Bolivia’s Brazil nut gatherers must establish control over logging operations

Brazil nut gatherers in northern Bolivia must play a greater role in overseeing commercial logging being undertaken in their forests, or they risk losing control and income as logging operations increase in the region.

Although Bolivian law allows communities to manage their forests for Brazil nut production and timber, most turn the logging over to commercial companies that are moving into the region.

While there is evidence to show that informal logging in Bolivia has had little impact on the regeneration of Brazil nut trees, scientists do not yet know how selective logging affects the trees’ annual fruits production – a relationship being investigated by CIFOR in neighboring Peru.

Until the early 1990s, large companies in Bolivia held contracts over much of the country’s forests that allowed them to selectively log and export valuable timber species, such as cedar and mahogany.

To help forest communities reap greater benefits from their natural resources, a new forestry law was passed in 1996 allowing smallholders and communities with titles to their land to practice sustainable logging.

Although the land of agro-extractive communities in Pando is communally owned, families also have informal rights to the Brazil nut groves within the community lands where they have traditionally worked. Brazil nuts are an important source of income for smallholders in Bolivia, where the amount of money earned by producers has quadrupled (from $6 per bag to over $25 per bag) in the last decade.

Timber harvesting was supposed to open up another source of income for these communities.

But the forestry law requires timber management plans, and gaining approval for such plans can be an obstacle for communities that lack the capacity and capital needed to complete them.

The study found that six of the communities studied had management plans developed by timber companies. The communities had little say in the plans, he said, which were drawn up by company foresters with labor brought in from outside the community.

Source: Barbara Fraser | CIFOR