Paraguay: Sustainable Soy and Beef
Agricultural commodities are often a big contributor to the economy of developing nations, playing a significant role on matters such as food security and poverty reduction. In the case of Paraguay, soy and beef are considered two fundamental commodities.
With regards to soy, Paraguay is the world’s 6th largest producer of soybeans and soybean oil, and the 4th largest exporter of that grain; it is known that soy cultivation contributes to a whopping 18% of its GDP. In terms of beef, Paraguay is the 8th largest exporter in the world, and its production accounts for just over 12% of the national GDP. Together, soy and beef industries have created jobs for around 400,000 citizens of Paraguay, a remarkable figure that represents an extensive cohort of small, medium, or large-scale producers throughout the country.
Despite the immediately tangible socioeconomic benefit of nationwide agricultural productivity, Paraguay has inadvertently compromised its vast forest along the way. In fact, Paraguay had lost the greatest share of forest in 2017 than almost any other country on Earth over the previous 15 year period.
The main forests at stake are the Upper Paraná Atlantic Forest (BAAPA) and the Gran Chaco that borders with Bolivia and Argentina. Not just a significant habitat for the unique regional biodiversity, these forests are also a critical global resource that is leveraged for environmental monitoring and research. To preserve the wilderness character of the Paraguayan forests-- all the while encouraging the agrobusiness sector to continue bolstering the national economy-- the government of Paraguay started to seek action in 2014.
The preservation of the Alto Paraná Atlantic Forest (or BAAPA) is of worldwide importance as a valuable source of genetic material and as a catalyst for air and water quality throughout the region. According to several environmental organizations, the BAAPA has lost 85% of forest cover in the last 10 years. Globally, estimations predict a loss of 170 million hectares between 2010 and 2030 in the world’s most vulnerable ecosystems, including BAAPA and the Chaco.
- The Green Production Landscapes (PPV) project seeks to encourage soy and beef producers in this Eastern Region to comply with environmental laws and works for the creation of financial and market incentives.
The Chaco is a globally significant biome, a vast semi-arid region encompassing the entire western half Paraguay. Over the last 15 years, the country lost a greater share of forest than almost any other country on Earth. The government’s plan to increase Paraguay’s agricultural exports relies largely on further exploitation of the Chaco. But, if this expansion is not managed sustainably, scientists fear that the unique biodiversity and indigenous cultures of the Chaco could be wiped out for good by 2035.
- The Green Chaco project, under the Good Growth Partnership, aims to balance these pressures by working with beef producers in the Western Region of the country to increase their productivity on existing land while preserving the environment through the application of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). It also works on improving the policy and regulatory environment for production and land use, as well as on land-use planning that fosters forest and biodiversity conservation.
Besides the government and the multilateral institutions leading these initiatives, GCP has been able to foster an alliance between a host of changemakers in a wide array of sectors.
These two projects (PPV and Green Chaco) currently operate on a Platform basis, and work side-by-side to deliver the following results:
- fostering an alliance between the various above-mentioned stakeholders involved;
- providing technical support to strengthen laws on conservation efforts;
- collaborating with the national banks to incorporate environmental standards into their loan processes and developing new credit lines for agricultural commodities producers;
- and building capacity among producers through the promotion of good agricultural practices.