Bolivia: Restoration of Mining Zone of Tipuani


Trópico, the Bolivian Conservation Association (Asociación Boliviana para la Conservación) established this project to promote sustainable forestry management in the Tipuani and Guanay municipalities in northeastern Bolivia. Mining is the greatest threat to forests in Tipuani because of the amount of lumber needed to structurally support the mine-shafts that are carved into hillsides or mountains for subterranean mining. In Guanay, commercial timber harvesting and agriculture, especially annual rice cultivation, are all causing deforestation. Trópico’s efforts seek to mitigate these threats by restoring degraded areas using native species and species from plantations. Agroforestry systems with cacao and the sustainable use of the milpesos palm (Oenocarpus bataua) are promoted, and local environmental issues related to the sustainable forest management are addressed. Environmental education has also been successfully incorporated into the project through committees comprised of teachers interested in guiding the population towards a sustainable future.

Quick Facts

Project Location:
Tipuani, Bolivia, -15.5661029, -68.0193534

Geographic Region:
Latin America

Country or Territory:

Tropical Forest

Tropical Forest - Moist Broadleaf

Area being restored:
40 acres

Project Lead:
Trópico Bolivian Conservation Association

Organization Type:
NGO / Nonprofit Organization


Project Stage:

Start Date:

End Date:

Primary Causes of Degradation

Deforestation, Fragmentation, Mining & Resource Extraction

Degradation Description

Small scale gold mining is an important source of income for communities in this region of Bolivia and Peru. The local communities have gold mining cooperatives organized out of 50-500 people which are extracting gold from underground and open mines which require a constant supply of wood for pitches and supports for underground work, while open mines cause extensive degradation and deforestation, albeit on a smaller scale.

Reference Ecosystem Description

This area of Bolivia is in lower montane rainforest near the Apolobamba Biosphere Reserve. Apolobamba is a highly diverse reserve encompassing over 480,000 hectares, protecting a remarkable altitudinal gradient along the eastern slope of the mountains. The lowland area near Tipuani receives high levels of precipitation and is often covered in fog. The area has very high numbers of endemic species, with typical Amazonian influences seen in genera such as Parkia, Hevea, and even Bertholletia excelsa. The vegetation in this part of the tropics is largely rainforest, but with some areas of drier forest in the valleys and deciduous trees with a dense cover of epiphytes. The forests are associated with red soils of very low levels of fertility, although the native forests have high levels of diversity and are rich in endemic species.

Project Goals

The overall strategy of the project was to develop a model to implement the existing environmental laws in Bolivia that require ecological restoration upon the closure of mines, although those laws are largely ignored. The project originally intended to reforest 37 acres (15 hectares) with 40 species of trees, the majority of which are native. Secondarily, the project sought to raise awareness in the population about deforestation, reforestation, and other environmental issues as a way to use their acquired experience to extend the range of the project to the whole municipality of Tipuani and provide incentives for similar activities in areas with the same characteristics. The education of the populous would also help to ensure the continuation of the project beyond the three years of promised funding. Finally, the project had as a goal to promote the sustainable management of natural resources, especially through the implementation of agroforestry systems and the sustainable use of milpesos palm (Oenocarpus bataua).


The project does not have a monitoring plan.


The funding for this project came from Conservation International and its grant program, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, which placed Conservation International in the position of shaping the original concept of the project. The project was developed and administered by Trópico (Asociación Boliviana para la Conservacíon) which is responsible for developing the model for implementation of the restoration project. Part of the uniqueness of the project was that it involved local stakeholders as project collaborators, stressing cooperation. The first year focused on selecting suitable tree species that the community wished to have and after that phase the local community took ownership of the project. Involving a local staff was a great part of the success of the project.

Description of Project Activities:
The project approached the problem in a strategic fashion, never intending to stop mining, but rather to encourage locals to earn their livelihood over the long term with work on tree farms. They approached the problem by wanting to establish not only a firm foundation of functional resources and programs for the actual restoration work, but also by establishing a scientific and educational foundation for the project. The project started by identifying more than 200 tree specimens for use in the project, using botanical specimens and techniques for the recovery of degraded areas, as well as preparing a soil use map of the region to identify critical areas. The project then established a nursery with 30,000 seedlings of 50 fruit and timber species. The project created a pilot platation of 49 acres in San Juanito-Riconada area with native and plantation species for the Cotapampa, Chiquini, Taniplaya, and Guanay communities. A total of 124 acres were planted in the course of the project. Next, the project established a broad educational program, first by raising awareness in the mining cooperatives about deforestation and erosion through environmental education workshops. The project established a reforestation and agroforestry systems module in Guanay, while training 200 people in reforestation and agroforestry techniques. In conjunction with this work, they developed innovative techniques for the sustainable management of the most important non-timber resource of the area, the milpesos palm, in 14 communities. In coordination with the school district, the project worked on an extensive environmental education program that included the formation of environmental education committees. These committees carry out activities such as campaigns to combat fires, the planting of trees in schoolyards, collecting and recycling garbage, and holding contests and festivals with environmental themes. They also helped to develop an environmental education guide for Tipuani teachers. Finally, the project worked closely with community leaders to obtain local input on the Tipuani and Guanay municipal plans, as well as creating a document for planning conservation activities in both Tipuani and Guanay. The project was able to replicate its experience by working with other communities, working through Trópico and other NGOs. The project has been most successful in establishing the continuity of itself by the commitment of the local staff, as well as securing small donations to help fund and continue work with other local projects.

Ecological Outcomes Achieved

Factors limiting recovery of the ecosystem:
The mining cooperative system is characterized by great social instability. The exploitation of gold is closely linked to a short-term mindset and involves the constant migration of people from one place to another because they are dependent on the discovery of metals. In these areas it is unrealistic to work on the closure of the mines and eliminate the source of the deforestation and degradation because the local communities utterly depend on the income from the mines. One broader social strategy that was learned through the project was that in those areas with social instability it is best to prioritize environmental education with small pilot projects that create favorable conditions for regional projects. Reforestation in these areas proved to be extremely challenging because of the degraded conditions and because of the seedling growth and the support from the mining cooperatives. The project identified that experiments need to be carried out over a number of years to identify species that do not need very fertile soils, that grow fast, and that produce significant organic material. The distinction that the project discovered that needed to be made was that there is a difference between the recovery of degraded areas where there is no natural secondary growth and precious wood plantations that require areas with relatively good soil.

Socio-Economic & Community Outcomes Achieved

Economic vitality and local livelihoods:
The project created the conditions in these communities to shift the basic economic realities that drive the degradation in the first place. By providing a long-term solution that improved the lives of locals, as well as education to support those efforts, the project established a viable alternative to the short-term nature of gold mining which local communities now recognize as being dangerous to their health and well-being. Given the dangers associated with mining, such as landslides from deforestation, local communities were able to connect the well-being of their forests to the well-being of their communities.

Long-Term Management

The project learned early on that they needed to plant for the medium and long-term when developing a project that will span many years, especially reforestation projects. Additionally, the project learned that flexibility is critical in the development of the project. That flexibility allowed for project managers to work on issues that interested the population and that could be realistically addressed. By requesting the participation of local stakeholders and developing a local staff expanded the ability to address those issues important to the local communities. Working with organized communities and those institutions already in place expanded the capacity to provide continuity to the project, which was the main criteria in selecting the target area for the project. It was seen as best to pay attention to the selection of local partners.

Sources and Amounts of Funding

96,350 USD The three years of the initial project was supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) until its conclusion in March 2005. At present, the project is funded by small donations from other sources. Agencia de Cooperación Internacional Danesa (DANIDA), Denmark; Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), United States; Regenwald Institut, Germany; Programa de Cooperación Danesa al Sector Medio Ambiente (PCDSMA).

Other Resources

Robert MÁ¼ller
Casilla 11250, La Paz, Bolivia, Calle Alfredo Ascarruz, Sopocachi, La Paz, Bolivia

Primary Contact

Organizational Contact