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Bolivian indigenous people honoured at COP21 for reducing deforestation

La comunità di indigeni Tacana ha sviluppato con successo una strategia di gestione sostenibile del territorio, che gli è valsa il premio Equator Prize alla Cop 21 di Parigi.

The Madidi National Park, Bolivia, is considered to be home to the planet’s greatest biodiversity. In the huge variety of ecosystems, which extend for 19,000 square kilometres, over 200 mammal species, 12,000 plants and 11% of the world’s bird species find shelter.

 

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Specimen of South American tapir (Tapirus terrestris) in the Madidi National Park, Bolivia. It is the largest animal of the Amazon and is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN

 

The park is also home to the Tacana indigenous community, which populates the forest from time immemorial and was one of the few Bolivian tribes to resist to the conversion to Christianity. The Tacana people have been awarded the prestigious Equator Prize, international award that honours the initiatives aimed to reduce poverty, protect the environment, and curb the effects of climate change.

 

The Bolivian community has been honoured for elaborating a series of sustainable land management strategies that allowed extraordinarily reducing deforestation, which is four times lower compared to the areas outside of their territories. For instance, the Tacana people have decided to reduce the use of agroforestry resources in order not to threaten their survival, invest in ecotourism and craftsmanship, and launch periodical monitoring to verify that sustainability criteria are met.

 

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Nicolas Cartagena (left) and Ruth Chuqui (center), of the Tacana Indigenous Council, with Alec Baldwin in occasion of the award ceremony of the Equator Prize in Paris © Getty Images for UNDP

 

The award ceremony has been held at COP21 in Paris, and the representatives of the Tacana community have been awarded the Alec Baldwin prize, in honour of the great environmentalist. The Equator Prize, promoted by the association Equator Initiative, is not that easy to be obtained. This year, it honoured only 21 projects out of a total of 1,461 applications from 126 countries.

 

The 2015 theme was the prevention of deforestation, considered a key point in curbing global warming. The Tacana people, divided in some 20 communities in north-western Bolivia, have obtained legal rights to over 389,000 hectares of their traditional lands, thanks to years of efforts and battles. Their main aim is to develop sustainable livelihoods and protect biodiversity and forests.

 

A research carried out by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has revealed the significant decrease in deforestation in Tacana-managed areas, confirming the idea that local communities are more prone to manage land in a more sustainable way compared to privates and governments, as long as they have legal rights to protect it.

 

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Representatives of the Tacana tribe, indigenous communuity living in the Bolivian Amazon from time immemorial

 

This is a rare phenomenon though. Indeed, according to a study, indigenous communities lack legal legal rights to 75% of the lands they rely on.

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