Bolivia + 1 more

Bolivia, Peru: The silver lining in last year's snowstorm

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Baltimore, June 9, 2003 - Last year, long bouts of harsh weather at high altitudes in southern Peru and northwestern Bolivia took a heavy toll on herds and grazing areas. At mid-year there were high winds, hailstorms and unseasonable cold, plus up to three feet of snow in the highest pasturelands; late in the year came heavy rains and landslides at lower altitudes and more heavy snows and ice storms higher up. Thousands of already impoverished farm families in both countries were hit hard, so Lutheran World Relief and two local partner organizations active in the area mounted a response. Now the results of their joint activities are in.
The people affected by this El Nino-related emergency live at altitudes of 12,000 to 17,000 feet. They are subsistence farmers and herders, Andean style. The project reached 710 families scattered in 22 remote villages and hamlets - more than 4,000 people in all. LWR appealed to members of the international, inter-church emergency alliance ACT and received substantial help with the $57,000 needed.

The project was able to combine outside help and local knowledge. The relief plan, for example, called for food rations to boost diets in the affected areas. However, local farmers made it clear that basic improvements in the health of their herds were more important to them than rations in the long run. So LWR's Peru partner AEDES employed two veterinarians to care for animals and to train people in each community to recognize and treat animal diseases. Although the project has ended these new 'village vets' work on.

Crops and fields battered by the weather received similar treatment. Better strains of barley, clover, legumes and the Andean grain quinoa were grown first in demonstration plots and then on scattered farms. Participants learned new and traditional ways of planting, sometimes on land too steep to plow. In Bolivia, villagers used project funds to build six large greenhouses to produce vegetables - and vitamins - at high altitudes.

Training courses in the project explained the science behind subjects that local farmers already knew and made a point of putting theory into practice. The training motto of LWR's Bolivian partner PAIS is: "If I listen I can forget, if I see I can remember, and if I do I will never forget."

Local churches and civil defense committees helped mobilize the communities involved and will help sustain the work.

Finally, project staff report that their standing is now enhanced in the affected communities because they and LWR came to help in such a remote emergency, and even raised international support. They learned much from the local knowledge, resources and abilities of community members in return. [See a project barley field high in the Andes of Peru: <www.lwr.org/news>.]

For more information contact Jonathan Frerichs at (410) 230-2800 and visit our website at <www.lwr.org>.