Sabana Yegua Model Forest

Country: Dominican Republic
Location: Sabana Yegua
Year joined IMFN: 2003
Area: 166 000 ha
Regional affiliation: Ibero-American Model Forest Network

Contact information

Name: Ramon Alberto Roa Howley
Address: Fundacion Sur Futuro, Ave. 27 de febrero esquina Ave. Abrahan Lincoln. Plaza Unicentro, 3er Piso, Republica Dominicana
Tel: +809-472-0611

Forest and resource profile

The area of the Sabana Yegua Model Forest (SYMF) frames the area of the Upper Basin of the Sabana Yegua Dam, which includes 166,000 hectares and is divided into three main sub-basins, of the rivers: Yaque del Sur (39 398 ha), Grande del Medio (68,913 ha), and Las Cuevas (58 574 ha), to the south of the Cordillera Central of the Dominican Republic. 

The total area of the MF represents 48% of the surface area of the upper zone of Sabana Yegua distributed in two National Parks, where there is the majority of the native pine forest (Pinus occidentales). It is important to mention the high impact of these zones given the presence of communities that have developed within the Parks. The forests of pino de la isla are considered a high conservation priority in Latin America. 

Economic profile

The population in the upper basin is 60 000, concentrated in more than 100 consolidated communities, and scattered over 159 rural zones called “parajes”. Between 80 and 100% of the households live in poverty, the majority of them without electrical service. The rate of

illiteracy is 40%. Deforestation has affected 47% of the area (nearly 100% of the area outside of the protected areas) dedicated to agro-fishing activities, which cause a high degree of erosion in this zone due to coffee production (3656 hectares / 2.2%). 

The farmers cultivate subsistence crops, such as beans, pigeon peas (Cajanus spp.), bananas, plantains, and other traditional crops. Livestock is composed mainly of goats, sheep and cattle. Women raise laying hens for roadside sale of eggs. The agricultural products produced on the hillsides are cultivated for sale through intermediaries who offer low prices.

Almost the entire population found within the Model Forest area practices farming as their principle means of income. The electricity, irrigation, and domestic water services provided from the Sabana Yegua Dam are critical to the economic development of the south-western Dominican provinces of San Juan de la Maguana and Azua. The long-term output from the dam is unfortunately threatened by high rates of sedimentation that limit its storage capacity by more than one per cent per year. A declining economic situation forces farmers to seek more land and employ destructive practices, such as slash and burn agriculture and overgrazing, exacerbating the sedimentation issue. The loss of soil and forest cover has increased in proportion to the dramatic increase in poverty within the mountainous communities above the dam.

Why a Model Forest?

  • Development of social capital of the present and future generations to manage the initiative in the decades to come. Although the literacy rate is at 70%, functional illiteracy is much higher 
  • Sustainable financing for targeted investigation, such as long term biodiversity and hydrologic monitoring 
  • Distances and inaccessible areas. A decentralized system of project government must be created in a country familiar with vertical management and central authority 
  • An inflationary economy-initial investment is necessary until the project generates an internal return


  • Secretary of state for the environment and natural resources’ sub secretary for forest resources 
  • Secretary of state for the environment and natural
  • resources; sub secretary for soil and water
  • Secretary of state for the environment and natural
  • resources; sub secretary for protected areas and biodiversity
  • National forest institute, INAB
  • Secretary of state for public works
  • Secretary of state for agriculture
  • Dominican coffee corporation (CODOCAFE)
  • Dominican institute of agricultural and forestry studies (IDIAF)
  • Municipalities of San Juan de la Maguana, Padre Las Casas, Peralta, San José de Ocoa, and Constanza
  • Development board for San José de Ocoa
  • Progressio foundation
  • Representation from livestock producers
  • Representation from vegetable producers
  • Representation from agricultural producers, including migratory farming.
  • Women’s representation

Strategic goals

  • Produce water in both quality and quantity for the Sabana Yegua Dam 
  • Decentralize community governance 
  • Enhance social capital
  • Maintain existing forests 
  • Reforest public and private lands 
  • Appropriately manage the local and environmental conditions