Community-based management strategies for biocultural diversity conservation

Pilon Lajas, Bolivia


In Bolivia, we work with T'simane communities living in the Pilon Lajas Biosphere Reserve and Communal Lands, which is located in the departments of La Paz and Beni, in the Northwest of the country.


T'simane Children from Alto Colorado


The T'simane or Chimane are one of the four groups inhabiting the Bolivian lowlands living in the Beni Department.  The T'simane and Tacana communities occupied the territory in a semi-nomadic way for over 150 years, with the Tacana’s ancestral territories extended towards the north and northwest. In addition to indigenous peoples, colonists settled in the area during the quinine bark, rubber, and logging booms of the past century.


The first reference to the T'simane dates back to the year 1621, and was made by Spaniard priest Gregorio de Boliviar. Bolivar was the first one in to try –and fail- to convert the T'simane to Catholicism. After Bolivar, other priests settled in the Beni region, creating more than 25 towns in the area. In 1693 the town of San Borja was established, and it remains the main centre of commercial transactions for the T'simane today.


The T'simane are the main residents of the Pilon Lajas Biosphere Reserve and Communal Lands mostly located in the Andean piedmont and along the banks of the Quiquibey River. Traditionally, the indigenous families carry out subsistence activities such as fishing, hunting, agriculture, and in some Quiquibey river communities, they harvest jatata palm (Geonoma deversa) for roof construction. Nonetheless, a significant number of indigenous people have given up traditional farming in order to go work for colonist farmers.  Since the opening of the Yucumo-Rurrenabaque road in 1976, the region has undergone changes associated with the arrival of large numbers of colonists from the highlands. While indigenous communities live within the territory, colonists have settled down in the buffer zones and outside this territory.


COMBIOSERVE will explore T'simane approaches to community conservation within the framework of the Pilon Lajas Biosphere Reserve and Communal Lands structure.