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Agro-Forestry in Bolivia

 

Bolivia has majored in agro forestry as a country. The agro forestry system was adapted in the old days but according to a research done little have being done to improve agro forestry.

The farmers are venturing into timber cutting which has more money than agro forestry. The Bolivia farmers are more than willing to venture in to a more profit maximization system that is something which is of benefit to them.

The farmers have been complaining of the changes in climatic conditions which has affected there produce. In addition, the soil erosion is also a factor affecting the Bolivia farmers. The farmers are also willing to adopt new agricultural technologies.

The majority of the farmers are small scale farmers who contribute to the food produced in the country.

Context

In the recent years, Bolivia has faced degradation of the soil, food insecurity and malnutrition. Bolivia has been recorded as the most deforestated country this is due to the increase in cutting of trees for timber.

This has been brought by the rearing of cattle’s and growth of one type of crop. Even though the country has been able to eradicate poverty, majority of its citizens have been faced by malnutrition and food insecurity in the most parts of the country.

Bolivia as a country mostly relies on the food with over 700000 small scale farmers who produce the country’s food. The government has come up with measures to help in food security whereby they provide land for farming, storage facilities for the public and loans at low rates. In the year 2009, the Bolivia government introduced food sovereignty.

The government has encouraged its farmers to implement a diversified farming system. This has led to diverse diets for its citizens in general.

Climate change has affected Bolivia agriculture. The civil society organizations (CSO) has partnered with the non-government organizations (NGOs) to encourage and implement agro forestry system in various parts of the country.

This has led to an increase in the security of food and also adapting to the changing climate.

Apart from the climate change, deforestation and extraction of timber has increased in Bolivia. By also practicing slash-and-burn based cultivating shifting, the small scale farmers contribute to deforestation and the degradation of the soil unlike the large scale farmers and the cattle ranchers.

The government has promoted the farmers by implementing infrastructures such as tree nurseries and also by giving them access of both the local and global markets. Most of the farmers prefer monoculture (large scale production) which has a high profit than agro forestry.

A research done has proved that a barrier to the access of the market and product commercialization has been the key hindrance of adopting the agro forestry systems.

The people of Inca of the Andes had already started agro forestry. A research was done which included an open ended interview which made it easier to understand the issues that the farmers went through.

The agenda of the interview was to know the support the farmers received, the economic activity and how the could help in the food security and food sovereignty.

Agro forestry is also practiced in the semi arid areas of Andean mountains of Bolivia.

In the year 2008, one farmer decided to combine agro forestation and planting of food stuffs such as oats which resulted to production of own food consumption and prevention of pest.

The native trees acted as the wind breakers and fences to an area where mixed farming was practiced. These natives’ trees helped in improving soil fertility and rebuilding of the soil. Agriculture serves so much importance in the agro forestry since it helps in pressure reduction rather than gathering of firewood.

The Andean valley of Yungas has also been implemented with the systems of agro forestry. It is one of the best areas of growing coffee in Bolivia. According to the Bolivia statistics, it is estimated that the coffee is grown under the agro forestry systems.

The growth of cocoa has also increased in the area and according to one of the interviewee, it was fast replacing coffee.

This has led to a reduction in agricultural diversity.

Most of the interviewed farmers were not willing to indulge in the agro forestry due to the risk associated in the ecosystem, poor infrastructure, and had little access to the planting materials, some of them had no knowledge on the agro forestry and last but not least the distance of the market as such the main obstacle of the adoption of the agro forestry was due to lack of funds and ready markets of their products.

The farmers opted to focus on the short term solutions which would satisfy on their needs than in the long run. (Reddy, 2017)

Some of the interviewees argued that the CSOs had their focus on the cultivation and not in the products of the forest that is timber. They also complained the high cost of starting an agro forest system as they compared it with starting an agricultural activity.

They added that the agro forestry based cash crops took years to produce with a combination of expenses and low labor required and this could cause a hunger strike during the years following the adoption.

They also noted that it yielded low returns. The farmers had an impression that the agro forestry projects that included planting of trees were a savings account for the future. Climate change was also mentioned as one of the main challenges facing the implementation of agro forestry in Bolivia. This was a threat in the food production.

In details, the challenges facing agro forestry in Bolivia included; ecological challenges which are a change in climate which is a threat to production of agricultural products, fire outbreaks due to uncontrolled slash and burn activities, and also in a diversified system the crops would compete for light, nutrients and water.

The political challenges; the government did not allocate money for agro forestry; most of the officials in the government are not conversant with the socioeconomic functions of the agro forestry.

There is also a conflict in the interest of the government and last but not least the government is busy providing food aid than working in preventing food insecurity. The sociocultural include conflicts between livestock grazing in the agricultural plantations.

The economic challenges included the waiting of the trees to produce and would create an economic vulnerability.

The CSOs focus on mostly on encouraging the farmers to cultivate and does not help them in marketing the agricultural products they have produced, the insufficiency of the tree seedlings.

The extraction of timber was seen as simple and income was generated quickly than the agro forestry diversification. And lastly, the livestock were considered as a savings account and more prestigious than the food crops. (Uberhuaga, Larsen, & Treue, 2011)

The government also initiated a policy where they gave the farmers land to cultivate and if the farmer was not using the land effectively their land titles would be withdrawn.

The government in partnership with the farmers came up with solutions of the challenges they faced. The ecological challenges would be solved by insuring against fire and there diversified crops. They could also plant a moringa tree as a barrier of the fire which is also a cash crop in the agro forestry system.

The economical challenges could be tackled by bringing close the organizations of the farmers by having follow up projects that would maintain agro forestry system and subsidizing the credit programs. They could also create a forum whereby they could educate the farmers on the importance of agro forestry.

The socio cultural challenges which consisted of the farmers in remote areas would be avoided by creating of agro forestry network and also awarding the farmers who performed well. The political challenges would be curbed by the government giving out subsidies and organize forums of the agro forestry.

According to the farmers they felt that the agro forestry system was being abandoned by the politicians and organizations and their efforts which they put in implementing the system went to waste and was not acknowledged.

The CSOs thought that by giving the farmer’s awards they would make them implement the agro forestry systems. They also figured out that interacting with the farmers could also help in the agro forestry.

They also discovered that the agro forestry was more vulnerable to natural disasters such as soil erosion, hurricanes, drought, pest and diseases as well as landslides.

 

The main risk associated with agro forestry was fire since it was uncontrolled and would lead to dire losses. A research done concluded that agriculture must be diversified in relation to nature. (Umans, 2012)

Conclusion

The agro forestry in Bolivia was started a long ago and the farmers used it but it had challenges which the farmers saw as a loss to them and preferred agricultural products and monoculture since it was for a short term duration and it met their needs.

The farmers complained of the change of climate which contributed to economic vulnerability. Most of the farmers were not interested in agro forestry since the government and the organizations did not support them or rather look for the market of their products.

Although the agro forestry helped in soil fertility and act as a wind breaker, they also competed with the crops for the water, sunshine and the nutrients.

They mostly feared indulging in the agro forestry system due to the natural calamities linked to it including the hurricanes in the Andes Mountains and the land slides.

The main risk factor was the occurrence of fire due to the use of the slash and burn method by the farmers and most of them sort out insurance covers to cover them from the risk of fire.

The country of Bolivia has too many small scale farmers who contribute to the production of the food rather than the large scale farmers.

The people of Bolivia tend to invest in projects that generate money easily and in the short run like cattle rearing rather than agro forestry which is a long term project.

 

References

Reddy, P. P. (2017). Agro-Forestry. Agro-ecological Approaches to Pest Management for Sustainable Agriculture, 77-89. doi:10.1007/978-981-10-4325-3_6

Uberhuaga, P., Larsen, H., & Treue, T. (2011). Indigenous forest management in Bolivia: potentials for livelihood improvement. International Forestry Review13(1), 80-95. doi:10.1505/ifor.13.1.80

Umans, L. (2012). Intervention, Facilitation and Self-development: Strategies and Practices in Forestry Cooperation in Bolivia. Development and Change43(3), 773-795. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7660.2012.01774.x

 

 

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