Deforestation rates slashed in Paraguay
Before Paraguay's Zero Deforestation Law came into force in December 2004, the South American nation had the second highest deforestation rate in the world. But through satellite monitoring, WWF has verified that deforestation in the Upper Parana Atlantic Forest has decreased significantly from between 88,000–170,000ha annually before implementation of the law, to a current level of approximately 16,700ha annually — a reduction of more than 85 per cent.
"At a time when governments are getting into the debate on the role of deforestation in greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, Paraguay is already setting an important precedent in tackling the problem," said Leonardo Lacerda of WWF's Global Forests Programme, while presenting the Paraguayan government with a WWF Leaders For A Living Planet Award for its environmental achievements.
The Upper Parana Atlantic Forest is one of the world’s most ecologically important regions, known for its rich biodiversity and high level of species endemism — over 90 per cent of all amphibians and 50 per cent of all plants here are found nowhere else on Earth. But the Upper Parana is also one of the world’s most endangered tropical forests. In many areas over 95 per cent of the natural forest has been lost as a result of agriculture expansion, especially for soy production and cattle ranching.
Not only did WWF favour the passage of Paraguay's Zero Deforestation Law, but worked with partners to implement a "social pact" with agriculture producers in the Upper Parana Atlantic Forest. The pact, which has been signed by Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte Frutos, agricultural businesses and local governments, is aimed at conserving and restoring the forest. To achieve this, WWF is focusing its efforts on the development of viable economic alternatives for local communities, and working at the local and national levels with decision-makers for the sustainable use of natural resources.
"Paraguay provides an example and an inspiration for those countries fighting against deforestation all around the world, and we hope that governments of neighbouring countries, particularly Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil, will follow with similar steps to sharply reduce the deforestation of valuable natural habitats and the carbon emissions associated with them," added Lacerda.
"Paraguay is demonstrating that expansion of agriculture and exports can take place without necessarily encroaching on valuable natural forests.”
Data from Oil World indicates that the deforestation law has not affected soy production in Paraguay, the world's fourth largest soybean exporter. Production has actually increased in spite of the law. In the 2004-05 season, production was 3.9 million tons, up from 3.5 million tons in the 2003-04 season. For the 2005-06 season, production is likely to be 4.2 million tons.
WWF urges the Paraguayan government to extend the law until such time as measures for responsible soy cultivation and sustainable forest management are developed together with a commitment to restore priority forest areas. WWF recognises the success of the Zero Deforestation Law, and is concerned by mounting pressure from the farming lobby and loggers to not extend the law beyond its current December 2006 expiration date.
“The deforestation law represents a great beginning for the conservation of Paraguay’s Atlantic Forest, but if it is not extended, all of the conservation that has been accomplished will be put at risk,” stressed Lacerda.
"An extension of this law will help guarantee the development of long-term sustainable agriculture, provide jobs and improve the quality of life in rural communities while at the same time protect Paraguay's unique biodiversity."
• The Paraguayan deforestation law will be showcased during the upcoming global conference of the Roundtable on Responsible Soy, which will gather soy producers, processors and traders in Asuncion, Paraguay, from 31 August to 2 September 2006.
• The Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS) was initiated by WWF and other actors as a forum for all stakeholders involved and affected by soy cultivation to voice their concerns. It provides stakeholders and interested parties — environment and social NGOs, business and industry — with the opportunity to jointly develop global solutions leading to responsible soy production. These include development of criteria for the responsible production and sourcing of soy.
• The Zero Deforestation Law (Law number 2524/4) was approved by the Paraguayan National Congress on 4 November 2004. It is aimed at assuring the conservation and recuperation of the Upper Parana Atlantic Forest. The law resulted in a series of procedures and penalties for those committing environmental crime by deforestation.
• WWF's Leaders For A Living Planet Award gives recognition to institutions, organizations and individuals for extraordinary efforts in furthering nature conservation around the world.
For more information:
Lucy Aquino, Coordinator
WWF Paraguay Atlantic Forest Ecoregional Office
Tel: +595 21 300733
Monica Echeverria, Communications Coordinator
WWF Latin America and Caribbean Programme
Tel: +1 202 778 9626
Chng Soh Koon, Communications Manager
WWF Global Forests Programme
Tel: +41 22 364 9018