Illegal deforestation, the degradation and uncontrolled land use change jointly impact the Chaco, the country and the region in different dimensions.
The transformation and degradation of natural areas has implications of high environmental complexity. On the one hand, the loss of flora and fauna and their connectivity increase the risk of extinction of species such as the jaguar, of which only 20 individuals remain in the Argentine Gran Chaco. Likewise, the decrease in ecosystem services, given, for example, by the rise of groundwater and the salinization of soils, negatively affects agricultural productivity in the region and the local economy. The loss of carbon reserves endangers the resilience of agricultural systems in the Argentine Gran Chaco, making them more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Agriculture, livestock, forestry and other land uses represent the second sector with respect to greenhouse gas emissions in the national inventory (with a 39% share). In particular, the conversion of forest land into crops and pastures nationwide contributes 14%.
Regarding the social dimension, the displacement of the communities that inhabit the forest negatively impacts their way of life and their income, since they are subject to losing their sources of work and facing the costs of relocations. For example, local communities are unable to produce goods from the Native Forest, such as handicrafts, honey, fruits of the forest, natural tinctures, wood, charcoal and natural fibers, among others. Due to the aforementioned impacts, the cultural identity and forms of social reproduction of the communities is weakened given the fragmentation of its members and rurality. In this way, the income generated by the production on deforested sites results in an unequal distribution of said income. An example of this is the floods caused by the rains of January and April of this year, where in the province of Chaco, more than 2,400 people were evacuated. Along these lines, the human rights of the communities and the inhabitants of the country are violated, including among others, the rights of access to health and a healthy environment.
In economic terms, agriculture contributes to the Gross Domestic Product, to the generation of employment and public resources, but at the same time, the productive model also generates negative effects since the opportunity cost to conserve is very high, encouraging unsustainable production. Floods and droughts involve costs for both avoided production and damage to people and materials and the effects are felt both locally and nationally. In 2017/18, a severe drought affected central and northern Argentina, causing losses of more than 35% in soybean harvest. As a consequence, losses in terms of foreign exchange income from exports were estimated at US $ 8,000 million, while the global fall in Argentine economic activity was estimated at US $ 5,900 million (0.9% of GDP). In January 2019, a loss of US $ 2,200 million was estimated due to flooding in the province of Chaco.
In this way, making the protection of the ecosystems of the Argentine Gran Chaco compatible with the country’s development strategies is necessary to guarantee the long-term viability of the agricultural sector in this region.