Socio-environmental perceptions and barriers to conservation engagement among artisanal small-scale gold mining communities in Southeastern Peru
Cuya A., Glikman JA., Groenendijk J., Macdonald DW., Swaisgood RR., Barocas A.
Artisanal small-scale gold mining (ASGM) poses threats to biodiversity and to the health and well-being of human communities. However, ASGM also economically supports several populations from lower social-economic backgrounds, especially in the Global South. In Madre de Dios (MDD), Peru, ASGM is the most significant economic activity, involving several stakeholders form different levels of governance. To protect this area's forests and aquatic systems from further degradation, it is necessary to understand the socio-economic background and the impediments to mining formalization, as well as the local perceptions and willingness to engage in conservation. In this study, we aimed to establish the drivers of and barriers to participation in environmental conservation among communities in MDD, which economically rely on ASGM. Using a mixed method approach, we surveyed 85 households in six communities in the MDD gold corridor. Half of participants were cognizant of the effects of ASGM and concerned about deforestation and local decreases in fish and wildlife abundance, declaring willingness to take part in environmental conservation. Native participants in particular expressed concern about land degradation and the action of immigrants. However, several participants reported feeling alienated by government institutions and raised doubts about the intentions of non-governmental conservation organizations, and the purpose of protected areas. Participants in general felt that ASGM-related policies were not realistic and bureaucratic barriers were raised to prevent formalization. Our findings suggest that current policies and communication strategies may hinder efforts to transform relatively prevalent pro-environmental attitudes into matching behaviors, including participation in conservation initiatives. To achieve this goal, more efficient communication and more active involvement of local stakeholders in mining governance and conservation planning are necessary.