One of Bolivia's Indigenous Peoples - the Tacana - have helped to develop a territorial management programme which has already significantly reduced forest loss in large areas of South America and could help to determine the future of much of the Amazon rainforest.
This fascinating Indigenous group, whose population is around 5,000, are well-known for the fact that they start a person's funeral even before their final breath. However, it is their conservation work to find solutions to save the Amazon which has really caught the eye in recent times.
Bolivia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Its location at the heart of South America means it has a great variety of biogeographic regions. At this latitude, the Andes Mountains widen and create the high plateau of the Altiplano with a rugged mountainous landscape towering above and to the east the descending slopes, hills and deep valleys, and on to the vast plain of the tropical low lands.
The Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) conservation programme in Bolivia takes place in one of the most biodiverse landscapes in the world, where many different ecosystems converge including Amazonian rainforests, montane cloud forests, lowland savannas, highland grasslands, dry inter-Andean forests and high Andean mountains. The Madidi region is also critical for the conservation of endangered wildlife that have large home ranges such as the jaguar, giant otter, Andean bear, maned wolf, white-lipped peccary, vicuña and the Andean condor.
A recent study by the WCS in collaboration with the Tacana People’s indigenous Council in Bolivia has demonstrated that the expansion of agriculture and forest conversion to pasture are the main causes of forest loss, and that its conservation depends essentially on local capacities of land management. In essence, this mean the planning of current and potential land use, institutional strengthening and project implementation for sustainable management of natural resources. The study focuses on the area located along the road from San Buenaventura to Ixiamas and where Madidi protected area and the Tacana Indigenous Territory converge. Amazon deforestation
GIS and spatial statistical analysis were used to analyse the correlation between geographical conditions and loss of forest cover during a historical period (2005-2010) as well as during a projection in the future to 2021. Determinant factors were also included in the analyses: land ownership, land management and improvement of road infrastructure, allowing the comparison of deforestation in areas with and without land management. Tacana land management also protects deforestation of connectivity corridors between Madidi protected area and the Tacana Indigenous Territory. These corridors are critical for maintaining wildlife populations, especially endangered species at the continental level with large spatial requirements, such as the jaguar and white-lipped peccary as well as for the sustainability of subsistence hunting by indigenous communities. Forest loss is also reduced in areas at risk of erosion on the last foothills of the Andes and along the course of main rivers and streams of the Iturralde province in areas susceptible to flooding. Tacana people The Tacana people have rights of tenure over their territory, granted by the Bolivian state, and have developed skills for internal regulation of land management and natural resources, that have helped to prevent overexploitation and destruction of the collectively owned forest, while allowing the development of various productive activities to ensure sustainable livelihoods of the indigenous communities. This study proves that indigenous participation is critical for mitigating climate change through the reduction of emissions from deforestation. It also presents information on the value of the forest for the control of environmental risks and a baseline that will allow comparing over time the effectiveness of mitigation measures associated with the road project and the effectiveness of indigenous land management and protected areas as alternatives to ensure integral long-term management of the forest. Conclusions "The capacity of Indigenous People to articulate and strengthen their ancestral rights on the basis of their territorial vision will determine the future of much of the Amazon," said Lilian Painter, Bolivia Country Program Director of WCS. This is quite a statement and shows the true importance of the Indigenous Peoples to this corner of the world.
A rights-based approach is an approach to avoiding deforestation. The indigenous territorial management program in the Madidi Landscape demonstrates that the recognition of indigenous land rights, local autonomy, and internal regulations of access and use of natural resources can significantly reduce forest loss over large forest areas.
Indigenous organizations with proprietary rights over large forest tracts should be considered important actors in establishing institutional mechanisms for managing forests for their environmental services. Development of legitimate land use plans is a prerequisite for informed consultation and consent, since it represents the collective development vision of an indigenous group and the baseline scenario against which to contrast any development or conservation project, as well as an alternative to existing patterns of forest loss. For more information please contact Lilian Painter ([email protected]) or go to the Wildlife Conservation Society website www.wcsbolivia.org