Mud torrent, climate change and food crisis in Bolivia

Prolonged heavy rains have caused a hilltop to collapse in a poor neighborhood of the Bolivian capital, cracking roads, destroying at least 1500 homes and burying people’s belongings under mud. Slides are common in La Paz, perched at about 3.640 meters (11.900 ft) above sea level and surrounded by hills covered with poor communities. Heavy rains have been blamed for 44 deaths around the country in recent weeks.

Rainfalls caused a hilltop to collapse in a poor neighborhood of La Paz (Bolivian newspaper ‘La Razón’).

Heavy rains in the north of Bolivia (Rurrenebaque) with 11.000 harmed families (Bolivian newspaper ‘La Razón’).

Mud torrent has washed away one part of La Paz

Bolivian women are watching the destroyed houses

Destroyed area in La Paz because of the heavy rainfalls

As a Kiva Fellow I work for the micro finance institutions IMPRO, Emprender and Pro Mujer. Many clients from these three institutions have suffered from the heavy rain falls in Bolivia. One cashier of Emprender lost his house. Emprender is helping him donating him goods and money. When visiting the home of Pro Mujer´s client Francisca, she showed me how one of the walls on her land (which she bought with a Kiva loan) had fallen down. For other clients who have lost their house Pro Mujer is collecting donations, ranging from clothes and blankets to water and money. The party for Carnaval last Friday was canceled and the money went to the people in the effected area.

Pro Mujer´s client Francisca next to the fallen wall – because of the heavy rain fall

Climate change
Bolivia is suffering from the world wide climate change. The heavy rains, droughts, frosts and hailstones endanger the production of food (e.g. potatoes) and cause deaths among cows.

Bolivians with their cows on the street (Bolivian newspaper ‘La Razón’).

Comic in the Bolivian newspaper ‘La Razón’: ‘Now that you have water at home, we are going to start working with the connection of natural gas’.

Food crisis
Last months the food prices in the international market have increased. In order to keep food affordable for the Bolivians, the government of Evo Morales kept the prices low and prohibited the producers to export their food products.  In this way the producers were not motivated to increase their production and could not take advantage of the higher prices in the international markets. The agro industrials produced 35% less food. The result: sugar and corn were out of stock and Bolivia had to import these products, which resulted in higher prices.

This picture shows the increase in price of various products (the red line is sugar).

Nowadays the centers of the big cities in Bolivia are at least once a week crowded with people protesting against the increased prices of different products.

To view the video with a demonstration in La Paz, click here.

The combination of the economic and food crisis have caused an increased number of people suffer from hunger. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations more than 1.000.000 people worldwide are chronically hungry.  In Bolivia 2,1 millions out of 9,2 millions of inhabitants are undernourished.

According to the ‘Fundación Ecológica Universal’ the number of inhabitants in Latin America and the Caribbean will increase with 588 million to 657,7 millions. The global production of food will not be sufficient to meet the demand.

So how should the problem of climate change and a lack of sufficient food for more people in Bolivia be solved?

Clara Vreeken is a Kiva Fellow in Bolivia, where she works for IMPRO, Pro Mujer and Emprender. Last week mud torrents destroyed 400 homes in the capital La Paz. Climate change in Bolivia leads to less food production, hunger and protests in the streets.

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