Who? Ignacio Auger (26)
What? MSc Thesis on Forest & Nature Conservation
Up until the 1980s, the village where I did my field research was still raw jungle. But when I came, the area had electricity, a proper road and sometimes even an internet connection. The landscape is really hilly. Houses are scattered across the hills, and the view is only interrupted by coffee plantations. Walking is the best way to get anywhere.
I went to Peru to research community-based conservation. The people I worked with were trying to protect 8000 hectares of nature without any support from the government or other big players. I was usually shown around by local farmers. It was amazing to see how they moved through that rough terrain, wading through deep rivers, walking with perfect balance, and incredibly fast. I was always lagging behind, drenched in sweat, tripping over roots. They had a lot of fun laughing at the obvious city person that I am. One time I went with some guys to build a surveillance post in the jungle. For a whole week, we stayed in the middle of pure, untainted jungle. To be able to witness that was a true privilege.
Not so romantic
Within my academic studies, I notice that the image of conservation in the Global South is often romanticized. Surely, community-based conservation must mean everyone living in harmony with nature? The reality is really not so simple. People are people and with that come different opinions, views and stakes. Many people I spoke to were not interested in protecting the forest because that could mean less food for their family. Others were afraid to speak up. Yet others lost interest in my questions when they realized I didn’t come from an NGO and wasn’t planning on giving them money. I think it’s important that we keep an open mind and realize the world is often not what we expect it to be.
Walk to Spain
The community was incredibly united and took care of each other’s wellbeing. But for them, the world stops existing past the jungle and mountains that surround the village. That was a major culture shock. Some didn’t know where Peru was, didn’t know their history, and thought they could walk to Spain. However, they were always really curious. At the end of the interviews I often showed them a map of the world and tried to answer all the questions they had for me. It’s strange that even though we speak the same language, we live in completely different realities.