Forest futures
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Forest Futures, Bolivia

Using livelihoods and Sustainable Forest Management to reduce deforestation in the Bolivian Amazon.

Project details

Project Leader: 
Funded By: 
Darwin Initiative; innocent foundation; W.A. Cadbury Charitable Trust; Bentham-Moxon Trust; British Ecological Society

Objectives and outputs

Forest under threat

The Bolivian Department of Pando covers an area of 6.4 million hectares of which 95% is still under forest. These forests are rich in biodiversity, with species that are rare elsewhere in the Amazon or endemic to Bolivia. 

Immigration to the region, driven by economic, political and environmental factors, has placed increasing pressure on Pando's forests. These support a large forest-dependent population (40% of the total), are vital providers of ecosystem services, and constitute important buffers for the eastern Andean catchments from predicted impacts of climate change. Brazil nut harvesting and slash-and-burn agriculture are the principle ways in which natural forest supports livelihoods. Coupled with high rates of immigration, slash-and-burn farming is no longer sustainable.

The need for solutions

Mitigating these threats demands sustainable practices that reduce forest conversion and help rehabilitate degraded land, coupled with skills and knowledge of forest values for addressing poverty. Priorities identified by Bolivia's Integrated Forest Management Plan (BAP) and Constitution include diversification of forest-based incomes, adoption of sustainable forest management systems, protection and conservation of soils, and strategic importance of Amazon watershed for biodiversity and environmental services.

Kew’s role

Kew is leading a partnership with Bolivian academic and non-governmental organisations to develop and apply scientific approaches to more sustainable management of soils and forest in the region, focusing on three principal areas. 

The agroforest component aims to adapt this technique to the needs of the Amazon, in particular to restore soil fertility, biomass, structure and to tackle invasive weeds. It aims to do so through the establishment of permanent agriculture (permaculture) on degraded/abandoned cattle pasture and abandoned slash-and-burn (chaco) sites through a series of participative demonstration plots established in partnership with six rural communities. These use trees of the Inga genus (Leguminosae), which are planted in dense rows enabling them to restore soil fertility so that crops can be grown.

The second component draws on quantitative studies of forest plant diversity, carbon stocks and useful plant populations to build a better understanding of biodiversity and ecosystem values.  This is achieved through systematic studies of the structure and composition of forest trees in a series of one-hectare plots, incorporating protocols facilitating long-term monitoring and coupled with wider botanical inventory in the region. This information is communicated to decision-makers at multiple levels through education programmes, publications and workshops.

The third component focuses on harnessing the value of useful plants for local livelihoods, through support for diversification of non-timber forest products such as wild cacao, and the incorporation of Amazonian fruit trees into the agroforestry systems developed through the first component.

The project is delivered jointly by Kew's Natural Capital and Plant Health and Identification and Naming departments.

Objectives

Sustainable forest management developed and practised in forest communities in Pando, Bolivia, including:

  • Agroforestry adapted to regional socio-economic context, contributing directly to poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation.
  • Awareness of economic incentives for sustainable forest management and maintenance of ecosystem service values increased at a range of decision-making levels from community to governmental.
  • Diversification of non-timber forest product (NTFP) resource collection and marketing and increased capacity for cultivation of Amazonian fruit trees.

Outputs

  • Participative demonstration agroforest plots in forest communities, supported by effective monitoring systems, communication/training resources and uptake programme.
  • Published scientific data on the impact of Inga agroforest in the Pando.
  • High-quality data on forest species composition, carbon stocks and useful plants, communicated through scientific publications, education programmes and resources.
  • Training and capacity (including infrastructure) for production of marketable non-timber forest products and fruit trees by forest communities, supported by published resources.

Partners and collaborators

Bolivia

  • Herencia (Cobija, Bolivia)
  • Museo de Historia Natural Noel Kempff Mercado (Santa Cruz, Bolivia)