From the rugged Andean Mountains with one of the most extensive high plateaus on earth, to the lowland plains of the Amazon Basin, Bolivia’s climate varies from humid and tropical to cold and semi-arid. It is home to some of the richest cultural and biological diversity in the world, a product of its unique mountain ecosystems and the creativity, knowledge and practices of its people.
The country has one of the largest indigenous populations in the world – 36 indigenous nations are recognized in their Constitution – which helped to domesticate Andean and common potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, lima beans and cocoa.
The Andes Mountains are important centres of origin for root, tuber, grain, legume, vegetable, nuts and fruit crops as well. Bolivia’s diversity is linked to the culture of its people. The potato, for example, originated in the Andes and is the world’s number one non-grain food crop. It’s also Bolivia’s most essential food crop. Andean farmers have been growing potatoes for about 8,000 years and manage over 4,000 farmers’ varieties.
Bolivia faces the deterioration and fragmentation of traditional lands, changing climatic patterns and soil depletion on steep mountain hillsides. The majority of Bolivia’s rural women have little access to training or credit, and seasonal out-migration puts a strain on women and their households. As well, limited rural infrastructure and hard-to-access services contribute to rural poverty, food insecurity and social exclusion for many in Bolivia’s high mountain dwellers. Foreign investment and mining have contributed to both conflict and the industrial pollution of water supplies used for drinking and irrigation.
USC Canada in Bolivia
USC Canada has been working in Bolivia since 2007. Our program partner, PRODII is dedicated to working with rural families in remote mountain communities of the Department of Potosí.
Bolivia’s indigenous peoples have developed sustainable agricultural systems through their creativity, dynamic management skills and the conservation and sustainable use of plant resources. The farming communities within USC Canada’s program are located in a traditional mining district that has had a devastating impact on the local ecology. Agroecological production and diversity-based farming are seen as positive alternative to the boom and bust of mining and a sustainable long term way of managing natural resources and contributing to a vibrant local economy.
Our Local Partner: PRODII
PRODII is an independent Bolivian NGO founded in 1998 with the vision of contributing to the development of the poorest and most marginalized regions in the Potosí department. They work closely with indigenous farming communities to improve diversity, productive capacity and economic benefits from Andean highland farming systems. PRODII uses a methodology for capacity development with three thematic priorities: personal growth and empowerment for small rural producers, entrepreneurial culture, and agricultural biodiversity, all building on and respecting the Andean cosmovision.
Core Work: Production and Marketing
PRODII supports and strengthens farmers’ associations in the production, transformation and commercialization of agro-biodiversity products. They have made great progress in northern Potosí developing markets for popular products like teas and a nutritious drink made from the Andean tuber, oca. With producers in southern Potosí, they are marketing organic quinoa, coffee and jams. The aim is to help ensure farmers’ associations have control over the entire value chain. The program also supports better nutrition through healthy, diversified diets.