Indigenous People Provide Leadership in Halting Deforestation in Northwest Bolivia

Indigenous People Provide Leadership in Halting Deforestation in Northwest Bolivia


Between 2005 and 2014, the Tacana people reduced deforestation along the portion of the San Buenaventura-Alto Madidi Road that runs through their indigenous territory to an average annual rate of 1.06%, compared to an average annual rate of 2.89% in public lands along the rest of the length of the road.


The Greater Madidi-Tambopata Landscape plunges from more than 6,000 m in the high Andes to 180m in the lowland Amazonian rainforest. The 110,000 km2 area spans northern Bolivia and southern Peru and encompasses five protected areas and the territories of six indigenous groups: Araona, Ese Eja, Leco, Mosten, T'simane, and Tacana. Deforestation for agriculture and ranching is increasing in the area, particularly along roads used as an immigration corridor for Aymara and Quechua speaking people from the highlands.

WCS has been working with the Tacana since 2000, supporting their efforts to secure collective legal tenure over 3,890 km2 and implement a land-use and natural resource management strategy. After successfully presenting their land claim to the Government of Bolivia, the group built consensus on a land-use plan and natural resource management strategy amongst the 20 communities living in the territory. The land-use strategy prioritizes sustainable livelihoods, biodiversity conservation, and forest protection.

Using satellite remote sensing imagery, WCS staff were able to measure deforestation rates across all of the Bolivian sections of the landscape (2005-2014), and along the San Buenaventura-Ixiamas Road within and outside the Tacana Indigenous. Satellite image analysis showed that deforestation along the San Buenaventura-Alto Madidi Road between 2005 and 2014 was almost three times greater outside (2.89% per year) compared to within the Tacana Indigenous Territory (1.06% per year) where WCS works.


Effective Governance IconGOVERNANCE: Having secured title to their indigenous territory, the Tacana, with support from WCS, completed a territorial life plan, which zones the territory for different kinds of productive activities, including sustainable forestry, harvesting of non-timber forest products, hunting, ecotourism, and caiman harvesting, among others. Successfully completing the management plan, based on participatory methods, provided a process for the Tacana to develop broad consensus about their vision of development and agree on mechanisms to ensure compliance with the provisions of the life plan.

Rights IconRIGHTS: Bolivian law recognizes indigenous territorial rights and provides a process whereby indigenous organizations can secure title to important portions of the areas that they have historically occupied. In practice, securing a territorial title is difficult and requires an indigenous organization to build effective partnerships with government and civil society organizations. Successfully titling the Tacana Indigenous Territory required sustained commitment to the process by all parties.

Constituencies IconCONSTITUENCY: Securing title to the Tacana Indigenous Territory and successfully completing and implementing a life plan to manage the area has empowered the Tacana to become an effective constituency for conservation in northwestern Bolivia. The Tacana are important partners for Madidi National Park, and they consistently provide leadership in raising important questions about the impacts of infrastructure, extractive industries and other development investments in the area.


Pie de Monte Forest/Eleanor Briggs ©WCS

Tapir Corssing River/Mileniusz Spanowickz ©WCS

Traditional Tacana Artisania/Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

Map1. TCO Tacana I - General Map

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