Steffen Reichle, Conservancy Scientist
With 118 million acres of forests — 48 percent of its territory — Bolivia has more tree cover than Central America and Mexico combined.
Until recently, however, the country was on its way to being denuded because those forests — which historically covered nearly one-half of the country — were being cut in a haphazard fashion. A limited number of private companies monopolized the industry and concentrated on a few high value species such as mahogany. Roads gouged out to reach preferred forests further strained the environment by contributing to erosion, water pollution and unplanned settlements. The expansion of the agricultural frontier, particularly soybean and large-scale ranching, and human migration from other parts of the country has put added pressure on Bolivia’s forests.
That devastation prompted the Bolivian government and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to create the Bolivia Sustainable Forest Management Project, known as BOLFOR. BOLFOR was officially launched in 1993, with the goals of protecting Bolivian biological diversity and keeping the country's forests, soils and water healthy by promoting sustainable forestry.
Because BOLFOR was so successful, a successsor project, BOLFOR II, was launched in 2003. USAID selected The Nature Conservancy to coordinate the project.
The success of the BOLFOR II project has led to:
Through on-the-ground technical assistance and training in business organization and administration, as well as forest management best practices, community members have learned through BOLFOR II how to profitably run a sustainable forestry enterprise and manage their forests.
BOLFOR II also promotes the development and implementation of norms and regulations that prompt more sustainable harvesting and use of timber and non-timber forest products. The project also encourages public investments and community participation in local government planning processes that support local forest productive initiatives.
And by monitoring 50 species of birds, reptiles and amphibians in research plots of sustainably managed forests, BOLFOR II scientists have noted no species losses.
Though finishing up at the end of 2008, BOLFOR II has achieved significant successes both in biodiversity conservation and sustainable community development:
By strengthening forest-based sustainable development, BOLFOR II promotes a viable, long-term conservation strategy that preserves biodiversity, contributes to the welfare of local communities, and promotes Bolivia’s participation in the global economy.
BOLFOR IIs successes have been achieved through partnerships and collaborative efforts with the Bolivian government; departmental and municipal governments; local communities; and local partners, including Centro Amazónica de Desarrollo Forestal (CADEFOR), Instituto Boliviano de Investigación Forestal, Fundación José Manuel Pando, and Consejo Boliviano para la Certificación Forestal Voluntaria.
Learn more on the official BOLFOR II website.