Soluciones Practicas, one of our co-funded partners with Christian Aid Ireland, work in Bolivia to eradicate poverty. They do this by developing skills, using new technology and working with the poor to influence social, economic and institutional systems that promote innovation.
In this blog, Emma Donlan (Christian Aid's Country Manager for Bolivia) explains why this approach is vital for sustainability and the future of our planet.
When most people think about Bolivia, images of snowcapped mountains and llamas usually come to mind. However, over 3/4 of the country is covered by forests - that’s about 2.5 times the size of the UK.
The Bolivian Amazon is home to over 30 different indigenous ethnic groups, most with their own language and rich culture and it is also one of the most bio diverse places on this planet. Protecting the Amazon rain forest is not only about protecting the land rights and home of the indigenous communities that live here - but it is also a global imperative for the future sustainability of our shared planet.
The Amazon is a complicated region and logistically difficult for NGOs. The communities are disperse and isolated - often the only way for us reach the projects is by boat, quadbikes or trekking hours through the forest. Many other NGOs have tried but have given up. Christian Aid has was one of the first development NGOs and we are now a reference point for work with indigenous communities in the Amazon. The impact that Christian Aid and our partners, like WDR, have had over the past 20 years has been transformational. We have secured land titles to over 347 thousand hectares of land and empowered indigenous men and women – who for generations were the forgotten people, invisible and remote in the forests - to finally have their voices heard and participate in decision making processes that affect them.
Working to achieve impact across such vast areas, means that we cannot work on small isolated projects. Our 10 local partners coordinate on joint programmes sharing their different areas of expertise, to reach more people so that we can optimize the limited resources that we have.
There`s a sense of urgency to our work. The land rights that we all fought so hard for are being increasingly eroded by the climate change, mining, logging companies and the megaprojects such a hydroelectric dams which threaten to literally sweep away the livelihoods of many small forest communities.
This is why building resilience of vulnerable communities is at the heart of what we do, developing community action plans to manage risks and mapping the areas where they are vulnerable and also the areas where they have resources - not only the material things, but also the experience, knowledge and relationships that they can draw on - before, during and after a disaster hits.
We are also drawing on natures powerful gifts, such as the sunshine. Funds from the Irish Methodists, through WDR, have supported Christian Aid to provide solar energy to transform the lives for remote forest communities. During the past year we have piloted solar panels to bring light to the homes of communities, also to charge phones and radios so that they can communicate with markets and receive news from the world beyond the forests. Solar pumps draw up clean water for those communities affected by the contamination of their rivers, and solar driers to improve the quality of their coco beans, so that they can fetch better prices on the market. With your support, we are will be providing 300 families with solar ovens over the next 3 years. Most families rely on firewood to cook - but during the long rainy seasons or when there are floods, there is often no dry fuel to cook food or boil safe drinking water.
The solar oven not only saves up to 3kg of firewood a day, but really makes life a lot easier for women like Lourdes. Each day she used to spend about 4 hours collecting fire wood and cooking over a smoky fire. Now Lourdes has more free time to get on and do other things, such as making handicrafts to sell or playing in the women’s football team!
The indigenous people refer to the Amazon forest as “Our Common Home”. They see it as a special bountiful place for this planet which offers protection, medicine, food, water, oxygen and a home for us. Faced with so many imminent threats, there is an increasing sense of urgency to Christian Aid`s work in the Amazon. The ongoing support and solidarity of the Methodist Church of Ireland has never been more important to us, not only in terms of fundraising, which enables us to reach the poorest and most remote communities - but also it enables us to innovate and to demonstrate to authorities and decision makers that there are alternative and more sustainable ways of development for our planet and the people of the forests to thrive and to live in dignity.