Chiquitano Model Forest

Country: Bolivia
Location: south-east part of the country
Year joined IMFN: 2005
Area: 20.4 million ha
Regional affiliation: Ibero-American Model Forest Network

Contact information

Name: Hermes Justiniano
Address: Calle Platanillos, 190, Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Tel.: 591-3 334-1017

Forest and resource profile

Located in one of the last dry tropical forest regions, not only in Bolivia, but in all of South America, the Chiquitano is valued for both its unique ecology and its historical and cultural importance.  The Seco Chiquitano Model Forest is located in a transitional ecoregion between the humid climate of the Amazonian region and the dry climate of the Chaco. Geologically, the area presents a rolling topography with small mountain chains and the Precambrian shield, a granitic rock formation underlying the soils of the region, with spectacular occasional outcrops. 

Vegetation in the area varies from semi-deciduous to deciduous,. Species exclusive to this ecoregion are, among others: Morado (Machaerium scleroxylon), Momoqui (Caesalpinia pluviosa), Tarara amarilla (Centrolobium microchaeta) and Roble Sudamericano (Amburana cearensis). More than 75% of the timber species in the Región Chiquitaniía forests are of commercial value. 

About 180 000 people live in this region, including the Chiquitana and the Ayoreode Indigenous peoples who account for 22 000 people in 124 communities. There are three protected municipal areas covering 410 000 ha, and another 40 620 ha are natural heritage private reserves. 

Economic profile

The local population is approximately 120 000 persons distributed between urban municipal capitals and large rural areas. A large part of the Chiquitania population lives in small communities of 30 to 50 families. Their main activity continues to be subsistence farming, along with hunting for forest animals for protein. Whenever possible, the men take work as labourers on livestock ranches or at sawmills. Many young people leave their communities for the cities in search of education or work, and they tend not to return. Nonetheless, they could make the most of the resources provided by their environment, achieving a better quality of life, if they had appropriate training and financial support. 

Currently, the economic driver for the region centres around extensive traditional livestock production, which occupies the natural plains of Pantanal and Cerrado. Nonetheless, there has been increasing occupation by Brazilian and Bolivian enterprises that leverage their economic power to buy up large tracts of forested land. They then transform the land into cultivated pasture through the use of heavy equipment and fire. 

The second main activity in the region is forestry, with the Chiquitano forest holding one of the largest certified wooded areas in Bolivia (1.2 million ha). A half dozen large private concessions and a growing number (currently approximately 30) of Agrupaciones Sociales del Lugar (ASLs) occupy a considerable portion of the forests in the region.

Why a Model Forest?

One of the main challenges facing the Chiquitano Model Forest is to strike a balance between conservation and sustainable development. The importance of the Model Forest concept resides in the possibility of achieving:

  • Participatory social management processes, including regional social and economic interactions and the possibility of influencing development trends toward a better future 
  • Natural resource management on a landscape scale, which allows for social partnerships with different stakeholders, taking into account the types of soils and recognizing the environmental services provided by the forests 
  • Ecoregional integrity as an innovative approach that can be applied in Bolivia for the sustainable management of natural resources and conservation of biodiversity 
  • The development of a governance framework by integrating municipal jurisdictions, which in Bolivia is now managed through two municipal associations


Between 2000 and 2004 a Management board served as Directorate of the Chiquitano Model Forest (ChMF) – for the initial area of 7.7 million hectares. It was composed of representatives from most of the social stakeholders with rights to and powers over the land and its resources:

  • Department of forests [Superintendencia Forestal]
  • Department of agriculture [Superintendencia Agraria]
  • 8 Municipal governments
  • Bolivian forestry sector (Cámara Forestal de Bolivia)
  • Livestock sector (Federación de Ganaderos de Santa Cruz) 
  • Indigneous and farmworkers sector (varies in compoistion, with increasing participation)

The following sectors are currently interested in the MF concept and participation on the Board:

  • Departmental government (leadership on the Board)
  • 12 municipal governments (strong interest in general)
  • Forest concessions
  • Agrupaciones sociales del lugar (ASL)
  • Associations of livestock farmers
  • Indigenous centres
  • Higher education centres
  • Association of certified artisans
  • Association of organic coffee producers
  • Hospitality chamber
  • Tourism operators

Strategic goals

  • Maintain the ecological integrity of the Chiquitano Forest Ecoregion and connectivity with larger ecosystems through biological corridors 
  • Maintain the balance between the climate and potable water sources by adopting an integrated watershed management approach 
  • Decrease social vulnerability by applying an ecosystem framework for sustainable development and conservation strategies 
  • Complete land-use planning for all municipalities in the ecoregion and effectively apply it in situ 
  • Establish sustainable management practices, ideally, certified in all private and native forest production 
  • Establish ecologically sound cattle-raising practices 
  • Promote the growth of sustainable ecotourism, combining the most remarkable natural and cultural strengths in the region

Accomplishments to date

  • Support the governability of the ChMF by designing Municipal Land Use Plans [Planes Municipales de Ordenamiento Territorial (PMOTs)] in 14 municipalities 
  • Equip 14 municipalities in the Chiquitano dry forest with geographic information systems (SIG)
  • Establish/Expand protected municipal and departmental areas
  • Implementation of eco-regional plan for the Chiquitano dry forest (20.5 M hectares)
  • Voluntary forest certification of large forestry concessions with long durations
  • Woodlot management [Ordenamiento predial] of private properties in the Chiquitano dry forest and its area of influence.
  • Three municipalities with completed PMOTs (Municipal Land Use Plans) and installed municipal planning technical units [Unidades Técnicas de Planificación Municipal (UTEPLAM)]
  • Two municipalities with PMOTs being designed
  • Agreement with the Departmental Government to complete the Plan Departamental de Ordenamiento Territorial in three years (14 municipalities in the ChMF)
  • Proposal presented to the Interamerican Development Bank to implement a regional cadastre [or?property tax] in part of the ChMF (5 municipalities)
  • Agreements reached with the municipal governments

International policy links  

Chiquitano Model Forest activities will directly address numbers 9and 10 of the Millennium Development Goals, specifically the following:

  • Integrate the principles of sustainable development into the country policies and programs; reverse loss of environmental resources 
  • Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water
  • Further develop an open trading and financial system that is rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory, includes a commitment to good governance, development and poverty reduction-nationally and internationally 
  • In cooperation with developing countries, develop decent and productive work for youth