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Sustainable Conservation Through Protected Area Based Enterprises In Bolivia And Guatemala


WCS will highlight experiences with PA-based enterprises working with local communities in Bolivia and Guatemala to help promote sustainable livelihoods and improve governance conditions. In Bolivia, WCS works in a suite of Protected Areas and indigenous territories to develop community-based natural resource management enterprises, ranging from chocolate cultivation to caiman harvesting and processing of skins. In Guatemala, WCS works with a community to sustainably harvest an understory palm frond known as xate. All of these enterprises involved an initial selection of biodiversity targets to ensure that cultivation and harvest is conducted sustainably and natural resources are being conserved in these Protected Areas and indigenous territories. In addition, these enterprises reduce the drive to overexploit natural resources and encourage capacity building in terms of management and enforcement.

Problem, challenge or context: 

Overexploitation of non-timber forest products and other natural resource is a major threat to wildlife and local livelihoods. This overexploitation can come from within or outside of a community, due to poor management, and leads to a cycle of poverty and further degradation of Protected Areas and indigenous territories. In Guatemala, unsustainable harvesting of xate almost caused the disappearance of this essential plant around the community. In Bolivia, poor management of natural resources allowed people from outside of the community to exploit the resources within indigenous territories. In of these places there were not many employment options for community members, and many relied on unsustainable harvest of natural resources to support their families, jeopardizing the resources available in the future.

Specific elements of components: 

Participatory research of biodiversity targets with communities, participatory zoning of land within indigenous territories, community natural resource regulations, participatory monitoring of biodiversity targets, market incentives linked to sustainable practices, collaboration with involved stakeholders and NGO/government partners.

Key lessons learned: 
  • Recognized land rights, clear regulations about access to and use of natural resources, and technical capacity can ensure collective resources are not overexploited.
  • Monitoring is critical to ensure cohesion within collective resource owners, avoid elite capture and reach niche markets.
  • Developing these enterprises takes time and patience Need to take the time to involve new actors in the enterprise model
Impacts and outcomes: 

Monitoring and evaluation of these enterprises demonstrated that sustainable harvesting has a widespread benefit to many families in local communities. Involved families were able to increase their income while harvesting these natural resources, ensuring that harvests were sustainable to maintain these activities in the future. Moreover, natural resources that were once scarce because of overexploitation, as well as biodiversity targets, are maintained and have even increased in some cases.

Contact details: 
Lilian Painter, Bolivia Country Director, Wildlife Conservation Society & Roan McNab, Guatemala Country Director, Wildlife Conservation Society
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