Bolivia: stop torching forests for beef and soy!

Forest burning in Bolivia © Fotoarena/Alamy Stock Foto - Collage RdR
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21 Bolivian organizations and Amnesty International have called on the president of Bolivia to suspend a decree that came into force in mid-July authorizing “controlled burns”. Since the decree, an area of more than 5.3 million hectares – almost twice the size of Belgium! – has gone up in flames for cattle feedlots and soy farms.

Call to action

To: the government of Bolivia, President Evo Morales

“Stop Bolivian agribusiness from burning forests for beef and soy!”

Read letter

With its Presidential Decree 3973 dated 10 July 2019, the Bolivian government authorized the felling and burning of forests in the Beni and Santa Cruz departments to accommodate population growth and the expansion of agriculture.

Global Forest Watch, a service specialized in the evaluation of satellite photos, has counted no less than 313,000 fires in Bolivia since then. According to the environmental NGO FAN, more than a third of the burned land was tropical dry forest, and a further 55% tropical savanna.

In Santa Cruz alone, 1.2 million hectares of protected areas were torched, including large parts of the Otuquis National Park. Researchers estimate that millions of animals were killed by the flames. Fire brigades and residents have been working to contain the blazes with inadequate or improvised equipment.

Drought, strong winds and heat favor the spread of the fires. The root cause of this disaster, however, is Bolivia’s misguided agricultural policy. The CIPCA research center criticized the presidential decree only one day after it took force, arguing that it serves to legalize deforestation by agroindustry and to meet China’s demand for meat.

Indeed – on August 28, 2019, President Evo Morales and the Chinese ambassador to Bolivia celebrated the export of the first shipment of beef as a historic event. Meat exports to China are expected to rise to 117,000 tons by the year 2025.


Sources and further information:

Mongabay, 22 Aug. 2019:
Disaster strikes in Bolivia as fires lay waste to unique forests

Xinhua, 29 Aug. 2019:
Bolivia makes first-ever shipment of beef to China

Amnesty International, 9 Sept. 2019:
Bolivia: Government must suspend presidential decree and investigate causes of forest fires

Amnesty International, 9 Sept. 2019:
Open Letter to the President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma, on the Fires in Chiquitanía

MAAP Project, 25 Sept. 2019:
Fires in the Bolivian Amazon

In Spanish:

Bolivia DECRETO SUPREMO No 3973 del 10 de Julio de 2019 

CIPCA, 10 Jul. 2019:
Posibles efectos por la modificación del decreto supremo 26075 sobre tierras de producción forestal permanente

Coalición Regional, 26 Aug. 2019:
Pronunciamiento Público en solidaridad y defensa del Bosque Seco Chiquitano

Fundación Amigos de la Naturaleza, 27 Aug. 2019:
Reporte de incendios forestales a nivel nacional 25 de septiembre de 2019


To: the government of Bolivia, President Evo Morales

Dear Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are very concerned about the devastating forest fires in Bolivia and their connection with Presidential Decree 3973 issued on 10 July 2019.

In this context, we support the “Pronunciamiento Público en solidaridad y defensa del Bosque Seco Chiquitano” declaration by 21 Bolivian organizations and the “Open Letter to the President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma, on the Fires in Chiquitanía” by Amnesty International.

We urge you to enforce strict compliance with environmental laws. Please bring all legal, political and technical options available to you to bear to prevent the further clearing and burning of forests.

Yours faithfully,