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Once a passionate runner, Maximiliano from the Peruvian Amazon has not only transformed his own life but has become an integral part of a significant initiative with the support of Earthworm Foundation.
Originally from Junín, Maximiliano and his wife Venancia Rojas manage today a stunning 56-hectare farm in the province of Padre Abad. Their commitment to sustainable practices is visible as their farming activities incorporate various crops, including oil palm cultivation, fish farming, cocoa plantations, citrus fruits, and poultry. This successful coexistence of various agricultural endeavours with the remaining forest on their farm highlights Maximiliano's dedication to sustainable and responsible farming practices and his openness to new technologies.
"In the same way I had the motivation for running and to keep pushing my body, now I have the motivation to discover new activities that complement my farm and keep pushing my creativity, which I share with my family, and it's great. For a marathon, I have to prepare and train, and to have a good farm model; I have to prepare and dedicate myself to this endeavour, too. I feel happy that I could mix my passion with my daily life; for example, on my farm, I have a path where I harvest palm trees. I've marked this same path, indicating distances in meters, so that I can train with my daughters".
With 15 hectares of protected forest, riparian buffer strips, and vital water sources under their responsibility, they embody the principles of sustainability stewardship in the region.
With the support of Earthworm Foundation and local partners, Maximiliano and Venancia have secured a better future for themselves and their families and have also become ambassadors of change, inspiring others to embrace environmentally conscious farming practices and increase productivity or diversify their income.
Carlos Rueda, Landscape Project Manager for Peru at Earthworm Foundation, has worked closely with Maximiliano.
"Maximiliano has been very open about using available technology for his benefit, and we've seen the special connection with his farm and its environment, including the proper management of his productive crops and the remaining forest on his farm. He's a leader who can share his knowledge and passion with his community. Protecting the upper forest land on his farm will positively impact his neighbours, who will benefit from a continuous water supply and soil protection.”
Earthworm's Longitudinal Landscape in the Amazon covers almost 7.7 million hectares and is home to thousands of small-scale farmers and large commercial groups. The landscape involves biodiversity hotspots containing six key protected areas.
Unfortunately, it has also been an area of intense agricultural development, resulting in the loss of approximately 2 million hectares of forest between 2001 and 2018 and harbouring various active social conflicts.
San Martin, Junín, Ucayali, and Huánuco are regions where cocoa production is centred, while Ucayali, San Martin, Loreto, and Huánuco are hotspots for oil palm cultivation. However, the environmental impact of these crops requires monitoring and regulation, making High Conservation Value / High Carbon Stock (HCV/HCS) studies and Farm Management Plans (HFP) crucial for informed land-use decisions by companies and farmers to reduce impact, especially with the forthcoming No-Deforestation regulations from the EU and other nations.
Combining the HCS methodology, which identifies forest areas to be conserved and areas suitable for agriculture, with the HCV methodology, which pinpoints ecosystem and community areas requiring protection, Earthworm Foundation's multidisciplinary experts identify zones for conservation and sustainable development across the landscape.
"Currently, we are one of the leading organisations in Latin America in conducting landscape-level HCS/HCV studies. To date, we have mapped HCS/HCVs on 888,000 hectares, making Peru the country with the biggest detailed mapping of this type", says Patricia Cabanillas, Forest Coordinator at Earthworm Foundation Peru.
While these maps promote sustainable land use at the landscape level, at the farm level, Earthworm has introduced a useful tool, the Holistic Farm Plan (HPF), to promote sustainable practices, including regenerative crop production, conservation or restoration of HCS/HCV identified on farm, positive labour practices; and diversification of income and resilience.
These plans facilitate the efficient use and management of land by incorporating the fundamental principles mentioned above. By actively involving and training farmers and company technicians using this approach, it is possible to achieve change on a larger scale.
"We have successfully played a positive role in the effort of companies and cooperatives to improve their sustainable practices. To date, we have supported 12 companies/cooperatives and their technical teams to develop 142 holistic farm plans (HFP) as a first stage on how to use the tool for replication with the group of farmers associated that could benefit 2,539 cocoa and palm oil farmers. We work hand in hand with committed companies and farmers who are seeking to meet positive change and international sustainability requirements", says Rolly Calvo and Dick Edert, Earthworm Peru Field Officers.
Collective action is critical to implement sustainable agricultural practices in the Longitudinal Landscape.
Therefore, Earthworm Foundation has forged partnerships with local key actors, including Grupo Palmas, Sumaqao, Alicorp, Cocepu, Indolmasa, Aspash, Solidaridad, Proforest, Tropical Forest Alliance, and Earth Innovation Institute. Also, key groups like the Coalition for Sustainable Production, including the Cocoa, Forest and Diversity Agreement and the Working Group on Sustainable Palm Oil (both initiatives promoted inside the Coalition). These collaborations provide a robust foundation for creating the conditions necessary for responsible sourcing raw materials from the landscape.
Specifically, in collaboration with the Coalition and its initiatives, Earthworm Foundation organised a series of field workshops in the Amazon region with four other partners. These workshops brought together key stakeholders, including companies, civil society representatives, local authorities, and producers.
The aim was to facilitate knowledge sharing on subjects such as HCS/HCV studies, Holistic Farm Plans (HFP), business plans, the RSPO smallholder certification process, and the latest EU regulations regarding deforestation. In addition, Earthworm Foundation promoted, jointly with other partners, the proof of concept of a jurisdictional process in Tocache, San Martín (another productive region of the Peruvian Amazon) and expects to replicate the experience in the Neshuya district in Ucayali Region in 2024.
"We have also approached local and regional authorities in San Martin, Ucayali and Huánuco to present the results of the HCS/HCV studies and their usefulness for land use planning and Ecological/Economic micro-zoning objectives they have for their jurisdictions due to the accuracy of our maps. We receive good reviews and their interest in accessing the data and expanding the studies to more districts, which we are happy to support and explain in detail", says Carlos Rueda.
Maximiliano's story is an example of how innovative mapping tools and sustainable farm planning can contribute to improving a farmer's livelihood and land management. Success stories like his serve as powerful motivators, driving people to replicate and disseminate these practices.
But the future extends beyond individual farms; it entails embracing regenerative agriculture, deliberate land-use planning, and protecting and restoring vital ecosystems in the whole landscape. In partnership with various stakeholders, Earthworm Foundation is working towards a more sustainable future for the Peruvian Amazon and its communities.
The Coalition for Sustainable Production promotes collaboration among the private sector, civil society, and indigenous organisations to transition to deforestation-free production. Affiliated companies commit to environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable practices, using tools like High Conservation Values (HCV) and High Carbon Stock (HCS) methodologies.
Earthworm Foundation in Peru provides explanatory materials for companies preparing for international regulations on deforestation-free production. This material, emphasising the importance of sustainable practices, serves as a call to action, urging individuals to download the manual for guidance in implementing these tools and fostering responsible agricultural practices. Download the guide in Spanish below.
This work is part of Earthworm's landscape programme in the Longitudinal Landscape, Peru, supported by Grupo PALMAS and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). We work in collaboration with a growing number of local and national stakeholders. The pillars of our work are smallholder resilience, regenerative agriculture, and the restoration and maintenance of degraded forests.