It seems that good opportunities for improving
rural livelihoods in Bolivia through livestock policy are
to be found in the camelid sector. Markets for camelid meat,
fiber, and leather are currently small but hold significant
potential to benefit poor herders in the Andean highlands.
Given that Bolivia suffers from very weak state capacity and
has followed a neoliberal economic model since 1985-two factors
that limit the state's ability to intervene strategically
in the economy-the range of feasible public policies that
could be implemented to foster pro-poor development is limited.
The clearest role for the state lies in the realm of animal
health and sanitation, in particular, the establishment and
maintenance of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)-free zones, prevention
programs to control the incidence of sarcocistiosis, a camelid
parasite, and support for municipal governments in improving
sanitary conditions in slaughterhouses. The National Service
for Agricultural and Livestock Sanitation (SENASAG) is a relatively
new government agency, created in 2000 to handle such animal
disease issues. To date, however, it has focused most of its
resources on establishing an FMD-free zone for cattle production
in the eastern lowlands.
If the rural poor are to benefit from growth in the livestock
sector, three serious problems must be overcome:
The absence of a professionalized, meritocratic bureaucracy
within most public sector organizations and agencies.
The Bolivian state is pervaded by a logic of political patronage
that undermines technical capacity and creates great instability.
This is a seminal problem that will hinder any attempts to
design and implement effective public policies in the livestock,
or any other, sector. Further, the large number of agencies
that handle various aspects of livestock policy and general
instability in the public sector creates confusion and hinders
effective relations with the private sector, including small
The 1994 decentralization reforms inadvertently
created obstacles to the participation of small producers
in local governments and coordination problems that jeopardize
First, small producers have been left without clear channels
for participating in municipal investment decisions. Second,
there is a serious lack of coordination between neighboring
municipalities, and between the different levels of government
(central, departmental, and municipal). These shortcomings
damage prospects for successful pro-poor development of the
Small producers' associations are relatively young,
weak, and inexperienced at political lobbying.
The third issue above-the weakness of small producers' associations-is
one aspect of a larger problem surrounding the politics of
pro-poor development in the livestock sector: whereas large
cattle ranchers in the eastern lowlands are well organized
and wield great political influence both locally and nationally,
there are essentially no domestic organizations that have
at present both the interest in and the ability to push for
pro-poor livestock policies at either the national or municipal
levels. Peasant unions are older and better organized than
the small producers' associations, but they are focused on
the issue of access to land and are vociferously opposed to
neoliberalism and globalization. The traditional political
parties have proven incapable of effectively responding to
the needs of the poor, indigenous majority.
Finally, the two new indigenous parties do not presently
have the capacity to formulate coherent rural policies, nor
is the livestock sector among their priorities, given Bolivia's
turbulent political climate and the magnitude and breadth
of indigenous grievances. As such, donors and influential
organizations within the international community may have
to assume the bulk of the responsibility for promoting policies
that favor small producers, at least in the near future.
Given these considerations, the following key strategic entry
points for the advancement of pro-poor livestock policies
and the improvement of opportunities for small producers to
benefit from expansion in the livestock sector emerge:
Strengthening small producers' associations
If small producers' associations can be consolidated and obtain
legal recognition, and if their leaders can acquire the requisite
skills, these associations could become significant actors
at the municipal or even the national level, capable of significantly
advancing their own interests. The international community
could further this goal by helping to provide training and
technical assistance for small producers' associations.
Strengthening Municipal Governments
This course of action has two components: institutional reforms
at the national level to improve the legal framework that
governs decentralization, and training and technical assistance
for municipalities to help them elaborate viable development
plans. In addition, clear norms need to be established that
facilitate and standardize channels of participation for small
producers in the municipalities. Pressure from the international
community, combined with efforts by domestic actors (such
as the Federation of Municipal Associations of Bolivia) could
help advance this agenda.
The international community must continue to pressure administrations
to initiate and respect institutional reforms designed to
enhance state capacity and eliminate patronage politics in
favor of a stable, merit-based bureaucracy. The international
community's efforts to date, at least in so far as they have
affected SENASAG and other state agencies involved with the
livestock sector, have not achieved an impressive track record.
However, there is potential for modest success if these pressures
are sustained. Further, the international community needs
to be more attuned to domestic political considerations when
devising its pressure strategies.
Redirecting the attention of SENASAG
SENASAG must be persuaded to pay greater attention to the
needs of camelid herders in the Andean highlands instead of
devoting all of its energies to cattle production in the lowlands,
which benefits primarily large, wealthy ranchers. Further,
the capacity of this organization to maintain and monitor
FMD-free zones must be enhanced. Again, the impetus for shifting
SENASAG's attention to the highlands will probably have to
come from international actors for now, given the weaknesses
of small producers' associations. On the positive side, as
long as SENASAG continues its work in the lowlands, influential
large cattle ranchers have little to lose if the agency initiates
concerted actions in the highlands as well. A partial shift
of focus is therefore unlikely to arouse any political opposition.
Various scholars in political science have postulated that
institutional change tends to take place during times of crisis.
As such, Bolivia's current political turmoil might potentially
facilitate strategic interventions related to the dimensions
discussed above. This hypothesis is clearly quite tentative
given the newness of the Mesa administration and the unstable
political climate prevailing in Bolivia in late 2003. Nonetheless,
this idea suggests that Bolivia's turbulent political climate
should not automatically be viewed as a hindrance to action
on the strategic entry points identified in this report.