The context of deforestation and forest degradation in Bolivia: drivers, agents and institutions.


Bolivia's forest resources are of global importance, its main forest areas are located in subtropical and tropical regions. There is severe deforestation going on in the lowlands at a rate of approximately 200 000 ha per year, whilst forest degradation mostly concerns montane forests. Cattle ranching is the most important direct driver of deforestation, followed by mechanized agriculture at medium- and large-scale level, mainly for the production of soyabean, and finally small-scale agriculture. Underlying causes of deforestation include, among others, the opening of the agricultural economy to international markets and the weakness of institutions in charge of controlling land use. From 2006 onwards, under the government of Evo Morales, Bolivia adopted an official position against the commercialization of nature and in defence of the rights of mother earth. In consequence to its rejection of REDD, Bolivia developed an alternative proposal called 'Joint Mechanism of Mitigation and Adaptation for Integrated and Sustainable Management of Forests and Mother Earth.' This proposal was also promoted in international negotiations on climate change. It focuses on local experiences for a sustainable and integrated management of natural resources and fosters land use planning at different levels of governance. The analysis suggests that there is still a lack of concrete approaches to mitigate the direct threats to forests; moreover, the control of illegal deforestation is still insufficient. It is also noted that in parallel to policies of nature conservation, there is a contradicting political agenda being implemented promoting the expansion of the agricultural frontier. Only the future will show if the vision of 'Living Well in Harmony with Mother Earth' will really lead to effective measures to combat the loss and the degradation of the immense richness of Bolivian forest.

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