Some 27 percent of the Gran Chaco is found in Paraguay. The Gran or Dry Chaco is one of South America’s largest hot and semi-arid lowlands that also extends across Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil. The Gran Chaco encompasses a total of around 100 million hectares of dry tropical forest.
It is the habitat for exotic species such as anteaters, tapirs and river otters. Their habitat is becoming increasingly fragmented. Approximately 250,000 hectares of woodland is lost to deforestation each year in Paraguay, which is an area approximately equal in size to Luxembourg.
The Gran Chaco is being cleared primarily to make room for large-scale livestock farming. Various indigenous communities are now seeing their continued existence coming under threat. Hunting, small-scale fishing and forestry are their main livelihoods. They also make flour from the beans of the Leguminosa trees that are plentiful in the region. Some communities have fairly large pieces of land, but they are surrounded by large-scale deforestation.
Soybean cultivation, which is a cause of great concern with respect to the Argentinean section of the Chaco ecosystem, could spread further to the north. There is large-scale soybean cultivation in the eastern part of Paraguay, a region that was once home to Atlantic forests, but which has now been almost entirely deforested.
IUCN NL has been working in Paraguay for around ten years and is familiar with the interests of local communities and their ideas on how the problems could be solved. We have partnered with numerous organisations in the countries. IUCN NL is now working with two partner organisations and two local government agencies with the objective of bringing about responsible land usage. We aim to connect protected regions with each other, while balancing this with other interests.
Our partner organisations also take part in roundtables on sustainable livestock farming and its financing. They furthermore lobby the government for better legislation and transparent compliance. In addition, they use satellite images to monitor the Gran Chaco each month in order to combat illegal deforestation.