Hope in the tropical peatlands of the Peruvian Amazon and Congo Basin, by Camille Choquet

Somehow charmed by the Amazonian mosquito-infested swamps during a first internship at the IIAP (Instituto de las Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana), I wanted to know more about these amazing ecosystems, a chance that Katy and Ian gave me by supervising my final internship on tropical peatlands at the University of St Andrews. Freshly arrived to the lovely town of St Andrews, I started reading and gathering literature on the role of inorganic geochemistry to learn more about tropical peatlands’ development. Barely used to my new office in one of the most beautiful building of the town, and just ready to start the laboratory analysis, the University closed its doors, and I chose to go back to France. Not that I was missing my dear country, but it appeared really unlikely that the lab would reopen any soon. This is thus, from my room, back to France, that I started working on a new topic, writing policy briefs to promote sustainable livelihood options in the tropical peatlands of Peru and Congo. Gathering examples of projects, from the Pastaza-Maranon Basin in Peru that improve people lives and keep the environment intact, was really exciting. For anyone interested in protecting the environment, you know that good news is not the norm, and it might be hard to keep believing in a bright future sometimes. Focusing on positive examples for a few months and discovering that there are so many projects in that region to maintain the forest and the peatlands intact while providing incomes to the people living there really gave me hope ! I also travelled to the Congo Basin from my room, looking for sustainable livelihood options that could be developed in this region based on its potential, and the examples that already exist in tropical peatlands elsewhere. This is truly amazing to think that a very large peatland area has so recently been discovered there, also considering that the growing interest in conservation of carbon-rich habitats for climate mitigation represents a great opportunity for developing sustainable livelihood options in these peatlands.
My internship ended in September and I just graduated from ENSAT (French Grande Ecole of Agronomy of Toulouse). I am officially an engineer in agronomy and environment, and more than ever willing to work on the environmental field. I hope to discover one day, for real, the flooded forests of the Congo Basin and see for myself the projects going on in Peru.
Thanks to the help of people truly aware of the context in Peru, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, we have a chance to make these policy briefs useful, to show to relevant stakeholders that a sustainable development is possible in these countries, and is even the best path to follow.
A big thank you to the team in IIAP, who welcomed me in their office, and brought me in the remoted swamps of Peru, who taught me a lot about the forest and their work, always with patience and good humour. I keep a lasting memory of my stay in Iquitos and the Amazon.
Many thanks to the team in St Andrews and of the Tropical Wetland Consortium for welcoming me, sharing their knowledge and feedback on my work, always with benevolence. Thank you for trusting me and offering me the opportunity to work again on these amazing ecosystems.

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