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GIEWS Update-detail
FAO/GIEWS Global Watch

15 March 2007

Update On Bolivia

Since November 2006, several adverse climatic events have affected all of Bolivia’s nine departments. Floods and landslides in midlands and lowlands (departments of Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, Beni, Chuquisaca Tarija and Pando) as well as drought, hail storms and frost in highlands (departments of Oruro, Chuquisaca, Potosí and La Paz) have caused losses of human lives and damage to infrastructure, housing and agriculture. By early March, although floodwaters were starting to recede in the hardest hit areas of Santa Cruz and southern Beni departments, new areas of Pando and north-western Beni departments were receiving runoffs from the highlands, with high risk of new floods. In particular, the National Meteorological Service of Bolivia forecasts more floods in Pando department due to the growing levels of rivers from Peru.

According to estimates of the National Service of Civil Defence by early March 48 people have died due to the floods and up to 385.000 people (about 77 000 families) had been affected. Water and sanitation conditions have been damaged, causing widespread outbreaks of diseases, such as malaria, dengue and tetanus, as well as respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. According to preliminary estimates from the Ministry of Planning, total damage amounts to about 114 million US dollars, equivalent to 1 per cent of Bolivian gross national product. On January 19, the Government declared a state of emergency and, on February 7, appealed for international assistance.

It is estimated that over 200 000 hectares of the 2007 main summer season food and cash crops, normally scheduled to be harvested from mid-March to May, and some thousands heads of cattle have been affected to different degrees. In the highlands, dry weather conditions and freezing temperatures in December and January damaged food crops that were planted at the end of 2006, such as maize, quinoa, rice, beans and potatoes, with losses up to 50-70 per cent of the total area planted in parts of the departments of Oruro, Potosi and La Paz. Losses of pasture land and fodder crops, such as barley, are also reported. It is estimated that more than 20 000 families of small farmers, who mostly cultivate for self-consumption, have been affected by the severe crop losses in the Highlands region. In the Lowlands and Valleys, the excess of soil moisture affected 115 000 hectares of main agricultural export soy bean crop in the growing department of Santa Cruz, equivalent to 17 percent of the area planted. However, the abundant precipitation of the season has been beneficial to soy bean crops in eastern areas of the department, where very good yields are expected (almost twice the average), which will partially compensate for heavy losses in northern parts. Serious damage to 14 000 hectares of maize, 20 000 hectares of rice, cash crops and pastures are also reported from Santa Cruz department.

The livestock sub-sector has also been seriously affected by floods, especially in the Beni department, with several thousands of heads lost and increasing animal health problems. Nationwide, it is estimated that at least 50 per cent of the animals are at risk of illness and death due to lack of pasture and excessive humidity.

The food security situation of most vulnerable rural communities is expected to deteriorate as a consequence of the shortage of food and rising food prices. These families were already in the lean period, with very limited food stocks from the previous season and beset with total crop failure. In addition, there may not be enough seeds for the next winter season crops (mainly cereals and potatoes), to be planted from May in the lowlands and from September in the highlands.

A UN Flash Appeal has recently been issued and FAO is requesting some 5 million US dollars to provide emergency assistance to restore the production capacity of small farmers by providing basic farm inputs, as well as feed and veterinarian products.

An FAO Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission is planned in order to make an assessment of agricultural damage and emergency assistance needs, so that timely remedial actions can be taken by the government and the international community.