Indigenous Community-Based Forestry in the Bolivian Lowlands: Some Basic Challenges for Certification

Indigenous Community-Based Forestry in the Bolivian Lowlands: Some Basic Challenges for Certification


This article reviews timber certification for community forestry activities in Bolivia. The authors present the primary conditions for certification as: 1) socio-economic stability (transparency); 2) economic viability (the primary problem being that certification usually does not result in a direct economic benefit); 3) community understanding of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification process. Bolivia competes with Brazil as world leader in natural tropical forest certification, but most certified area is industrial concession. Recent years have seen a trend of FSC certified forests being comprised of large forestry companies - community forest operations have trouble obtaining certification and usually need significant assistance from NGOs or donors.

Research Goals & Methods

This study draws from literature and case studies on community forest operations in Bolivia where two community forests recently lost their FSC certification status.

Conclusions & Takeaways

Difficulties surrounding certification of community forestry operations (CFOs) include: Costs of certification (evaluations and audits) are high ($2,000-$8,000). Certified community forest operations rarely obtain a price premium (if present, premiums are usually captured by retailers higher up in the supply chain and not the suppliers) Environmentally conscious markets are usually not in the home country of the CFOs, but rather in the US and Europe. Requirements of international markets for certified timber products are very demanding (certified wood AND high quality, reliable supply). Certified CFOs are often characterized by a constrained information flow (CFOs by nature contain many members / timber providers, and it is sometimes difficult for local people to understand the technical requirements of certification. CFOs risk donor dependence because they are often needed to shoulder the high certification costs



de Pourcq K, Thomas E, van Damme P. Indigenous community-based forestry in the Bolivian lowlands: some basic challenges for certification. International Forestry Review. 2009;11:12–26. doi:10.1505/ifor.11.1.12.


  • Department of Third World Studies, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium
  • Laboratory of Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture and Ethnobotany, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium