Land Use Development
Land-use development policies in the Ucayali Region over the last several years have been mainly focused on the promotion of large-scale production of global commodities (www.agroucayali.gob.pe). Incentives for the production of biofuels are leading to the establishment of large plantations of oil palm, jatropha, castor bean, sugar cane and sacha inchi ( Plukenetia volubilis ) have recently changed the traditionally mosaic landscape of small landholders. One of the main goals of recent rural development programs of the Ucayali Regional Government is to provide legal and economic incentives for the establishment of more than 300,000 ha of oil palm plantations (www.agroucayali.gob.pe).
The regional government recently approved law No 28652 that provides the incentives mentioned above to companies to plant oil palm and other biofuel crops. One of the main arguments for engaging private companies (national and international) in biofuel plantations is that biofuels will increase the regional GDP (Gross Domestic Product) more than 7% in next two years. Migration of Andean people to the Ucayali Region is also expected to increase more than fourfold in the next five years (www.ine.gob.pe). Migrants are widely believed to be considerably more focused on, and successful in, securing agricultural loans from the regional and national government to plant extensive areas of corn, cotton and camu-camu ( Myrciaria dubia) a highly nutritive commercial fruit crop, than are local Amazonian farmers who tend to maintain more diverse and patchier production landscapes that includes small cyclic annual crop production with diverse agroforestry and managed forests (Coomes et al. 2000, Pinedo-Vasquez et al. 2002). Promotion of large-scale agriculture is already visible in the area in a process of land-use transition characterized by larger clearings, and frequent shifts in crops according to the availability of government loans or private resources. Private investment in industrial-level production of food and biofuels increased over the last five years in the study region. Currently, there are approximately 65 private companies with planted areas of more than 300 ha each operating in the region; that is three times what had existed only two years ago. The future of Ucayali, according to the Regional Government, includes a pronounced increase in the number of private companies and landholdings dedicated to large scale agriculture as the demand for biofuels and food products increases in global markets.