in Paraguay

Can REDD save the thorn forests of the Paraguayan Chaco?

The Paraguayan Chaco covers an area about the size of Poland. Thorn forests provide habitat to a wide range of species, including jaguar, ocelot, puma, tapir and giant armadillo. It is home to indigenous peoples, such as the Ayoreo, some of whom are uncontacted, the last uncontacted indigenous tribe south of the Amazon.

It is also being rapidly deforested as cattle ranchers from Brazil move in and clear the forest. Also involved in clearing the land are Mennonites, descendants of people who fled religious persecution in Russia and eastern-Europe in the 1930s. Between 2006 and 2010, one tenth of the Paraguayan Chaco was converted to ranches. Last year, the New York Times reported that satellite analyses by environmental group Guyra revealed that 1.2 million hectares of the Gran Chaco (which extends into Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil) had been cleared in the previous two years.

This short film by Survival International documents the impact of the deforestation on the Ayoreo indigenous people in Paraguay:

In the film, one of the recently contacted Ayoreo says,

“If the outsiders keep clearing the forest, our uncontacted relatives won’t have anywhere to live. They have already destroyed their own land, now they are destroying ours. We must protect the forest that we still have.”

As the deforestation continues so do Paraguay’s REDD-readiness activities. This week there is a workshop on safeguards information systems for REDD+ in the capital, Asunción.

Paraguay has set up a National Forest Monitoring System, which the FAO describes as “an important success and example for other countries interested in implementing REDD+ activities”. The UN-REDD programme in Paraguay started in late 2008. Writing in 2010, Santiago Carrizosathe, the REDD Regional Technical Advisor for the UN-REDD Programme in Paraguay, explained that,

Reducing deforestation and forest degradation in Paraguay is imperative not only to control the release of emissions into the atmosphere, but also to preserve the livelihoods of all forest-dependent communities. Such a forest-livelihood relationship takes on a special meaning particularly in the context of uncontacted groups such as the Ayoreo who still live a nomadic life in the forest. Of the several different sub-groups of Ayoreo, the most isolated are the Totobiegosode. Since 1969, many have been forced out of the forest, but some still avoid all contact with outsiders. Ensuring the integrity of the forested homeland of the Ayoreo and all other Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities is one of the main challenges of the UN-REDD Programme in Paraguay.

In March 2012, Paraguay’s UN-REDD National Team held an inception workshop in Asunción marking the “formal beginning of previously programmed implementation activities”. US$4.7 million funding is earmarked for Paraguay’s UN-REDD National Programme. The World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility held its 11th Participants Committee meeting in March 2012. (So far, Paraguay has produced an R-PIN, which currently is not available on the FCPF website.)

Perhaps all of this REDD readiness is important, just in case a REDD mechanism is agreed at some point in the future. But none of these REDD readiness activities are likely to do anything to help the environmental crisis in the Chaco.

And the deforestation shows no sign of stopping. According to a recent report from Guyra almost 600,000 hectares of Gran Chaco was deforested in 2012. Here is Guyra’s summary of their most recent satellite analysis (in English and Spanish):


During 2012 deforestation of the Gran Chaco Americano region proceeded at a rate of 1,473 ha/day, more than double the rate in 2011, which was 730 ha/day. In 2012 a total deforested area in the Gran Chaco of 539,233 hectares was identified, representing a considerable increase over 2010 and 2011 (266,118 hectares and 294,566 hectares, respectively). Paraguay accounted for the largest share of the total deforested area (268.084 hectares), followed by Argentina, with 235,601 hectares and Bolivia, with 46,084 hectares. Paraguay has headed the rate of deforestation since 2010.

At the sub-national level, the Municipality of Mariscal Estigarribia in the Department of Boquerón, Paraguay registered the highest rate of deforestation, significantly higher than any other municipality, with a total of 138,000 hectares deforested in 2012, followed by the Municipality of Fuerte Olimpo, Department of Alto Paraguay, Paraguay, with 32,700 ha. The first Argentine municipality to appear in the list – in fifth place – was Moreno, Province of Santiago del Estero, with a deforested area of 21,000 ha. In the case of Bolivian local governments, the first to appear in the list was Pailón, in the Department of Santa Cruz, with a deforested area of 17,500 ha.

There was also a notable deforestation in the Municipality of Bahía Negra, Department of Alto Paraguay, in the north-east of Paraguay, a region that contains the best conserved wooded areas of the Paraguayan Chaco, and which had been virtually free from deforestation until 2011. In 2012 the first deforested areas here were detected and it was also observed that trails had been cut into the Médanos Protected Areas of the Chaco and Cerro Cabrera-Timane.

The Rio Negro National Park, located in the District of Bahía Negra, Department of Alto Paraguay also registered timber cutting, which took place during several consecutive months, producing a total deforestation of 1,117 hectares. Also in Paraguay, the Chaco Biosphere Reserve registered a total deforestation of 91 hectares, distributed towards the south and east of the reserve. In the Argentina Province of Córdoba, the largest number of polygons of deforestation were detected in the ‘Red Zone’ categorized as Protected Woodlands, as defined according to the Forest Law), producing a total of 3,045 hectares deforested for 2012. In the majority of the monthly reports during the year deforestation was detected in the ‘Red Zone’ of the Province of Córdoba.

The largest number of forest fires was observed during the months of August and September. The highest number of heat focuses (17,127) was registered in August, in Argentina, followed in September, also in Argentina, with 15,302 cases. In Paraguay the highest number of heat focuses was registered in September, with 11,765 cases. Bolivia and Brazil registered their highest numbers in August, respectively with 3,642 and 3,642 cases. The area of greatest recurrence of heat focuses was around Rio Negro, a transitional zone to the Pantanal. In Argentina, the greatest density of heat focuses took place in the north of Pampa del Infierno, Chaco Province.

All monthly reports produced by Guyra Paraguay are available on our website. Every report has an annex containing a file in Google Earth format, enabling more detailed geographical information. The Google Earth TM platform can be downloaded free of charge.

Guyra Paraguay cannot judge the legality of the change of use of the areas of land identified.

For more information please contact



Para el año 2012, el estudio de la deforestación del Gran Chaco Americano arrojó una tasa de deforestación de 1.473 ha/día, marcado incremento con relación al año anterior 2011, en el cual la tasa fue de 730 ha/día. Para el año 2012 se identificaron un total de 539.233 hectáreas deforestadas, detectándose una tendencia de aumento entre los periodos con respecto a los años 2010 y 2011 (266.118 hectáreas y 294.566 hectáreas, respectivamente) para todo el Gran Chaco. Del total de desmontes registrado en el Gran Chaco, Paraguay tuvo el mayor porcentaje de deforestación, con unas 268.084 hectáreas, seguida por Argentina, con un total de 235.601 ha deforestadas y Bolivia, con 46.084 hectáreas. Paraguay ha liderado las tasas de deforestación desde el año 2010.

En el comportamiento mensual de la deforestación por municipio, se destaca el Municipio de Mariscal Estigarribia, ubicado en el Departamento Boquerón – Paraguay, el cual notoriamente resalta por encima de los demás municipios con una superficie deforestada para el 2012 de 138.000 ha, seguido muy por debajo por el municipio de Fuerte Olimpo, Departamento Alto Paraguay – Paraguay, con 32.700 ha deforestadas. En el quinto lugar aparece el primer municipio de Argentina, Moreno, ubicado en la Provincia de Santiago del Estero, el cual tuvo una superficie deforestada de 21.000 ha para el 2012. En cuanto a Bolivia, el primer Municipio en aparecer fue Pailón, en el Departamento Santa Cruz, el cual tuvo una superficie deforestada de 17.500 ha.

Así también cabe destacar las deforestaciones registradas en el Municipio de Bahía Negra, Departamento de Alto Paraguay, al Noroeste del Paraguay, región en donde se encuentran los bosques Chaqueños mejor conservados del país, y que hasta el 2011 se encontraban libres de deforestaciones; en el 2012, se registraron las primeras deforestaciones en esta región y también se observaron picadas entrando a las Áreas Protegidas Médanos del Chaco y Cerro Cabrera-Timane. El Parque Nacional Rio Negro, ubicado en el distrito de Bahía Negra, Departamento de Alto Paraguay también registró desmontes dentro de sus límites. Estos desmontes se sucedieron en varios meses sucesivos sumando en total unas 1.117 hectáreas desmontadas. También en el Paraguay, La Reserva de Biósfera del Chaco registró un total de 91 hectáreas deforestadas distribuidas hacia el sur y este de la misma. En la provincia de Córdoba (Argentina) se ha detectado la mayor cantidad de polígonos de deforestación con ocurrencia en la Zona Roja de Protección de Bosques según la Ley de Bosques, suman así 3.045 ha deforestadas para este periodo del año de enero a diciembre del 2012. En la mayoría de los informes mensuales emitidos se han detectado deforestaciones en la zona roja en la Provincia de Córdoba.

En cuanto a los focos de incendio, se observó que la temporada de mayor número de ocurrencia de incendios corresponde a los meses de agosto y setiembre. El pico más elevado de focos de calor se registró en el mes de agosto, en Argentina, con 17.127 focos seguido por el mes de setiembre, también en Argentina, con 15.302 focos. En el Paraguay el pico más alto de acumulación de focos de calor se registró en el mes de setiembre, con 11.765 focos. Bolivia y Brasil registraron su pico máximo en el mes de agosto, con 3.642 y 3642 focos respectivamente. En cuanto a la densidad de los focos de calor registrados a lo largo del 2012, se tuvo que el área de mayor recurrencia de focos de calor corresponde al área de Rio Negro, zona transicional al Pantanal. En Argentina, el punto de mayor densidad de focos de calor corresponde a la región ubicada al norte de Pampa del Infierno, Provincia de Chaco.

Todos los informes mensuales emitidos por Guyra Paraguay se encuentran disponibles en la página web. Todos los informes tienen como anexo un archivo en formato Google Earth para una consulta geográfica más detallada. La plataforma Google Earth TM puede ser obtenida en forma gratuita.

Guyra Paraguay no puede juzgar la legalidad de los cambios de uso de la tierra registrados.

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