Quinoa in Bolivia
Consumers worldwide recently discovered quinoa’s high nutritional value, earning this food its title of a superfood; in fact, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) dubbed 2013 the International Year of Quinoa. The grain is also an excellent choice for sustainable growth in food-insecure regions, particularly experiencing environmental challenges. There is a relatively positive outlook on the future of quinoa in Bolivia and the Andean region of South America. However, the explosion in demand for quinoa in Bolivia has created several negative consequences.

The Rise of Quinoa in Bolivia

For centuries, quinoa has been a dietary staple for those living in the Andean region of South America. Quinoa is a crop indigenous to this area; people have comfortably relied on the grain for nourishment for nearly 7,000 years. Given its historical link to subsistence, urban Bolivians considered quinoa to be a food reserved only for poor people. In 2000, quinoa was only worth approximately $0.25 per pound. The quick explosion in quinoa’s popularity, however, led to rapid growth in the number of farmers cultivating the crop. By 2014, the price of quinoa increased to as much as $4 per pound a staggering 1,500% increase from its original price. With this boost in price and subsequent strengthening of the national economy, many farmers were able to begin sending their children to university, purchase motorized vehicles, build new homes and invest in technology to improve their crop yields.

Economic and Environmental Costs

Despite its spike in global popularity, the rise in quinoa costs reduced local consumption in Bolivia by nearly one-third. What was originally fundamental to the Bolivian diet became too expensive for many locals, helping cause the price of quinoa to decline nearly as rapidly as it rose. As recently as 2018, the price of quinoa in Bolivia has dropped to $0.60 per pound. This rapid decline in quinoa prices in countries like Bolivia is also attributable to the increase in quinoa production worldwide: with the product’s increasing popularity came increasing competition from growers in other countries, leading to a forced reduction in prices. Although today’s low cost of quinoa attracts many health-minded consumers, this decline jeopardizes the economic well-being of Bolivian farmers.

In an attempt to remain competitive in the global quinoa market, Bolivian farmers expanded their areas of production. Previously unoccupied land transformed into spaces constantly cultivating quinoa, leading to land overuse. Soil consequently began to suffer erosion and nutrient loss, which created an overall reduction in soil quality. Furthermore, farmers who once raised large llama herds removed llamas from their land to open space for quinoa production. With this lack of animals, though, came a lack of manure to help nurture and protect the soil.

Promise for the Future of Quinoa Production

Fortunately, numerous efforts have emerged to help mitigate the effects of quinoa’s price fluctuations and account for long-term sustainability. The World Food Programme implemented a pilot project in Bolivia to connect local smallholder farmers with municipal food programs. In this system, local food programs provide farmers with a secure and stable market to sell their goods, eliminating the pressure of competing on a global scale.

Bolivian quinoa farmers have also taken matters into their own hands by placing a geographical indication on quinoa grown in Bolivia. This is helping to create a market in which Bolivian quinoa will receive the designation of “Quinoa Real,” a tastier and larger grain that can only grow in Bolivia. Such a designation helps to protect Bolivian quinoa farmers from another steep drop in prices and crop profitability.

As quinoa’s popularity continues to skyrocket worldwide, it will become increasingly important for farmers and their local economies to remain efficient and competitive. With involvement from global nonprofit organizations and local cultivators, there is hope that quinoa in Bolivia will become a superfood for consumers and producers alike.

– Maddi Miller
Photo: Flickr

Heart Disease in Bolivia
Bolivia is the second poorest country in South America, performing poorly in education, life expectancy, economic strength and overall development. Most alarmingly, it lacks sufficient medical care due to a limited supply of adequate resources. Bolivia’s unique geography advances its tremendous healthcare challenges, causing children to be 10 times more likely to be born with congenital heart defects. These conditions are nearly impossible to treat without trained cardiologists and updated facilities, two things often inaccessible to most Bolivians. Thus, addressing heart disease in Bolivia is quite challenging as a result of these factors. However, Franz Freudenthal, inventor and cardiologist, is improving medical care with a simple technique that utilizes an indigenous hobby to heal holes in hearts.

What is PDA?

Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) is a common congenital heart defect, particularly prevalent in certain parts of Bolivia. The defect is caused by an opening between two major blood vessels traveling away from the heart. The opening is crucial to a baby’s circulatory system before birth, but it should close almost immediately upon exiting the womb. PDA cases, however, present holes in the heart that remain open. Although the exact cause of congenital heart defects like PDA is typically unclear, decreased oxygen levels have a direct impact on fetal heart health. Because La Paz, Bolivia sits at 3,600 meters above sea level, where the atmosphere has lower oxygen levels than most parts of the world. Therefore, Bolivia’s altitude is the likely cause of irregular blood. Also, the mother’s inability to provide appropriate oxygen levels to her child can result in severe complications.

Breathlessness and failure to thrive are the most common symptoms in mild cases, but fatigue and failure to gain weight can also occur because harmed hearts must work three times harder to pump blood than healthy hearts. Children with severe cases of PDA are at a higher risk for pulmonary hypertension, arrhythmias, infective endocarditis, anticoagulation and congestive heart failure. However, each of these symptoms can be relieved by skilled women in the Andes Mountains’ high plains.

Ingenuity to Fight Heart Disease in Bolivia

Aymara women have been knitting clothes and blankets for centuries, but with help from Franz Freudenthal, they are now knitting heart-closure devices to mend PDA. The Nit Occlud is a hi-tech medical advancement modeled after an occluder, an industrially-produced device intended to block holes in babies’ hearts. Unlike a normal occluder, the Nit Occlud’s design cannot be mass-produced due to its intricate design. Therefore, Freudenthal had to search for an alternative production plan. The perfect method, he soon found, was the wonderful weaving skills of the Aymara women.

The Nit Occlud is composed of a super-elastic metal known as nitinol, a nickel-titanium alloy capable of memorizing its own shape. After a doctor inserts the device through the body’s natural channels, it travels through blood vessels, expands to its original shape, plugs the heart’s hole and permanently restores basic cardiac functionality.

Typical treatments for PDA include surgical procedures, cardiac catheterizations, or heart transplants, but these are not available Bolivia and are not welcomed by the Aymara people. Even though the Aymara people have recently adopted Catholicism, they still believe in the power of the Andes Mountains spirits and their effects on human souls. Keeping in mind that manipulating a heart – performing open-heart surgery or a transplant – is considered desecration according to the spirits, Freudenthal created a minimally invasive innovation to respect patient beliefs and to “make sure that no child is left behind.”

Making Impact

Although congenital heart defects remain the fourth leading cause of premature deaths in Bolivia, the rate has dropped 36% since 2007. Freudenthal’s Nit Occlud has saved more than 2,500 children in nearly 60 countries after experiencing immense success in Bolivia. The country is also succeeding in its fight against poverty. The number of Bolivians living on less than $3.20 a day is projected to decrease by 35% in the next 10 years. Additionally, more children are being vaccinated and more prenatal care opportunities are becoming available to mothers. With these advancements in healthcare and poverty reduction, the economy will soon flourish and rates of heart disease in Bolivia are sure to drop .

Natalie Clark
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Bolivia
Bolivia is a country located in South America. It borders Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Peru and Argentina, and has no access to the oceans surrounding South America. About half of the land in this country is occupied by the Andes Mountains and consists of dry land. Typically, people overlook Bolivia in comparison to more popular countries in South America like Chile, Peru and Brazil. Bolivia is most recognized for its breathtaking sand flats, however, homelessness in Bolivia is rampant. Few acknowledge that more than 35% of Bolivia’s population lives in poverty and over 6% deal with unemployment.

7 Facts About Homelessness in Bolivia

  1. Child homelessness in Bolivia is concerning. Every year, about 800,000 children in Bolivia are abandoned, neglected and left homeless. These kids turn to crime and child labor opportunities just to earn some money to keep them alive. Even as countries worldwide try to end child labor, it is still legal for children as young as 10 years old to work in Bolivia. An estimated 850,000 Bolivian children work selling food and clothes at outdoor markets, mining silver or harvesting sugar cane. These children are either living in extreme poverty, are homeless or both.
  2. Life expectancy links to homelessness in Bolivia. The life expectancy in Bolivia is about 70 years. This number is remarkably low. The average global life expectancy is about 72.6 years. That means that Bolivians are dying much earlier than the majority of the world. This may link closely to the poverty rate and the amount of homelessness in the country, as many of these people do not have access to clean water, sanitation and nutritious food. They are malnourished and do not have the resources to receive medical attention, which results in their shortened life.
  3. Bolivia’s landslide increased the already large population of homeless people in the country. On Apr. 30, 2019, a massive landslide hit Bolivia’s capital. This landslide destroyed 66 houses and over 85 families were left homeless. The government promised these families that they would provide them shelter, but many still reside in tents. So far, little has been done to help these people, which is extremely troubling given that Bolivia is particularly vulnerable to natural hazards like droughts, earthquakes, floods, landslides and volcanoes.
  4. Homeless Bolivians turn to drugs. In most situations, when people live in extreme poverty or live without shelter, they turn to violence, and Bolivia is no exception. These people sleep on the street and steal money to buy food. They lead a lonely life so they look to alcohol and drugs to ease their pain. They get high on cheap drugs such as paco, a cocaine base and glue.
  5. Bolivian women living on the streets endure extreme violence. Bolivian women suffer from violence and assault in general, but being homeless and vulnerable makes it much easier for predators to attack. In 2018, 76 cases of femicide occurred from January to August, and 128 cases occurred in the whole year. This means that 128 innocent women were killed just because they were female. Latin American countries hold the highest rates of femicide in the world, and women on the streets are especially at risk.
  6. Homeless shelters and services attempt to help Bolivians living on the streets. About 58% of Bolivian families live in inadequate living conditions and do not have access to basic sanitation. The government plans to build 25,000 houses every year for the next ten years but so far, there has been no headway on this mission. Homeless shelters that are already in effect, however, offer a home to children and services that they cannot find on the street, such as sanitation and access to water.
  7. Bolivia’s government is making strides and attempts to reduce the number of people living in poverty and without shelter. The AIF, Arco Iris Foundation, is operating under the core goal of fighting poor and homeless children. The main way they try to help these children is by giving them leadership roles in the community. By being in these roles, the children receive social and financial assistance, training and support to lift them and their families out of poverty.

Despite being a beautiful country, homelessness in Bolivia is widespread and contributes to issues such as poor sanitation and water quality. More has to be done in this country and the region it is located in to help save people living in poverty and on the streets. Bolivia has a long way to go before everyone — males, females, children, homeless and people living in poverty — can be truly safe and lead a good life.

Kate Estevez
Photo: Flickr

Microfinance in Bolivia
With microlending and financial services that empower business owners and promote development becoming more readily available, Bolivia is considered to be a microfinance success story. Microfinance allows vulnerable populations to access capital and financial services that would ordinarily be out of reach. Most commercial banks, unwilling to work with very low-income markets, alienate those living in extreme poverty. As a result, the World Bank reports that 73% of people living below the global poverty line are unbanked. However, in many developing countries, microlending systems allow entrepreneurs to take out small business loans in safer manner. Because the economy relies on a great deal of informal labor, access to microfinance in Bolivia has been crucial for its economic improvement. Today, almost 20 government-regulated microfinance providers service the country’s small business owners and entrepreneurs, serving 12.2% of the population and 16.4% of the labor force.

How do Microloans Work?

Since the 1980s, microloans have been used to empower borrowers in developing companies and give them the needed infrastructure to earn a sustainable income. They range from about $100 to $25,000, accrue interest like conventional loans and are capped at fair interest rates that do not put borrowers at risk of sinking deeper into debt, unlike the same services of many commercial lenders and private ‘loan sharks’. According to the World Bank, more than 500 million people currently benefit from microfinance initiatives.

Banco Sol and Microfinance in Bolivia

With the lowest GDP per capita and the second-lowest Human Development Index in South America, Bolivia faces clear economic challenges. However, pioneering infrastructure has allowed many economically disadvantaged Bolivians to borrow the capital necessary to advance their own businesses. In fact, Bolivia boasts one of the world’s lowest microfinance interest rates, at 13.5%.

Banco Sol is the largest microfinance company in Bolivia, and the world’s first commercial bank entirely dedicated to providing microfinance services; it also has one of the lowest delinquency rates in the world, marking the success of both the company and borrowers. Kurt Koenigsfest, Banco Sol’s CEO, markets the bank’s services as tools of social mobility and poverty management, saying “this is one way that has been proven to provide jobs and investment in the hands of those who, before its creation, had no access to financial services.”

Human Benefits

Bolivia is home to the world’s largest informal economy, with roughly two-thirds of Bolivians employed by the informal sector.  Many of these business owners sell goods like clothing, food and cosmetics in simple market stalls or shops. With an economy structured in this way, Bolivia has unsurprisingly benefited from financial infrastructure that services self-employed entrepreneurs who need capital to initiate growth in their business. The country’s physical remoteness and low population density, however, make it especially difficult for the rural poor to access both the national market and necessary financial resources. Banco Sol utilizes mobile branches, or trucks with banking facilities, to overcome this obstacle, so that even the most rural villages can gain access to banking.

A Path Forward

Exclusion from financial services can be a hurdle for those experiencing extreme poverty. Lenders like Banco Sol have given many small business owners the means to grow their capital while still maintaining ethical lending practices. Following the introduction of microfinance in Bolivia, the country has welcomed a new class of empowered, rising entrepreneurs that have secured higher positions in the nation’s marketplace.

Stefanie Grodman
Photo: Unsplash

Healthcare in BoliviaBolivia has historically struggled with high levels of poverty and providing quality healthcare to those in need of it. However, in the past decade, healthcare in Bolivia has created promising developments that have facilitated lower levels of extreme poverty, child mortality and rampant diseases.

Bolivia’s Unified Health System

In 2019, Bolivia’s then-president Evo Morales implemented the Unified Health System. The free health care system promised to cover almost 6 million uninsured people, a significant percentage of Bolivia’s 11 million citizens. It provides access to services such as doctor visits and medication and covers the treatment of illnesses like Parkinson’s, child cancer, diabetes and more.

To aid citizens in receiving care, an instructional app was made to provide the necessary information. For example, it helped with locating healthcare centers and identifying what treatments would be covered under the Unified Health System.

The Unified Health System saw immediate success, with more than 35,000 patients receiving healthcare treatment in the first five days of its implementation. This program builds off the success of the 2013 “My Health” program that allowed citizens with the most need to have access to free healthcare.

Developments such as these have accounted for the threefold increase in the Bolivian healthcare budget since the mid-2000s. Fortunately, this increased dedication to public health has paid off. The changes have increased the overall health of the population and decreased child malnutrition rates by 50%.

Increasing Access to Healthcare

Even when citizens have a right to free healthcare, there are additional boundaries that may prevent them from getting the help they need. Bolivia’s rural areas tend to be much more burdened with poverty than urban areas. Additionally, there are usually fewer health clinics that are easily accessible in rural areas.

In response, the government built 2,710 clinics to increase access to healthcare in Bolivia. It was estimated that this provided 25% of the most vulnerable population with access to medical assistance. The government also placed increased effort on preventatively addressing medical issues, many of these focusing on women and children.

Similarly, the government introduced the Bono Madre Niño-Niña Juana Azurduy program to promote safe motherhood. It supplied cash transfers to mothers who frequently received health checkups during pregnancy and the first two years of their child’s life. This endeavor partnered with the Zero Malnutrition Multisectoral Program, which helped fight malnutrition in children under five. Programs such as these helped increase the survival rate of infants and decrease the risk of child malnutrition.

The Challenges of the Unified Health System

The Unified Health System did show promise for making long term improvements for healthcare in Bolivia. However, the government did not allocate enough money to make this goal sustainable and achievable. Doctors expressed the need for a budget of around $1 billion (USD), much greater than the $200 million they received. Because of the lack of funds, there are not enough supplies or facilities available to provide the healthcare that so many Bolivians need.

Continuing to Improve Healthcare in Bolivia

To combat some of the shortcomings, various organizations help to support Bolivian healthcare systems. Here are some examples.

  • Because the need is greatest in rural areas, NGOs such as Global Links have stepped in to provide materials and support to these areas. They have also provided a significant amount of equipment for people with disabilities. These efforts have reached an estimated 200,000 people in areas that were previously underserved.

  • Mano a Mano, a nonprofit focusing on serving Bolivia, ships excess medical supplies from Minnesota to Bolivia. This supports existing healthcare clinics by providing free supplies to serve patients.

  • Another solution is found in new mobile healthcare centers. By relocating these centers to reach patients in need, this solution combats limited funding and medical equipment. The mobile centers have been built to contain fully functional MRIs, and their portability has allowed an increase of more than 50% in patients served.

Healthcare in Bolivia has made impressive strides to improve citizens’ quality of life. Experts have praised the idea of the Unified Health System, calling it a “model for Latin America.” To continue the good work that this program can provide, more money needs to be dedicated to supporting it. In doing so, more clinics can be built, more doctors can be hired and more equipment can be purchased.

– Hannah Allbery
Photo: Flickr

Roads in Latin America
In 2010, the United Nations declared the Decade of Action for Road Safety, calling upon governments to take the actions necessary to reduce the 1.3 million annual traffic deaths that plague modern society. For Latin America in particular, where 60 percent of roads remain unpaved and the rate of deaths from traffic fatalities stands at twice that of high-income regions, this was and is an incredibly pressing issue. That is why, as the Decade of Action for Road Safety comes to a close in 2020, it is important to reflect on what governments have done to build safer roads in Latin America, and how they can continue to carry the torch in securing the future of the region’s most vulnerable.

Taking Action on the Ground Level

Efforts to improve road safety have traditionally fallen into one of a few categories. Awareness campaigns, such as Salvador, Brazil’s Life Not Traffic program, invest heavily in training drivers on proper road etiquette, as well as lobbying for stricter drunk-driving laws. For Salvador and other Latin American cities, in particular, educating the youth through programs like “child drivers of the future” is also a major priority, as traffic deaths are the leading cause of death for Latin Americans ages 15-29.  So far, the results of these efforts are striking. In just eight years since its initial launch, Life Not Traffic has contributed to a 50 percent drop in traffic fatalities in Salvador.

Structural solutions, on the other hand, focus on pinpointing areas of improvement in regard to material conditions on the road, as well as looking at safer and more efficient ways to control the flow of traffic. The construction of roundabouts to replace traditional four-way intersections, for instance, has led to a 50-70 percent drop in traffic fatalities and a 30-50 percent drop in traffic injuries. Meanwhile, increased investment into speed and red-light cameras is also yielding promising results.

Structural solutions can also bring economic benefits, such as in the case of Tocantins, Brazil, where times of rain have historically inhibited the region’s road network, depriving Tocantins’ residents of access to Brazil’s urban population centers. To combat this issue, the World Bank has funded the construction of more than 700 concrete bridges in cooperation with local authorities, which has both increased employment and the average wage of the region’s agricultural workers. Safer, more reliable roads have also meant a rise in the percentage of children attending school in Tocantins, which has had the added effect of opening up more work opportunities for Tocantins’ female population.

Obstacles to Improvement

The World Bank’s work in Tocantins is a particularly salient example in this case, as it highlights the traditional obstacles to improving Latin America’s road infrastructure, as well as the steps necessary to overcome them. For one, there is the problem of geography. Where conditions in European and North American nations are, for the most part, agreeable to road building, tall mountains, thick jungles, expansive deserts and urban centers hamper Latin America. These, in combination with the region’s low population density, have made road-construction very costly.

However, while geographic conditions certainly make the task of building better roads more difficult, the real crux of the issue lies in the lack of funding that Latin American governments are able to devote to infrastructure. Estimates from the Inter-American Developmental Bank indicate that the region faces an annual infrastructure-spending shortfall of around $100-150 billion, due to regional governments’ issues with fiscal deficits and mounting public debts. As a consequence, programs aimed at both improving and expanding the region’s road networks frequently go underfunded, leading to the need for foreign aid and investment.

Foreign Aid Successes

Indeed, recent years in Latin American have seen an increasing number of successes in road improvements due to foreign aid, though economists estimate that still more aid is necessary before Latin America will be able to bring its infrastructure on par with the rest of the world. China’s Belt and Road Initiative, for instance, has provided $26.8 billion in infrastructure-related loans to Latin America since 2005, including financing a major highway in Bolivia that should bring significant economic benefits to the region after its completion in 2021. The United States, for its part, has also recently launched a new initiative to encourage more private U.S. financial investment into Latin America’s roads and other infrastructure.

In addition to building new roads, many new organizations have also taken root in the region with an eye on other means of improving road safety. The Latin NCAP is one such organization, launched under the umbrella of the U.N.’s Decade of Action for Road Safety, which has published over 100 safety assessments for new vehicles since 2010, helping to keep Latin America’s drivers safe before they even step in the car.

While much work remains when it comes to building safer roads in Latin America, it is undeniable that foreign aid has led to major improvements for the region’s inhabitants.

– James Roark
Photo: Pxfuel

Bolivia's Poverty Reduction
Bolivia is a South American country that continues to reduce its high poverty rate. Poverty lowered substantially from 66 percent in 2000 to 35 percent in 2018. The government of Bolivia took direct action to develop its economy, reduce its poverty and income inequality and increase foreign investment. The Latin American country still has a high poverty rate, yet its progress in the past 20 years shows promise that Bolivia’s poverty reduction and economic development will continue.

Government’s Direct Involvement in Poverty Reduction

The Bolivian government approved the National Economic and Social Development Plan 2016-2020 to bring about change in its country. Former President Evo Morales fought for income equality and higher wages as Bolivia’s president, and the country is still fighting for his goals. The country intends to help its people live a prosperous life without worrying about the effects of poverty, such as hunger and an inability to afford health care. The main objectives of the plan include eliminating extreme poverty, granting basic services to the entire population and diversifying its economy. The plan set forth a continuation of Bolivia’s poverty reduction progress since 2000 while also lowering income inequality.

Poverty almost reduced by half from 2000 to 2018, which economic growth partly drove after Bolivia transitioned into a democratic society during the 1990s. Income inequality lowered as the Gini coefficient demonstrated. If the Gini coefficient is zero, then income inequality is zero. This income inequality indicator showed a reduction from .62 in 2000 to .49 in 2014. For reference, the U.S. Gini coefficient in 2017 was .39. The 2016-2020 plan sought to continue its efforts in reducing income inequality. Although the Gini coefficient lowered, income inequality still remains an issue in Bolivia.

Poverty Reduction Through Economic Growth

Economic growth is another factor that helped with Bolivia’s poverty reduction efforts. Bolivia’s GDP growth hovered around 4 percent since the early 2000s. From 2000 to 2012, Bolivia increased its exports that consisted mainly of minerals and hydrocarbons. Although hydrocarbons grew controversial in Bolivia, hydrocarbons and minerals accounted for 81 percent of all exports in 2014. In 2000, its exports accounted for only 18 percent of GDP, yet exports grew to 47 percent in 2012. Bolivia’s decision to focus on exports helped grow its economy, add jobs and reduce income inequality. In time, Bolivia may transition to cleaner sources of energy for its future.

Economic growth led to wage increases for many Bolivians, which expressed the idea of poverty reduction through economic growth. Bolivia’s GDP grew by a massive 80 percent from 2000 to 2014, and there were various positive side effects of this growth. Salaries increased after the government took direct involvement in income inequality. The real minimum wage increased by 122 percent in the years 2000-2015. The average labor income also increased by 36 percent during 2000-2013.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) came to the conclusion that labor income was the number one factor that led to reductions in poverty and income inequality from 2007 to 2013. Nonlabor income such as remittances, rents and transfers contributed a small amount to these reductions. Nonlabor income was an important aid for the elderly though.

Bolivia’s Progress in Income Inequality and Economic Development

Bolivia is an excellent model for what is possible through a government’s direct involvement in poverty reduction. Economic growth helped fuel Bolivia’s objectives in reducing poverty and bringing income equality to its people. Although poverty remains high, Bolivia’s progress in the past 20 years shows promise that poverty will continue to lower. Income inequality remains an issue, and as shown from the IMF’s research, wage increases are key to Bolivia’s poverty reduction.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Girls Education in Bolivia
Since the early 1970s, education from ages 6 to 13 has been mandatory in Bolivia. However, nationwide education rates after primary school have decreased drastically, with less than a quarter of young adults attending. The infrastructure of Bolivia’s education system, particularly in rural areas, is very underdeveloped, making girls’ access to education bleaker. However, the country is making strides to improve the quality of its education system. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Bolivia and the implemented laws and programs in place to enhance it.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Bolivia

  1. Urban vs Rural: A big part in determining the quality and endurance of each child’s education depends a lot on their socioeconomic status, region and gender. According to a UNICEF report, a girl living in the Amazon may only receive two years of schooling, while the son of an affluent family in the city could receive up to a 14-year education. Even within the city, there is gender disparity among ethnicity. For example, a city girl of indigenous background is only half as likely to complete her education as an urban boy of non-indigenous background.
  2. Indigenous People: Ethnicity has played a role in the suffering Bolivian education system, particularly in terms of income and class. While there have been slow improvements, the gender and ethnicity gap still remains. Indigenous women are five times less likely to complete secondary school education in comparison to non-indigenous males, mostly due to a limitation of proper resources to succeed in school and a lack of easy access to schools. UNICEF Bolivia initiated a four-year-long program from 2018 that works to improve “gender trends across different socio-economic structures.”
  3. Avelino Siñani-Elizardo Pérez: Bolivia passed the Avelino Siñani-Elizardo Pérez law in 2010 with the goal of making education a plurinational system in Bolivia. Alternative and special education are on the rise as a result of the passing of this law. Alternative education offers schooling for those 15 years or older, also known as continuing education outside of the classroom and through a department in the Ministry of Education. Special education focuses on helping people with disabilities learn. A translation of Article 10 reads that the law will “complement and articulate humanistic education with…gender equity.”
  4. Sanitation and Hygiene: Research shows that most rural schools do not have the resources for sanitation products for juvenile girls which affects girls’ education in Bolivia. These young women do not receive the help and equipment they need to transition into this new stage of life. In fact, the report concluded that this lack of support stems from the stigma and misconceptions about menstruation. The government has reported that many girls feel embarrassed or confused due to a lack of skills to manage menstruation and their companions often tease them. This leads to distraction from schoolwork, which can cause them to fail their classes.
  5. Gender-based Approach: UNICEF is stepping in to help bridge the disparity among gender and ethnicity in the education system. In a report, it says it has taken a gender-based approach in order to reach the most impoverished areas of the country and provide girls there with a better education. It plans to do this through a three-part system of “multilingual education, right-age enrollment, and child-centered pedagogy.” With an emphasis on educating and providing girls with resources from adolescent ages, UNICEF hopes to address many roadblocks for children in Bolivia.
  6. Discrimination: Among the small population of girls who pursue secondary and tertiary levels of education, they find themselves facing other hurdles, such as discrimination. According to a report by the World Bank, 20 percent of these women, particularly those who are indigenous or Afro-descendants, face discrimination when they pursue higher education. Much of the discrimination they face is based on their skin color, language, economic circumstances, gender, clothing and age. Programs like UNICEF develop new strategies to help tackle the marginalized indigenous groups of Bolivia and ensure they receive equal educational opportunities throughout their whole life.
  7. Secondary School Statistics: As of 2018, statistics show that the gender gap among secondary school students increases as social class lowers. In high-income families, the gender gap is almost nonexistent with both genders at about 95 percent completion rate. In middle-class families, there is only a marginal difference of about 3 to 4 percent. However, low-income families have the biggest gap, with almost a 10 percent difference.
  8. Future Employment: In 2009, the authoritarian form of government in Bolivia fell and democracy took its place. Bolivia has provided more educational, political and economic opportunities for women to involve themselves in their country due to these changes in the political structure. The workforce has seen a 7 percent increase from women, female representation has increased by 37 percent since 2002 and 46 percent of women feel free to participate in their political system, in comparison to the male statistic of 50 percent.
  9. The Programme: The mass migration of families to urban areas has left a large amount of poverty and single mothers in its wake. In an effort to increase the employment rate of these rural women, an initiative called The Programme helps these impoverished families by teaching them about property ownership and sustainable practices. The Programme does not provide them with traditional education but instead takes on a two-part plan to teach women tools to be able to provide for their families. The first part of this plan is transferring a monetary portion for “seed capital, startup grants, joint venture and risk capital.” The second part involves training and services that teach women about civic education and “full use of citizenship.” The Programme has successfully helped over 4,000 women find employment.
  10. Child Labor: Reports have found some of the worst forms of child labor in Bolivia, such as agriculture and sexual exploitation. A practice known as padrinazgo sends rural children to urban areas for better educational opportunities but leads to forced child labor. People have launched many programs over the past decade to end child labor, such as the Safe Terminal Program, which increases awareness and provides training to transportation officials about forced labor. However, despite the quantity of implemented programs, inclusivity of all regions and funding remain two issues that keep them from effectively reducing child labor.

There are definitely ways to go in improving the quality of education for the marginalized population of Bolivia, particularly for its young girls. However, with Bolivia taking on different initiatives and its government prioritizing poverty reduction, there is a promise that Bolivia’s education system will develop a strong infrastructure and be inclusive of all ethnicities and genders.

– Shreya Chari
Photo: Flickr

8 Facts About Sanitation in Bolivia
A small landlocked country bordering Brazil in South America, The Plurinational State of Bolivia has a population of approximately 11 million people. In the past 10 years, despite the drought in 2017 that left even the country’s elite without water, both the government and international organizations have made great strides towards improving sanitation in the country. Here are eight facts about sanitation in Bolivia.

8 Facts About Sanitation in Bolivia

  1. In the 2009 constitution, the Bolivian government determined that access to water and sanitation in the country is a fundamental human right. This law provides legal and governmental acknowledgment and support for people lacking proper sanitary services. After the implementation of this law, the government tried different solutions to see which would produce the most comprehensive results. There was a “big-system” water allocation using large piping systems in urban areas. In the meantime, rural areas used “small-systems” focused on community-run structures. This was all in a governmental effort to show devotion for better sanitation in Bolivia.
  2. International organizations such as Water for People provide Bolivians with water and sanitation services. Water for People has been implementing sanitation in Bolivia since 1997. The organization promotes the construction of handwashing stations at schools and provides small loans to purchase materials such as toilets. In addition, it provides sinks for better sanitation practices in households. This organization alone has given 78 percent of households access to clean water in Bolivia.
  3. The elimination of public defecation is a huge goal of the United Nations. Public defecation causes disease and water pollution. According to the U.N. Progress report, there has been an approximate 20 percent decrease in public defecation since 2000 in Bolivia. However, in rural areas, the public defecation rate still remains at around 38 percent as of 2017. To address these issues, organizations are building private toilets to keep drinking water and sewage water separate.
  4. Clean water is essential to proper hygiene and sanitation. In 2017, Bolivia achieved almost 100 percent of basic clean water in urban areas. Additionally, the rural regions have 78 percent of drinking water available. The ability to wash hands, take showers, drink safely, brush teeth and clean vegetables are all possibilities with access to clean water.
  5. Schools and households have strengthened sanitation in Bolivia with the creation of community handwashing stations. However, the state has stations readily available for only approximately 25 percent of its people. In efforts to raise these numbers, the government is working with international organizations such as UNICEF. Together, they want to raise awareness of the necessity of these facilities and the need for implementation. In 2010, UNICEF and the Ministry of Environment and Water began a Water and Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program in two regions. They also did this in 10 schools aiming to teach children about hygiene and sanitation in Bolivia. Doing so raises awareness on issues like the harmful effects of open defecation and the importance of clean water sources. The findings showed that schools did not always provide maintenance and extras like locks.
  6. Along with the construction of sanitation sites, there needs to be a plan for long-term management and maintenance of the facilities. According to the World Health Organization, there is a lack of information from the health sector and rural areas still have a shortfall in resource availability. Due to these factors, it is difficult to see a clear picture of progress. In the future, it will be important for Bolivian officials to release all information available so the country can reach further solutions.
  7. There are many innovative sanitation methods in the country. Educating the public about sanitary habits and improving governmental guidelines are vital methods. Another innovative method is starting community-run projects to build and maintain sanitation services. Also, encouraging gender equality to avoid gender-based violence regarding sanitation and water will also help the country. Efforts by UNICEF and other organizations, after using these approaches, have improved sanitation in Bolivia to 32 percent in rural areas and 82 percent in urban areas
  8. Menstrual health is a key component missing from sanitation in Bolivia. A study that UNICEF conducted in 2012 found that girls stay home from school because of menstruation. This is because others might tease them because of odor, stains, lack of proper materials or cramps that accompany girls during puberty. There is a theme of shame and embarrassment that arises because of the lack of menstrual education, and such a natural process often confuses and scares girls. In the 10 schools that the study observed, all 10 began offering menstrual education. In contrast, none had sanitary napkins available. Due to the average of 1.2 toilets and 0.5 handwashing stations per school, it is very rare that sanitary napkins are available to girls in rural areas considering the lack of resources. Because of this, UNICEF continues to spread awareness and funds to bring menstrual education and sanitary napkins to schools.

Despite the progress to provide citizens with basic necessities, there is still substantial inequalities between rural and urban communities regarding management and access to sanitation in Bolivia. The trend in multiple charts and studies has been that urban areas receive higher amounts of resource allocation than rural counterparts. To address these inconsistencies, international organizations like Water for People and UNICEF have focused on rural populations to curb the inequalities in sanitation.

Ashleigh Litcofsky
Photo: UNICEF

Deforestation and Poverty
Deforestation throughout the world has been increasing over the past decades. Forests contribute to 90 percent of the livelihood of those that live in extreme poverty. Once people cut down and remove these resources, it takes years to replace them, which puts people deeper into poverty. Deforestation and poverty connect because of what the forest can provide for people living in poverty.

Reasons for Deforestation

There are several reasons that deforestation is so much a part of developing nations. One of the most prominent reasons is logging or cutting down trees for processing. While logging does provide temporary relief from poverty once loggers cut down the trees, it takes years for them to grow back.

Indonesia has the worst problem with illegal logging with 80 percent of its logging exports being illegal. Agriculture is necessary for a country to become self-sufficient and rely on itself to feed its people. Hence, to clear land for crops, farmers cut down large sections of forests. Indonesia also has the worst problem with clearing forest for agriculture; the country states that it is necessary to make way for the trees for palm oil, one of its major exports, in order to reduce poverty.

In Brazil, clearing forests to make way for grazing livestock is the reason for deforestation. Brazil is a top beef exporter having exported over $5 billion worth of beef in 2018 and beef is a significant contributor to its economy.

The Benefits and Harm of Deforestation

The three countries that have the most deforestation are Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. These countries all have access to the Amazon rainforest and they use its resources to help alleviate the strain of poverty. Deforestation has devastated all three of these countries, as each has cut down millions of acres of rainforest.

Since 1978, Brazilian loggers, cattle rangers and farmers have cut down 289,000 square miles of rainforest. One of Brazil’s top crops is soybeans that farmers use to feed its growing cattle population. Massive sections of forest require cutting to make way for both soybean production and cattle and this impacts the indigenous people of Brazil the most. Their entire livelihood is dependent on the forest and when the trees disappear, they suffer extreme poverty.

Peru has recently increased its efforts to control deforestation due to mining. Gold is a large part of the economy of Peru along with logging. These efforts have worked for the people of Peru who were able to cut their poverty rate from 48.5 percent to 25.8 percent in less than 10 years. However, experts believe that this relief, while significant, could only be temporary because the rate of deforestation will have a profound impact on climate change that will, in turn, harm the forests and economy of the country.

The GDP per capita of Bolivia is currently at $2559.51. This makes it one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere. To help the poor people of the country, the government has doubled the amount of deforestation that occurs in the country to make way for cattle, agriculture and infrastructure.

With the increase of deforestation, the benefits can seem like relief for those that are deeply immersed in poverty. While these countries’ removal of whole forests can help those living in poor conditions, the help is only temporary and in the long run can harm their well being as much as help. Deforestation and poverty are linked and to save the forests, it is essential to help those living in and around the forests.

Samuel Bostwick
Photo: Flickr