South America Hub

Collaborative and sustainable management of buffer zones

As true alternatives to exploitative resource use, co-development of competitive land use models which contribute to both people’s livelihoods and forest protection

South America Hub

Madre de Dios is a department in Peru


Approximately 140,000


A threatened biodiversity hotspot in the tropical Andes, Madre de Dios has large areas of intact rainforest and one of the world’s highest levels of biodiversity, with up to 300 different tree species on a single hectare of land. It is home to unique plants and animals. The rainforest here stores globally significant amounts of carbon dioxide.


The Peruvian rainforest is one of the most species-rich habitats on the planet. Here, the Wyss Academy for Nature works with diverse local actors in co-design processes, analyzing the problems encountered in protecting biodiversity and identifying solutions that benefit both people and nature. Rapid loss of biodiversity, the acceleration of climate change and a growing demand for land resources are closely linked challenges within this region. Since the discovery of gold deposits in the alluvial plains in the 1980s, gold mining has become an important industry in Madre de Dios. Large numbers of people arriving from the Peruvian Highlands and powerful actors vying to exploit these lucrative resources have fueled a gold mining boom, most of which is artisanal and illegal. At the same time, as extreme weather conditions and land degradation cause their crops to fail, people from coastal regions and the highlands arrive in search of agricultural land. All of this puts increasing pressure on the rainforest and the people and animals who live there.

The Wyss Academy has partnered in an iterative process with scientists, specialists from practical fields and representatives from politics, business, and civil society. Their aim is to develop innovative ideas for protecting the rainforest and ensuring its sustainable use while at the same time also providing viable livelihoods and economic prospects for the population. The shared vision of the actors, practical applications, strategies and political guidelines are tested locally.

South America Region

Main achievements at Hub level

  • Establish the legal basis for the operations and office set-up of the Wyss Academy in Peru and the South America Hub through a hosting agreement with the International Potato Centre (CIP)
  • Publication of a Regional Appraisal Report for Madre de Dios as well as a number of briefing papers on conservation and development policies, the Brazil Nut value chain, and buffer zones management.
South America Region
South America Region 3
Portrait Marthez

Interview with Dr. Sarah-Lan Mathez-Stiefel, Senior Advisor, CDE

Read the interview

Challenge 1

Promoting high-value forest products with multiple benefits for nature and people

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