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Nature Canada’s Work in Paraguay


The Atlantic Forest of southeast Brazil, northeast Argentina and eastern Paraguay is one of the most threatened yet biologically diverse ecosystems in the world. Once covering approximately 1.7 million square kilometres, only 7.4 per cent now remains, mostly as scattered fragments. This extreme loss of habitat threatens the extinction of the majority of fauna and flora in the Atlantic Forest.

Due to its extremely rich number of endemic species and migratory birds, the Atlantic Forest is considered one of the top five “hotspots” for biodiversity conservation in the world.

Starting in 2002, Nature Canada began working with universities, the Paraguayan government, eight local communities in eastern Paraguay, local NGOs, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and Guyra Paraguay to help project the critically endangered Interior Atlantic Forest ecosystems of Paraguay. We also helped local communities build sustainable economic development that conserved and minimized harm to critical habitats in four key conservation sites in eastern Paraguay.

The Project and Its Successes

Paraguay has one of the highest national deforestation rates of any Latin American country, with some 13% of the original cover still remaining in this forest. Our multi-year, multidisciplinary project integrated sustainable economic development, the conservation of biodiversity, and climate change mitigation.

Nature Canada worked with eight local communities in Paraguay ensuring the sustainability of land-use practices and improving the conservation status of Atlantic Forest ecosystems. Some of the many benefits of protecting these ecosystems include:

  • Conserving biodiversity, including many “globally threatened” and “near threatened” species;
  • Promoting integrated natural resource management;
  • Improving agricultural production and storage;
  • Helping Paraguayans learn how to measure and monitor the carbon sequestration capacity of the Interior Atlantic Forest;
  • Reducing pressure on the surrounding forests and improving community welfare (income, health and nutrition); and
  • Diversifying local economies with organic, sustainable products, such as organic, shade-grown yerba maté.

Paraguay organic family grraden

Organic family vegetable garden in Santa Ana © Guyra Paraguay

San Rafael Biosphere Reserve

San Rafael Biosphere Reserve in the Atlantic Forest © Guyra Paraguay

Another benefit to Nature Canada’s work: Ensuring the sustainability of land-use practices and improving the conservation status of Atlantic Forest ecosystems also helps with carbon sequestration — an important tool for fighting climate change locally and globally.

Our project also enhanced the knowledge and ability of Guyra Paraguay and Nature Canada to engage in climate change initiatives within both the policy and science spheres. Guyra Paraguay is currently assisting the national government’s climate change program. The first ever detailed scientific study of carbon flows under various forms of land-use for in the Interior Atlantic Forests of eastern Paraguay was produced.

heartspalm YerbaMate Hearts of palm (left) and yerba maté (right) are grown sustainably in the understorey of the Atlantic forests of Paraguay.


In 2005, Nature Canada and Guyra Paraguay initiated a follow-up project to our work on improved land-use practices and carbon sequestration in the Atlantic Forest. We worked together over three years to develop an integrated model of sustainable community agriculture in two communities within the buffer zones of Paraguay’s key Atlantic Forest protected areas: the farmer community of Santa Ana adjacent to the San Rafael Managed Resources Reserve, and the indigenous community of Koe Tuwy in the Mbaracayú Biosphere Reserve area.

Through the project, people in the communities of Santa Ana and Koe Tuwy developed organizational skills, learned about a range of organic agricultural techniques and pest control methods, planted shade grown organic yerba mate, and started producing vegetables, honey and citrus fruits for their own consumption and for sale. The communities have benefitted from enhanced nutrition and food security, as well as increased income from commercial agricultural sales.

The project is an example of the need for conservation efforts to include measures for improving people’s livelihoods. By promoting sustainable sources of income and food, the project provided an alternative to illegal logging in the reserves and further clearing of the remaining forest. Santa Ana will increase their income by at least 23% or 73 million guaraníes (USD $16,500) per year, based mainly on the sale of shade-grown organic yerba mate and organic honey. The indigenous community of Koe Tuwy perceived an additional income of 24 million guaraníes (USD $5,100) in 2007 from the sale of yerba mate plantlets and has a strong business relationship with Guayakí Sustainable Rainforest Products, Inc.

The project also contributed to enhancing the role of women as leaders and decision-makers at home and in their communities. In Santa Ana, the project supported women to establish their own, hugely successful, vegetable gardens. In Koe Tuwy, the project was a strong supporter of Margarita Mbywangy, a prominent female community leader in Paraguay. Guyra Paraguay has been a strong supporter of Margarita as she continues to defend the rights of her community and to share their experiences, including their growing success with shade-grown organic yerba mate. On April 20, 2008, Margarita Mbywangy was appointed to head the government department responsible for aboriginal affairs (INDI).

Our conservation efforts in Paraguay were made possible with the generous support of Nature Canada members and the Canadian International Development Agency.

Read more about Nature Canada’s other international conservation efforts here

Quick facts:

Flag of Paraguay

Country name (full): Republic of Paraguay / República del Paraguay

Capital: Asunción

Official language(s): Spanish, Guaraní

Total area: 406,752 km2

Population: approx. 7 million

Due to its extremely rich number of endemic species and migratory birds, the Atlantic Forest is considered one of the top five “hotspots” for biodiversity conservation in the world.


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