The University of Arizona

Campesino justification for self-initiated conservation actions: a challenge to mainstream conservation

Noga Shanee


Northeastern Peru is considered a global conservation priority due to high biodiversity and acute threats to natural habitat. Its non-indigenous migrant populations, known as campesinos, are presented by mainstream conservation agents as the major threat to this area, as environmentally destructive, apathetic to nature, and only responsive to economic and material incentives.  But the campesinos of Northeastern Peru often initiate their own conservation projects, justifying these actions with moral rationales. I divided these into anthropocentric and ecocentric categories. Justifications included an appreciation of nature's intrinsic values, religious or spiritual value, an aspiration for sustainability and a concern for future generations. I found that conservation is also seen as part of the struggle for social justice and recognition. Monetary incentives promoted by mainstream conservation agents were generally perceived in three ways: 1) as an opportunity for personal economic gain; 2) as an opportunity to sustain otherwise unaffordable conservation activities; 3) and when conservation was part of a social struggle economic incentives were perceived as unnecessary, undesirable or even a hindrance. Governmental legislation and outside conservation agents generally remain biased towards using economic justifications for local initiatives.   I used social methodologies to record campesino justifications for conservation and their interactions with conventional conservation. My aim was to categorize and analyze campesino views on conservation, highlighting those which challenge mainstream conservation, political ecologists' paradigms, and those that offer alternatives for collaboration with local populations towards shared goals.

Keywords: Conservation, environmental ethics, Peru, ecocentrism, anthropocentrism, neoliberal conservation, local participation.

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