• Marika Vejen Jochumsen
Bolivia became one of the front figures for environmental rights when they in 2012 implemented the Mother Earth law. The ideas were a more empowered indigenous community and development happening with respect for the rights of nature. There has however since then been an increase in the deforestation in Bolivia, culminating in the 2019 forest fires.
To get a deeper understanding of why this is happening, and what the implications of it has been for the indigenous communities living in the areas, this project discusses the role of deforestation in the Bolivian development model and the empowerment process and challenges of the indigenous communities. This will be done from the perspectives of scale and power, which are central concepts to both Political Ecology and Empowerment Theory.
Political Ecology and Empowerment theory both claim that any research of environmental degradation at a local scale should always be analyzed in the national and global context in order to gain an in-depth understanding of the power relations.
Based on this framework, this thesis has discussed What has been the role of deforestation in the Bolivian development model – and what has been the implications of this on indigenous communities and movements?

Deforestation has been found to play a major role in the Bolivian development model, but mostly due to a high level of dependency of exports, which lays the foundation for funding social reforms and initiatives. This, however, breaks with the Buen Vivir model, which was implemented as a development strategy based on the indigenous epistemology of Pachamama; the respect for mother earth.

Deforestation has been found to have quite severe implications for those indigenous communities that live in the area; the threat of forced migration, forest fires and the interest from transnational corporations have been the most prominent findings.
In this clash between policies and promises, there has however also been found to be a strong indigenous resistance, which has manifested itself in different ways; in the communities that have acquired autonomy over their territories, some communities have managed to decrease deforestation rates through careful forest management strategies. Other communities have tried to get ahead of state-managed extractive strategies by making agreements with the transnational companies interested in their lands. Common for them is the empowerment through collective power, which has clearly shown that many of these communities partake in at least a process of empowerment.

This has led to the conclusion that deforestation in Bolivia is increasing due to a high degree of market dependency, giving it a central role in the social reforms planned in the 2016-2020 development model. The increased deforestation does bring a set of challenges to the indigenous communities, however, there has been a strong collective in the face of these challenges, from where some empowerment processes have started.
SpecialisationLatin American Studies
LanguageEnglish
Publication date31 Jan 0002
Number of pages64
ID: 318688523