Documentary released on fire prevention in Machu Picchu ahead of global wildland fire conference

12 May 2023

Justiniani Candia, a forest firefighter from the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu. Photo: G. Delgado

Yokohama, Japan, 12 May 2023: Fires are affecting an increasing area of forest worldwide, and the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is not immune. ITTO Fellow Talía Lostaunau examines efforts to prevent fire near this stunning archaeological site in a new documentary, released today, ahead of a workshop hosted by ITTO at next week’s 8th International Wildland Fire Conference in Porto, Portugal.

ITTO and the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) will convene the workshop to showcase best field practices for integrated fire management in tropical forests, based on its extensive project work in Ghana, Indonesia and Peru, in addition to its policy-related work. The aim of the workshop, to be held on 16 May, is to foster knowledge exchange among stakeholders and identify effective strategies for tropical forest fire prevention and management. It will feature a keynote presentation on the ITTO Guidelines on Fire Management in Tropical Forests. 

Forest fires degraded more than 190 000 hectares of forests and pastures in Peru in 2021. The Peruvian Forest Service estimates that 95% of forest fires in the country are caused by farmers for agricultural purposes. 

Ms Lostaunau’s beautiful and compelling video, Los Guardianes de Machupicchu (“The Guardians of Machu Picchu”), examines efforts to improve fire management in the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes. It tells the story of forest firefighter Justiniani Candia, who, in addition to fighting forest fires, carries out important fire-prevention work inside and outside the protected area. The documentary also looks at the work of Justiniani’s colleague, Jessica Morón, who uses advanced technologies to detect fires in the protected area, thus enabling a rapid fire-suppression response. 

Ms Lostaunau, a Peruvian forester who makes audiovisual pieces on environmental issues, produced The Guardians of Machu Picchu as an output of the ITTO Fellowship Programme.  

“Fire is a very complex issue in Machu Picchu,” she said. “Farmers used to practise burning to clear their land and prepare it for new crops a long time ago. With the pandemic, many people returned from urban areas to the countryside, burning farms that had not used in recent years. This, added to climate change, which makes dry seasons increasingly intense, favours the proliferation of forest fires.”

Ms Lostaunau has received two ITTO Fellowships, one in 2019 to take a short course in journalism at the University of California, and the other in 2021 to produce this documentary. She says the two fellowships have enabled her to realize her dream to become an environmental journalist. 

The documentary aims to raise awareness about the increasing challenge posed by forest fire, especially among Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and to spread understanding of the importance of prevention. Ms Lostaunau is partnering with various organizations, such as the Peruvian National Service of Natural Protected Areas (SERNANP), to show the video in communities before the dry season arrives—along with its increased fire danger.

“I hope seeing the video will enable farmers to feel more confident in requesting support from park rangers and forest firefighters,” she says.

ITTO Executive Director Sheam Satkuru praised the video, which she described as moving and beautifully produced.

“The ITTO Fellowship Programme is designed to develop young and mid-career talent, and this video is a direct outcome of that,” said Ms Satkuru. “I hope the video inspires farmers near Machu Picchu to develop their fire management skills and young professionals everywhere to pursue career development opportunities through the ITTO Fellowship Programme.”

More information on the ITTO/GFMC workshop, Tropical Forest Fire Prevention for Integrated Fire Management: From Guidelines to Best Practices, is available here.

Related SDGs

Education and training on sustainable forestry is crucial for ensuring forest sustainability and productivity into the future. ITTO builds human-resource capacity and strengthens professional expertise in tropical forestry through its Fellowship Programme and other work.

The ITTO Fellowship Programme offers equal access to young and middle-career professional women and men.

Integrated fire management and effective fire suppression, and gender equity in these, help reduce the risk of uncontrolled wildfire and associated greenhouse-gas emissions.

A reduction in wildfires will have positive effects on the environment, biodiversity and human health.