Article: a PhD thesis.
Aux frontières des "ordres" institutionnels territoriaux. Aires protégées, peuples autochtones et colonisation agricole en Amazonie bolivienne.
Institut de Hautes Etudes Internationales et du Développement
Number of pages
Bolivia is actually a Plurinational State, meaning cultural diversity is recognised as the core fragment of socio-political structures of the nation. This situation is not only the result of the earliest accession of President Evo Morales, but a complex socio-political process combining multiple level governance dynamics. This dissertation aims at presenting an overview of the main national reforms and processes that conducted indigenous people to be owners of large territories all over the country and try to understand social, economic and ecological impacts of those changes. The Tsimane' territories (TICH and Pilón Lajas) are the first Amazonian territories recognized by the Bolivian government at the beginning of 1990s. During the first decades, indigenous territories where created to fill the double aim of conserving bio- and socio-diversity. That's why the Pilón Lajas biosphere reserve and indigenous territory, located in the Beni department northern La Paz, was recognized with a double statute. Indigenous institutions were also created with a strongly external influence to fill with the expectation of multiple national and international agencies. In this case, territorial claim and nature conservation have been the main drivers of indigenous political reconfiguration. The results of those external influences are still observable twenty years after their creation. Indigenous structures remain strongly dependent on their first alliances and hardly connect to local communities' expectation. This makes the strong difference with Andean settlers that occupy the area since the 1980'. Contrary to indigenous Tsimane', those settlers are articulated on a well rooted political structures, characteristic of peasant unions. Those differences where used by external agencies to establish completely opposite policies. On one side, Andean settlement and land reform policies have been established on a productivity-based conception of land legitimacy, where land distribution depend on the presumed level of production capacity of socio-economic units. On the other side, indigenous collective titling and protected areas have been based on a strict conservationist policy whereas the forest and protected areas department is hardly maintaining its monitoring capacities. Those dichotomies lead to a strong "institutional segmentation" within ethnical boundaries as well as to a clear discrepancy between land and resource institutions. This segmentation is clearly represented in land cover change which is shaped by the spatial limits of differentiated administrative responsibilities. Introduction of cattle and rice cultivation in the indigenous Tsimane' forest is strongly influenced by Andean settlers. This agro-ecological change has strong impacts on previous socio-ecological systems that are not adapted to those new practices. Deforestation, land degradation and low livelihood incomes are direct consequences. It is necessary to develop economical alternatives investigating local indigenous knowledge that have demonstrated their economic and ecological sustainability. A more integrated concept of sustainability with economic activities would need a redefinition of the Bolivian land and resource regimes. As an example of this proposition, the important principle of "socio-economical function of land" could be changed to a "socio-ecological function of land" including sustainability principles as fundamental mechanisms of land legitimacy.
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