Bolivia is hit by the strongest drought in the last 25 years
Bolivia has been hit by the strongest drought in the last 25 years, affecting the country’s two main production systems: farming and agribusiness. Official data indicates the state of emergency has been declared in 141 of Bolivia’s 339 municipalities.
The drought was announced in August and continues to 8 of the 9 Bolivian departments. It’s estimated that 45,000 families are at risk, almost 300,000 hectares of crops and around 370,000 cattle has been lost.
Local authorities say food prices will not increase and there will not be food shortages. The government issued several decrees to allocate resources to assist the affected regions and import the food necessary. Nonetheless, Mongabay reports the help has slowly reached those affected. Farmers are receiving food, forage and water.
Indigenous communities are also demanding assistance. Since 2015 it hasn’t rain in the municipality of Belén de Andamarca, in the western part of Bolivia. With their wells almost dry, their municipality is among those in state of emergency.
“We have lost potatoes and quinoa crops, our llamas are dying, and we still have not received the help we need,” Cristóbal Huanca, an indigenous leader in the municipality, told Mongabay.
In San Antonio de Lomerío in the east droughts are common, but this time it’s exacerbated by population growth. This municipality is home to many indigenous Monkox Chiquitano people. This region no longer has corn and cassava crops, livestock must travel an average of 16 km to drink water, also forest fires are endangering the area.
In Macheretí the situation is no different, 2,000 cattle have already died and 50,000 more are at risk. Its 22 indigenous Guarani communities have lost 500 of their 1,300 cattle. “They are dying of hunger and thirst. Pregnant and breastfeeding cows are the first to fall. We feel impotence. We cannot do anything. We can only ask for the authorities’ support,” told Mongabay, Fermín Romero, an indigenous Guarani leader.
Nationwide, besides cattle losses the grain and oilseed producers reported losses of more than $180 million as they stopped the production of 660,000 tons of wheat, corn, sorghum and soybeans. In a press conference, the president of the National Association of Oilseed Producers (ANAPO), Reynaldo Diaz stated that 18,000 out of the 100,000 hectares of wheat were lost.
In the last months Evo Morales’ government has provided $6.9 million dollars to respond to the emergency. They also plan to spend $461,000 to rent or buy water tanks and pipes. Meanwhile public institutions will focus in research to help ease the effects of the drought in the future.