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Bolivia: Coping With Climate Change

Global Warming by Photoshop_Addict is Licensed Under CC0 Creative Commons

From 3-14 December, world leaders will meet in Katowice, Poland, for COP24 – the UN’s annual climate change conference. On the other side of the globe, in Bolivia, nearly 40 percent of the population is directly affected by climate change, with persistent droughts, floods, and unseasonable frosts destroying agricultural livelihoods. Now farmers are using ancestral knowledge of monitoring and predicting weather to develop concrete strategies to adapt to a changing climate. 

In the southern Bolivian village of Charpaxi, Lidia Mondaque is looking for ants. As her grandparents taught her, she knows that when they are reinforcing their nests with dirt, much-needed rain is coming within days.

Lidia is a peach farmer. But she is also a Yapuchiri, an agriculturalist who tracks signs in the environment around her and documents weather changes to develop adaptation strategies for better harvests.

Drawing on this ancestral knowledge has become crucial as rains no longer come when they are supposed to. Sharp freezes and strong hails further damage crops. These extreme changes in weather mean that once-productive fields now lie fallow.

By 2030, 27 percent of Bolivia is predicted to be affected by a persistent drought.

For Lidia, drought has already come. Her peach crops face a lack of water, and an increase in fungus and pests.

According to her, Drawing on this ancestral knowledge has become crucial as rains no longer come when they are supposed to. Sharp freezes and strong hails further damage crops. These extreme changes in weather mean that once-productive fields now lie fallow.

Now a collaboration between the Bolivian government and the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is helping farmers use traditional practices to develop climate change adaptation strategies and to engage with local municipal governments to put these strategies into practice.

Using what is known as ‘talking maps’, farmers work with technical experts from the project to create visual representations of what their community looked like in the past, what it looks like now, and what they hope for the future. These maps include drawings or dioramas representing their lands.

According to Mirtha Caracoles Rivera, Field Technician, ACCESOS – ASAP Project,
“It’s important for the communities to plan by themselves. They actually can… They can relay in these maps and models all of their ideas they have to advance into the future, and how they want their community to look like. Right now, is the dry season, and there are many natural disasters. And they need to plan, plan based on their ideas and their knowledge and their perspectives about the present and future of the community.”

Communities bring their talking maps to a competition, where their proposals are judged by technical experts, the best ones receiving financial and planning support-IFAD

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