Bolivia Phenomenon La Niña Flash Appeal 2008

Bolivia Phenomenon La Niña Flash Appeal 2008


La Niña is a coupled ocean-atmosphere phenomenon during which the sea surface temperature is 0.5 degrees lower than normal, affecting global climatic patterns. La Niña conditions tend to recur every few years. Since November 2007, La Niña conditions have exacerbated the rainy season in Venezuala, Colombia, northern Peru, southern Chile and northern and southern zones of Bolivia. Extreme rainfall in Bolivia has resulted in floods, mudslides and landslides which have led to loss of life, injuries and population displacement, as well as causing damage to housing, infrastructure and agricultural production.

By mid-February 2008, heavy rainfall across the country and extreme flows of water from upstream areas towards lower regions have raised river levels in several departments (including Santa Cruz, Beni and Cochabamba), leading to extensive flooding.  Landslides, mudslides and flooding have also restricted access to some areas of the country. Most of the communities affected have been hit by floods for the third consecutive year, which is deepening their vulnerability and further reducing their capacity to recover their livelihoods.

These largely rural and indigenous populations are heavily dependent on subsitence agriculture. The flat savannahs of Beni department have been flooded by waters that have largely surpassed historical levels. FAO is seeking for US$1 487 200, as part of the 2008 Bolivia La Niña Phenomenon Flash Appeal, through three project proposals.

Challenges facing food security and livelihoods

Recurrent floods have led to the loss of assets and reduced agricultural and livestock production in Bolivia. The most vulnerable groups have also lost an alternative source of income as temporary labourers given that larger farms have also experienced production losses. These factors have led to a further deterioration in the already poor nutritional status of affected households in rural areas. Although the surface area flooded is larger than the past year, it seems that the impacts on cattle and rice production will be lower.

To-date, only 30 000 cattle have been reported dead. In addition, the losses in rice production could be balanced by gains in other areas. In addition, considerable losses are anticipated in pasturelands and in rice, corn, grains, tubers and root crops. Small farmers and indigenous groups are likely to lose their ability to meet household food needs and risk becoming increasingly dependent on food aid. The losses in food crops are also likely to inflate the prices for basic food items, which will severely affect the poorest households.

FAO in Bolivia

In 2007, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been providing support to almost 5 000 livestock-owning households in the form of vaccinations against key animal diseases, distribution of vitamins and anti-parasite drugs and training small-scale livestock producers in improved production techniques. However, although over 80 000 cattle have been reached by this intervention; they represent only a small portion of those at risk.

FAO has also supported the resumption of agricultural activities for indigenous households and small farmers affected by the recurrent floods with distribution of quality seeds, fertilizers, small livestock and hand tools to vulnerable people. Through its emergency and rehabilitation programme in Bolivia, FAO aims to restore farmers’ agricultural production capacity, thus reducing their dependence on food aid and increasing their self-reliance.