In Bolivia, where I live and work, the government of Pando recently created the nation’s first “compensation forest” program called COMSERBO (Compensation for Forest Conservation and Integrated Management of Pando). This program provides financial incentives and technical assistance for indigenous people who voluntarily choose to preserve their forest areas.
The northernmost department in Bolivia, Pando has an area of 63,815 square kilometers (24,640 square miles) — a territory larger than Costa Rica. But despite Pando’s dense forests and abundance of natural resources, a high percentage of its 80,000 inhabitants live in poverty.
Earlier this year, in coordination with our partners at The Nature Conservancy, I took Pando Governor Dr. Luis Adolfo Flores Roberts to visit a national program in Ecuador called Socio Bosque. Designed by the Ecuadorian government with technical support from CI-Ecuador, this program provides direct payments per hectare of native forest to landowners who agree to conserve it. By protecting this forest, landowners are not only earning income and safeguarding their access to fresh water, food and other forest resources — they are also helping to mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation. Socio Bosque aims to ultimately benefit more than 1 million people in some of Ecuador’s poorest areas.
The governor of Pando was so impressed by this clear demonstration of the benefits of our forest conservation program to local communities that he decided to implement a similar program and mechanism in Bolivia. Financed by Pando’s regional government as well as international supporters, this is a great example of how these types of partnerships can advance conservation by scaling up pilot projects to higher levels.
In Pando, COMSERBO is intended to prevent the increasing deforestation that has been observed in the region. In November the program’s pilot community received its first round of funding and technical support. In the words of Governor Roberts, “We hope this initiative will help us alleviate poverty by caring for Mother Earth and helping the world combat the climate change phenomenon.”
Candido Pastor is the environmental policy coordinator for CI-Bolivia.