Public policy reforms and indigenous forest governance: the case of the Yuracaré people in Bolivia
This case study, published in the journal Conservation and Society, examines the impact of forest reforms in Bolivia on the indigenous Yuracaré people.
The recent surge in the efforts to reform forest governance-both through decentralisation and tenure reforms has been coupled by an increase in empirical studies that assess the virtues and limitations of the new regimes. Despite an increasing body of literature, however, there is still limited knowledge about the effects of these reforms on the indigenous groups and their forest governance institutions.
This study seeks to contribute to the empirical literature by analysing how policy reforms in Bolivia have affected one indigenous territory, its inhabitants, their de facto property rights regime, and their consequent efforts to govern their forest resources. The case study, about forest use decisions and actions among the Yuracaré people in the Bolivian lowlands, is an example of what the Amerindian indigenous societies face in terms of both opportunities and limitations associated with the implementation of formalised de jure rights over forests.
The authors pay particular attention to the effects of the 1996 forestry reforms on the institutional conditions for governing common-pool forests resources. The study draws on primary field data that were collected both before and after the implementation of the reforms. They find that the introduction of formal rights has led to increased security in tenure rights and the emergence of more opportunities for diversifying the sources of income for the Yuracaré people. But there are also significant costs associated with the achievement of these benefits. The reforms induced the Yuracaré people to integrate with the surrounding public and private economies, but the authors find that these interactions have strained traditional governance arrangements.