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Written by ABOFOA   
Tuesday, 16 November 2010 00:52

TITLE:    "THE PRICE OF CONSERVATION" (The history of ABOFOA)

-translated and reworded from a Spanish version  RV

The ecological problems of planet Earth are known and understood in a community as small and rural as Pucacaca, in the very agricultural Rio Huallaga Valley of, San Martin, Peru. The farmers informed themselves about the global planet Earth  problems of overpopulation, desertification, water scarcity, deterioration of the ozone layer, and predictions that even the human species could become extinct. Next to the farms they owned, they witnessed  the timber mafia cutting and removing unique and rare forest trees such as mahogany, cedar,  ishpingo, quinilla, white wood, and others, for uses as varied as parquet flooring, charcoal, lumber, and even the making of crates used to ship fruit to the coast of Peru.


One fine day, in February 2003, a group of farmers who owned agricultural plots had the idea of forming a committee to curb the indiscriminate cutting of forests. They officially organized on 03/03/03, becoming the Asociacion El Bosque Del Futuro “Ojos De Agua” or ABOFOA. Translated the name means, the Association  for the future of the “Eyes of Water” Forest. The main goal of the group of farmers became to defend, preserve, and enhance the protection of their forest for future generations. This required urgent, new protection strategies using all means, resources, scientific and technological discoveries available, along with work for the formation and development of public awareness to interpret, understand and realize the magnitude of this problem.
Importantly, these very farmers were in danger of being victims of the destructive process. They witnessed the constant presence of logging trucks coming in and out of an area of their forest. The farmers interviewed the operators of the trucks, asking them why they were entering the very forest that needed to be conserved. The farmers were told the loggers were returning to harvest a piece of forest that had been granted to them in a concession 20 years ago. The farmers found this claim was not true. The farmers said the forests of the entire area were being conserved, in particular to save the habitat of the giant “Crown of the Angels” fern, Platycerium andinum, which grows most often as an epiphyte on quinilla trees. Quinilla trees were being sold by the loggers to parquet flooring industry.


The farmers quickly understood the situation. They became an official association on March 3, 2003 (03/03/03) and declared that, from that day on, no more trees would be cut. The angry loggers responded by cutting every tree in the area they claimed.

A RAY OF HOPE
In January 2004, at a coordination meeting of the “Proyecto Especial Huallaga Central y Bajo Mayo “ – PEHCBM (Special Project for the Central Rio Huallaga and Lower Rio Mayo) was held. From that meeting the Peruvian government issued a statement that said in part: "We know the intention and how this organization (the farmers) is taking care of these forests and so we propose to conduct a study to dam the water that has flooded this area heavily in years past. This would make a water reservoir that, in the future, could develop sustainable agriculture . NOTE: I believe it is important to get this article on the website, but this section I truly do not understand. The only clarification I  have received is:   “Roy, the forests are water reservoirs if the trees are cut no more water in the future, the forest have to do with water equilibrium” The proposal was well received by farmers, giving the basis for coordination, educational talks, and more that related to care of the environment. The farmers association immediately signed a commitment to maintain intact their specific wooded area, with the idea that this area could be delimited in the future.


In July 2004 the work of tracing the channel began, combined with new conservation proposals. The same year the Chairman of the PEHCBM Committee requested the District Council of the Pucacaca zone to declare the first step for the Eyes of Water Sector to become a Private Conservation Area. This step was well received by Pucacaca Mayor Jorge Garcia Ramirez, who by Resolution No. 008-2003 declared the inviolability of the area for care and protection, authorizing the farmers association to care for and conserve the Eyes of Water sector. Later the same year the area was visited by biologists whose mission was also to assist in the conservation of ecosystem and biodiversity of the Eyes of Water sector.


In 2005, the battle with the owners of land was settled in the micro Sedasisa Basin, West Valley. They had to be evicted by court orders. A regional meeting, attended by many local and regional Authorities including: Regional Government of San Martin, Forestry Authority, National Police of Peru Picota Station, Provincial Prosecutor's Office, and Civil Society. Using as its center the Pucacaca District the main objective of the meeting was to quest for strategies and unification of institutional partnerships to launch a frontal attack against the indiscriminate cutting of timber and non-timber resources, which are harmful and undermine the conservation of environment and biodiversity. The result was a process of complaints against illegal loggers in the timber. Because of what they did, the chairman of the Committee and its Board of Directors, received death threats from loggers. Serious legal problems developed because timber smugglers were in collusion with the Provincial Forestry and Regional Authorities.

 

In January of 2006, given that they had no support from the municipal authorities, ABOFOA become legally established by Association in the Public Records of the City of Tarapoto. This caused ABOFOA to be known to the Regional Authorities, NGOs, and others, giving rise to important strategic alliances with the NGO AMPA, who invited us to formalize the Institutional Association. Then we completed a letter of application for Conservation Concession addressed to the Administration of Forestry and wildlife of the Peruvian State. It stated one of our main objectives, the consolidation of the Conservation Area. The state orders its publication in the various municipalities that border territorially the area proposed for preservation. However, the Mayor of the District Municipality of Caspizapa, refused to publish the proposal sent by the Forest Authority. The group got around this problem by publishing it in the official gazette El Peruano, as well as other national dailies.


In January 2007, the Association President Hugo Vasquez Torrejon and members of its board William Rodriguez Trigoso and Mario Basualdo, are reported to the National Police of Peru Picota base, and before the Provincial Prosecutor of pillory (This word is a translation problem  RV), for a crime invented by a land dealer collusion with the timber mafia. Their complaint was received by the office which proposed 08 years of deprivation of liberty and payment of civil damages to the Peruvian State in the amount of S /: 10,000 Nuevos Soles per share each of the defendants. They had been charged with a criminal offense they never committed when in fact they were just soldiers fighting for the preservation of the environment. They become victims of injustice, being taken as common criminals.


Given this situation and to avoid jail they went to the Ombudsman, with the support of several organizations who sympathized with the outrage committed, and the Provincial Municipality of Picota, Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental - SPDA, INIBICO, Environmental Adviser, Mr. Oscar Orbegozo Montalva, launching their protests before the judicial authorities, a case that alarmed all residents of San Martin. The group had the support of a lawyer to took their criminal case. Finally they were cleared of any wrongdoing. The referral process lasted two years, financially and emotionally affecting families of the accused, all for the sake of defending their habitat. We have the consolation that we were right and comes to mind a memorable phrase discharged by a French environmentalist who visit our lands, "" You are poor, yet are rich in this beautiful mountain, conserve it because someday it will help your Country." The words that filled their hearts with joy and satisfaction that still persists because from that day they have more desire to continue working without getting anything in return, because they have the firm belief that , “with our attitude and our nature we are protecting the future of New Generations.”

THE FRUITS OF TENACI0US LABOR
Their continuing perseverance allow the association to enjoy the fruits of their years of work. In 2007 they were winners of the Second Contest on private conservation initiatives and Communal convened by the Peruvian Society for Environmental Rights. The prize was Two Thousand Dollars ($ 2000.00) that was intended for the publication of the proposal for the concession in the official gazette El Peruano" and other national dailies.


Then in 2008 the Association won a grant issued by the Embassy of Finland for development projects, obtaining funding award of the Project Implementation Grant For Water Conservation Eyes valued at 17,800 euros.


Later the same month, September 2009, the Association was visited by Peruvian biologist Ricardo Fernandez, who was sponsored by Roy Vail of Mena Arkansas in the U. S. A. Roy Vail, a retired high school Biology teacher, wrote a book on the fern genus Platycerium, usually called staghorn ferns. In 1996 he began an effort in Peru to protect the habitat of the staghorn fern species Platycerium andinum, an epiphyte that forms giant ring-shaped clusters in the understory of tropical dry forests. It lives only in the valley of central Rio Huallaga, the valley of the lower Rio Mayo, and a small area of Bolivia. All these are in the rare tropical dry forest biome. His work, assisted by Marco Leon and many others, resulted in the establishment of El Quinillal, a municipal reserve in the districts of cities of Picota and Bellavista. He had received reports from an American who exports plants from Peru that Platycerium andinum (Crown of the Angeles) was not being protected in El Quinillal. He asked Ricardo Fernandez to find the truth. Ricardo Fernandez reported to Roy Vail that the farmers of “Eyes of Water” association had set aside a forest reserve near Picota that they were very capable of protecting. When Roy Vail learned that Ricardo Fernandez would again be near the area in early November of 2009, he arranged to return to Peru and travel with Ricardo Fernandez to the “Eyes of Water“ reserve. He called his visit one of the events that “makes life worth living.”


Roy Vail has made donations to the Association which are being used to construct, by hand, an office building and auditorium in Pucacaca which will bare his name. When he learned that the Association planned to construct  cabin in their forest for researchers, he volunteered to sponsor the project by selling some items left to him by his late parents, and requested that the research cabin be named in their memory. He indicated that he felt the need to return when it was complete.


Roy Vail returned in August of 2010. He brought his only sister, Carol Gardner. Ricardo Fernandez was there also. The dedication took place and a large group went to the research cabin, spending the night there. It was a very eventful trip which will have to be covered separately.

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NOTE: It is very possible that some minor translation problems with this article will be fixed later.  RV

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 November 2010 01:16