Hub South America: Interview
Improving human wellbeing while preventing deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest
The Hub South America focuses on catalyzing collective actions to mutually benefit local communities and promote biodiversity conservation. The activities mainly target the Peruvian Amazon, particularly the Madre de Dios region.
Director of the Hub South America, joined the Wyss Academy in May 2022
What brought you to the Wyss Academy for Nature?
With nearly thirty years of professional experience dealing with sustainable development issues in the Andean-Amazon region, I have designed and implemented projects, facilitated stakeholder engagement, and fostered policy dialogues at various levels. Over time, I realized that stakeholders were working in silos, each one engaged in their own interests and unwilling to leave their comfort zone. However, current times require courage for collective action; that's the only way to move forward to a more sustainable future. We must break down the silos and generate the enabling conditions for all concerned stakeholders to come together and co-design concrete pathways to improve people’s lives while protecting the environment. The Wyss Academy offered me the framework to do so. To become a real agent of change and contribute to building a more sustainable future. That’s why I am here.
One of your concerns has been to ensure that local perspectives are represented in the Wyss Academy’s projects. Why do you think this is so important?
When we mobilize stakeholders to co-design solutions to a commonly identified challenge, we need to value and take into consideration their knowledge, experience and capacities. By building upon these diverse inputs, we can bridge the knowledge generated in different contexts and by different types of stakeholders. This way we have a better chance of emerging with something novel that responds directly to local realities. At the Wyss Academy, we want to identify what has been done in the past and see if that can be used as a starting point, which is later used by experienced scientists to produce new knowledge. We strongly believe that a different quality of knowledge is generated when research inputs also come from the Global South. We engage in a dialogue between equals to find more effective solutions.
How are you using the evidence presented at events such as the UN COPs to deal with the climate emergency and to preserve biodiversity?
We try to understand how climate change impacts people's livelihoods and biodiversity conservation possibilities. To ensure we have the most up-to-date evidence available, COPs are a very important source of information to design our activities with our partners. We also hope that our activities and research will contribute, with evidence and information, to the discussion of viable actions at COPs. One of the most important aspects is that global conferences can stimulate a political will to do things differently. This is fundamental to bring high-level discussions down to concrete issues, that can then improve the everyday life of local communities and conserve the environment.
The Wyss Academy wants to become a global enabler of innovations for systems transformations. Is there any example in Peru to translate what that means?
Let us consider the impact of gold mining in Peru, which affects biodiversity and attracts illegal mining activities. Our goal is to contribute to the development of a just, small-scale, and artisanal gold mining value chain. Achieving this objective requires us to create a shared vision with local governments, academic and research institutions, NGOs, businesses, civil society organizations, and producer organizations. This will allow us to find lasting answers which can truly change the existing value chain, addressing the cultural issues, the socioeconomic issues, and the political dimensions. However, given that gold mining in Madre de Dios is linked to the global gold market, we also need systemic innovations that can transform the value chain at a global level. This entails engaging governments, international organizations, large private corporations, and consumers in the conversation.
The Amazon nut, known in Europe as the Brazil nut, has always been a focus inside the Hub South America. What is the value of this product?
The Amazon nut, also known as castaña, is a vital non-timber forest product that supports around 20,000 people in the Madre de Dios region, providing a crucial source of income for local communities. By working to improve the value chain with Amazon nut farmers and other key stakeholders, we can increase the return people are getting from the nut trees in the forest areas and reduce the possibility of deforestation. Through multifunctional land use models, people can use forest products in a sustainable way, thereby preventing deforestation while also achieving better economic and social conditions. It is so important to show that people can make a living from the forest and improve their lives without cutting down the rainforest. Without such efforts, the trees will be in danger.