming themselves & taking turns at guard. Pedro has many friends in FADEMAD and is also a member of an organization that is fighting for the rights of artisanal miners. Pedro thinks it is impossible to stop mining in Tambopata and that the government should focus on regulating the activity and helping local residents benefit.

Colonist gold miner

Luisa Mena left her small plot of degraded farmland in Cusco and moved to Tambopata 3 years ago during the gold rush. She convinced a farmer located in the Tambopata Reserve Buffer Zone to let her clear forest and use a small pump & hoses to extract gold from his land. She agreed to pay him with gold. Like most colonist miners, Luisa doesn’t have an official permit to extract gold. After 6 months, the farmer demanded his gold payment, but Luisa could only give him half because she is deep in debt for the mining equipment she bought. Her children back in Cusco say their school will expel them unless she pays their fees. The farmer is now asking FADEMAD to help him remove Luisa from his land. Luisa has started talking to other newcomer miners from Cusco about forming a mining co-op and pooling their money to get a mining permit somewhere in the Buffer Zone. Luisa agrees it’s good to care for the environment. She is willing to help plant trees after she is done mining and is confident the forest can grow back.

Soybean Producer

Joao Belem is from Brazil. His father is CEO of a multinational company that buys and sells soybeans throughout Latin America. Joao hopes that now that the Interoceanic Highway is completed, he can introduce soybean cultivation to Tambopata and make a fortune by trucking it to other countries and port cities. Soybean production is booming thanks to the high demand for chicken feed in cities in Latin America and Asia. He knows soybean production is blamed for severe environmental damage elsewhere, but Joao believes industrial agriculture is more productive than slash and burn farming and can be managed sustainably, particularly if planted on already deforested land. He points out that soy production helped Brazil and Argentina achieve impressive economic growth and pay off international debt. Perhaps the Peruvian government could tax soybeans and use the revenue to pay for protecting the park better?

Wisconsin Energy Corporation executive

Molly Carter has a graduate degree in Natural Resources and works for WE (Wisconsin Energy) on environmental mitigation. Her mission is to support forest carbon sequestration projects as part of a broader international initiative called “REDD” (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). Her company has paid to protect forests for carbon storage in Belize (Rio Bravo) and Bolivia (Noel Kempf Park). She came to Tambopata because the region’s vast old-growth forests are unusually ‘carbon-heavy’ as well as rich in species. Molly realizes that REDD projects must be fair to the concerns of local people but she hasn’t decided whom her company should partner with. She sees Brazil nut harvesters as promising partners to protect the forest but is open to working with other stakeholders also (e.g. colonist farmers). As an investor, she wants to avoid high ‘transaction costs’ (e.g. the cost of having to negotiate many small contracts to conserve small plots of forest versus one contract for a larger forest area).

Biofuel Scientist

Colleen Janssen has a graduate degree in engineering and works for Netherlands Energy Corporation (NEC) in the Division of Alternative Energy Sources. The Government of Peru contacted her to help them promote biofuel production in Tambopata. Specifically, she needs to decide which biofuel crops to plant (Soy? sugar cane? oil palm?) on what areas of land in Tambopata (on forested land? degraded land?). She hopes to convince people of the advantages of biofuel by pointing to Brazil’s enormous profits from these crops. And oil palm production is booming elsewhere in the Peruvian Amazon (e.g. San Martin). However, she knows that local conservationists fear that planting biofuels would displace smallscale farmers and simply shift deforestation elsewhere. Other opponents point out that oil palm plantations need to be large (>1,000 ha) to be profitable. Yet Colleen still believes biofuels are an optimal choice for at least some areas of Tambopata.