The fires in the lowlands of Bolivia have burnt more than 1 million hectares, affecting forest reserves, protected areas and national parks. These fires represent the environmental tensions generated by the agricultural extractivism (McKay, 2018) that the drives the Bolivian government, which in recent years has favoured the agribusiness and livestock sectors, through laws and political agreements and, generating an agro-state alliance based around land occupation as a source of wealth.
Given the fall in price of hydrocarbons and minerals in 2013, the government then saw it as appropriate to promote the increase of exportation of monocultures (3rd highest export product), in order to raise its contribution to Bolivia’s GDP, which in the past 10 years has seen an average growth of 4,5%, data which the government boasts about. So, in 2015 agricultural industries and the government organised an agricultural summit, where the details of the new plans for agricultural expansion were discussed, consolidating the political relationship between agriculture and the state.
One of the goals of the agricultural summit is to extend the agricultural frontier by 10 million hectares by 2025. Expanding in the east, over the Bolivian Chiquitania (the area that is currently affected by fires) and to the north-eastern lands neighbouring the Beni province in order to increase monoculture exports (soy, sorghum and corn), livestock, ethanol production and biofuels. This has meant promoting and strengthening partnerships with the countries landowning elite and transnational food companies (Monsanto, Cargill, Bayern Syngenta), who are in charge of the monoculture production chain, by giving transgenic seeds and chemical inputs to the farmers, being involved in the transformation of products in commodities (cake, flour) and the commercialisation them to the international markets. All this, through the agricultural cluster established in Santa Cruz in the nineties.
In this context, you can see how agricultural policies in Bolivia are designed to prioritize monocultures which has led to an obsession with increasing productivity and cultivation areas, with a purpose of increasing the income that this type of agriculture brings. This has put the modern agricultural development model in tension with the preservation of the environment. It also highlights the governments contractions between its commitment to agrarian capitalism and its rhetorical discourse about respect for mother earth.
Another key actor in understanding these fires and the deforestation,