Bolivia: From The Orchard To The Cooking Pot

Hundreds of newly constructed gardens are producing nutritious fruit and vegetables for families and communities in the Santa Cruz area of eastern Bolivia. Managed by the families and communities themselves, the gardens were built as part of a pilot project that WFP supported with food vouchers, allowing the recipients to concentrate on their futures rather than their immediate food needs.

SAN JULIAN (eastern Bolivia) -- Demetria Sipe has lived for 19 years in the community of 2 de Agosto in the municipality of San Julian, Santa Cruz. Originally from the highlands, her family migrated to this locality during a program to populate the lowlands. Regardless she preserves the original ethnic clothing of the women from the western region of Bolivia. Demetria proudly and happily showed us her garden.

Even well after the completion of the project, the orchard continues to bear fruit. Demetria uses the produce every day in her meals. While she was constructing the home garden and participating in nutrition education workshops, Demetria received WFP vouchers, that she could exchange for food. With the vouchers, she could buy more expensive products, the most appreciated of which was quinoa.

In Demetria’s native department of Oruro, quinoa was the base of a family’s diet. That's where the grain-like crop is cultivated. When she relocated to her current home, quino, was not only scarce, but also it was more expensive. “Thanks to the vouchers I have had the opportunity to purchase quinoa, allowing me to prepare this amazing food and childhood favorite for my children. With the products that I have redeemed with the food vouchers, plus vegetables from my garden, now me and my family are eating better," assured Demetria. 

The Benefits of the Garden 
Martha Carrasco, president of the association of women in the community 2 de Agosto, underlines that even with the project now over, the women within the community continue to produce and maintain their gardens. They value them and the opportunities they offer for themselves and their families. They provide a varied supply of vegetables, additional income from the sale of surplus and household savings. 

Community Gardens: Together We Can Do More
The communal gardens are also proving to be prosperous. Women and some men organize themselves during the week, so they can dedicate a couple of hours to the gardens. Not all produce the same crops; the community has started an exchange of garden produce to give themselves more variety of vegetables.

“Together we can do more”, said Emiliana Sánchez from the community of El Carmen, where there is a communal garden. “Everyone produces something different and we help each other by exchanging vegetables that improve our children's diet. Everything that we produce here goes straight from the garden to the cooking pot,” Emiliana assured. 

The pilot food voucher project lasted for about eight months. In that time, 300 family and community gardens in 12 communities in the municipality of San Julián were constructed. Also, WFP supported the reforestation of 57 hectares on the banks of the Rio Grande and the construction of defensive barriers to protect the land from flooding. The pilot project was funded by the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) and with the support of the Food Safety and Disaster Attention Unit (SAAD) of the Autonomous Departmental Government of Santa Cruz.