Bolivians who live in isolated, rural areas are eating more nutritious meals, are earning more money, and are better prepared for climate change and other threats to food security with help from the Abt Associates-led, USAID-funded Bolivia Integrated Food Security (IFS) Project. USAID launched the Bolivia IFS Project to address the many challenges contributing to chronic malnutrition. The project is working in the poorest rural areas of Bolivia on the four pillars of food security: availability, access, use of food, and vulnerability. It employs an innovative methodology that merges food security and nutritional initiatives with environmental management and grassroots community-building. Bolivia is one of the most food insecure countries in Latin America. One in three Bolivian children under five suffer from malnutrition. The country also has high levels of poverty, poor infrastructure, limited access to clean water, and a lack of modern sustainable agricultural practices. But the IFS Project has helped thousands of Bolivians become more resilient by, for example, increasing crop yields and raising hens more productively. The project has empowered municipal governments, local organizations, the private sector, and communities to find technologically appropriate methods to improve food security and offer healthier, more nutritious meals to their children. The project has reached more than 120 communities in nine municipalities since it launched in 2009. “The project is taking a holistic, integrated approach to food security that translates aid into action and results,” said Sergio Claure, IFS Chief of Party.
Protein and profits in an eggshell
Eggs are an affordable, excellent source of protein in communities that lack access to a variety of nutrient-rich foods — places such as Quime, where four out of five children suffer from chronic malnutrition. Ten women there formed an Egg Producers Association in the Pongo B2 community and won a local economic development contest in 2010, which included a $150 prize. However, a year later, they were still using a dilapidated building and had only 100 hens because the chickens frequently died. In 2011, the IFS Project taught the women how to better breed, feed, and nurture the chickens, helped build a new henhouse, and bought 300 more hens. As a result, the Pongo B2 Egg Producers Association has increased egg yield eightfold from 50 eggs a day to 400 per day. The association is investing in more hens and wants to buy a vehicle to transport eggs to other communities.
Planting seeds for larger harvests, healthier land
Several hours southeast of La Paz, the municipality of Tapacarí had one of the most unstable food supplies in the Cochabamba valley. As part of its groundwork to solve this problem, the IFS Project trained a select group of leaders in harvesting, post-harvesting and sustainable natural resources management. These leaders in turn are teaching other community members how to sustainably harvest their crops, reaching more than 650 families in Tapacarí and in 22 surrounding communities. The IFS Project also provided almost 90,000 kilos of seed — for alfalfa, potatoes, wheat, barley, and oats — that are more resilient and produce 50% higher yield if harvested properly. The seed was enough to plant 1084 acres. Working with community partners, the project also planted 32,000 seedlings to cover 117 acres in the city of Tapacarí to help rebuild the surrounding denuded forest. “Before, no one came to help. We had no technical assistance, and climate conditions ruined our lands,” said Reynaldo Gutierrez, a community trainer from Tapacarí and father of three. Now Gutierrez is optimistic about the future: “Our families and our animals from now on will have food, and our life will be better. I know.”
Home-based health lessons
A lack of nutrition information, education, and knowledge has led to an inadequate use of food, water supplies, and sanitation in many rural Bolivian communities. The IFS Project targets these gaps via home visits from community health agents. “Before these services, the mothers too seldom prepared meals with enough vitamins,” Claure said. Since 2010, IFS Project health agents have visited almost 1,000 homes in eight municipalities. Many women are more comfortable talking to a health agent in their home than traveling to a health center. The agents educate families how to prepare and serve nutritional local food, the importance of breast feeding, proper sanitation, and other lessons. Young children are better able to learn and advance in school thanks to the focus on nutrition, according to one of the community health agents, Dionisio Mamani Flores. “The IFS Project is allowing rural Bolivians to become more economically and nutritionally secure so that they can devote more resources to addressing other issues, such as education and health care,” said the project’s Health Specialist, Marisol Mamani Nina. “The first step to a better life is to ensure that pregnant women are well nourished and that their children have reliable access to food in their first five years.” USAID said in an official review in 2011 that relationship-building has been a key to the IFS Project’s success: “Abt has developed very good relations with Mayors, farmers associations, and mother groups. … [T]hey know the beneficiaries and beneficiaries really trust them.”
Watch the following videos to learn more about the Bolivia IFS project: