Better monitoring and enforcement to tackle deforestation in Paraguay

The dry forest in the Chaco ecoregion, covering parts of Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay, is under threat from massive forest clearance for cattle ranching and soy production, both mainly destined for export. This deforestation has serious consequences for the indigenous communities and vulnerable species living in the area and a part of it is unlawful. To put an end to illegal deforestation, partner organizations of IUCN NL and WWF NL in Paraguay want to link public information on licenses of cattle ranchers to satellite imagery of ongoing deforestation. By linking these data, the public and various government bodies will have more information to halt illegal deforestation and to agree on wise land use change that will secure the ecosystems crucial to water regulation and climate resilience in the Chaco.  

Problem

Agricultural license holders in the Paraguayan Chaco are obliged to maintain at least 25% of the forest on their lands, in addition to the obligation to maintain riparian forests to protect riverbeds. With this regulation, the government aims to ensure that the expansion of agricultural grounds does not go at the expense of important ecosystem services the forest provides, such as water regulation and climate resilience. However, the Ministry of Environment has insufficient capacity to ensure control and enforcement of these environmental laws. Knowing they are likely to get away with it, numerous cattle rangers do not obey by the rules. Meanwhile, forest is lost at an incredible pace.

Several vulnerable species, such as the tapir, giant anteater and the jaguar, suffer from the effects of deforestation and the resulting desertification of the area. The natural vegetation in the area also functions as an important buffer against the effects of climate change: it retains water during the wet season and releases it in the dry season. Due to deforestation and increasing climate change, the local (indigenous) population of the Chaco ecoregion will increasingly suffer from extreme droughts and floods. The agricultural activities that are driving deforestation are also affected by these changes.

Approach

To improve climate resilience, partner organizations IDEA, Guyra and WWF Paraguay, together with other civil society organizations in Bolivia and Paraguay, plead for sustainable landscape governance, in which economic development does not go at the expense of the forest and its inhabitants. To accomplish this, they call on the relevant authorities to disclose information related to the cadaster and land use licenses. Although these data are public according to the Law on Access to Public information, it turns out to be difficult to get access.

“It is by combining information about licenses and the cadaster with recent satellite imagery showing deforestation in the area, that our partners can detect ongoing activities that might not meet the legal requirements,” Sander van Andel, Senior Expert Nature Conservation at IUCN NL, explains. “In addition, with these data they can advise on wise land use planning that takes into account the needs of local communities and provides habitat for vulnerable species.”

Results so far

Following the call by civil society organizations, the districts of Fuerte Olimpo and Bahia Negra have signed an agreement stating they will create an office to comply with the Law on Access to Public information at local level. Additionally, the district of Bahia Negra has started a multi-stakeholder process on land use planning that includes local and national government and (indigenous) civil society organizations.

Our partner organizations have brought illegal logging within the National Park Rio Negro, which is both a Ramsar site and biosphere reserve, to the attention of the National Commission on the Defense of Natural resources. This led to intervention of the prosecutor's office in conjunction with the Ministry of the Environment, where the person responsible for the deforestation is under prosecution.

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