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Autonomous Indigenous Government Protects Three Million Acres in Bolivia’s Chaco



Nature and Culture International supports the creation of the largest conservation corridor in the Gran Chaco.

Stretching across Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and a bit of Brazil, the Gran Chaco Americano constitutes the largest forest mass in South America, after the Amazon. The ecoregion holds huge reserves of water, energy and cultivable land, and a great diversity of indigenous peoples, including the Ayoreo, the only native population that remains in voluntary isolation outside the Amazon.

Despite its natural richness and socio-cultural diversity, the Gran Chaco is one of the most neglected areas in South America. Its diversity, land and resources are increasingly threatened by climate change and an expanding agricultural frontier.

Ñembi Guasu protects three million acres in the municipality of Charagua.

An Indigenous Autonomous Government in the Gran Chaco of Bolivia recognized the urgency to protect their land. In collaboration with Nature and Culture International and Nativa Bolivia, the Autonomous Indigenous Campesino Government of Charagua (GAIOC) declared Ñembi Guasu, the second largest conservation area in Bolivia.

Ñembi Guasu spans three million acres in the municipality of Charagua, home to an indigenous Guaraní population. After occupying parts of eastern Bolivia for hundreds of years, the Guaraní achieved autonomy in 2017. Now, the GAIOC, the governing body within Charagua, intend to create a system of conservation areas to protect their land and the wellbeing of the Guaraní people.

“For us, when establishing conservation areas, we are conserving our home and that of our children and all of its generations,” said Adhemar Flores, a member of the GAIOC’s legislative body.

The area will also maintain land for the Ayoreo population, thought to be the only uncontacted indigenous people south of the Amazon. Traditionally hunter-gatherers, the small group is increasingly threatened by loss of territory.

Only 300 Chacoan guanaco are left in the wild.

Ñembi Guasu adds to existing national parks Kaa Iya in Bolivia and Defensores del Chaco in Paraguay, creating the largest conservation corridor (connected protected areas) in the Gran Chaco. Increased connectivity in the region will mitigate the effects of climate change and provide habitat for Ñembi Guasu’s abundant wildlife, including armadillos, giant anteaters, jaguars and Chacoan guanaco. The area will also secure essential non-timber resources for nearby communities, including clean water sources and local plants with great medicinal value.

Ñembi Guasu consolidates 15 million acres of the Gran Chaco’s most cultural and biologically diverse forests,” said Renzo Paladines, Nature and Culture’s Executive Director of Latin America. “This is critical for protecting this ecoregion’s unique biodiversity, and the home and way of life of the Guaraní and Ayoreo peoples.”

Ñembi Guasu adds to Kaa Iya and Defensores del Chaco national parks, creating a critical conservation corridor spanning 15 million acres.

Ñembi Guasu is a result of collaboration between the GAIOC, Nativa Bolivia, Nature and Culture International, The World Land Trust and IUCN National Committee of The Netherlands. The area was created with the generous financial support of individual donors to Nature and Culture.

To learn more about this declaration, read a joint press release by partners IUCN Netherlands, The World Land Trust and Nature and Culture.

With the support of our donors and partners, Nature and Culture will assist Nativa Bolivia and the GAIOC in managing Ñembi Guasu and establishing additional reserves in their territory.