SDSN presents advances on the Municipal Atlas of the SDGs in Bolivia to the private sector

The advances made in the production of the Municipal Atlas of the SDGs in Bolivia were presented to representatives of the private sector in Bolivia on May 23rd. The presentation was possible thanks to the space provided by the Confederation of Private Enterprises of Bolivia (CEPB) who are the focal point for the UN Global Compact Network in Bolivia.

Private entities that focus their efforts in accomplishing the Sustainable Development Goals related to childhood in the country, learned about some of our data regarding education, birth, teenage pregnancy and internal migration.

It is a great pleasure for us to share these findings with the private sector, more so when we know about the existing and increasing interest to work together on the achievement of the SDGs. In this particular case, we thank UNICEF Bolivia for making this and more possible, given their hard work at creating a tool that allows private companies to evaluate and improve their actions for childhood.

The impacts of deforestation on biodiversity in Bolivia

The world is widely believed to be in the midst of the sixths mass extinction event, this time caused by humans rather than meteors or volcanic eruptions. A recent study by WWF estimates that vertebrate abundance in the world has decreased by about 60% since 1970. The main drivers of biodiversity loss around the world are over-exploitation of species (e.g. hunting and fishing) and habitat loss due to land use change (e.g. deforestation).

One of the most important goals of SDG 15: Life on Land is to stop further biodiversity loss, so for our upcoming Municipal Atlas of the SDGs in Bolivia, we need an indicator reflecting biodiversity loss in each municipality. In this blog, we will present what we think is the best possible indicator that can be calculated with the data available.

Our proposal is based on the following key assumptions:

  1. Biodiversity loss in Bolivia is mainly driven by habitat loss. While some particularly attractive or tasty species are being over-hunted/fished, this effect is dwarfed by the billions of animals and plants that get obliterated when Bolivian forests are converted to agricultural land at a rate of several hundred thousand hectares per year.
  2. Habitat loss in areas with high species diversity is worse for biodiversity than habitat loss in areas with lower species diversity. Thus, deforestation in areas with thousands of different species is given more weight in our species disturbance indicator than deforestation in areas with few different species.
  3. All species are given equal weight. The indicator we develop below gives equal weight to all species, irrespective of their cuteness, their economic value, or how threatened they are.

Given those three key assumptions, we can calculate an Index of Species Disturbance (ISD) at the municipal level by overlapping a map of deforestation at very high resolution (1) with a map of Species Richness (2).

The basic idea behind the ISD indicator is illustrated conceptually in Figure 1 below, which provides a couple of numerical examples to illustrate how the indicator is calculated. Although each municipality in the real calculations contains hundreds of thousands of pixels, in our simple numerical example we have included only 9 pixels. The number written in each pixel indicates the level of Species Richness, and it can vary between 0 and 2825. It indicates how many species can naturally live in the area out of a group of several thousand taxa indicator species (according to a 2005 study by FAN, referenced in footnote 2).

Figure 1 contains two examples: (a) and (b). In both examples, 2 out of 9 pixels have been deforested (indicated in red), meaning that the deforestation rate in both examples is 22%. However, in panel (a) deforestation took place in areas with relatively low Species Richness, while in panel (b) it took place in areas with high Species Richness, leading to very different numbers for the Index of Species Disturbance (ISD): 13% in case (a) and 42% in case (b).

Figure 1: Conceptualization of the Index of Species Disturbance (ISD)

Source: Authors’ calculations

The index is simple to calculate (using ArcGIS) and simple to interpret. If the deforestation rate is zero, the ISD is also 0% and if the deforestation rate is 100%, the ISD is also 100%. If deforestation takes place in a place with average species richness, the ISD coincides with the deforestation rate, but if deforestation takes place in areas of high species richness the ISD will be higher than the deforestation rate, and vice versa.

At the national level the average annual Index of Species Disturbance during 2016 and 2017 was 0.36% per year. The municipality with the highest ISD in 2016-2017 was Pailón at 2.12% per year. This was followed by La Guardia with an ISD of 2.08% per year, and Cuatro Cañadas with 1.76%. Map 1 shows that, in general, the highest ISD values are found in the department of Santa Cruz, where deforestation is also concentrated.

In absolute terms, the biggest disturbance of species is taking place in just a dozen municipalities, which were responsible for more than half of the disturbance of species in Bolivia in 2016 and 2017. Ten of these municipalities are located in the department of Santa Cruz, one in Beni, and one in La Paz.

Map 1: Average Index of Species Disturbance in Bolivia, 2016 – 2017, and contribution to the total species disturbance, by municipality

Source: Authors’ calculations.
Note: Only municipalities with more than 0.1 km2 of forest in 2015 were included in the analysis.

While no single indicator of biodiversity loss is perfect, we believe the one shown in Map 1 reflects well the different levels of pressure on biodiversity caused by deforestation across Bolivian municipalities.




(1) Deforestation data is calculated for 2016 and 2017 from the Hansen Global Forest Change data set version 1.5. The pixels are of approximately 27.2 x 27.2 meters, implying that the whole country is covered by almost 1.5 billion pixels. Calculations have been made for each of these 1.5 billion pixels and have subsequently been aggregated to the municipal level.

(1) Riqueza Absoluta de Especies de FAN (Fundación Amigos de la Naturaleza) (2005) Visión de conservación de la biodiversidad en el corredor Amboró-Madidi. Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia: Fundación Amigos de la Naturaleza.





* Lykke E. Andersen, Ph.D., Executive Director, Sustainable Development Solutions Network – Bolivia.

** Juan Carlos Ledezma, Scientific Manager, Conservation International – Bolivia.


The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) in Bolivia is currently preparing a Municipal Atlas of the SDGs in Bolivia. It is a significant collaborative effort involving many different institutions. The viewpoints expressed in the blog are the responsibility of the authors and may not reflect the position of their institutions. Readers are encouraged to provide feedback in the comments below or directly to the overall coordinator of the Atlas, Dr. Lykke E. Andersen, Executive Director of SDSN Bolivia at

Strategic alliance between the Municipal Association of Bolivia (AMB) and SDSN Boliva

It is a pleasure for us to share with you the progress in building bridges between important organizations in the sustainable development realm in Bolivia.

We thank Mauricio Ramirez, representative of the United Nations System in Bolivia, for providing us with the space to sit together with representatives of the Association of Municipalities of Bolivia (AMB), Claudia Herbas, Rocío Molina and Regina Bejarano.

As we have recently announced, SDSN Bolivia has embarked on the project and the production of the Municipal Atlas of the SDGs in Bolivia. Therefore, to strengthen ties with one of the entities that bring together all 339 Autonomous Municipal Governments of the country is an important step towards supporting the SDGs at the local level.

Achieving sustainable development from the local level has become a key strategy for all countries around the world. It is especially important for Bolivia, given that the administrative and fiscal decentralization process needs to consolidate in order to contribute to the improvement of the living conditions of Bolivians.

In order to make academic research count, and have a real impact on the sustainable development of Bolivia, establishing a line of communication with the Autonomous Municipal Governments of Bolivia offers the possibility of actively providing inputs to the local governments, thus positively impacting a more effective decision making process when it comes to public policy design and implementation.

Empty homes in the Bolivian highlands: Evidence of temporary and incomplete migration

With huge efforts and investments, Bolivia has achieved fairly high electricity coverage. According to the World Bank’s World Development Indicators, in 2016, 93% of the population had access to electricity (1), and if the trend continues as it has the past 6 years, the country would have almost complete coverage in 2025.

However, by analyzing the data from residential electricity meters across the country (2), we find that in many places in Bolivia the access to electricity is not fully taken advantage off. In fact, around a quarter of all municipalities in Bolivia registered more than 20% of homes with zero consumption during the month of May 2016, which suggests temporarily empty homes. As can be seen from the map below, empty homes are concentrated mostly in the Bolivian highlands, in the south-western part of the country. In contrast, in the lowlands of Bolivia, the percentages of zero-consumption are generally below 10%. In capital cities the percentage of zero-consumption generally ranges between 4% and 6%, except for El Alto, where it is 9%.

Map 1: Proportion of residential electricity meters with zero electricity consumption during May 2016, per municipality.

Source: Andersen, Branisa & Calderón (2019). Map kindly elaborated by José Acuña.

The electricity consumption data seems to indicate a process of incomplete migration in Bolivia. Many people migrate in search of better opportunities, mainly to the 50 municipalities listed in the article titled “The most attractive municipalities in Bolivia“, but also across international borders. People embark on this migratory process, apparently, without losing the strong ties with their communities of origin. As described in another poverty-related article, this could be related to laws that apply to rural property rights, mainly in the Highlands. People are only allowed to transfer the land to other members of their family through inheritance, which not only implies a process of excessive fragmentation of the land, leading to extremely small properties that do not cover for the most basic necessities for the owners, but also establishes a strong and almost unbreakable bond between the rural community and the Individual.

Another obvious reason which may help explain the empty home phenomenon, is the climate in the Highlands, which is known to be very dry and cold during the winter and does not easily allow for agricultural activities. The lack of alternative options in the area makes people look for different activities in the city.

To better understand the dynamics of migration in the Highlands, we decided to visit some of the most peripheral neighborhoods of the city of El Alto, considering that El Alto is the second most attractive destination for those who decide to leave their homes in other municipalities or towns.

We were able to visit the neighborhoods of San Roque and Villa 10 de Mayo, which are located on the road towards Copacabana, a municipality near the Titicaca lake. It was hard to find homes with people, but we did gain access to five households whose members gave us their time to answer a few of our questions.

In all cases, the families came from villages far from the urban centers of the following municipalities: Umanata (La Paz), Pucarani (La Paz), Huayllamarca (Oruro) and Achacachi (La Paz). In two of the cases the villages of origin of the families had no direct access to any road. According to these interviews, the main reason for emigration is access to work and economic resources, not very different from any other economic migrant in the world. However, listening to their testimonies provides more vivid images of the variety of situations that have caused them to migrate.

A main problem at their places of origin is the small property sizes that does not allow for efficient levels of production. In addition, yields tend to be low due to climatic constraints, and prices of the typical native products, such as potatoes, in the domestic markets are low.  Raising livestock is not feasible on such small plots either. As another important aspect, most interviewees highlight climate change and a higher frequency of freezing temperatures as an impediment for cultivation. In the words of a father (38) of 6 children “The village (Ticati, Umanata) is empty; only elderly people remain there“.

On the other hand, of the 5 families interviewed, 3 have close relatives that migrated abroad, with the main destination being the neighboring country of Argentina and the second most important destination, Brazil. In almost all cases, migrants said they would return to their places of origin if they had better working and economic conditions, and highlighted their intention to return to their community if the economic situation did not improve in the city. In general, they do not want to lose the link with their place of origin and all interviewees return more than 5 times a year, and some even more than once a month. As an example, one of the women interviewed (54) currently has the position of Bartolina (3) in the municipality of Achacachi, despite having moved to El Alto 18 years ago.

Although these few interviews do not provide sufficient evidence for firm conclusions, the empty homes, as evidenced by the many electricity meters with zero electricity consumption, do suggest that current land regulation may create poverty traps in rural areas, and probably prevents a much needed land consolidation process from happening, which could allow the establishment of rural land holdings of more profitable and sustainable size.



(1) See this link.

(2) The data comes from the Viceministry of Electricity as inputs for a project that we are developing with the Center for Social Research (CIS) of the Vicepresidency.

(3) Bartolina is a woman, generally with indigenous origins, that holds a high ranking political and administrative position in the Aymara culture and is currently recognized by the country’s constitution and as an official representation in indigenous communities.


* Lykke E. Andersen, Ph.D., Executive Director OF SDSN Bolivia.

** Guillermo Guzmán, Ph.D., Centro de Investigaciones Sociales (CIS) de la Vicepresidencia del Estado.

*** Lily Peñaranda, M.Sc., SDSN Bolivia, Co-Editor of Municipal Atlas of the SDGs in Bolivia, Coordinator of the Master’s Program in International Relations for the Faculty of Political Sciences (UMSA).

The viewpoints expressed in the blog are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of their institutions. These posts are part of the project “Atlas of the SDGs in Bolivia at the municipal level” that is currently carried out by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) in Bolivia, of which CIS is a member.

Business dynamism in Bolivia

In this article, we show how energy consumption data can be used to obtain information about the business dynamism in the country. Typically, one would use information from Fundempresa (1) to understand what is going on with the business sector, but Fundempresa only includes the most formal enterprises, which comprise a low percentage of the total (2), and the data is only available at the departmental level.

There are several ways to evaluate business dynamism through energy-consumption micro-data. The simplest way, and the equivalent of what we have shown in an article about population dynamics, is to identify where the largest number of electricity meters are being installed under the business category, that also have positive electricity consumption (suggesting active companies). Figure 1 shows the 25 municipalities that have added the largest number of business electricity meters (with positive electricity consumption) between 2013 and 2016.

The municipality of Cochabamba stands out in Figure 1, with an average annual increase of 1,800 business meters between 2013 and 2016. Even more impressive is that the other six municipalities, that are part of the metropolitan area of Cochabamba, are also included in this list (in green), which means that the metropolitan area of Cochabamba in total is increasing about 3,300 new business meters annually (net), suggesting a very important business dynamism.

The metropolitan area of La Paz (in red), led by El Alto, increased an average of 2,350 business meters per year during the period between 2013-2016. In the Santa Cruz metropolitan area, only Santa Cruz de la Sierra reached the list of the 25 municipalities with the highest increase in the number of business meters, with an average of 1,100 per year.

Figure 1: The 25 municipalities with the highest increases in the number of business electricity meters with positive consumption, 2013-2016

Source: Andersen, Branisa & Calderon (2019)

The size of the company behind each business meter can vary between regions, so it is also interesting to see the increase in the amount of electricity consumption of companies in each municipality.

Figure 2 shows the 25 municipalities with the highest increase in business electricity consumption. There are important differences in comparison to Figure 1. In particular, the metropolitan area of Santa Cruz proves to be the most important, with an average annual increase in business electricity consumption of 70 GWh.

From this perspective, the metropolitan area of Cochabamba falls into second place, increasing approximately 53 GWh annually. And the Metropolitan area of La Paz proves to grow much slower, with an increase of only 8 GWh per year.

Important intermediate municipalities that stand out in Figure 2, are: Montero, Puerto Quijarro, Cuatro Cañadas, Punata, Challapata, Rurrenabaque, Santivañez, Atocha, Entre Ríos (Cochabamba), and Pailón.

Figure 2: The 25 municipalities with the highest increase in the consumption of electricity in the business category (excluding mining), 2013-2016

Source: Andersen, Branisa & Calderón (2019)

 Electricity-using companies mainly belong to the tertiary sector (services and trade) in urban areas, while agricultural oriented companies and the transport sector tend to use diesel as its main source of energy.

Figure 3 shows the 25 municipalities with the largest increases in the expenditure of diesel oil between 2016 and 2018. The city of El Alto stands out with an increase of more than 30 million liters per year; almost four times greater than the second municipality (Camiri). The metropolitan area of Cochabamba almost does not register on this list (only the municipality of Sipe Sipe). Intermediate municipalities are much more prominent on this list. From higher to lower increase in diesel oil sales, we observe the following municipalities: Camiri, Quillacollo, Caranavi, Cuatro Cañadas, Mineros, Rurrenabaque, Riberalta, Uyuni, Puerto Suarez, Villa Tunari, Colomi, El Puente (Santa Cruz), Pailón, San José de Chiquitos, San Julián, San Antonio de Lomerío, y San Borja. 

Figure 3: The 25 municipalities with the highest increases in diesel oil sales between 2016 and 2018

Source: Andersen, Branisa & Calderón (2019), based on data provided by ANH.

 The consumption of gasoline is not as closely related to business activities because it is mainly used to fuel private cars. However, municipalities where car ownership is increasing rapidly, probably suggests the presence of successful entrepreneurs and employees.

Figure 4 again highlights the huge increase in the sales of fuels in El Alto. On average, between 2016 and 2018 the sales of gasoline increased by 39 million liters per year.

Figure 4: The 25 municipalities with the highest increases in the sales of gasoline between 2016 and 2018

Source: Andersen, Branisa & Calderón (2019), based on data provided by ANH.

The preceding four figures illustrate different types of business dynamics in different parts of the country, and it is difficult to summarize. However, El Alto is indisputably the municipality with most business dynamism in Bolivia, as it appears in all four figures, and if not first, it is at least in a very high position. The only other municipality that appears in all four figures is Quillacollo, which is located in the metropolitan area of Cochabamba.

Table 1 shows the 53 municipalities that appear at least once in Figures 1 to 4, with the most dynamic ones listed first in each category. Figure 5 shows the location of the same 53 municipalities on a map. 

Table 1: The 53 municipalities with most business dynamism in Bolivia, 2013-2018

(the municipalities that appear at least once in the previous four figures)

Source: Andersen, Branisa & Calderón (2019)

Figure 5: Map of the 53 municipalities with the highest business dynamism in Bolivia, 2013-2018 (the municipalities appearing at least once in the previous four figures).

Source: Andersen, Branisa & Calderón, Map by Lily Peñaranda

Some preliminary conclusions that arise from this data:

  • The metropolitan area of Cochabamba seems particularly successful in encouraging small enterprises in the service sector.
  • The transport sector in El Alto is increasing extremely rapidly, which has interesting implications that require more research.
  • There are many different centres of economic activity in Bolivia, and this information can serve as basis for a more informed territorial development policy.


(1) Fundempresa is the institution where all privately owned companies ought to register in Bolivia.

(2) Bolivia ranked second, after Georgia, in the IMF’s global shadow economy ranking (158 countries) that took into account data between 1991 and 2015. Bolivia’s  average informal economic activity is as high as 62.28% according to the Working Paper published in 2018.


* Lykke E. Andersen, Ph.D., Executive Director OF SDSN Bolivia.

** Guillermo Guzmán, Ph.D., Centro de Investigaciones Sociales (CIS) de la Vicepresidencia del Estado.

The viewpoints expressed in the blog are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of their institutions. These posts are part of the project “Atlas of the SDGs in Bolivia at the municipal level” that is currently carried out by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) in Bolivia, of which CIS is a member.