Bolivian Mother Earth Law challenges its economic model

EAST LANSING, Michigan – Bolivia took a new approach to environmental law in 2012, as part of a movement called Rights of Nature. This decision surprised several countries, given its status as the poorest country in South America. On 39% of its nearly 11 million citizens Live in poverty. Environmentalists support the law, but economists fear it will make life more difficult.

What is that?

Bolivian Mother Earth law essentially gives nature more rights in court. It is based on indigenous values ​​and challenges the idea that the Earth is a resource subject to exploitation while considering humans as equal to everything else. This movement is relatively new, adopted by only a few countries and cities around the world. Chile even made a provision and included it in its constitution.

Ideally, the law embodies “the dedication to sustainable development, respecting the balance between human life and the natural environment and privileging the rights and knowledge of the majority of the indigenous population of the country.

However, in the eyes of Paola Villavicencio, an expert in Bolivian law at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, it was not at all a success. Mainly because in July 2020, President Jean Añez promulgated two new regulations that allowed million additional hectares of land to be cleared for the cultivation of livestock and soybeans. A decision motivated by the economy, according to Villavicencio. “The laws that have been passed for the expansion of agriculture are fundamentally contrary to what Mother Earth’s Rights say,” Villavicencio said in an interview with The Borgen Project.

What implications does the expansion of agriculture have in Bolivia?

Agriculture employs around two-fifths of the Bolivian population. It is one of the most important sectors of the Bolivian economy, contributing around one seventh of the GDP. Even so, agricultural productivity suffers as a result of outdated technologies and a lack of knowledge and skills among farmers.

Over the past century, there have been a decrease of 75% in agricultural biodiversity around the world. In today’s world, we get the vast majority of our daily calories from the same 30 varieties of food. Winona LaDuke, an Indigenous environmentalist, highlights the combination of science with indigenous knowledge to improve agricultural capacities around the world and adopt sustainable practices.

This is why so many environmentalists were happy to see the Rights of Mother Earth become law in Bolivia. They saw it as a way to respect the earth and help it heal and develop in a way that does not compromise the health of the planet. If it was well implemented, it could have acted as voice for indigenous Bolivians, who represent nearly 70% of the population.

Problems with resolutions to expand agriculture

President Añez’s agricultural expansion resolutions have shocked many environmentalists in the region. They say Bolivian soils cannot withstand “intensive agricultural production” any longer, citing the destructive fires as evidence. Agricultural burning to clear land because the culture often causes fires in Bolivia. It’s good for the economy but bad for the environment.

The fires destroyed protected habitat areas, and the new regulations allow clearcutting in the name of agriculture in formerly protected lands. Residents call the community of the municipal reserve of Tucavaca a facilitated protected area, a source of income. To their dismay, it is in the department of Santa Cruz that beef production is massive. Santa Cruz and Beni produce 74% of all South American cattle. They hope that agricultural expansion laws will place Bolivia among the “top 15 beef producers” in the world. It would be bad for the environment and the inhabitants of the neighborhood.

“If you want to respect the rights of Mother Earth, we have to change our economic model which is essentially extraction,” Villavicencio said. Prof Villavicencio explained that much of the expansion activity is taking place in lowlands suitable for agriculture. As the population is smaller in these areas, the inhabitants have little voice to extract their land. This goes against what Bolivian law says about Mother Earth. Prior to development, developers should consult with locals as this directly affects their livelihoods.

How can Bolivia balance issues of sustainability and poverty?

Although many environmentalists call for an overhaul of Bolivian Mother Earth law and base it on its necessity in light of the forest fires caused by agriculture, some believe it is not feasible and would hurt the economy, something that is already suffering in the impoverished country.

Soybean producers specifically protested against the law. He banned genetically modified seeds, a provision that would affect 90% of the harvest. They said it wouldn’t end there and that it would drive up the prices of other crops, like corn and rice, making it harder to get food in a country where 15.9% of its inhabitants are undernourished, the highest level in South America.

The landlocked country relies heavily on exports and foreign investment to earn money. Rich in minerals and natural gas, mining in Bolivia has been around for a long time. For example, China and Russia are two countries dependent on Bolivia. Bolivia has signed serious agreements with them on livestock, which seriously degrades the health of the soil.

How can Bolivia balance sustainability with its needs?

When the law was first passed, the North American Congress on Latin America said: “It is possible for the Bolivian state to exploit the extractive industry without destroying the environment, for the benefit of the Bolivians. impoverished, allowing them to “live well” (live well), in balance with nature ”

Ideally, Bolivia should foster sustainable income and enact a law on Mother Earth that people respect. “The situation in agriculture does not change for the people who live there Mother Earth,” Villavicencio said. The best way to do better is to consider the needs of the people, the country and the land. Bolivia should aim to develop in a lighter and more environmentally friendly way to support and respect Bolivian life.

Cameryn cass
Photo: Flickr