Multilateral initiative seeks to stop illegal deforestation in Bolivia

05 September 2017

The Bolivian Authority for Fiscalization and Social Control of Forests and Land (ABT) joined a dialogue platform this summer to improve land use legal compliance.

Platform representatives meet for the first time in July to discuss new measures for land use compliance.

Connecting to find solutions together

Eradicating illegal deforestation by 2020 is one of the commitments Bolivia made by signing the Paris Agreement for Climate Change.

In order to build the right framework to support this goal, Solidaridad, National Oilseeds and Wheat Producer Association (ANAPO) and the ABT designed a private-public collaboration proposal that integrates agricultural profitability into the low carbon economy equation. Local CSO Friends of Nature Foundation (FAN) and AVINA have validated the proposal, which is financially supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The consortium’s mandate is to perfect the current administrative, technical and legal procedures “to reach a more sustainable land use while improving yields from different sectors, such as indigenous communities, small farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses”, explained Carlos Pinto from FAN.

All platform members have agreed on the importance of exchanging experiences, criteria and perspectives for addressing challenges that are key to the Bolivian economy. “Finding solutions that are effective and, above all, applicable to the agricultural sector, requires a broader vision and a larger dialogue space that can be influential to both the public and the private sectors”, said René Álvarez from the Eastern Agricultural Chamber. Miguel Castro from AVINA Foundation added, “We want to know the corporate sector perspective because we’re convinced they need to be part of the solution to sustainability challenges”.

More legal compliance and predictability in business

The dialogue platform is developing a work agenda along three main areas:

  • Strengthen the capacity of the platform member organizations to develop policy proposals and guarantee its enforcement.
  • Improve legal compliance efficiency by reducing the time it takes to obtain permits and enhancing collaboration between the different government agencies involved in the procedures.
  • Improve awareness on how the current legal framework affects each of the stakeholders under its scope and suggest innovations to better adjust its applicability to the agricultural sector, which will increase local communities’ participation and endorsement.

“It is important to highlight that improving the efficiency of obtaining the permits submitted to the ABT would significantly reduce the queue time, which in turn would directly help reducing illegal deforestation. Meanwhile, if producers start recognizing territorial planning as a business planning tool, farm management would certainly benefit from improved efficiencies, productivity rises and reduced risks”, concluded María Lourdes Espinoza, Solidaridad programme officer for the region.

Land use planning crucial for progress

Almost all the soybean production in Bolivia is concentrated in the Santa Cruz jurisdiction. Despite being significant for Bolivia’s gross production, a good part of the industrial processing capacity remains idle because production sectors can not yet reach their full potential. While productivity levels in the existing farmland could rise, producers still resort to land use conversion to extend their production areas as a way to increase yields.

Before being allowed a change in land use that may call for slash-and-burn practices, such as turning from forested to sylvo-pastoral or agricultural land uses, farmers must present a land use plan and request a series of legal permits. Authorities, on their part, check that farmers’ plans are viable.

Complying with these land use planning measures is key to promoting sustainable economic development; one that prevents soil degradation and mitigates the effect of climate change as seen in rain patterns and the recurrence of pest and diseases that often result from uncontrolled deforestation processes.

However, challenges for integrating the new measures do exist. Currently, procedures to obtain legal permits present different bottlenecks that cause critical delays in the process. From a producer point of view, this translates into an economic loss that results in fostering illegal clearances and end up reducing business opportunities due to increased risks in the sector.

Learn more about Solidaridad programmes in South America