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Agroforestry Can Reduce Global PovertyForests provide food, medicine, fodder and energy for 250 million of the world’s extreme poor. If utilized properly, the method of agroforestry can reduce global poverty. The resources and benefits that forests can provide are often inaccessible to those in poverty due to the private ownership of forests.

Ownership of Forests

Approximately 77% of the world’s forests are owned and administered by governments that do not recognize the claims of indigenous peoples and local communities to the land. Since government priorities do not always align with community needs, the locals who need the forests to survive do not receive the benefits that they should. For example, the timber and ecotourism industries in Africa are skyrocketing but the locals do not share in the profits.

Agroforestry

Agroforestry, the agricultural practice of growing trees and shrubs around crops or pastureland, can ameliorate this problem. Agroforestry builds on existing agricultural land already owned by communities to create new forests not owned by the government, thereby circumventing the ownership problem and guaranteeing that profits remain in the community. Agroforestry systems are smaller in scale than typical forests but they still deliver many of the same positive results: they diversify production, restore soil fertility and increase biodiversity.

The benefits of agroforestry extend beyond environmental issues. Agroforestry can reduce global poverty by increasing food resources and security, improving nutrition and increasing profits for farmers.

3 Countries Using Agroforestry

  1. Bolivia uses agroforestry to reduce food insecurity. Bolivia is one of the biggest producers of organic cacao, which despite being edible, is not a major food crop. Cacao is grown mostly wild or in monocultures, though there is a growing shift to agroforestry systems where cacao trees are intercropped with shade trees and other by-crops like bananas and avocados. Over 75% of Bolivian households lack regular access to basic foods. Thanks to agroforestry, 40% of the population who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods can both produce more food and earn more money to buy what they do not grow. The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) found that the return on labor was double for agroforestry systems compared to monocultures even though the cacao yields were 40% higher in the monocultures. The revenue difference came from the sale of the by-crops, which offset the lower cacao yield. The by-crops helped farmers earn a profit but also represented a food source for the communities.

  2. Burkina Faso uses agroforestry as a means of women’s empowerment. The U.N. Development Program estimates that an average of three million African women work directly or indirectly with shea butter. Women have historically played an important role in the extraction of shea butter but they have not always been compensated for their work, even as the industry and profits grew. Agroforestry allows for more community involvement in farming, which in turn opens up opportunities for women. NGOs like CECI and WUSC help to train women in shea harvesting as part of the Uniterra project, which aims to get women involved in entrepreneurial ventures such as developing their own shea butter businesses for international exports. As a result of agroforestry, more women are empowered to take themselves out of poverty.

  3. India is a global leader in agroforestry policy. India was the first country to create a national agroforestry policy in 2014 despite existing policies that were unfavorable to agriculture, weak markets and a lack of institutional finance. The country set the ambitious goal of increasing national tree cover to 33% as a way to make agriculture more sustainable while optimizing its productivity. Agroforestry is currently in use on 13.5 million hectares in India but the government hopes to expand it to increase benefits like reducing poverty and malnutrition by tripling crop yields. Already, agroforestry provides 65% of the country’s timber and almost half of its fuelwood. Timber production on tree farms generates 450 employment days per hectare per year, which can reduce rural unemployment, and in turn, rural poverty.

The Potential of Agroforestry in Poverty Reduction

Many other rural communities in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia have relied on agroforestry throughout history, with and without government backing. As a whole, agroforestry is underused in the fight against global poverty. Nations with large agricultural sectors need to adopt agroforestry policies and promote the training needed to help farmers implement agroforestry on a large scale. These agroforestry efforts have the potential to significantly contribute to global poverty reduction.

– Brooklyn Quallen
Photo: Flickr

Ending Poverty, Updates on the SDGs in BoliviaThe first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) is to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” and requires every nation to develop a comprehensive plan to address systemic problems that contribute to the creation of poverty. This requires international cooperation. Although the United States appears to be a likely ally in Bolivia’s effort to eradicate poverty and accomplish its SDGs, America’s relationship with Bolivia has historically been imperfect.

Background

In the 1970s, economists from the University of Chicago drove Bolivia’s economy into the ground with a series of free-market reforms that generated widespread poverty. More recently, the United States was accused of participating in a coup that led to the removal of President Evo Morales. Compared with less affluent nations, America’s disproportionate influence with the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund is worrisome to less influential nations, like Bolivia.

Bolivian officials brought their criticisms of the language used to write the introduction and preamble of the U.N.’s sustainable development goals to the U.N.’s attention, and revisions were made. Their chief complaint was, “That the preamble and the introductory section of the proposed document are setting out a western and anthropocentric mindset of the world, reinforcing a mindset which has originated the current problems of the world for not achieving sustainable development.”

This called into question the U.N.’s ability, functioning as it currently does, to address the global poverty and environmental crises.

National SDG Progress in 2021

Every few years, a group of U.N. member nations volunteer to present their progress on SDG goals. In July 2021, Bolivia will be among four other nations to present for the first time during the U.N. High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). This demonstrates Bolivia’s eagerness to cooperate with the U.N., despite stated differences in perspective and approach.

The first SDG goal will be emphasized by the forum, as well as goals 10, 12 and 13. These last three goals deal with issues related to ethnic diversity and environmental sustainability, which are at the forefront of Bolivia’s national development policy. Significantly, as a first-time presenter, Bolivia will have half an hour to present to the forum.

Rosa Vera Fund

As part of its updates on the first SDG goal in Bolivia to the United Nations, perhaps Bolivia will summarize the work done by the Rosa Vera Fund, which provides physical therapy to Bolivian children with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and physical disabilities. Through physical therapy, the Rosa Vera Fund ultimately helps children with physical disabilities lead lives with greater economic independence. In the short term, the Rosa Vera Fund works with children during hours when their mothers are at work, thus freeing many Bolivian women from the obligation to take care of their children during the day. This program leads to immediate and long term benefits for Bolivian workers.

In partnership with the Consejo de Salud Rural Andino Montero, the Rosa Vera Fund was established in 2005. It provides essential care to approximately 60,000 patients in Montero. While its impact cannot be measured in rough trends, the Rosa Vera Fund has impacted thousands of Bolivians’ lives. Its work seeks to reduce poverty rates for Bolivians with physical disabilities, as well as poverty rates for the mothers of Bolivian children with physical disabilities.

Recently, the Rosa Vera Fund acknowledged that it faced obstacles when it delivered service to its clients because of widespread unrest in Montero after the removal of President Evo Morales. The updates about the SDGs in Bolivia indicate some of the historical precedents for political unrest in Bolivia.

Regardless of political strife, the Rosa Vera Fund is confident in the ongoing viability of its mission: “As future political changes unfold, we are confident that the Rosa Vera Fund will be able to weather the storm and just keep plugging along, doing what we do best: Provide medical care and social interventions for children with special health care needs, who have no other options.”

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

Countries That Escaped From PovertyEradicating poverty from a country can be a difficult and daunting task, but it is not impossible. Some countries are able to develop solutions that bring their economy and their people out of disastrous living conditions. Here is a list of five countries that escaped from poverty and created a better future for their citizens.

5 Countries that Escaped From Poverty

  1. Ghana: In 1990, this small West African nation had a GDP per capita of $1,900 with a poverty rate of 52 percent. By 2018, their GDP had reached an all-time high of $4,211.85 and their poverty rate was cut to 21 percent. Their extreme poverty rate also dropped from 35.6 percent to 18.2 percent within the same time. How were they able to do this? The country focused on educating its citizens to be a well-educated workforce. This allowed them to industrialize and put people in charge that had the knowledge and resources to succeed. Agriculture was the main area of employment back in 1990, but with a diversification of the economy, they were able to boost other sectors to create more jobs. This included the manufacturing and exportation of technological goods and mining that helped them become one of the top producers in gold in the world.
  2. Norway: Having the highest standards of living in the world is not an easy feat. The GDP per capita of Norway as of 2018 is sitting at $8,1807.20, the highest in the country’s history. But they haven’t always had this success. Norway was once one of the poorest nations in the world. During the turn of the 20th century, the Northern European nation’s economy was reliant on agriculture and fishing industries. When these began to fail, hundreds of thousands of Norwegians began to leave the country to escape from poverty for economic opportunity elsewhere. It wasn’t until after World War II that Norway’s economy began to trend upward. The United States provided aid to the country that was ravaged by the fighting and they used the aid help kick start their battered economy. Once oil was discovered off their shores in the North Sea in the 1970s, their economy flourished and they have been consistently trending upwards ever since.
  3. Singapore: The small city-state of Singapore gained its independence from Malaysia in 1965. It was a rough start for the people and their economy. The country’s GDP per capita stood at $516 and more than 70 percent of the people lived in the slums with half of the population unable to read or write. Lee Kuan Yew was prime minister at the time and he installed reforms that were very successful for the people of Singapore and their economy. He began by revamping the education system and creating a workforce that was highly skilled and well trained. To bring in foreign investment, Singapore developed an attractive tax system that is one of the lowest in Asia. This would bring in shipping and manufacturing businesses to their shores. With the influx of money and a rise in the economy, they were able to improve the infrastructure and housing of the country that gave a boost to the standard of living. The country’s escape from poverty has been a success, as Singapore’s current GDP per capita is $57,714.30 as of 2017.
  4. Bolivia: Once regarded as one of the poorest nations in South America, landlocked Bolivia is now a rapidly growing economy. The country’s poverty rate plummeted from 59 percent in 2005 to 38 percent in 2015, while at the same time extreme poverty dropped from 38 percent to 18 percent. The recent success of Bolivia can be contributed to the policies of the current leader Evo Morales installed to fight poverty. He implemented price controls over the products being sold in Bolivia such as food and gasoline so the poor could properly afford these items. While this didn’t create jobs, it did increase spending and allowed the economy to grow. Morales also created a pension of $258 to go towards those aged 60 and up to allow the elderly to escape from poverty.
  5. South Korea: After years of Japanese occupation and the end of the Korean War, South Korea’s economy was suffering in the 1950s. South Korea was not an industrialized nation and the main focus of its economy was agriculture. In 1960, South Korea’s GDP per capita was $79, which changed once General Park Chung-hee took charge of the country. Chung-hee implemented a five-year plan in 1962 that industrialized South Korea, creating jobs for the people. Companies like Hyundai, Samsung and LG would receive economic incentives, such as tax breaks, to help grow their businesses. South Korea also took advantage of U.S. economic assistance in exchange for letting the United States military keep troops in the country. Today, South Korea is a thriving economy, and as of 2017, enjoys a GDP per capita of just under $30,000. In addition, the country now accounts for $56 billion of U.S. exports, indicating a strong return on the $5.6 billion of aid invested decades ago.

Being able to rid a country from the grips of poverty involves a certain level of risk and ingenuity. Whether it’s by using the resources in their country, receiving foreign aid from other countries or changing their economic system, these countries that escaped from poverty show it is possible.

– Sam Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

Safe, Quality Drinking Water

On May 24, 2019, thousands of residents from poor neighborhoods in Lima, Peru protested business litigation that has been obstructing their access to drinking water. The demand for safe drinking water, a necessity for any lifeform to thrive, is, unfortunately, a common obstacle in South America. Several countries struggle in providing this vital resource to its citizens, especially in rural areas with poorer communities. However, other countries are successfully paving a path to ensuring access to drinking water and sanitation facilities. Here are a few facts about safe drinking water throughout South America.

Access to Safe Drinking Water in South America

  • Peru: Thirty-one million people live in Peru, but 3 million don’t have access to safe drinking water, and 5 million people don’t have access to improved sanitation. While more than 90 percent of Peruvian residents have access to improved drinking water, in rural areas, access drops to below 70 percent. Likewise, urban areas offer sanitation facility access to 82.5 percent of the population, but barely over 50 percent of people in rural communities, highlighting the drastic disparity between socioeconomic and regional populations.
  • Brazil: Similarly, shortcomings in providing safe, quality drinking water exist in South America’s largest country, Brazil. With a population of 208 million, 5 million Brazilians lack access to safe drinking water, and 25 million people, more than 8 percent of the population, don’t have access to sanitation facilities. While 100 percent of the urban population has access to drinking water, in rural areas the percentage drops to 87. The numbers take another hit when it comes to access to sanitation facilities. Eighty-eight percent of the urban population has this access, but almost half of the people in rural populations lack proper sanitation facilities.
  • Argentina: A similar narrative occurs in Argentina, where urban populations might have decent access to safe, quality drinking water and sanitation facilities, but the numbers drop off concerning rural and lower socioeconomic communities which struggle in having their needs and demands addressed by the government. Typical causes for low-quality drinking water include pollution, urbanization and unsustainable forms of agriculture.
  • Uruguay: In stark contrast, Uruguay has available safe drinking water for 100 percent of urban populations, almost 94 percent in rural populations, over 96 percent for improved access to sanitation facilities for urban populations and almost 94 percent for rural populations. The World Bank participated in the success of transforming Uruguay’s access to drinking water, which suffered in the 1980s, by offering loans to the main utility provider. The World Bank and other developers financially assisted Obras Sanitarias del Estado (OSE), the public utility that now provides drinking water to more than 98 percent of Uruguayans, in addition to providing more than half of the sanitation utilities in Uruguay. In addition to finances, these partners aid in ensuring quality operation standards such as upholding accountability, preventing unnecessary water loss, implementing new wastewater treatment plants in rural areas and protecting natural water sources such as the Santa Lucia river basin.
  • Bolivia: Like Uruguay, Bolivia made recent strides in improving access to safe, quality drinking water. They began by meeting the Millenium Development goal of cutting in half the number of people without access to improved drinking water by 2015. President Evo Morales, “a champion of access to water and sanitation as a human right,” leads to a path for the next step which is to achieve universal access to drinking water by 2020 and sanitation by 2025. Bolivia also recently invested $2.9 billion for drinking water access, irrigation systems and sanitation. In 2013, Morales addressed the United Nations calling for access to water and sanitation as a human right. Dedicated to his cause, he leads Bolivia in surpassing most other countries on the continent in ensuring these essential amenities to his constituents.

Unfortunately, the progress of Bolivia and Uruguay doesn’t transcend all borders within South America, as millions still feel neglected by their governments due to not having regular, affordable, safe, quality access to clean drinking water.

– Keeley Griego
Photo: Flickr

Legalizing Coca Leaf Production
A recent study on the benefits of coca leaf legalization has spurred lobbying efforts in Colombia, with advocates encouraging the country to legalize its production rather than attempting to eradicate the crop. Using coca leaves has been a traditional practice among indigenous South Americans for thousands of years. Before the leaf was harvested and manufactured into cocaine, it was chewed or made into a tea. It provides medicinal and health benefits like treating nausea and can be used for an energy boost.

Before industrialization, when working long days of hard labor, workers—especially some of the underprivileged farmers—would chew coca leaves for the effect of the stimulant but also to satiate hunger pangs while working on an empty stomach. Coca leaves also provide essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamins like A, B1, B6, C and E. Chewing and brewing coca leaves is a natural way of taking dietary supplements.

Peru and Bolivia See Benefits from Legalizing Coca Leaf Production

The government of Peru formed the National Coca Company of Peru (ENACO) in 1949, pushing for legalizing coca leaf production in order to make items and medicines derived from coca leaves. Farmers growing leaves for chewing to be sold to ENACO got their land certified for legal growth in 1978. ENACO does not only cultivate legal coca leaves for local traditional uses, but also sells its products around the world. One of the most common uses is as a natural anesthetic for eye surgery; ENACO is one of two companies that produce coca leaves for this medicinal purpose.

Coca production in Bolivia, however, is more recent. Bolivia has the third world’s largest crop of coca leaves (after Columbia and Peru) with about 67,000 acres used for farming. In 2011, the Bolivian Community Coca Company was founded by the government for the legal cultivation and purchase of coca leaves to be made into flour, ointments, and other products. In 2013, the Bolivian government sought to market coca-based toothpaste to the public with the intention of battling the illicit use of the drug. By using the drug for products like toothpaste or flour, there will be more use of coca leaves for legal industrialization and less for illegal drug trafficking.

How the Legal Coca Leaf Could Help Colombia

Legalizing coca leaf production in the long term could benefit Colombia economically, politically and socially. Allowing coca leaf farms could offset expensive anti-drug efforts like crop substitution, where the government buys out farmers of their current crop and looks to replace it with a different, legal product. However, crop substitution is costly and non-sustainable, especially if the demand for cocaine does not change. If the uses for coca leaves remain the same while their cultivation is restricted by the government, it will merely increase the price of the drug and make crime worse.

Bolivia and Peru are examples of the benefits of legalizing coca leaf production. These countries show that the medicinal benefits can be harnessed to create a market that effectively limits the illicit use of the leaves by taking away from the crops that would be used to make cocaine. Opening a legal market for coca leaves to be made into useful items like flour, ointments, toothpaste and other products would help lower the amount of drug trafficking and create new opportunities for coca leaf farmers to sell this indigenous plant.

– David Daniels
Photo: Flickr

Why is Bolivia PoorDespite Bolivia‘s heavy exportation of natural resources such as iron and natural gas that increased its economic growth during the early ’90s, the South American country is still one of the poorest countries below the equator. Thus, the question “Why is Bolivia poor?” remains.

Despite having the second most important natural gas industry in South America, its impact worldwide does not reach the top 1 percent in terms of international activities, which puts Bolivia in a situation of economic risk. On a domestic level, Bolivia’s lack of demand for resources within the country, as well as failed investments in the forestry industry, have shrunk its economic gains and profits since 2002.

Why is Bolivia poor? Bolivia’s main problem has been one that is prevalent in other countries such as Colombia, Honduras and Panamá: social inequality, which has afflicted Latin American countries for decades. However, inequality has been declining over the past decade.

Between 2008 and 2012, Bolivia’s Gini coefficient, a formula to determine a country’s level of inequality, dropped from 0.5 to a 0.45, where 0 equals perfect equality and 1 represents the highest levels of inequality. In 2014, Bolivia’s Gini coefficient decreased further to 0.13. Bolivia’s international affairs decreased its Gross Domestic Product by 6 percent during the year of 2016.

In 2016, the National Plan for Economic and Social Development (PDES) was approved. Public investments, infrastructure investments, the industrialization of natural gas and Bolivia’s 40 percent gross governmental debt are some of the areas in which the PDES will have a positive impact.

Needless to say, there is hope for Bolivia. As of now, the unemployment rate stands at 6.5 percent, one of the lower numbers in Latin America. Bolivia’s GDP has increased by 7.8 in 2017, thanks to growth in the construction sector.

UNICEF, an international NGO that focuses on children’s development around the world, has developed a partnership with Bolivia in order to implement water hygiene as well as environmental sanitation in the less developed parts of the country.

Habitat for Humanity is an organization that is also helping Bolivia, in particular by tackling slum housing and homelessness amongst Bolivian citizens. By raising money, offering volunteering and more, solutions are now a reality that are making Bolivia’s level of poverty decrease and quality of life increase at an extraordinary pace.

Paula Gibson

Photo: Flickr

Bolivia is a state plagued with inequality and inadequate development, making it the poorest nation in South America. Poverty affects the majority of the population, with almost 40 percent of Bolivians living in extreme poverty. Despite the land’s rich natural resources, Bolivia’s lack of human development hinders the state’s economic, social and political progress.

Here are four reasons why Bolivia is poor:

Political Instability
In the 1980s, Bolivia found itself in a deep economic recession and, in turn, suffered from inflation, unemployment and overall stagnation. It took the country 25 years to rebound in terms of GDP per capita. Just as the nation recovered, the early 2000s saw an outbreak of political instability with the resignation of President Hugo Banzer in 2001, followed by four controversial presidents within the next five years.

This political impermanence was greatly due to the recent discovery of natural gas in Bolivia and the government’s plans to export the reserves. This caused violent discourse between the Bolivian population and the government.

Insufficient Education
Public school education in Bolivia is of extremely poor quality, particularly in rural areas where teachers are not likely to be properly trained. Unsurprisingly, private education is too expensive for most. Thus, a vicious cycle of poor families staying poor while wealthy families progress is very apparent; without a good education, it is almost impossible to escape poverty.

Lack of Clean Water and Sanitation
In rural areas, many people are forced to drink contaminated water, as they are without clean, natural or portable water alternatives. This puts communities at significant risk for disease and illness. Diarrhea is one of the most common and serious consequences of drinking contaminated water and is responsible for over one-third of deaths of Bolivian children under five.

Since the 1990s, access to clean water has improved significantly. However, this improvement is concentrated in urban areas, rather than the rural areas where sanitation is needed most.

Low Productivity in Rural Areas
More than 80 percent of Bolivia’s rural population lives below the poverty line, a fact that is largely due to the low productivity of small-scale farming. With no mass production techniques and frequent water shortages, the quality of product and the money said products generate remain low.

Furthermore, a basic lack of infrastructures, such as water management systems and roads, is also responsible for why rural Bolivia is so poor. Without roads, transportation is expensive and ultimately inhibits farmers’ profits.

Bolivia’s human development index ranks 104th out of 174 countries and territories. Lack of prosperous and equal human development is the biggest challenge facing the nation and is the foremost reason why Bolivia is poor. Fortunately, the Bolivian government recognizes this and has put forward a variety of programs to alleviate poverty. Poverty decreased immensely in Bolivia from 65.2 percent in 2002 to 35.7 percent in 2007, demonstrating Bolivia’s progress and dedication to assisting its impoverished citizens.

Catherine Fredette

Photo: Google


Bolivia is a mountainous landlocked country in the heart of South America. With 36 languages and 51 indigenous groups, it is a mosaic of the diversity in the Andes. Since establishing independence in 1825, the country has experienced serious political turmoil, with the total number of revolutions and coups around 190. With so much chaotic political history, the incredible story of refugees in Bolivia is often forgotten. Here are 10 facts about refugees in Bolivia.

10 Facts About Refugees in Bolivia

  1. As the Holocaust intensified, so did measures across the world to prohibit Jewish refugees from immigrating into safer countries. In the famous case of transatlantic liner St. Louis where nearly 1,000 German Jews aboard were denied entry to Cuba, then the United States and finally Canada showed the shameful policy of turning people back to the countries they were fleeing to face certain death. While most countries were closing their borders, Bolivia opened its immigration policies, welcoming 30,000 Jewish refugees from 1938 to 1941.
  2. Bolivian consulates in capitals across Europe provided visas. The refugees then flew to Chile where they boarded a train to La Paz. Due to the large amount of Jewish refugees on this train route, it became known as El Expres Judio (the Jewish Express).
  3. Tin mining tycoon Mauricio Hochschild has been referred to as the “Bolivian Schindler” because he orchestrated the escape of between 3,000 and 9,000 Jews. He then put the men to work running the mines and created charities such as daycares for the children. This incredible effort was even larger than Oskar Schindler’s plan, which saved around 1,000 Jews.
  4. Uruguayan rock star Jorge Drexler is the grandson of German refugees escaping Nazi persecution, who were welcomed to Bolivia under the open door policy. He recently composed a song called “Bolivia” to commemorate this event.
  5. Bolivian President Evo Morales recently held the World Without Walls Conference on World Refugee Day, where he used very radical language for a head of state, saying that we should work towards “universal citizenship” and that is impossible for a person to be “illegal.”
  6. Bolivia is currently facing a crisis of climate refugees. When Lake Poopo dried up, it was the death of a cultural resource so important that locals referred to it as “mother” and “father.” It has led to nearly a thousand refugees coming down the mountain and forming shanty towns outside of La Paz. It is one of the most catastrophic events for refugees in Bolivia.
  7. Bolivia has also produced political refugees such as former consul general in Washington, D.C., Carlos Hugo Jiminez. He fled to Canada after becoming the target of death threats due to his political affiliation. As of 2016, he had been waiting for four years to receive his asylum status.
  8. The Bolivian government is a vocal advocate for statehood for refugees across the world. It is one of the countries to formally recognize Palestine as independent and is a vocal advocate for a Polisario-based state in the Western Sahara.
  9. Lack of economic opportunity and changing climate conditions are creating large flows of migrants from Bolivia across the Argentine border. The Argentine government has responded by calling for a special border police force and some right-wing lawmakers calling for a wall.
  10. Water access and extreme poverty are driving factors for immigration and refugees in Bolivia today. The glaciers of the Andes are melting at an extreme rate and, by most estimates, all of them will be gone by the end of the century. Thirty percent of the 2.3 million people from El Alto and La Paz depend on these glaciers for water.

Water protests have shut down entire cities in Bolivia, especially in the Cochabamba Water Wars of 2000. The melting of glaciers, drought and changing climate conditions could be a huge source of instability, refugees and immigration in the future. Bolivian President Morales shows commitment to the environment going as far as to legislate granting rights to the land and Earth itself. Regional and international partners will be necessary to tackle the climate challenges that will otherwise be left unaddressed and create more refugees in the future.

Jared Gilbert

Photo: Flickr


Since the election of Evo Morales in 2005, Bolivia has pledged to strive for social and economic reform. Despite aiming for a more inclusive society, poverty is still widespread and certain groups remain marginalized, including Bolivians with disabilities. Many continue to live in extreme poverty with little access to resources.

In the spring of 2016, a group Bolivians with disabilities marched more than 400 kilometers from Cochabamba to La Paz, protesting their lack of basic rights. The government previously stated that benefits would be awarded to those with extreme disabilities. To qualify, individuals need to receive special identification. The ID card can only be awarded following neurological exams that cost approximately 500 bolivianos ($70).

This cost is high for many in Bolivia with disabilities, as they often live in poverty and are unable to work due to their impairments. The purpose of the recent protests was to persuade the government to provide a monthly allowance of 500 bolivianos to those with severe disabilities, which would allow them to pay for physical therapy, healthcare and housing.

In February 2017, Morales submitted a proposal to Congress requesting that a monthly allowance of 250 bolivianos be provided to Bolivians with severe and serious disabilities. The Federation of Municipal Associations of Bolivia (FAM) also announced their support of the Morales’s bill. Mayors are responsible for making payments in each municipality. More than half of Bolivians with disabilities live in the large cities of La Paz, Cochabamba, and Santa Cruz, and these municipalities state that they have the financial resources necessary to provide qualifying individuals with benefits.

The current proposal only provides half of the monetary amount protesters asked for, and its success remains to be determined. Benefits will not be distributed until 2018. However, Bolivians with disabilities are also gaining rights through accesses to other resources. Handicap International and the Bolivian Ministry of Health are working together to build rehabilitation centers in various municipalities that provide necessary therapies. There currently is a network of 30 centers in Bolivia.

Additionally, these protests and attention have not only led to the provision of monetary benefits, but have also raised awareness of the struggles of Bolivians with disabilities, particularly the high proportion of them that live in extreme poverty. Moving forward, increased awareness and respect will be crucial in ensuring that those with disabilities receive necessary services that will allow them to be more engaged members of the community and avoid living in extreme poverty.

Nicole Toomey

Photo: Flickr


Bolivia is the poorest nation in South America, and has a population of more than 10 million people. Nations that struggle with poverty often struggle to fight disease as well. Some of the top diseases in Bolivia are spread by insects, cannot be prevented by vaccination and are frequently life-threatening.

Vector-borne diseases (diseases spread by insect bite) such as malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever and Chagas disease are common in Bolivia. Travelers to the country are warned about malaria and dengue fever. Malaria is spread by mosquitoes and can be life-threatening. There isn’t a vaccination against it, making it even more dangerous. Dengue fever is a viral disease that is also spread by mosquito bite. While not as serious as malaria, dengue fever also has no vaccination.

Only found in certain areas, yellow fever is also a huge concern in Bolivia. Every traveler to the country has to show certified proof of vaccination against the disease upon entrance. Yellow fever is another disease spread by mosquito bite, and it usually lasts between three and six days. For 60 percent of those who fall ill with yellow fever, the disease will be fatal. There is no treatment.

Chagas disease, which exists mainly in Latin America, is life-threatening and said to kill even more people than malaria does. Bolivia is home to the fourth largest number of people living with Chagas disease, with an estimated more than 607,000 people infected in 2015. It is the number one country when it comes to the prevalence of the disease, with the most infections per inhabitants.

Because of the prevalence of these diseases in Bolivia, attempts to help prevent HIV/AIDS sometimes come as an afterthought. In 2015 an estimated 18,000 adults in Bolivia were living with HIV/AIDS. Poorer nations such as Bolivia need assistance in order to combat the diseases that affect people’s livelihoods.

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr