“The most important thing is the opportunity to participate and to learn.” – Ana
Through exchange visits between Gran Chaco communities in Bolivia and Paraguay, participants get ideas and inspiration from others who face similar challenges as they work toward achieving food security.The Chaco region that crosses the borders of Bolivia and Paraguay is the second largest ecosystem in South America after the Amazon.
Indigenous communities there have always lived as hunter-gatherers, preserving the delicate ecosystems of the forest and rivers. In the past three decades, as cattle ranchers and soy farmers moved in, mass deforestation has led to drastic changes in the climate, characterized by both drought and flooding. As a result, the people must learn new livelihoods and adapt quickly to their changing environment.
“The forest as we once knew it will never be the same again. The loss of thousands of species of plants and animals and the changing climate are very real to us.” – Benigno
At the end of the program’s second year, the program highlighted many achievements. In Bolivia, the focus was on family and communal kitchen gardens. New fruits and vegetables are being consumed by 7 out of every 10 families, with a particular emphasis on ensuring children consume adequate amounts of Vitamins A and D. Livestock and poultry production has been so successful in Paraguay that families are consuming meat and dairy products (goat and cow’s milk, eggs and cheese) and also managing to produce a small surplus to sell in local markets.
“We are illiterate so it is very abstract for us to sit down and learn inside four walls. The practical community exchanges have been very good.” - Cesar
In both countries, communities have received intensive technical training (agronomy, veterinary, community organizing, food production, and transformation) and are now empowered to manage the kitchen gardens, livestock and poultry projects themselves with minimal technical assistance.
“Women´s participation is very important. During the visit I saw that the women work together to develop their communities: through supporting each other they have developed new skills. My participation in this event has made me stronger as a woman leader.” - Estela
The Bolivia Paraguay-Gran Chaco program encompasses 14 communities, 310 households