Increasing deforestation in Eastern Paraguay: Neoliberalism and failing policies during the post-dictatorial years

Authors: Mario Cardozo*, Kutztown University, William Havrilchak, Kutztown University, Jonathan DiLella, Kutztown University, Laura Rodríguez, Fundación Moisés Bertoni
Topics: Land Use and Land Cover Change, Development, Third World
Keywords: Paraguay, soy, conservation, GIS, deforestation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Directors Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Our study estimates recent deforestation patterns within a study area in Paraguay, the UNESCO-established Mbaracayú Forest Biosphere Reserve. This reserve was created in 2000 to conserve Atlantic Forest patches and promote sustainable development linked to different culture groups. At the core of the biosphere reserve lies the Mbaracayú Forest Nature Reserve, established in 1991 for the preservation of native forests. We classified 12 Landsat images to map forests and forest fragmentation in the biosphere reserve for 1995, 2000, 2004, 2009, 2014, and 2018. Changes in forest cover parallel political-economic changes in Paraguay since the removal in 1989 of dictator Stroessner. Post-dictatorial governments have been increasingly neoliberal and are considered to have prevented the effective enforcement of environmental laws and agrarian-reform initiatives. Indigenous peoples and peasants in Eastern Paraguay have struggled to secure lands and livelihoods, particularly because of the expansion of large-scale agribusinesses like soybean monocropping. Based on efforts led by international organizations, deforestation linked to soybean expansion in South America has declined thanks to government policies, particularly in Brazil. A similar effect is not observed in the study area. Since 2004, a government measure has forbidden deforestation for agricultural expansion in Eastern Paraguay. Despite this law, deforestation rates have grown in the biosphere reserve, a fact that is doubly troublesome because of this reserve’s conservation priority. We propose that a stronger state presence is needed in the area to prevent further forest fragmentation and help smallholder communities subsist, as these communities engage in less environmentally impactful agriculture.

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