In 2012, together with the grassroots organization, the Ronda Campesina, we developed a new conservation model: Ronda Conservation Areas. The Ronda Campesina is a network of autonomous civil organizations aimed at self-protection. They practice vigilance and civil justice in the rural Peruvian countryside where state control is insufficient. It is the largest and most influential grassroots movement in North Eastern Peru. The Ronda of Amazonas and San Martín regions have demonstrated extraordinary environmental responsibility, confronting environmental issues that are mostly ignored by the Peruvian government such as wildlife and land trafficking.

These reserves, called Areas Ronderils de Conservacion Ambiental or ARCAs, have a double impact. Most importantly they allow fast and effective conservation from local initiatives. In our work we found that people living in or near forests demonstrate high environmental consciousness and a capacity to administer protection in rural areas that state agencies cannot match. Secondly, these reserves focus attention on state conservation systems that necessitate high economic investment and lengthy bureaucratic processes, excluding local people and missing many opportunities for conservation by a population that does not have the means or academic expertise to follow traditional conservation routes. An article in Mongabay that gives a broad view of this initiative can be found here.

Although most of the Ronda members are not indigenous, the Ronda movement is considered nationally and internationally as an indigenous organization and enjoys the same legal rights as indigenous communities. This gives them the international rights of Self-Determination, Autonomy and Self-Governance and the right to Territory. Article 29 of The UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples states ‘Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources. States shall establish and implement assistance programmes for indigenous peoples for such conservation and protection, without discrimination’. The same law that recognizes the Ronda Campesina also asserts that one of the functions of the organization is ‘to contribute to the preservation of their natural environment’, meaning that the Ronda has the legal right to declare rural areas as protected areas.