Javier Montoya-Zumaeta


“The necessity of evidence-based strategies to face modern threats such as climate change and biodiversity loss is increasing, and therefore adopting such guidelines in policy is urgent.”


Native to Iquitos, the largest Peruvian city in the Amazon, Javier Montoya-Zumaeta has a fascination for topics related to the sustainable use of forest resources. Such concerns come from his continuous interaction with the amazing forests near his birth city that he has frequently visited and enjoyed since his childhood, a tradition that continues to today. He studied economics at Universidad Nacional de la Amazonía Peruana (UNAP), and holds a Master’s degree in environmental economics awarded by CATIE in Costa Rica. Javier is interested in looking for the best ways to harmonize the conservation of tropical forests with the needs of people whose livelihoods depend on their resources, and this has guided his participation in several missions over the last thirteen years. Currently, he is finishing his doctoral studies in Canberra at the Australian National University (ANU).


Tropical forests play a core role in providing essential benefits to humanity, including, for example, the provision of food, water and recreation, as well as regulating local and regional climate conditions. Frequently, the design of environmental policies, including those aiming to conserve tropical forests, has been strongly influenced by stakeholders’ intuition and previous expertise rather than rigorous empirical evidence about what actually works in conservation practice. Given that financial resources addressed to meet conservation targets are increasingly scarce today, it is important to evaluate rigorously the environmental and wellbeing impacts that traditional forest conservation strategies actually bring, in order to provide sound evidence either on their effectiveness, or on the necessity to reformulate some aspects of their design.

In Javier’s doctoral research, he evaluates the impacts of two ongoing incentive-based conservation initiatives in the Peruvian Amazon on landcover and participants’ wellbeing outcomes. To do so, he uses mixed methods to provide estimates of interventions’ impacts using quasi-experimental statistical techniques (matching, difference-in-difference), and by applying qualitative methods, to disentangle which factors have influenced which results. Such an approach allows Javier to identify the most plausible causal mechanisms that have enabled evaluated initiatives to achieve outcomes, and also provides inputs relevant for stakeholders involved in similar initiatives. In this research, he also explores some aspects of forest governance that are important for understanding the effectiveness, efficiency and benefits distribution of the analyzed forest conservation initiatives.

Javier Montoya-Zumaeta and locals in Alerta, Peru, pose following a CIFOR workshop.
Javier Montoya-Zumaeta and locals in Alerta, Peru, pose following a CIFOR workshop.