Bolivia advances to foster agriculture and to stop growing deforestation

Thursday 21 March 2013

All the versions of this article: [English] [Español]

Authorship: Universidad de la Cordillera.

Editorial and Canal: Universidad de la Cordillera.

Type of document: Article.

Language: Spanish.

Theme: Environment.

Keywords: Agriculture, Food, Deforestation, Government, Legislation, Environment, Food security, Territory.

Countries and Regions: Bolivia.

Description: Analysis article.


Refer to article and graphics in the direct link and on PDF format.

Bolivia has adopted a law for the use of land with the intention of fostering food production and slow deforestation in a region suffering from an illegal clearing of the forests.

The Act 337, adopted at the beginning of this month, intends to regulate the use of land in the Bolivian Amazon area where deforestation is taking place for industrial agricultural production. The Act urges large landowners engaged in the illegal clearing of the land in the period prior to 2011, to reforest or to establish a “productive agriculture” and pay a fine for passed violations. The objective is to increase the low agricultural productivity in Bolivia, which is at a lower level of the one existing in Latin America, exacerbating deforestation and compelled to the need of occasional imports of food items.

According to the projections offered by the Bolivian government, the agricultural production area in the Department of Santa Cruz will only increase from de 1,1 million hectares to 1,7 million hectares in 2018. This step intends to foster the expansion in areas already deforested, instead of leading to the conversion of a new forest, although it establishes criteria to attach priorities to areas depending on a better new use.

Neveertheless, the efficacy of the law is yet to be tested. Governance is non-existing in practice in some areas of the Bolivian Amazon. Laws are selectively implemented, - for example a prohibition for a genetically motivated soy bean is totally ignored – and there is a rampant corruption. Also, through the reduction of the fines for past illegal deforestation practices, the result is to renounce to receive potential income that could have been paid for the strengthening of a regulation under the implementation of Forest Law N° 1700. Bolivia is lacking of an advance deforestation monitoring system as the one used in neighboring Brazil to support the efforts to stop the illegal clearing of forests. The environmental policy is also insufficient and scarce.

The deforestation rate in Bolivia has accelerated in recent years, going from 148.000 hectares per year during the decade of 1990 to 270.000 ha in the last decade and to 350.000 ha in 2011, according to a research undertaken by Tim Killeen, a research worker of WWF, and the Museum of Natural History Noel Kempff Mercado. Large scale agriculture, including cattle, soy, maize, rice and sugar cane production is the main engine for the conversion of forests.

The agro-industry has been doing a strong lobby work in Bolivia and in fact it exerted pressure for the enactment of a new Law 337 just after the law on the law for the rights of Mother Earth came into force. In the opinion of a person engaged in conservation who speaking on an anonymous condition referred to the fear of endangering the work of its organization in the region, Law 337 might be consider as the response from the lobby on industrial agriculture to the “Mother Earth” law, establishing a tall hurdle for the protection of the environment. It said that Law 337 entails environmental risks if not implemented with great care.

"If the objective is to ensure not only food production but also conservation, the monetary resources obtained from the fines should be geared to the mitigation and adaptation mechanism for a sustainable forest management established in the law of the rights of Mother Earth,” referred to, adding that the way it is interpreted at present the law could encourage deforestation. "This draft Law will be an incentive for future deforestation since it might create the expectation of future pardons to illegal deforestation, especially if resources are used to promote the productive use of lands illegally deforested".

"Negative incentives are crystal clear given the fact that the fines imposed by hectares are very low -$US 10 to 60 per ha- taking into consideration the profitability of agricultural and cattle raising activities in the region. Most probably a large majority of producers will rather prefer to pay, formalize and produce ".

A better management and monitoring will facilitate both a greater production of food and a reduction of deforestation, has added other conservationist that also decided to stay anonymous.

"If deforestation is limited to areas allowed by the territorial ordering plan, Bolivians will have enough arable land to satisfy the demand for food security, whenever productive is increased”, he said. “The most important conductor of deforestation is the non productive use of arable land in Bolivia ".

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