It is important to have the local community on your side because they know the practices, norms and landscape better than anyone. Integrating them into conservation projects is a win for both the communities and for conservation. In Sierra del Divisor National Park, Peru, we have made great strides working directly with local communities on two fronts: law enforcement and ecotourism. 

We are currently collaborating with two communities, Nuevo Sapasoa and Patria Nueva. On the law enforcement front, Sierra del Divisor management has relied on the communities as guides and a source of information. Unfortunately, the practice of hiring community members as rangers has been a challenge. The value of hiring local community members is often overlooked by bureaucrats that make hiring decisions in the capitol, and rangers are often brought in from larger cities. 

Since we arrived in Peru we have established a working relationship between the military, the special police, and the community, and we will soon incorporate the rangers into this relationship. Thanks to these partnerships, the community no longer fears reprisals from criminals and feels more free to report criminal activity.

An attack on the community would most likely provoke a response by the military. Joint patrols are often a result of information gathered by the community and have a greater chance of arrest and conviction.

At the same time, we are working on a community garden and clean water project to improve health within the community. In terms of ecotourism, we will employ local community members at the park’s ecolodge, currently under construction. They can also offer tours of their community and sell their native goods to tourists. They will also be able to sell fresh produce from the garden and fresh fish to the ecolodge.