Land degradation and periodic droughts are becoming more frequent in Paraguay, as a result of the interaction of inadequate land use, poor farming practices, and production systems.

Paraguay’s Western Region or Paraguayan Chaco comprises extremely fragile ecosystems due to the climatic and edaphic conditions that define it, aggravated in recent decades by human intervention. The Paraguayan Chaco covers an area of approximately 260,000 km², where the introduction and increasing use of agricultural products and technology have allowed the massive and extensive exploitation of natural resources. This has involved massive deforestation, tillage and soil preparation, introduction and extensive implantation of pastures and associated forage crops, cattle, extensive burning, and damming of water courses, which have led to incipient processes of superficial salinization, occurrence of salts in lagoons and dams, incidence of anthills, desalination plants, increased evapotranspiration due to lack of effective coverage, eventual floods, and prolonged droughts, among others. The Chaco territory is predominantly under agricultural use, with little government regulation, limited actions aimed to mitigate impacts, and without the possibility of preventing associated or specific processes correlated to this extensive region.

Paraguay’s Eastern Region covers approximately 147,000 km². Most of the country’s economic activities are concentrated in this region. Although it is not characterized as a desertification risk area, its natural resources are subject to degradation processes. Agriculture has been, historically, the main livelihood means, followed by extensive livestock ranching, which have led to the massive clearing of forests for the use of the land. The monoculture of cotton by small-holding farmers and the introduction of extensive crops (such as wheat and soybeans) have caused considerable soil losses due to water erosion; soil degradation is aggravated by the widespread use of pesticides.

The agricultural sector will continue to play an important role in the economic growth and social development of both regions of the country.

According to Paraguay’s Land Degradation Neutrality Report submitted to the UNCCD, 51.65% of Paraguay's lands are degraded (SDG indicator 15.3.1) as of 2015. Artificial surfaces, croplands, and grasslands are the land cover types that experienced the largest changes in extent between 2000 and 2015. Pastures, in particular, experienced the greatest increase in surface area (close to 30,000 km²), followed by croplands (11,754 km²). This increase has occurred at the expense of tree-covered areas, the extent of which decreased in over 39 thousand km².

Some 73.65% of the area that had not undergone change of use during the 2000–2013 period remained in the dynamic classes of: increasing productivity, stable but not stressed, stable but stressed. Values ​​corresponding to early signs of deterioration and decreasing productivity represent 25.66%. Areas covered with trees, meadows, and croplands showed increasing productivity levels. Both wetlands and croplands have a similar distribution in the category of stable productivity, with a larger area in the category of increasing productivity, and a reduction in area towards the categories of decreasing productivity.

The greatest soil organic carbon (SOC) losses were produced by the conversion of areas covered with trees into Artificial Surfaces, Cultivation and Other land, which is mainly the product of the affected surface and, secondly, by the intensity of the carbon content change. Although changes from other uses to Settlements did not comprise very large areas, the loss SOC content reached a significant volume, close to 2 million tons, as a result of the intensity of the change in content between categories.


Land degradation during the last decades has been considerable as a result of the expansion of the agricultural frontier. Large-scale clearings have been carried out in both regions, mainly driven by the extraction and commercialization of timber, establishment of pastures for cattle ranching, introduction and large-scale establishment of crops such as soybean, wheat, rice, cotton, maize, etc., with the accompanying use of heavy vehicles and machinery (bulldozers, chippers, chains, backhoes, etc.), which devastated the native vegetation.

The earliest indications of imbalance appear after these initial shocks, when soil degradation occurs with the consequent loss of fertility, as a result of its continuous use without nutrient replenishment. The overuse of soils, that is, a use for which they are not suitable, accelerates the process of land degradation.

Among the factors that lead to soil degradation, farming in regions unsuitable for agriculture, poor management practices, and rapid changes in the macro-economic context stand out. Particularly important in Paraguay are:

(i) Agricultural activity. Poor management practices that cause soil erosion include insufficient use of fertilizers, short fallow period, inadequate crop rotation, use of low-quality water for irrigation, and inappropriate use of heavy machinery.

(ii) Overgrazing. Overgrazing and trampling can lead to a decrease in soil cover, favouring water and wind erosion, as well as the increase of unpalatable and harmful weeds.

(iii) Deforestation and removal of natural vegetation. These are caused by agricultural use, pastures, and large-scale commercial deforestation, as well as the construction of roads and the development of urban areas.


Key policies and governance approach

As a key part of the institutional framework to address land degradation, Paraguay created the National Office to Combat Desertification and Drought within the Ministry of the Environment.

The policy framework to address land degradation includes the National REDD+ strategy and the National Action Plan to Combat Desertification and Drought 2018-2030.

The National REDD+ strategy includes the need to reconcile the different demands for land use; identifies the potential for a number of benefits that can be achieved through the implementation of REDD+; includes plans to avoid or minimize possible risks; and prioritizes different REDD+ activities (and identifies specific actions related to the selected activities).

The National Action Plan to Combat Desertification and Drought 2018-2030, presents specific lines of action to meet the strategic objectives of the convention and includes a protocol for the identification of degraded areas in the country.

Additionally, the National Strategy for Public Policies to Combat Desertification and Drought in Paraguay is under development.


Initiatives and Development Plans

Sustainable Forest Management Project in the Transboundary Ecosystem of the Gran Chaco Americano (PAS-CHACO 2011-2015) had the main objective to cover the trends of land and forest deterioration in the Gran Chaco Americano (Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay).


Goals and Ambitions

Paraguay has pledged several voluntary LDN targets, including 

Overall Target 1: Strategies to improve land productivity and ecosystem services. Specific targets:

  • Implement LDN as a monitoring tool for natural resources management.
  • Reduce deforestation by 2030 using 2015 data as a baseline.
  • Improve land productivity by 2030 based on data from 2015.
  • Improve soil organic carbon stock by 2030 based on 2015 data.
  • Develop specific LDN procedures for high-risk areas or highly vulnerable impact areas.
  • Formulate concrete proposals of procedures for compensation and remuneration for ecosystem services.


Overall Target 2: Concrete strategies to improve the living conditions of the affected population. Specific targets:

  • Adopt the NAP as a political instrument for land management, land use, and combating land degradation. 
  • Promote and strengthen LDN educational policies in urban and rural areas.
  • Promote good practice actions for achieving LDN.


Overall Target 3: Strategies to reduce the vulnerability of ecosystems to drought, especially those close to towns. Specific targets:

  • Update the Environmental Stewardship Plan as a tool for territorial management associated to natural resources.
  • Strategic alliances with academic entities promoting research and training of human resources on the subject of LDN.


Overall Target 4: Strategies to generate environmental benefits. Specific targets:

  • Promote good practices in the management of natural resources based on the Environmental Impact Assessment Law.
  • Formulate cooperation projects with national and international organizations to have the continuous improvement of the LDN.
  • Paraguay offers significant potential to address climate change (from the LULUCF perspective) and land degradation in a comprehensive manner.
  • There are also opportunities to improve the quality of land degradation measurements. The level of confidence in the evaluation of the proportion of degraded land is in the low range, due to the scale of data capture and mainly due to the lack of systematic information on the indicators in order to make an assertive comparison.
  • The results of the monitoring of the LDN indicators should be verified with national and local datasets and expert opinions, to confirm the accuracy of the data and the consequent evaluation of the status of LDN.