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Drought Hastens Rural Emigration

Posted: Nate on Jul 04 | Environment

As extreme drought conditions stress agriculture in many areas of Bolivia, rural farming families are having to choose between the prospect of starvation or relocation to urban areas.  According to Simón Pisaya Mamani, a farmer from Ingavi province in the state of La Paz, “[They] say the drought this year will be stronger than before, which worries us because already we don´t have food.  It´s a shame, my sons told me that if we´re going to continue in the same situation they´re going to emigrate to the city.”  Rufino Mamani, a farmer in nearby Tacaca, recalled that last year as a consequence of drought, two of his sons moved to Cochabamba in search of work.

The mayor of Jesús de Machaca, Moisés Quiso (MAS) said, “We´ve sent information to the municipal experts to calculate exactly what percentage of animals and planted fields are in danger.  The dry season has only just begun and we´re worried that all the production will be for nothing.”  In the municipality of Laja, in the Los Andes province, farmers´ wells have run dry and the only reliable water source is the Pallina River which is contaminated by run-off from El Alto.

Many farmers report that their meager potato harvests will only be good enough for making chuño, freeze-dried potatoes.  Unfortunately the winter frosts haven´t been very consistent and without the nightly frosts needed to make chuño, farmers fear the potatoes will only be good for feeding pigs.  Other parts of Bolivia are also hurting in the dry season, including areas in Santa Cruz and Potosí.  The drought is hitting other economic sectors in addition to agriculture.  The Laguna Colorada, a major tourist draw near the Salar de Uyuni, has dropped several centimeters this season and lost much of its characteristic red color.

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