As the rain periods are becoming shorter and the climate warmer, it will be even more difficult for the small farmers in Bolivia’s arid highland regions and semi-arid regions to provide for themselves. The water issue is central, and since 2009 Sida has supported the population through the agricultural project PROAGRO 1, which, among other things, has resulted in improved water access to farms and new irrigated areas. In addition, more than 10,000 farmers have improved their incomes with the help of new agricultural technology.
As the project enters its second phase, PROAGRO 2, it is with a clear focus on the impact of climate change on agriculture and the capacity of the authorities to assist farmers with service. With its German partner, GIZ, Sida will be supporting the municipalities in the three regions where the project is being implemented: Chaco, Norte de Potosí and Valle. The municipalities will also be helped by using the models for new agricultural methods that GIZ has developed, on the basis of past experience.
“During the first few years we worked with PROAGRO,we helped out by building water reservoirs and irrigation systems. Now in PROAGRO 2, we are strengthening and educating the municipalities’ environmental departments so that they themselves can offer farmers the help they need,” says Peter Asmussen at GIZ.
The overall objective of PROAGRO 2 is to increase farmers’ incomes from their crops, and this is where access to water is an important aspect. These problems look different in the country’s various regions, so it is important to involve farmers in the whole process and conduct a risk analysis.
“If the problem is that the water in a water reservoir is not sufficient for everyone, better irrigation systems with a sprinkler system may be a solution. We can give farmers advice about how they can raise funds for new irrigation systems, or speak with the local authorities and suggest they support our proposals.”
Experience has shown that it can be risky to introduce something completely new, it is often better to improve the methods already being used.
”The chances of a new irrigation system providing good results is 50 per cent higher if there is an irrigation system already in place. If we take Potosí as an example, people did not know how a water reservoir worked when we talked about their problems. So the first thing we did was to organise a bus trip for the population of Aiquile where farmers are using it, to study techniques and exchange experience with the others,” says Peter Asmussen who himself has been working in Bolivia for eight years.
Bolivia is one of Latin America’s poorest countries and their farmers have always adapted to climatic change, according to Peter Asmussen. Many of them have developed their own risk management strategies, where measures, among other things, may include crop diversification, that are better able to withstand droughts, floods or hail in different ways.
“We have already worked with many of the problems related to climate change. What we are doing now is more systematically highlighting the adaptation measures that are needed, and developing strategies on how best to act if the temperature rises by 2 degrees, hailstorms occur more often, the rainy season gets shorter or rainfall decreases by 200 mm per year.”
Facts: Bolivia and PROAGRO2
PROAGRO 2 is an agricultural development project financed by Sida and the German Development Ministry BMZ. The German aid agency GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit Gmb) is responsible for its implementation and providing technical support together with Bolivia, through their environment, water, and rural development ministries.
PROAGRO 2 is the second phase of the project and is being implemented during the period from 1 January 2011 to 30 June 2014. The total budget for the project is SEK 200 million, of which Sida will contribute SEK 80 million.
The overall objective of PROAGRO 2 is to improve living conditions among small farmers in Bolivia’s arid and semi-arid areas, by improving their management of water resources, increasing their incomes and strengthening their resilience to climate change, which is clearly affecting the fragile region.
66 municipalities are participating in three regions: Chaco, Potosí and Valle.
Another important objective of the project is to develop capacity among those concerned at all levels (farmers, municipalities, regional and national authorities, universities).