Project: Bolivia

“How are you?”

Country Overview

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.

Bolivia ranks 117 in the Human Development Index (HDI) with 42.25 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's Work in 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 programs in the country, the very first being the provision of rabbits, through IEMB, to a community in the Bolivian highlands.

By the end of the 1980s, more than 90 communities worked with Heifer, many of which later formed agricultural producer associations in their communities.

In the 1990s, gender equity, diversified production and caring for the environment were added as thematic axes in project planning and implementation and the process of organizational strengthening based on values-based strategic planning was initiated.

In 2000, food sovereignty was adopted as the primary axis of Heifer’s intervention. In 2007 the organization embarked on a new phase of its intervention as it became aware of new local actors who could participate in the implementation of its activities, establishing strategic alliances with counterparts to work toward food sovereignty.

Key Services Heifer Provides:

Sustainable agricultural production: Developing food systems for small farmers and indigenous families; agroforestry; developing self-supply livestock systems

Post-harvest management and processing: Developing family and community production systems; Transforming surplus produce

Market development: Market entry training

Technology: Sharing technical innovations in food production at schools to help achieve lower meal prices for students

Nutrition: Diversity food supply sources; encourage adoption of food security and sovereignty policies by municipal governments

Projects & Families

Seagoing Cowboys Fly to Bolivia!


In 1969 Ralph Barnes, from Chatham, IL, a farmer and coordinator for Heifer International, called Austin Hulcher to see if he would take a load of cattle/heifers, to Miami, FL. Since the 1,400-mile trip would be non-stop, Austin called his good friend, Bud King, to help drive the truck. This trip meant loading up the heifers into a double decker trailer. The 47 heifers were chosen from prize winners at county fairs and the Illinois State Fair. Each of the heifers weighed between 600-800 pounds and were among prize winning stock. The cowboys were told the heifers would help to upgrade the stock in Bolivia, South America, where the cattle were pretty scrawny... Click the title of this story to read more!

Projects & Families
Projects & Families

Chickens for Change in Bolivia


In Bolivia, Herman Almendras-Jaldin and daughter Yoselin enjoy eggs from the five chickens they received from Heifer International.

Projects & Families

Bolivian Hand-Spun Wool


Mrs. Evangelina Claros of Bolivia holds some of the wool she has dyed and spun.

Projects & Families

Llamas and Alpacas


Llamas and their cousin the alpaca have been invaluable for the people of South America since the Incas domesticated them around 4,000 B.C.