Decentralization of Forest Management in Bolivia: Who Benefits and Why?
This paper reviews the Bolivian experience of decentralization and the involvement of municipal governments around issues that have some direct or indirect influence on forest management and forest users’ livelihoods. While the Bolivian model of decentralization of forest management moves seriously towards building democratic decentralization, some of the key decisions regarding forest resources allocation and use are still made at the central level, though municipal governments have more room than in the past to intervene in forest management.
Decentralization has reshaped the institutional mediations influencing natural resources use, but in turn its outcomes have been influenced by some social and economic conditions operating at the local level, such as local power relationships and property rights, which have been little challenged by decentralization. Decentralization has contributed to improving social equity in access to forest resources, distribution of economic benefits from such resources, and reinforcing sustainable practices of forest management, though this does not happen in all cases. The challenges to move the process of decentralization forward have to do with adjusting the design of the model of decentralization itself, as well as with overcoming other political and economic factors influencing it.