One Tree Planted

Peru 2021 - Amazon reforestation through agroforestry


1 June 2021 


Pucallpa, Ucayali Iquitos, Loreto


Campo Verde Province, Ucayali
Maynas Province, Loreto


  • Biodiversity/Habitats
  • Forest Fire Restoration
  • Soil Stability and Erosion Control

We have developed a reforestation approach that will enable smallholders to restore value to degraded, unproductive agricultural lands. At the centre of our approach is ‘agroforestry’ which restores land and generates an income for farmers, thereby reducing further deforestation pressure. At the core of our model is the importance of diversifying farmer incomes through sale of produce in the short and medium-term, timber in the medium to long-term, which is complimented by payments for ecosystem services, namely carbon offsets.

Our model has been developed from over 10 years’ of research in the Peruvian Amazon and it is centered on the understanding that the only way to really improve livelihoods is to ensure low people have the right incentives to plant and maintain the trees on their land, and they can generate an income from harvest and sale of sustainable produce. The PYF model can be expressed operationally in three phases: Foundation phase (years 1-3) - Establish agroforestry systems by training and supporting farmers to set up and manage community tree nurseries and plant out/graft fruit trees. This is the most cost intensive phase. Market Development Phase (years 4-9) - Fruit trees start to yield produce. Support farmers in on-going tree maintenance and commercialisation of harvests through processing support and links to buyers.

From Year 4 onwards, with harvest being received from sale of fruits, farmers should be able to financially pay for inputs (such as fertilizer, tools and pest control) so their reliance on PYF significantly reduces. Sustainability Phase (years 10+) - Farmers have a sustainable income and the expertise to continue expanding agroforestry systems, shifting permanently away from destructive “slash-and-burn.” However, through the Market Development Phase and Sustainability Phases the farmer will continue to get technical support from PYF staff on a ‘as needed’ basis. We have designed six different reforestation designs; three for each respective region. All use native species.

Within the designs there is flexibility on choice of timber species, which mainly relates to site species matching. The reason we have designed various options is to standardize our designs into three ‘main models’ per region but at the same time also provide choice depending on the circumstances of the smallholder – be it in terms of capacity, baseline conditions or dynamics of the landholding itself.


The projects fall within the Western Arc of the Amazon Rainforest in the Loreto and Ucayali regions of north-eastern Peru. This is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth and of critical importance for conservation.

The Loreto project sits in the biodiversity and carbon-rich Napo Moist Forest Eco-region; it is internationally celebrated as being among the most species-rich forests on our planet. Traditional slash-and-burn agriculture is a major driver of deforestation in Loreto. Much of this deforestation has and continues to occur in the mega biodiverse buffer zone of the Allpahuayo-Mishana National Reserve, which is home to a special type of rainforest called ‘varillal’ that develops over a white sand geology. This creates a uniquely diverse ecosystem and the reserve contains 275 species of trees and lays claim to having the highest diversity of plants per hectare globally, more than anywhere else on Earth.

The Loreto project is located in a region of High Conservation Value Forest, with high levels of endemism and endangered species. The region is home to the Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve, and the Pacaya-Samiria National Park, which contain notable types of precious rainforest habitat: “varillales” and “flooded” forests. The first is a forest which develops on white sand and composes a special ecosystem with uniquely high diversity of soils and different drainage conditions. The second is composed of forests flooded by the black waters of the tributaries of the Amazon, which harbours species with a very restricted range, the distinctive aquaje palm, and incredibly high carbon content in the below ground biomass. The region is home to many species which are classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, such as the White Bellied Spider Monkey (Ateles belzebuth), the Black Faced Spider Monkey (Ateles Chamek), Iquitos Gnatcatcher (Polioptila Clementsi), and the Giant Brazilian Otter (Pteronura brasiliensis).

Sadly, this precious rainforest is being degraded — replaced by a vast expanse of monoculture crops, such as corn, cassava and pineapples in the short-term before being abandoned as the soils become too infertile to continue production, creating a vicious cycle of poverty and degradation of natural resources. On the deforested agricultural lands, biodiversity has dramatically diminished. (IIAP, 2013) All populations of the Endangered species found in the project areas are predicted to decrease in the ‘without-project’ scenario.

Our programme for scaling-up of agroforestry will have a larger focus in Ucayali because here there are the largest extents of contiguous deforested pasture areas owned by smallholders. Around the city of Pucallpa, and bordering the 100km stretch of the Federico Basadre highway heading out of Pucallpa towards Lima, the land is now all but void of rainforest. (PYF, 2014) The project lands where we currently work and plan to implement the new agroforestry systems were converted from forest into pastures in the early 1970s. The land has continued as low productivity pasture lands since that time. (GOREU, 2006)

The clearing of native forest cover, overgrazing and frequent fires has led to degradation, loss of biodiversity and soil impoverishment. Forest removal and consequent habitat destruction has affected most species of fauna, which generally live in low densities in the forests of the region. Birds such as Guacamayo (Ara spp.), Perdiz (Tinamus spp.), Pihuicho (Brotogeris spp), Toucan (Rhamphastos spp ) are not able to live in a pasture habitat. Because of this degradation, the project area does not represent a permanent habitat for native species of fauna, but the remnant primary forests and mature secondary forests near the project area continue to provide habitat to a range of species.

As in the Loreto project area, where PYF has carried out research, communities are very poor and rely almost entirely on small-scale agriculture and ranching. Across the two regions, smallholder farmers are inhabitants of a huge swath of deforested and degraded land where rainforest has been cleared and abandoned. Therefore, community-led reforestation through agroforestry has huge potential for ecological and socio-economic benefits.


PYF provides practical, hands-on training through workshops and field schools, enabling communities to gain the knowledge, skills and confidence needed to transition away from the overexploitation of their land, making reforestation through agroforestry financially viable and technically achievable. This community-centred approach is increasing forest cover, expanding habitat for rare species, and promoting ecosystem connectivity by restoring forest cover and in so doing creating wildlife corridors between rainforest areas and national parks.

It is also fostering a sense of personal and community pride, bolstering the cultural significance of what it means to be a landowner and farmer in the Amazon. One of our beneficiaries, Máximo Malqui Ríos, said: “I want people who walk past my agroforestry system to admire it and to be inspired to repeat it themselves, on their own land.” He added: “I want to bring back value to my land that has become valueless.”

The communities we work with have a strong connection to their land, the rainforest and wildlife; they do not want to cut down trees but poverty and the prospect of much-needed income from short-term crops and ranching forces them into a cycle of slash-and-burn that continuously drives deforestation, biodiversity loss and greenhouse gas emissions. PYF beneficiaries are extremely poor and typically farmers earn about USD$108 per month from their smallholdings — barely enough to cover basic needs, leaving them vulnerable to crisis in the case of harvest failure or health problems. This was seen very acutely during the COVID-19 pandemic, where beneficiaries were pushed toward food poverty.

At the core of our model is the importance of diversifying and increasing farmers' incomes in the short and medium-term, as this is one of the greatest barriers to smallholder farmers adopting sustainable agriculture. We focus on produce aimed at higher value deforestation-free markets, such as organic shade-cocoa, lime and chilli peppers. From year four onwards, farmers start to generate revenues from the sale of orchard fruits and the systems become self-sustaining and a significant uptake in livelihoods is seen. Over the medium to long-term, farmers realise a large pay-off when their timber trees have matured and can be sustainably harvested, which will be complemented by payments for ecosystem services and the sale of Verified Carbon Units (VCUs). For the model to function successfully, all elements need to be working so that farmers get the revenues they need to positively incentivise them to adopt and continue agroforestry, permanently moving away from slash-and-burn agriculture.

Our grassroots model is adapted to the hyper-local context and ensures that communities' on-the-ground needs are met so they can diversify their income, while gaining the knowledge and support to reduce deforestation, enhance biodiversity and build resilience to future crises, such as climate change. The most important aspect of our work is ensuring that beneficiaries are involved in the decision-making process and have agency over the project. Without this, farming communities will not transition permanently away from slash-and-burn agriculture and the project will fail to meet its objective. The PYF team regularly reviews and evaluates the barriers facing beneficiaries through constant consultation with communities.

Jorge Torres Padilla, ex-Ministry of the Environment Peru, said: “Having worked for many years in direct contact with farmers and communities, I have developed a special sense of smell when conducting an evaluation to recognise a good project from a bad project. The most striking thing about visiting farmers in this project is that they never talked about the agroforestry systems belonging to Plant Your Future, but rather to themselves. This “tiny” detail might sound minor but it is not. It shows that farmers have participated in decision-making and feel complete ownership over the agroforestry systems. It is key to their longer-term success and sustainability.”


Andiroba (Carapa guianensis), Marupa (Simarouba amara), Tornillo (Cedrelinga cateniformis), Añallu Caspi (Cordia bicolor/allidora), Palo de Rosa (Aniba rosaeodora), Shihuahuaco (Dipteryx odorata), Marupa (Simarouba amara), Pumaquiro (Genipa Americana), Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), Cocoa (Theobroma Cacao), Acai/ Huasai (Euterpe oleracea), Guaba (Inga edulis), Lime/Citrus (Citrus sp.)

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