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The sale of gathered Brazil nuts and acai berries is the most important source of income for the families living in the Bolivian Amazon rainforest. But the wild berries alone are not enough for their survival. That is why they slash and burn forest areas to grow grain or keep animals – with the result that deforestation exacerbates the already devastating impacts of the climate crisis. Due to the climatic changes, the dry periods in the Bolivian Amazon rainforest are becoming ever longer and when it rains, it is often much more intense.
The conditions for agriculture are becoming increasingly difficult. The small farmers have to sacrifice more and more new forest areas in order to achieve the same crop yields. It is a vicious circle of climate change, poverty and lack of know-how, fatal for people, animals and the forest.
Conversion to agroforestry
With its local partner CIPCA, Caritas focuses on agroforestry. In agroforestry, trees are combined with arable crops or vegetables. For example, maize is grown between rows of trees. The advantage of the agroforest system is that longer periods of drought are less damaging because the protection of the trees improves the micro-climate on the fields and less water evaporates. Moreover, the trees provide good protection against erosion.
Working with the communities, we prepare forest management plans which set out milestones of a sustainable forest use. Afterwards, the farmers are made aware of the effects of climate change and receive practical instruction in agroforestry. They learn about the proper care of the trees and how to raise suitable mixed crops. Annual or shorter-period plants are combined with perennials. In this way, the farming family has a yield every year. Diversification also helps to prevent diseases and generates income in different markets. The farmers are given the first seedlings by Caritas, which also supports them with practical advice after planting and is there to help if any problems arise.
Processing products locally
Caritas supports the small farmers in processing their harvests locally. The added value thus stays in the community and people have a higher income. Moreover, Caritas contributes to better marketing, for example through transregional networking and by creating the basis for the certification of the products.
Risk management for the forest
Together with the local government and the communities, Caritas analyses the risks for the forest and agriculture. It is recorded how these can be minimised and what is to be done in case of an emergency. Caritas also trains members of the community as firefighters.
The population sees the advantage of afforestation with fruit trees and the benefit for the entire forest – and for its livelihood. They can improve and sustainably consolidate their modest incomes. Thanks to the newly acquired knowledge and the new opportunities, the small farmers are once again confident that their children, too, will be able to make a living from the Amazon rainforest. And leave poverty behind.
01.02.2022 – 31.01.2025
1'801'136 Swiss francs
Department Pando: Municipalities of San Lorenzo, Filadelfia, Porvenir, Gonzalo Moreno, Santa Rosa, Sena, Puerto Rico, Maruripi Wildlife Reserve. Department Beni: Riberalta
4504 people, indigenous population, small farmers; 50 members local governments, university
People and their living conditions are at the centre of our climate projects. Our projects help the poorest people to cope with the consequences of climate change and the resulting weather extremes such as droughts and cyclones. We help smallholder families to achieve a high-yield harvest and develop new income sources despite the greatly changed conditions. Together with the population, we protect, preserve and rehabilitate natural resources such as lakes, forests and soils. In addition, we promote the sustainable and efficient use of energy, which enables families and entire communities to escape poverty.