Levying a $450 per hectare tax on deforested lands could help curb forest clearing in Bolivia, suggests a new game-based simulation developed by researchers.
The game, dubbed SimPachamama, allows a user to simulate the impact of various policies on local welfare and forest cover near the agricultural frontier in Bolivia. A statement from the game’s developers explains:
SimPachamama (‘Mother Earth simulation’ in local Aymara language) simulates the actions and behavior of villagers near the agricultural frontier in Bolivia. The player is the mayor of the village, whose aim is to implement policies to improve the welfare of the locals and minimize adverse impacts on their forests…
The open-source game aims to help communities make informed decisions about their forest resources and stimulate debate on the kind of developments they want in order to generate jobs, health and education.
This simulation takes place over a period of 20 years during which the player can experiment with different policies and observe the consequences of his/her decisions.
SimPachamama is intended to serve as an educational tool for policymakers and communities. The hope is it will help inform policy decisions on how to best manage natural resources. For example, the simulation suggests that a $450 deforestation tax could slow forest loss, while generating funds for conservation and green livelihood development for subsistence farmers.
“Bolivia’s agricultural sector is very profitable because land is 10 times cheaper here than in neighboring countries and the fuel is heavily subsidized. US$450 per hectare would not significantly affect the earnings of the companies involved, but would make a big difference in terms of deforestation and welfare,” said Dr. Lykke Andersen of the Institute for Advanced Development Studies (INESAD), which together with researchers at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Conservation International Bolivia, the University of Sussex, and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), developed the tool.
“In addition, SimPachamama illustrates very clearly the potential benefits, both for the environment and for human wellbeing, that could accrue from a system of international payments through the Joint Mechanism for Mitigation and Adaptation of Bolivia, the Bolivian alternative to UN REDD+,” Andersen continued. “Together, the domestic deforestation tax and the international payments could both slow deforestation and generate one billion dollars every two years, money which could be spent on conservation payments, creation of green jobs, health, education and other anti-poverty programs.”
The tool comes at an critical time for the country’s forests. Over the past decade Bolivia has lost more forest than any Amazon country outside of Brazil. Between 2004 and 2012, some 939,000 hectares (2.3 million acres) of Amazon forest in Bolivia were cleared, according to data from Terra-i and InfoAmazonia. But deforestation has slowed significantly since peaking in 2010.