Deforestation in BoliviaAccording to Global Forest Watch, Bolivia has one of the highest forest cover rates in the world. Wildlife, water sources and indigenous communities depend on the Bolivian ecosystem, which suffers greatly from deforestation. It reduced the humid primary forest by 3.35 Mha between 2001 and 2021.

Deforestation in Bolivia, along with soil erosion, biodiversity loss and changing weather patterns, also affects indigenous communities whose livelihoods depend on forests. Deforestation in the Amazon region makes it more susceptible to flooding than other regions.

Overconsumption Of Natural Resources and Machine-Based Agriculture

Excessive use of natural resources negatively impacts natural resources’ regeneration ability in Bolivia, causing deforestation. People use many resources at unsustainable rates while failing to work out corresponding resource replacement plans. This has caused the loss of vast forest areas, leaving the land barren and unable to support animal or plant life.

To increase efficiency and productivity, Bolivian farmers depend on machinery and technology. With heavy machinery, farmers can quickly cultivate and harvest crops on a large scale. The downside, however, is that it can cause soil erosion. This method has also contributed to soil degradation and water pollution due to its excessive use of chemicals. Additionally, it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

Cattle Ranching and Forest Fires

Bolivia is also heavily dependent on cattle ranching for its deforestation problems. It is necessary to clear large parts of forests to graze cattle, which destroys habitat. Additionally, producing cattle feed can result in the pollution of waterways and soil degradation due to pesticides and fertilizers.

Another major factor contributing to Bolivia’s deforestation is forest fires. Small-scale production of soya, timber and cattle is causing forest areas to become agricultural. Every year from 1990 until 2005, farmers cut down 270,000 hectares of forest, according to an Oxfam report. Between 2001 and 2021, fires accounted for 24% of tree cover loss in Bolivia, according to Global Forest Watch’s study.

What Are The Effects On The Bolivian People?

Bolivia suffers from floods caused by deforestation, which affects the country’s agricultural production, predominantly indigenous populations. As a result of high food prices and limited availability, the people in this country experience food insecurity.

There is a disproportionate impact on Bolivian women due to this. Lacking alternative income sources, women are more vulnerable to poverty due to the loss of agriculture and subsistence farming. Meanwhile, men migrate to the city in order to work in industrial settings.

Glacial retreat reduces water sources from mountain rivers and lakes, leading to water shortages, according to an Oxfam report. Additionally, Bolivians face more frequent extreme weather events, leading to increased natural disasters. Finally, rising temperatures create more suitable conditions for mosquito-borne diseases to spread.

Ongoing Efforts

To combat deforestation in Bolivia, the Rainforest Trust has raised over $2.3 million in partnership with Fundación Natura Bolivia. The organizations’ trained and equipped local partners, who manage the public and private nature reserves, aim to conserve nearly 2 million acres of rainforest in the lowlands.

Similarly, as part of the Bolivian Andes Conservation Project, Nature and Culture has partnered with Fundación Natura Bolivia and some local authorities to save around 300,000 acres of land. By protecting and preserving the ground, the project helps to ensure that the local communities have access to clean and safe water sources and provides a safe and secure habitat for endangered species. Additionally, this project will help preserve the local people’s traditional cultures and knowledge by protecting the land important to their way of life.

Asociación Armonia and Faunagua teamed up with Global Forest Generation and Peruvian NGO ECOAN to form Acción Andina. In addition to protecting and restoring forests under glaciers and protected areas, Acción Andina plans to restore a half million acres of Polylepis forest.

Looking Ahead

Bolivia’s forest preservation efforts include various policies and programs that have gone into effect. These include sustainable forest management practices, reforestation initiatives and land-use planning. NGOs and other organizations are also working to raise awareness about forests’ importance and protection. In Bolivia, many initiatives are already underway to prevent deforestation, and there is hope that Bolivia will be able to turn things around.

– Simran Raghav
Photo: Flickr