People against Plants: How land development and use policy is affected by native populations in Manu National Park

Manu National Park is a park in Peru that has been around since 1973 and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site while also being the largest park in Peru by area and thus the way that the Peruvian government sets its policy in protection if this land will set precedent for the other parks in Peru and more so other parks in the Amazon River Basin and even more so the national parks around the world that are home to indigenous populations. Manu is home to indigenous tribes, such as the Matsigenka, and these tribes are permitted to live within the government land of the Manu Reserve.

Manu is also one of the most biodiverse locations in the Amazon and therefore one of the most biodiverse locations the world and the purpose of the National Park designation is to protect this biodiversity and environment in the park. There are ethical issues surrounding the protection of the tribes and the environment when it comes to development and land use of the indigenous tribes within the park. The Matsigenka utilize Swidden agriculture, ecotourism, subsistence hunting, and also logistically have rights to the land within the park they live on even though it is owned and protected by the Peruvian government. These issues all raise questions about whether these are sustainable for the environment of the protected national park land.

The research has found that the Swidden agriculture is sustainable up to a population that is well above the current population and subsistence bow hunting is sustainable as long as the Matsigenka maintain their current hunting technique and do not being using firearms for hunting instead. The Matsigenka’s ecotourism was not economically successful but essentially kept up with operation costs and does provide positive relations with the Peruvian government which is important for policy making. The researchers also conclude that it is not advantageous in any form to relocate the Matsigenka outside of Manu territory.

The scientific research suggests these as recommendations for sustainability and solutions that will be environmentally viable but the ethical issue of whether it is right to limit the practices of the indigenous population still remains, whether it would be morally right to deny the Matsigenka from altering their way of life potentially for their own benefit in favor of protecting the environment. These are issues not just within Manu but in the rest of the Amazon and the rest of the world because there are many instances of conflict between indigenous populations and their ownership and land use of government land. How Peru decides its policy for the Matsigenka in Manu will set precedent for other government policy pertaining to the indigenous rights within government land all over the world.

2 thoughts on “People against Plants: How land development and use policy is affected by native populations in Manu National Park

  1. Rebecca Estabrook

    This topic was very interesting to me as I am an Environmental Policy major, and reading this was informative to me about the loss of ecosystems and biodiversity decreasing in areas of the world like Peru and the Amazon. I know that these areas are rich with biodiversity that secure ecosystems around them. Your comment on how the indigenous people are suffering the most because that means more human development on areas these ecosystems do need to survive, and the indigenous tribes and communities. This reminded me of my class, which is Jordan’s Mosaic, and we have talked about the Bedouin tribes that live in the Arabian Desert. I am now curious to look more closely into this tribe we have studied more culturally, and see if they are facing any environmental crisis of losing their rights to their land and their own land in general too.

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  2. Sara Martin

    Personally, I love discussing the effect humans have on ecosystems because it is something we can cure from ourselves so easily. I think your topic on national parks is a great way to weave that in because national parks are one of the most paramount symbols of territorial people that we can represent. It’s insane to think that politics have to play a large role in government usage and ownership of land in the environment. I think the stress upon the laws brings up a really important discussion among the peers in our Amazon class: has law made nature better or has it taken away it’s freedom?

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