Alto Mayo Protected Forest

Conserving Forest in Alto Mayo

We are protecting and restoring the Alto Mayo Protected Forest of Peru thanks to landmark carbon financing by Disney.

© Thomas Muller


With the help of our partners, we are engaging communities in conservation, safeguarding vital forests and securing livelihoods.



Map of the San Martín region of northern PeruWhat if you didn't have to choose between green and growth? In Peru's Alto Mayo Protected Forest, local communities are finding that the two concepts go hand in hand.

A vital part of the planet's life-support system, tropical forests like the Alto Mayo act as the Earth's lungs, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Forests provide other critical ecosystem services such as filtering water, preventing soil erosion and regulating climate.

The Alto Mayo Protected Forest is located in the San Martín region of northern Peru and spans 182,000 hectares (450,000 acres) — an area twice the size of New York City.

Despite ​its protected status, the forest had some of the country's highest deforestation rates. Contributing factors included lack of enforcement of the protected area, a national highway built through the forest, an influx of people settling in the region and unsustainable farming practices. As a result of depleted soil, farmers cut down more trees in order to maintain production levels.

To help halt this cycle, Conservation International began working with partners — including local communities, corporations and Peru's government — to protect the Alto Mayo forest.

In developing a REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation 'plus' conservation, the sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks) project in the​ Alto Mayo, Conservation International and its partners are placing an economic value on the forest's services. REDD+ projects are innovative because they seek to mitigate climate change through protecting forests and providing local communities with financial, social and environmental benefits.

With support from Disney, our largest REDD+ corporate partner, as well as other corporate partners including BHP, we are addressing the main causes of deforestation with incentive-based conservation agreements. To date, 848 families have pledged not to cut down the Alto Mayo's trees in return for agricultural training, as well as for other benefits like educational materials and medical supplies. Farmers who signed conservation agreements are benefitting from increased productivity and higher incomes.


In Photos

Peruvian students learn to tell Alto Mayo's story

​​​​The project also helps strengthen management in the protected area and includes an environmental awareness component. Conservation International and the Peruvian National Park Service host a series of workshops for youth from the Alto Mayo's buffer zone aimed at providing the skills and information that will empower them to educate their communities on the importance of protecting their natural home.

Since 2008, the Alto Mayo REDD+ project has generated over 6.2 million tons of emissions reductions — the equivalent of taking nearly 150,000 cars off the road each year. In 2012, the project was successfully validated under the Verified Carbon Standard and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards through ​​​an independent audit of the project's design and methodology. In 2015, the results of a second independent verification showed that the project has reduced deforestation at the site by 75% from baseline levels — the first time a project in Peru has reached this milestone. Third-party experts analyzed satellite images and conducted on-the-ground interviews to measure the project’s actual impact compared to baseline data. In 2016, the project once again achieved verification by third-party auditors, substantiating the initiative's benefits for the local population, biodiversity conservation and mitigating climate change —​ and making it one of the world's few REDD+ projects to see continued success.

The project demonstrates how multi-sector partnerships among government officials, the private sector, civil society and local communities can have an enormous impact. By providing benefits to​​​ local communities in the Alto Mayo region, Conservation International and its partners are offering people the opportunity to become conservation allies — seeing them not as enemies of the forest, but as its guardians.



Success in the Alto Mayo is a hopeful sign that Peru no longer has to decide between protecting its forests and enjoying economic growth.

2X the size of New York City

Spanning 182,000 hectares in the region of San Martín, the Alto Mayo Protected Forest is twice the size of New York City.

240,000 people

More than 240,000 people in the Alto Mayo basin are benefiting indirectly from the project.

150,000 cars

Since 2008, the Alto Mayo project has generated over 6.2 million tons of emissions reductions — the equivalent of taking nearly 150,000 cars off the road each year.


Help us capitalize on our momentum in Peru. Give to Conservation International today.