Ana María Limache grew up in Pucallpa, a city in eastern Peru along the banks of the Ucayali river. She dreamed of one day becoming a biologist to protect the Amazonian rainforest that surrounded her.
When the time came, however, she ended up studying what her parents had studied before her—forestry.
“I never imagined myself working as a traditional forester; I had hoped to be able to focus on conservation,” she says.
Conservation jobs were scarce, so Ana María reluctantly accepted a position at a timber company.
But then the company sent Ana María to learn about sustainable forest management. Her perspective changed, and she realized she had a role to play in helping the industry adopt eco-friendly practices.
“Conservation does not mean leaving the forest intact; forest management does not necessarily mean adversely impacting the forest,” she says.
“With planning and sustainable practices, you can both conserve and harvest timber.”
A New Law, a New Role for Foresters
After five years at a teaching college in order to be close to her children, Ana María once again heeded the call of the forest, this time as a forest regent.
Regent is a position created under Peru’s new Forest and Wildlife Law to ensure forests are sustainably managed on the lands where the government authorizes the harvesting of timber.
“My work is to make sure the forest remains a forest and that everything is done by the book,” Ana María says.
The Amazon rainforest covers more than 60% of Peru’s landmass, producing oxygen and storing billions of tons of carbon, which is critical to slowing climate change.
Regents prepare and implement forest management plans to ensure Peru’s forests endure.
“I examine trees, inspect seed trees to ensure the tree species will continue to propagate, check to see if logging camps are spread out properly to reduce impact on the forest, and verify that data are recorded and the timber is traceable,” Ana María says.
Improving Forest Regent Training
Since 2018, USAID and the U.S. Forest Service have helped Peru’s forest authorities and universities develop a training program for foresters to become certified as regents.
Ana María, in her role as college professor, was part of the inter-institutional committee that made this happen.
“The effort to develop new content really helps the new generations of regents to be able to perform their jobs without the difficulties those of us in the first generation faced,” she says.
Women of the Forest
Since 2020, Ana María has served as president of the Board of the Regents Association of Ucayali, which for the first time is composed entirely of women. From her position on the board, she works with her colleagues to make the important role of regents more visible.
Change on the Horizon
USAID is also supporting the Peruvian Government in continued efforts to build the capacity of forest regents. Regents are key players, linking the government, forests, communities, and the private sector to one another.
In 2019 and 2020, the Peruvian Government reported significant improvement in the quality and accuracy of the information it received to combat illegal logging.
Work remains, but the new generation of forest regents in Peru are committed to improving the management of Peru’s forests.
Ana María ultimately found a different way to conserve the nature she values so greatly—a way that also creates job opportunities for her and others in a remote part of Peru. Looking forward, she hopes to be able to pass this on to her children.
About this Story
USAID, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, supported the Government of Peru in developing the Forest and Wildlife Law and its four regulations, which created the role of the regent by the end of 2015.
Eighty-three foresters have taken part in the new Forest Regency Specialization Program, led by Peru’s Forest and Wildlife Service. Peru has more than 15 million hectares of forests designated for forest management and 12 million hectares of forests managed by Indigenous peoples, yet Peru only has 224 regents. That is why this program is important.
In 2020, USAID and the U.S. Forest Service trained 48 regents on topics including “low impact road construction in forests” and “forest inventory” in order to provide continuing education opportunities for regents. In addition, USAID trained 71 of the 224 working regents to improve timber traceability, which makes it possible to determine the timber’s legal origin and allows exporters to reach new markets. In Peru, the forest sector provides nearly 96,000 formal jobs and the associated wood products industry supports an estimated 2 million Peruvians.
Footnotes: Narrative by Liliana Lizárraga, USFS, Magali Ugarte & Noelia Gutierrez, USAID. Photos by Diego Pérez & Liliana Lizárraga.
This post was originally published on USAID's Exposure page.
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