How to tackle deforestation on the ground? - A systematic analysis helps identify efficient policy options
Despite the ongoing international discussions on a REDD+ mechanism, there is still little research on efficient policy options to reduce deforestation on the ground. A systematic approach to identify such policy options is developed in two recently published scientific articles, taking lowland Bolivia as a showcase.
The study finds that in Bolivia, the largest share of deforestation is attributable to the expansion of mechanized agriculture, followed by cattle ranching and small-scale agriculture. These three land use categories are then thoroughly analyzed to understand their specific dynamics of expansion into forests, with a focus on typical agents, economics and possible patterns of future expansion.
Though a vast majority of pilot projects under REDD+ is currently targeting smallholders, the study finds that for a significant reduction of deforestation, those land uses causing the largest clearings should be targeted as a priority - particularly cattle ranching, since its expansion threatens Bolivian forests in many different locations and improvements could be achieved at relatively low costs.
A variety of specific solutions is identified to reduce the expansion of each of the three main land uses into the Bolivian forests while minimizing the trade-offs between forest conservation and development. Proposed measures applicable to cattle ranching, for example, include the stimulation of higher stocking densities and a focus on large and illegal clearings. The most important task applicable to all land uses is by far the enforcement of land use legislation.
The study shows a systematic way to identify specific measures to reduce deforestation under different settings of land uses and agents. But a general conclusion probably valid for many tropical forest countries is that a focus should be put on legal enforcement, strengthening relevant institutions and tackling those land uses causing large-scale deforestation.