Bolivia NCAP project: Vallegrande findings

Submitted by Sukaina Bharwani 25th March 2011 19:17

Geography

       Map showing Vallegrande

Map showing Vallegrande area

The physiology of the study area comprises different altitudinal ecological zones: the head of valleys or high dry valleys located between 2,200 and 3,300m above sea level; the low dry valleys between 1,500 and 2,200m above sea level; the flat plains between 1,100 and 1,500m above sea level; and the sub-tropical humid zones between 460 and 1,100m above sea level. The physiographic characteristics of the region correspond to varied landscapes that expand without any sequential geographic order forming alluvial plains, terraces, hillsides, highlands, slopes, hills and mountains with different geological fragility. In hydrographic terms, the study area is part of the Amazonian Basin and the Grande River Sub-basin that is a tributary of the Mamore River (SNHN, 1998).

Production systems in the Vallegrande region are influenced by high climatic variability and threatened by several climatic hazards. Successful crop production in the study area is mainly determined by water availability. The scarcity of water resources increases the vulnerability of crops to climatic hazards such as frost, hail, drought and flooding. The lack of preventive measures implemented to reduce the impacts caused by climatic events results in a decrease in the productivity negatively affecting the local population. Details of the climatic hazards experienced can be found here.

Production

In general terms, the main crops cultivated in the Vallegrande region are corn, potatoes, oats, wheat, barley, peanuts and vegetables. Fruit such as peaches, prunes and apples are also produced in this area. On the flat plains, sugar cane is a very important crop due to its profitability. According to data provided by the local authorities, 95% of families cultivate corn, followed by potatoes (85%), vegetables (42%) and sugar cane (90% in the zone 3).

Over past decades the agricultural production systems in Vallegrande region have been affected by climatic and social changes. On the one hand, more intense and frequent climatic hazards have impacted production directly (e.g. droughts that restrict water availability for plant development) and indirectly (e.g. contribution to the emergence of plagues and pathogen agents). On the other hand, farmers have expanded and intensified production systems without considering the sustainability of ecosystem services and land use suitability. The combination of these factors increases the vulnerability of production systems in the area and puts the food security and socio-economic systems of local communities at risk.

Perceptions of Change

Local farmers indicate that climatic variability and extremes are the main hazards affecting their production. They recognize that climate has become more unpredictable and that some indicators used locally to estimate climatic variations are not reliable any more. Plagues and plant diseases are identified as the second most important hazard affecting local production. Farmers state that although control measures are implemented, new plagues and diseases have appeared in the area.

Moreover, the local population acknowledges that unsustainable production practices and over-exploitation of natural resources are disturbing the local ecosystems and climate. They believe that water, forests and soil resources are used indiscriminately, and agrochemicals are used on the crop fields without proper restrictions. Deforestation, forest fires, and the over-exploitation of pastures are contributing towards the changes in the climate. Local farmers have noted that drought periods have become longer, rain is less frequent and the rainy season is delayed.

According to local farmers, the consequence of all these factors is a decrease in the productivity or the loss of the entire production. This in turn impacts on the local economy, food security of the families, and the health of humans and animals. Table 6 below summarizes local perceptions of climate change and the associated effects on production systems and food security. It also lists some of the locally proposed adaptation measures.

 

Local Perceptions of ChangePossible Adaptation Measures
Climate conditions have changed and are affecting crop production.New crops with shorter growth period have to be introduced.
The climate conditions are suitable for the development of plagues in new areas which affects the crop production.Integrated measures have to be developed in cooperation with the municipal authorities. Technical assistance is necessary especially for the production of resistant vegetables.

 

Changes in climate dry the soil faster and contribute towards water scarcity. As a result, there is not enough water availability to irrigate the crops.New seeds can be introduced to improve the quality and resistance of crops.

 

Heat is more intense and drought periods are longer affecting dairy cattle.Resistant breeds need to be introduced into the area

 

The heat is also affecting pig production by increasing diseases and complicating breeding.New feeding techniques and diets are necessary, in particular for the periods of food scarcity.
The rain is ‘out of season' disturbing agricultural planning. The rainy season starts in December and sometimes even in January affecting sowing and crop production.Information networks and technological capacity to predict/estimate climate conditions are necessary in the area.
Sudden temperature changes are affecting the crops, in particular more frequent frosts. Frosts are not predictable anymore.New varieties of crops that are resistant to climatic variations are needed.

Information networks to alert farmers are needed.

Hail is more frequent in the area affecting the crops.Varieties with shorter growth period have to be introduced.
Winds have become stronger and more frequent.Farmers need to be trained in climate change related risk prevention.
Increase in water scarcity is affecting the production and causing migration to the cities.Projects to improve the local production systems are necessary.

 

Water Resources

Given its physiographic characteristics, the study area is an important source of water resources. Available water resources are used by the local population for domestic purposes, cattle breeding and crop irrigation. The main sources of water are reservoirs in high areas, the rivers that cross several communities and water springs located near the hills. Among the most important rivers in the region are the Saipina River and the Chilon River. The main water sources for human consumption are water springs (60%), followed by streams (18%), rivers (9%), water reservoirs (7%), wells (3%), and others (1%). Water is brought from the water springs to the communities using a cement storage tank and underground pipelines that distribute water to the different households. Currently, all the communities covered by the study use this system, except for the community of La Tranca that has an open system.

Over the past two decades, some areas have flooded during the rainy season making access to the crop fields difficult, while during the winter season, river flows have reduced considerably drying over a period of two months. These events are relatively new in the area and have caused negative impacts on local livelihoods, especially in terms of food security. According to local stakeholders, some families that were not able to adapt have decided to migrate. Local communities feel vulnerable to water scarcity and urgently demand the introduction of measures to reduce associated impacts. They recognize the importance of strengthening the capacity to manage water resources and of improving local awareness of the sustainable use and protection of water sources. Local authorities have demonstrated interest in implementing measures to protect water resources by facilitating reforestation and the development of irrigation systems to ensure food security in the region.

Health

An increase in available habitats will contribute towards their reproduction and the abundance of adult individuals. As a result, the possibility of Malaria, Dengue and Yellow Fever cases may increase, as well as the emergence of new infectious diseases. Another important biomedical species that could favor climatic extremes is the Triatomine bug. The Triatomines are vectors of the Chagas disease. Around 60% of the Bolivian territory is endemic of Triatomines. The endemic areas are generally located in geographic zones between 300 and 3500 m above sea level. Approximately 3.7 million of the inhabitants in the country are at risk of infection and about 1.8 million are already considered infected. A change in the climate could cause a broader distribution of the vector and cause an increase in the risk of infection at the local and national levels.

According to the local population, the incidence of Malaria in the evaluated localities has decreased significantly over the past 5 to 6 years. Among the main reasons for this reduction are the fumigation programs in the area and local campaigns to prevent Malaria disease such as posters, messages on the radio and TV, and workshops. The establishment of local health centers, the reduction of medical treatment costs and easier access to information on vector transmissible diseases have also contributed to the control of Malaria incidence.

The study suggests that although it was possible to identify Triatomines and to a lesser extent Anophelines in the area, it is necessary to establish a long-term monitoring program to determine population variations of Malaria and Chagas vectors due to climatic variability and change.

Adaptation Strategies

The NCAP project suggested the following adaptation strategies for the Vallegrande region and focus mainly on natural resources conservation (in particular water resources) as the central theme to creating adaptive capacity in the region.

 

Adaptation Strategies for the Vallegrande Region

Training and Awareness Raising Local population is trained about the current and potential impacts caused by climate change on human health, water resources and production systems, as well as about the appropriate ways to react to, and prevent these impacts.

Land Use Planning Mechanisms to support Municipal Land Use Plans and risk maps are developed and implemented.

Pesticides Management Synergies with the Persistent Organic Compounds Program and other organizations working with pesticides in the area are achieved. Experiences and information on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) are shared and IPM practices are incorporated into the Municipal Development Plans.

Endemic Diseases The national program on Malaria and Chagas supports the development of adaptive capacity in the region reducing human health vulnerability to these diseases. Moreover, other mechanisms to improve water quality and solid waste management are developed.

Environmental Education The local population is educated on climate change and the associated impacts on human health.

Forest Resources Protection The forests in the region are conserved and ecosystem services used sustainably. By conserving the forests, water springs are protected, floods are prevented, food security and human health are improved and biodiversity is conserved.

Capacity Strengthening Municipalities are provided with better meteorological equipment, laboratory material, and geographical information systems and improved technical capacity.

Research and Management Research institutes are involved in the development of adaptive capacity in the Vallegrande region.

 

 

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