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Matsesën Tsused pabon Nidaid - Territorio Ancestral Matsés, Peru


Matsesën Tsused pabon Nidaid, or the The Matsés Ancestral Territory, is an ICCA located in Peru that extends over approximately 5,120 km2 of terrestrial area. It is inhabited and managed by the Matsés Native Community, consisting of 15 annexes (villages recognised by the community) representing 3200 people, all members of the Matsés ethnic group. The Matsés have lived in and managed the area for time immemorial.

History and Activities

The primary objective of the ICCA is the preservation of forests and water bodies for the present and future generations of Matsés. The Matsés want their children and grandchildren to always have the option of living in their ancestral territory, taking advantage of resources in a traditional way. Before, the Matsés did not need money because they did not use clothes and metal pots, and they did not travel far down the rivers. However, now they feel they need to find ways to make money for purchasing these items and others. The Matsés want to market their resources and crafts in a sustainable way, because when men leave their community to work, their families suffer and do not make much money because there are no good jobs.


The ICCA also meets the definition of a protected area, and the community assigns the IUCN’s Protected Area management category V: “protection of the integrity of a human-nature interaction that has given the area a distinct character”. The use of resources is mainly for subsistence, including traditional hunting, fishing, collecting fruits and edible tubers, as well as agriculture at small scale. In addition, the Matsés use thousands of species of plants for medicinal and spiritual purposes, for building their homes, making hunting and cooking implements, and for making handicrafts.

The territory of the Matsés Native Community (and the surrounding areas of its territory) contains some of the highest biodiversity in the world. The area is primarily Terra firme or non-flooded forest, and bajiales (flooded areas) covered with virgin forest (primary forests) where all types of animals and trees are seen in abundance. There are also rivers, streams, and lakes (lagoons) where all types of fish, turtles, lizards, otters and other animals live. Furthermore, around existing and old villages, there are chacras (small subsistence garden plots) and purmas (regenerating secondary forest). The Matsés have 47 names for types of habitats in their territory, and by combining vegetative and geomorphological designations they can distinguish 178 types of forest. Many new species have been discovered in the Matsés territory, including four new species of mammals (3 bats and a possum) and a new species of frog. Species such as the otorongo (jaguar), the puma, the giant river otter, the rosewood, the harpy eagle, and the black caiman, which are considered extinct in other parts of the Amazon, are found in abundance in our territory. The Matsés are experts not only in recognising the biodiversity in their territory, but also in the ecology of the plants and animals.

The Matsés territory contains enough resources to live sustainably indefinitely using natural resources in a traditional way. The territory of the Matsés is very large and their population is relatively small, so although some species of hunted animals close to the communities may decline, the areas far from the communities have abundant populations and serve as a natural reserve to repopulate the community area. The Matsés also make farms and abandon them after 2-3 years, allowing these areas to regenerate rapidly. Within 10 years they are already secondary forest, and in about 50 years they are almost indistinguishable from primary forest. The area that is used for farming is less than 1% of the total territory of the Matsés Native Community.

Management and Governance

The area is wholly governed by the Matsés Native Community via a governing council of elected people. The ICCA is nationally recognised in federal law, and the land belongs to and is managed by the Matsés Native Community. They have legal rights to the resources within the ICCA (with some limitations).

A few years ago, the main threat was oil companies. The Matsés fought for them not to enter, and in the end they withdrew. Now, the main threat is logging companies that want to work in their territory as well as laws that are not compatible with their traditional way of life. Finally, another problem is that most young people are not learning traditional knowledge and skills, partly because of the curriculum they teach at school.

The Matsés Native Community were contacted peacefully for the first time in 1969. Before that, the Matsés did not want the Peruvians to enter their territory. Now they have other needs, such as education, so that they can govern their territory and so that young people have the option of working as professionals. Furthermore, new diseases have now been introduced that they cannot cure with medicinal plants. And they feel that they do not receive good quality education and health services. That is why they want support to improve recognition of their human rights, and to carry out projects to strengthen their education systems, combining their traditional knowledge with Western knowledge.

For more details on the history of the Matsés, see: https://acateamazon.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12...

This case study was originally published by UNEP-WCMC in December 2020. The content was provided by the custodians of this ICCA. The ICCA has been self-declared and has been gone through a peer-review process to verify its status. More details on this process can be found here. The contents of this website do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of UN Environment Programme or WCMC.