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Communal Tenure Policy and the Struggle for Forest Lands in the Bolivian Amazon

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Cronkleton, Peter; Pacheco, Pablo
Conference: Governing Shared Resources: Connecting Local Experience to Global Challenges, the Twelfth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Commons
Location: Cheltenham, England
Conf. Date: July 14-18, 2008
Date: 2008
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/2110
Sector: Social Organization
Region: South America
Subject(s): forestry
indigenous institutions
local knowledge
resource management
Abstract: "Over the past decade Bolivia has recognized the forest property rights of indigenous and traditional peoples using a variety of novel communal titling mechanisms. The country's agrarian reform process was intended to strengthen rural livelihoods by securing local rights to forests and privileging customary practices, and as a result offered innovative opportunities for social justice and, ideally, sustainable forest management. However, given the heterogeneity of the country's eastern lowlands and the dynamic processes of frontier change taking place along corridors where these communal properties exist, outcomes have been diverse, often exposing the institutional weakness of communal tenure right introduced by the state and also, in some cases, illustrating the resilience of local people in adapting their forest livelihoods to change. "This paper will examine cases along two frontiers in eastern Bolivia, Guarayos, and Pando, where forest dependent people have received communal tenure rights but are faced with increasing pressure from timber interests, agro-industry and expanding fronts of smallholder colonization. In Guarayos, indigenous villages from the Guarayos TCO (Tierra Comunitaria de Origen) have struggled to maintain their territorial integrity as the slow titling process has allowed nonindigenous landowners and loggers to take advantage of the regions natural resources. In Pando, traditional extractivist communities have received communal title to rich swaths of rainforests, but ambiguity in the titling process has introduced competing agrarian models of land occupation that threaten to undercut customary property rights based on tree tenure. While the intensity of external pressure on these communal properties strongly influences local success in maintaining forest livelihoods, characteristics of the communal property models and the manner in which they are implemented influence how well residents can adapt and defend their interests. It is also apparent that the degree to which communal tenure models reflect customary use and institutions contributes to the resilience of traditional systems. This paper will draw lessons learned from sites that could contribute to future policy decisions as well as programs to support forest dependent people."

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