Indigenous women and youth in Bolivia propose forest-based businesses

Indigenous women and youth in Bolivia propose forest-based businesses

Bolivia - 07 June, 2022

During 2021 the Instituto Boliviano de Investigación Forestal (IBIF) has been helping Indigenous women and youth to develop their own forest-based businesses. This has resulted not only in detailed business proposals, but has also provided people with inspiration, confidence and courage to pursue their dreams within their territories.

Significant parts of Bolivia’s remaining forests are located within Indigenous territories. People living in these areas have been sustainably using forest resources for generations, primarily for subsistence purposes. In the view of IBIF — TBI’s partner in Bolivia — the strengthening of sustainable forest-based businesses can improve local livelihoods.

A recent study conducted by IBIF in the Indigenous territories of Guarayos and Lomerío identified two trends related to the position of women and youth. First, women are increasingly important in household economies, taking on a bigger role in income-earning activities. Second, many young people are migrating out of their territories to search for jobs. The study concluded that Indigenous women and youth are interested in developing their own businesses, but lack the tools and skills to do so.

IBIF then decided to join with Fundación Trabajo Empresa, an organization that specializes in developing business capacities. In 2021, they jointly launched the Future Forest Challenge, which called on youth and women in Guarayos and Lomerío to submit ideas for sustainable forest-based businesses. The response was overwhelming. Some people presented their existing initiatives, while others presented ideas to develop new businesses from scratch. Ideas included the production of furniture from the waste of sustainable logging activities in managed forests, the development of an online trading platform for forest products, and the production of bricks with the residue from sawmills, to name just a few.

In each territory, around 40 people joined a three-day workshop, facilitated by trainers from Fundación Trabajo Empresa, where they could collaborate to further develop their ideas. On the last day of each workshop, the participants together selected a handful of proposals, to be developed into full-fledged business plans.


After finalizing the business plans, participants prepared pitches for nine initiatives, which they then presented during a meeting in Santa Cruz that was attended by representatives of financial institutions, NGOs and government agencies. After the pitches, the attendees provided their feedback to further improve the plans. In this way, the nine proposals became stronger and stronger, and some are now in the process of acquiring financing from local banks and other supporting institutions.

The process also provided insights into the specific needs of youth and women in the territories (e.g., related to access to forest resources, and marketing and accounting skills) which will help to strengthen IBIF´s competencies development programme. In addition, the workshops created a lot of enthusiasm among the participants. Many of them expressed that they felt empowered, inspired, and more confident. The workshop had given them the courage to dream about setting up their own businesses. Their enthusiasm proved contagious, and many people in the territories have been requesting that similar workshops be organized.

stamp-01.pngThis article is part of the TBI Annual review 2021,
due for release in July 2022