Sustainable Agriculture and Forests

The Santa Cruz Summit considered the unsustainability of current agricultural processes one of the most serious problems in the region. The rural sector suffers from widespread poverty, the lack of adequate techniques and know-how among farmers and their need to foster short-term economic benefits have exacerbated problems in soil erosion, desertification and other harmful effects to the environment.

At the same time, the Western Hemisphere has the largest forest cover on the planet and contains a major share of the world's biodiversity. This wealth, however, is greatly threatened by acute deforestation and forest degradation. In response to this, the Bolivian Summit mandated several initiatives towards the sustainable use and management of the region's biodiversity.

Sustainable Agriculture

Actions in the area of sustainable agriculture since the Summit have been the following:

  • Improvements have been made with the use of agrochemical products at the global, regional, national and local levels. Uruguay, Costa Rica and Ecuador made notable advances in reducing the intensity of the use of chemical products in agriculture and in promoting campaigns against specific pests and diseases.
  • There has been continued work in the research and conservation of genetic resources through diversification and wildlife programs in the rural areas of Central and South America and the Caribbean. Mexico, for example, has implemented a program entitled, "Productive Diversification and Wildlife in the Rural Sector," which has received the support, along with other such projects, of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Tropical Agronomic Research and Teaching Center (CATIE) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA).
  • In an effort to connect agrarian research and ecosystem conservation, Canada has researched new strains of crops and trees that promote biodiversity and bring benefits such as disease resistance, more efficient use of nutrients and sequestration of carbon-dioxide.
  • Paraguay has taken advantage of an innovative approach to increasing agricultural exports by developing ecotourism on individual farms and ranches.
  • Central America, with the help of IICA, has established agricultural exchange centers with electronic information systems that bring training, extension and support for commercialization closer to the farmer. Along with this, Argentina has promoted cultivating crops which have environmental benefits and the Caribbean has supported cleaner agroindustrial processes.
  • Several countries have encouraged their local communities and rural organizations to promote conservation and sustainable and equitable agriculture: Bolivia established equal opportunity programs for women in rural community development to help them assume more active decision-making roles; Argentina is promoting the consolidation of associative groups of producers; Colombia has a Rural Home Program that supports low-income families in rural communities; Paraguay offers local leaders training in soil management; Peru provides small producers with access to fertilizer and certified seed for their principal crops; and Uruguay provides support for integrated pest control and crop diversification.
  • Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, the Dominican Republic and Saint Lucia incorporated agrarian reform into comprehensive programs of regional or rural development, poverty alleviation or agroindustrial reform.

Sustainable Forestry

Issues of sustainable forestry have been addressed in the following areas:

  • Governments in the region participated actively in the deliberations and between-meeting activities organized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF), which was co-chaired by Colombia.
  • As recommended by the Santa Cruz Summit, the International Program of Model Forests was strengthened to promote the sharing of local experiences, know-how and technology. Representatives from Argentina, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica and the United States attended the First International Forum of the Network of Model Forests, which took place in Mexico in 1997.
  • Countries are participating in international efforts to define and implement criteria and indicators for the sustainable management of forests. In January, 1997, a process began which is working to define criteria and indicators for the seven countries belonging to the Central American Commission for Environment and Development.
  • In 1997, the ninth meeting of the Montreal Initiative took place. Forty-five countries, including Argentina, Canada, Chile, Mexico, the United States and Uruguay, attended this meeting.

Biodiversity Conservation

The following has been done to fulfill this biodiversity initiative:

  • Many countries in the region, including the Andean countries, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica and Mexico, have adopted national biodiversity strategies which will strengthen their research and development capacity in the field of biological resources and introduce legislation on access to genetic resources.
  • Protected cross-border areas and regional strategies for preservation and sustainable use of Amazonian natural resources have been identified and established. Examples of this include the Fund for Biodiversity in Brazil, conservation of biodiversity and sustainable development in the conservation areas of La Amistad and La Osa in Costa Rica, and the programs of protected areas in Mexico and Guyana.
  • The First Latin American Congress on National Parks and Other Protected Areas, which took place in Santa Marta, Colombia, in 1997, underlined the importance of the approved Bolivian Summit initiatives and the close relationship between biodiversity preservation and national park management. It also highlighted the role of the OAS as a forum to advance the implementation of the diverse recommendations emanating from the Congress, especially those related to biodiversity.
  • In September, 1998, the Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network (IABIN) was created as a result of an international conference hosted by Brazil and the coordination of two Meetings of Experts, which were convened by the OAS, to help inform countries of the initiative.
  • Projects have also emerged, with the financial help of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), for the protection of biodiversity: consolidation and implementation of the program for management of the coastal area of Patagonia to preserve its biodiversity; protection and sustainable use of the biological diversity of the bio-geographical Chocó in Colombia; preservation of biodiversity in the Lake Titicaca watershed; and the integrated project for the protection of biodiversity in the Sartsún-Montagua region of Guatemala. The World Bank and the IDB have also co-financed various projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.


Obstacles that deter progress in sustaining and preserving our region's forestry and agriculture include the following:

  • Insufficient international and national funds, human resources, and infrastructure for research and technology transfer;
  • Protracted legislation;
  • Serious weaknesses in institutional and policy framework must be overcome in order to strengthen genetic resource measures for valuing the rich heritage that the Americas possess;
  • Limits to deforestation and forest degradation must be sought through firm political commitments that encourage community participation in decision-making processes, a technique which has gained substantial ground throughout the Americas;
  • Differences between developed and developing countries regarding the interpretation of certain agreements in the Convention on Biodiversity has hindered implementation.


  [Bolivian Summit/tracker.htm]