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Heifer's Work in Bolivia

Country Overview

Zapata Rancho community, Tiraque department.

Bolivia is a multi-ethnic country with numerous indigenous populations, including the Quechua, Aymará and Guaraní. The most commonly spoken languages are Spanish, Quechua, Aymará and Guaraní with approximately 30 other native tongues spoken throughout the country.

Bolivia, named after independence fighter Simon Bolivar, broke away from Spanish rule in 1825; much of its subsequent history has consisted of a series of nearly 200 coups and countercoups. Democratic civilian rule was established in 1982, but leaders have faced difficult problems of deep-seated poverty, social unrest and illegal drug production. In December 2005, Bolivians elected socialist leader Evo Morales as president, hoping to empower the nation's poor. However, racial and economic tensions between the Amerindian populations of the Andean west and the non-indigenous communities of the eastern lowlands have persisted.

Industrial farming in Bolivia is advancing into the lowlands, causing environmental deterioration, damage to public health, economic dependence and loss of biodiversity.

Bolivia ranks 117 in the Human Development Index (HDI) with 42.25 percent of the population living with under $2 per day. Sixty-five percent of Bolivia’s population lives in urban areas and 36 percent in rural areas. Most of the poorer population is concentrated in rural areas and belts around the main cities.

Industrial farming is advancing into the lowlands causing environmental deterioration, damage to public health (farmers and consumers), economic dependence and loss of biodiversity.

Heifer Bolivia

Fifty years have passed since Thurl Metzger, then Executive Director of Heifer International, and Murray Dickson, a Methodist missionary in Bolivia, began Heifer’s activities in Bolivia on May 13th, 1957. During the first years of activity in the country, the work consisted mostly of providing families and communities with animals of high genetic quality to improve livestock herds and contribute to food security in order to alleviate poverty and hunger.  Together with the Bolivian Evangelical Methodist Church (IEMB) and the Peace Corps, they carried out the first actions in the country, with the first being the provision of rabbits, through IEMB, to a community in the Bolivian highlands.  With this, they launched Heifer’s work in Bolivia.

In 2000, food sovereignty was adopted as the primary axis of Heifer’s intervention.  In 2007, we embarked on a new stage as we became aware of new local actors who could participate in the implementation of its activities and decided to establish strategic alliances with counterparts to work towards food sovereignty.