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Indigenous community-based forestry in the Bolivian lowlands: some basic challenges for certification

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Indigenous Community Forest Operations (CFOs) that have been certified according to the Principles and Criteria of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) face numerous obstacles in their struggle to remain certified and obtain tangible economic benefits. Three basic conditions for successful CFO certification are (i) socio-economic stability, (ii) economic viability, and (iii) community members demonstrating an understanding of the key concepts of the FSC certification process. Based upon fieldwork in four Bolivian CFOs and more than 140 interviews, this paper identifies some of the major constraints on community forestry certification in Bolivia. The findings suggest that the present conditions in the studied CFOs are jeopardizing FSC certification and its ability to yield a positive financial cost-benefit balance in the long term. In contrary to what is generally being assumed by Bolivian FSC experts and stakeholders, this study suggests that the recent tendency to form certified community-company alliances, as an alternative to existing approaches, might not (yet) be able to deliver much direct economic benefits to the communities.
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Keywords: Bajo Paragu; FSC certification; Guarayos; Lomero; Yuqu; Zapoc; community forest operations

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Third World Studies, Ghent University, Universiteitstraat 8, 9000 Gent, Belgium. 2: Laboratory of Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture and Ethnobotany, Ghent University, Coupure links 653, 9000 Gent, Belgium.

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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