AVSF has had a long-standing relationship with Bolivia, as Bolivia is one of the first countries where AVSF began working. AVSF has been working in Bolivia since 1980 in support of smallholder and indigenous organizations from the Altiplano region, the inter-Andean valles, and the lowlands. AVSF’s work in these regions has been focused on sustainably managing natural resources and promoting these organizations’ products on better-remunerated markets.
An Indian country in the Andes striving for sovereignty
For decades, Bolivia, like the other Andean countries, exported raw materials (gas and minerals) and imported strategic foods (wheat, rice, and vegetable seeds) in order to ensure the country’s food security. Since Evo Morales came to power in 2006, government reforms based on dignity, sovereignty, and productivity have led the government to nationalize natural resources, further the decentralization of public land management toward local systems of autonomous land management, and increase public investment in smallholder production. The government has supported smallholder farming by creating new lines of credit, a research and innovation institute, and other services intended to address the challenge of assuring food for the Bolivian people. These innovative reforms make smallholder farming the central focus of the country’s food sovereignty objective without neglecting the agro-industry sector, which produces between 50% and 70% of the country’s food.
Promoting the products of smallholders
AVSF began working in Bolivia in 1980 by assisting in the establishment and management of a national natural park in the Amazonian region: the Pilón Lajas Biosphere Reserve. The park's hybrid approach, which involved protecting the ecosystem (in this case the forest) and developing sustainable farming activities for smallholder families, was then replicated in other regions of the country. Over the past decade, AVSF has developed officially recognized pilot methods for the joint management of resources on the lands belonging to smallholder and indigenous communities in the Altiplano region and in the lowlands of Bolivia. For four years now, AVSF has also been supporting the Landless Workers’ Movement in Bolivia in the development and sustainable use of newly acquired, state-recognized land. After many years of working with small-scale coffee producers in the Yungas region of Bolivia, AVSF also strengthened its financial and technical support to several smallholder organizations to help promote their products and integrate them into markets in better-remunerated sectors such as fair trade or high-quality sectors (coffee, quinoa, and alpaca wool).
The "Fonds d´Appui aux Initiatives Locales" mechanism is one of the innovative approaches that has helped make AVSF’s work sustainable and meaningful for its Bolivian partners. It is a fund that is given to communities for them to manage however they see fit. This gets the local authorities involved and allows for the funding of initiatives focused on production that are proposed and carried out by smallholder organizations. These mechanisms, tested and proven to be effective, ensure the sustainability of the activities once the project has come to an end through the active participation of local authorities and other public and private actors working in support of development.