Author (Your Name)

Stephanie Graber, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Colby Access Only)


Colby College. Global Studies Program


Patrice M. Franko

Second Advisor

Beth DeSombre


Debt-for-nature swaps have seen many changes since their inception as the brainchild of Dr. Thomas Lovejoy in 1984. From 1987, the date of the first swap, until 1994, "32 swaps had taken place in 15 debtor nations, reducing the stock of commercial foreign debt by $177 million and generating close to $130 million in domestic currencies for conservation."Originally, swaps had the aim of increasing the amount of protected land area within a nation while relieving a portion of a nation's debt. For example, the first swap, carried out in Bolivia, secured the addition of 3.7 million acres of government land surrounding the already existing 135,000-acre Beni reserve. The Bolivian government also agreed to "provide maximum legal protection for both the reserve and the buffer zone, and establish a $250,000 endowment for the protected areas". This first swap threatened the entire mechanism as implementation was delayed by two years due to the government's focus on controlling its troubled economy. Although ownership of the land remained in Bolivia's hands, the resource extraction restrictions placed on the Belli reserve evoked criticism from the developing world as academics and local people viewed the agreement as a threat to sovereignty. ls This early lesson set the stage. Debt-for-nature swaps that followed would not focus on acquiring land, but instead fund a range of conservation programs.


Full-text download restricted to Colby College campus only.


debt-for-nature swaps, conservation, environment, mexico, guatemala, costa rica