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Climate change, poverty and adaptation in Bolivia

by Luna Allison | May 11, 2010

is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change for six basic

  1. It is
    one of the poorest countries in Latin America
    and suffers from one of the worst patterns of inequality. Low-income
    groups in developing countries are the most exposed to climate change
  1. It is
    the country in South America with the
    highest percentage of indigenous people, where much of the poverty and
    inequality is concentrated.
  1. It is
    one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world, with a wide variety of
    ecosystems that are vulnerable to different impacts from climate change.
  1. More
    than half of the country is Amazonian, with high levels of the
    deforestation which adds to the vulnerability to flooding.
  1. Located
    in a climatically volatile region, it is one of the countries in the world
    most affected by natural’ disasters in recent years.
  1. It is
    home to about twenty per cent of the world’s tropical glaciers, which are
    retreating more quickly than predicted by many experts.

In July 2009 a team of Oxfam researchers travelled to three
areas of Bolivia (Trinidad in Beni, the Cochabamba valleys and Khapi under Mount
Illimani, in La Paz) to take a snapshot of how poor families are experiencing
the changing climate, and how they are adapting to it. The researchers
also interviewed key government and international officials, social movements
and NGO representatives. The main findings and recommendations of this report

Main findings:

  • Poor
    women and men throughout Bolivia
    are already experiencing the consequences of climate change, but in most
    cases are ill-equipped to adapt to the present and future impacts.
  • The
    perception of many villagers and local farmers is that the climate is
    already changing in terms of the unpredictability of the rainfall, more
    extreme weather events and higher temperatures, with negative impacts for
    their livelihoods.
  • Oxfam
    has noted that in recent years the frequency and magnitude
    of damage from the extreme weather events have increased. Women are often
    the hardest hit, as they are often the ones left to tend small farms and
    families, and have fewer alternative livelihoods when crops are lost.
  • Bolivia
    can expect five main impacts as a result of climate change: less food
    security; glacial retreat affecting water availability; more frequent and
    more intense natural’ disasters; an increase in mosquito-borne diseases;
    and more forest fires.
  • Of
    these, Oxfam International is particularly concerned that poor women and
    men and indigenous peoples will be affected by the effect of unpredictable
    weather on agricultural production as this could lead to less food
    availability and/or higher food prices.

A full set of recommendations is found in the Conclusions of
this report.

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