Topic Area: Deforestation
Geographical Area: Bolivia
Focal Question: How can the Chimane protect their forest?
(1) Wilbert, Johannes, 1994. Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume VIII South America . Boston: G.K. Hall.
(2) Godoy, Ricardo, Marc Jacobson, Joel De Castro, Vianca Aliaga , Julio Romero, and Allison Davis, 1998. "The Role of Tenure Security and Private Time Preference in Neotropical Deforestation." Land Economics, 74(2): 162-170.
(3) http.//www.ecouncil.ac.cr/rio/regional/america/andean.html, Nov. 9, 11:00am.
Reviewer: Andrew Niner, Colby College '99
Duik and Mitsha are the creators of all that is real. From them came the mountains, the plains, the rivers; indeed, they created the earth itself. The fish, the plants that surround us, even humans themselves owe their lives to these two gods. Also referred to as the sun and the moon, the mystic brothers Duik and Mitsha are the foundation of the Chimane religion. The two gods were especially kind to man, giving them fire, weapons, and other useful goods. The Faratazik are the "master guardians" and keep watch over their domains on earth. Their importance stems from the fact that they keep a special eye on all that lives within their domains. They offer humans a conditional guarantee, ensuring the fertility and availability of the animals and plants the humans depend on for sustenance. It is man's responsibility to treat the Faratazik with respect. If man fails to meet this responsibility the Faratazik will become angry and punish man. Death is usually the accepted form of punishment.
The Chimane religion revolves around the natural environment in which they live. Human society itself is a mirror image of nature and the two co-exist in a symbiotic relationship. There is a delicate balance between the two and the Chimane believe the key to keeping the balance is mutual respect. This mutual respect lies behind the modest and efficient use of natural resources that is characteristic of the Chimane. It is this mutual respect for the environment that much of modern day society seems to be lacking; and it has lead us down an unsustainable path. Unfortunately, about forty years ago, modern society and the Chimane came into contact. The result has been the gradual encroachment and subsequent abuse of the natural environment - the very same environment that the Chimane had co-existed with for centuries.
The topic of this case study is the Chimane forests in Bolivia. Although the Chimane have been granted their own territory by the government, the boundaries have not been enforced. The result has been the encroachment by several parties: ranchers looking to expand their grazing land, loggers thirsting for the valuable old-growth forest that lies within the Chimane boarders, and oil companies in search of black gold. The pressure from outside has also led the Chimane to increase their own impact on the land. This case study will focus on research conducted by Richard Godoy, Marc Jacobson, Joel de Castro, Vianca Aliaga, Julio Romero, and Allison Davis. The research is focused on determining what factors contribute to the amount of forest that was cleared by the Chimane household. First we will take a closer look at the Chimane and their natural surroundings. Then we will take a closer look at the results of the study, "The Role of Tenure Security and Private Time preference in Neotropical Deforestation", the implications for the sustainable management of the Chimane forests, and recent developments since the study.
The Chimane live in the northeastern region of Bolivia in the department of Beni. A normal Chimane settlement consists of two or three huts, each housing a nuclear family, situated near the bank of a river or stream. Each family cultivates its own field that is located nearby their hut. Private property does not exist among the Chimane, each family respects the other's settlement. These settlements are not permanent and the Chimane often roam freely among the lands they consider to be their territory. During the fishing season it is not uncommon for a family to pile all of their belongings into their canoes and follow the schools of fish. In the past the majority of the Chimane have rejected permanent village life. However, recently some Chimane have chosen to reside in villages, mainly as a form of protection from loggers and drug traffickers (Johannes, pg.112).
The Chimane were not disrupted by the outside world until approximately the 1960's. It was then that hatata pine caught the interest of the Bolivian market as a roofing material. Roads were built in the vicinity of the Chimane territory which promoted the exploitation of this species. By the 1970's the Chimane's pristine tropical forests had caught the eye of the logging industry. Lumber mills have infiltrated the Chimane territory employing some of the Chimane as cheap labor. In the 1980's the Chimane were exposed to yet another facet of modern society, the drug trade. Additional Indians were hired to manufacture cocaine. All of these outside intrusions have torn the fabric of the Chimane culture posing a threat to their way of life and their natural resources.
Between June and August of 1996 Godoy et al. conducted a survey of Chimane households. The purpose of the survey was "to assess the effect of tenure security and private discount rates on the clearance of old-growth rainforest." (Godoy et al., pg. 162) The researchers interviewed the members of 209 households in 18 villages. The data from the survey was then incorporated into a Tobit model, with the area of forest cleared by the family in 1995 as the dependent variable. The study shows three separate regressions. In the first represents the basic model. It includes explanatory variables such as education, the total number of each sex in the family, duration spent in the village, nutrition, and if their were any recent deaths in the family. In the second regression the researchers took the basic model and added a variable that represented the households level of patience. To create a third regression they added variables reflecting conflicts between four types of outsiders: ranchers, farmers, loggers, and oil companies.
In the first regression several of the explanatory variables had a significant impact on the clearance of old growth forest. The number of boys, the residence duration in the village, and the number of household deaths in 1994 all had statistically significant positive effects on the area of forest cleared. The number of men in the household and the level of education both had statistically significant negative effects on the area of forest cleared. When the level of impatience was added to the equation it was significant and had a negative impact on the area of deforestation. With the addition of the outside pressures in the third regression only the ranchers were shown to have had a significant positive effect on the area of deforestation. However, the researchers conducted an F-test to test the joint significance of all four outsider variables and it was significant at the 1.76 percent level.
The two results shed some light onto potential sustainable forest practices in the Chimane rainforest. The first is the joint positive significance that outside pressure has on the area of forest cleared by the Chimane. There are two conflicting theories suggest the effects that abutters can have on indigenous deforestation. The first is that abutter's supply the indigenous people with goods, services and employment. These things would tend to decrease the need of the indigenous people to rely on their natural surroundings for survival. The second possible effect is that abutters encroach upon the indigenous territory and exploit it resources. As a result the indigenous people increase their own environmental impact so as to secure their piece of the pie before the outsiders come in and take it all. The results of this study imply that the latter effect is dominant and that outside pressure results in increased deforestation by the indigenous people themselves. The implications of this result for future policy is to both grant the Chimane's their own territory and to make sure the boarders are enforced. The second is the negative effect that a high private discount rate has on indigenous deforestation. It appears that impatient individuals are less likely to cut down old-growth forests. These individuals are less willing to invest the time that it takes to cut down old-growth forest and favor activities that have a shorter payback period. Specifically, wage labor or cutting down secondary growth forests. Contrary to conventional wisdom, this result implies that a high private time preference in this culture will have little (or even positive effects) on the amount of indigenous deforestation.
The study by Godoy et al. shows that outside pressure has
increased deforestation by the Chimane. The very same Chimane that
managed their natural resources efficiently for years before the
outsiders came to the area. It is the job of policy makers to protect
the rights of the Chimane. Specifically, policy makers must provide
for the proper enforcement of the boarders of Chimane territory. This
case study does not mean to imply that by protecting the Chimane
boarders the goal of sustainability will be achieved. However, it is
a step in the right direction.