Bolivia third in world for deforestation

Beef, soy expansion blamed, as well as fires
calendar icon 28 June 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

Forest loss in Bolivia accelerated by about a third last year with clearances in the country trailing only giant neighbour Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Reuters reported, citing a forest monitoring project report that blames farm expansion and fires.

The South American country lost nearly around 3,860 square kilometers (1,490 square miles) of primary forest in 2022, according to Global Forest Watch, an area nearly the size of Rhode Island.

Bolivia, one of a few nations that two years ago refrained from signing a zero-deforestation pledge by 2030, is supporting the farm industry as a key economic driver to take the slack from dwindling production and exports of natural gas.

Large areas have been cleared for soy and beef farms, mostly in the lowland regions of Santa Cruz and Beni, part of the Bolivian Amazon, an important ecosystem for storing carbon, generating rainfall and combating the effects of climate change.

"The scenario is not good, fewer forests mean our microclimate is changing," said Marlene Quintanilla, director of investigations at the Friends of Nature Foundation (FAN).

Bolivia's government, pressured by declining export revenues and tumbling foreign currency reserves, has rolled out incentives to develop pasture land. Experts say few fines are issued for illegal clearances.

By 2025, the government wants 30,000 square kilometers (11,583 square miles) more of cultivated land, and seeks to almost double the cattle herd to 18 million. Currently less than 10% of Bolivia's territory, some 80,000 km2 is deforested, with half used for intensive farming.

"Thirty years ago, there was no large-scale beef industry in Bolivia," said Daniel Larrea who coordinates technical-scientific research at the Conservación Amazónica (ACEAA). Now agriculture income has caught up with hydrocarbons.

Larrea said stopping the deforestation was "a titanic challenge" because local and national government felt much of Bolivia remained uncultivated "and must be put to work, to contribute to the economy".

Fires, some linked to land clearances, have also played a big part in forest loss in recent years, the Global Forest Watch report said. Urbanization, road infrastructure and mining are other lesser drivers of forest clearances.

In a report on Monday Global Forest Watch, backed by the nonprofit World Resources Institute and drawing on forest data collected by the University of Maryland, said the world lost an area of old-growth tropical rainforest the size of Switzerland last year.

© 2000 - 2023 - Global Ag Media. All Rights Reserved | No part of this site may be reproduced without permission.