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Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Conservation of Settled Territories in the Bolivian Amazon


  • César J. Pérez

    (School of Architecture, Universidad Católica Boliviana San Pablo–Regional Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia
    Fundación Gaia Pacha Santa Cruz, San Martín street, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia)

  • Carl A. Smith

    (Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 28301, USA)


Landscapes settled by indigenous communities represent nuanced inter-relationships between culture and environment, where balance is achieved through Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS). Through IKS, native peoples worldwide live, farm, and consume resources in a manner that is responsive to natural systems and, as such, their lands present less deforestation and more sustainable production per capita than is exhibited by non-indigenous practices. In Bolivia, the Origin Farmer Indigenous Territory (TIOC) communities of Yaminahua-Machineri and Takana-Cavineño, located in the North Amazon, are facing external threats of non-indigenous anthropogenic land use change, such as road-building and industrial-scale resource extraction. In order to understand the potential environmental and cultural loss to these territories, the present work seeks to determine the present, base-line conservation state within these Bolivian communities, and forecast land use change and its consequences until the year 2030. This was undertaken using a three-stage protocol: (a) the TIOC communities’ current forest-based livelihoods, characteristics and management were determined using on-site observation techniques and extensive literature review; (b) the historical land use change (LUC) from natural vegetation to anthropogenic use was estimated using multitemporal satellite imagery; and, finally, (c) geographically explicit non-indigenous anthropogenic land-use change threat was extrapolated until 2030 using the GEOMOD modeler from the TerraSet software. Preliminary results show that both TIOCs case-sites are fairly conserved due to their forest dependence. However, deforestation and degradation could be evidenced, particularly within TIOC areas not officially recognized by the central government, due to pressures from surrounding, new non-indigenous settlements, road infrastructure, connection to markets, and the threat of the oil exploitation. Projected LUC suggest serious threats to the unrecognized TIOC areas if community governance is not reinforced, and if extractivist and non-indigenous development patterns continue to be promoted by state and central government.

Suggested Citation

  • César J. Pérez & Carl A. Smith, 2019. "Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Conservation of Settled Territories in the Bolivian Amazon," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 11(21), pages 1-41, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:11:y:2019:i:21:p:6099-:d:282855

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    References listed on IDEAS

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