Victor Zambrano has dedicated his life to the restoration of natural forests in the Madre de Dios region of Peru’s southeastern Amazon, fostering ecologically stable and socioeconomically productive landscapes.
Born in Madre de Dios, Zambrano learned the customs of the local people at an early age. After leaving for high school in Lima and a subsequent 24-year military career, Zambrano retired and returned to his birthplace, settling along the Tambopata River in a region scientists consider to be the global epicenter of biodiversity. Sadly, he found the area under significant pressure from illegal gold mining; construction of the Amazon’s first transcontinental highway; oil and gas exploration; illegal timber harvesting; and human migration.
Upon his return in 1987, Zambrano located his family’s land and began the arduous process of reforesting it, singlehandedly planting more than 19,000 trees, and over 120 species of them, in a 34-hectare (approximately 84-acre) area. In 2013, after many years of work, Zambrano legally obtained the land and gained long-term protection for it. Today, the area is known as the K’erenda Homet Private Conservation Concession, in honor of his youngest daughter.
Over the years, Zambrano established, advised and trained a number of local organizations, including the Agrarian Federation of Madre de Dios, a group of 5,000 families practicing sound agricultural processes. Zambrano is also recognized as the creator of the first agroforestry initiatives in the region as well as the Indigenous and Peasant Forestry Coordination of Peru.
In addition, Zambrano championed creation of the Alliance to Protect the Tambopata National Reserve, bringing together indigenous people, environmental organizations and agrarian associations, to protect the Madre de Dios region from the severe habitat destruction and biodiversity loss caused by gold mining. His efforts contributed to a significant reduction of gold mining, improving the overall well-being of the local communities while drawing the national government’s attention to the perils of illegal gold mining.
A frequent speaker and the subject of global media coverage, in 2014, Zambrano received the prestigious Carlos Ponce Conservation Award in Peru.