Indigenous youth of Guarayos now managing their own forests

Indigenous youth of Guarayos now managing their own forests

Bolivia - 12 January, 2023

The forests of Guarayos provide more than half of Bolivia’s wood supply. But this is threatened by overexploitation, while younger people have been leaving to find work elsewhere. This video shows how a programme supports indigenous youth to be more aware of the value of their forests, the economic opportunities available, and to build the needed skills to make the most of these. The result – more income for them and their communities, less migration, and improved sustainable governance of local forests.

In the past, strong leaders fought for recognition of their territory, culture, language and ancestral ways of life, based on the appreciation of forests, rivers and other natural resources essential for their life and livelihoods. In recent years however, this knowledge along with traditional governance processes, have not been passed to new generations. This has led to a leadership vacuum, and that youth tend to make decisions on their future that are disconnected from their territory.

As a result, the Community Forestry Organizations of Guarayos saw the importance of including youth in empowerment and training, and partnered with IBIF to encourage the sharing of knowledge by the elderly and to develop leadership skills among the youth. This forms part of IBIF's Working Landscapes Program that is identifying and promoting market opportunities for forest products, and jointly develop supportive public policies.

They learned about their territory, its natural resources, their value, the history of their people in the struggle for autonomy, opportunities offered by their forests, and the importance of participation for sustainable forest management. The young people were surprised by many issues that were new to them, and these aroused a sense of ownership and newfound love for their territory. They became interested in participating in its governance and strengthened their leadership capacities.

Indigenous youth of Guarayos learned that there are opportunities to develop their skills and dreams, and to be able to participate in decisions that affect their lives and their territory. In this way, they are increasing empowered through productive actions that add value to timber and non-timber resources, that reduces migration and contributes to forest conservation.