Research in Bolivia's Highlands

The majority of small ruminants are in agropastoral semi-arid and arid zones where there is high climatic variability, such as periodic droughts and frosts. The ability to sustain a production system in these conditions depends upon the integrated management of range and crop lands, and the social strategies device by the people in these fragile environments. Livestock, especially small ruminants, play a major role in the survival of households during droughts. These animals, more than any other type of livestock, impact the welfare of women, children and the elderly, who are segments of the population at greater risk during droughts and famine. The ability of agriculture to sustain human life and the environment depends on the way producers respond to climatic risk. Any proposed alternative to improve livestock production in these regions must be climate centered, and in the case of the Bolivian highlands, must deal with droughts and frosts. The Bolivian Altiplano was chosen as the site of the SR-CRSP's research component on "Sustainable Agropastoral Systems in Marginal Lands".

Some of the general objectives of this component are the following:

A fairly "new" component of the SR-CRSP, Sustainable Agropastoral Systems on Marginal Lands is operating in Bolivia since 1992, concentrating its research on range ecology, range and animal nutrition, sociology and economics. The general goal of this component is to develop strategies for sheep and camelid production so that crop-livestock systems are sustainable for the people and the environment during periods of drought and frost. This component is innovative in that it centers research on the development of strategies for sustainable production in drought and frost prone environments, and looks at the role of sheep and south american camelids in the survival of families in the highlands. A new initiatives fund has allowed faculty in the Department of Agricultural Economics to study the role of gender and livestock in the expansion of dairy production and the impact on the traditional agropastoral systems in the Bolivian highlands.

A systems approach is used to fulfill the goals of the agropastoral component. Sociology's activities consist in the short and medium run to provide baseline information on social control, access and resource constraints. A gender sensitive approach to collect survey data and interviews is used in order to identify bio-social roles in the system. Differences in gender and age are believed to play a role in control and access to resources and income. Current and past notions and practices of conservation and survival strategies are being identified, as well as the effect of a changing environment on tenure. A historical approach is used to study past changes in the environment and its effect on the people and their production systems. The basis for an assessment of the strenghthening of agricultural research institutions through the SR-CRSP is another undertaking of our project.

Through the SR-CRSP New Initiatives Fund, faculty from the Department of Agricultural Economics are looking at the introduction of dairy production in a peasant community and its impact on women and the traditional agropastoral system.

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