Bolivia: Vouchers for Work- Not Just Food, but Dignity

Through a WFP Voucher for Work intervention, women from 18 indigenous Guaraní communities, from El Chaco of the Tarija Department, can now provide nourishment for their families as they head home with a basket filled with food. With their hard work and effort, they managed to fight the effects of drought to provide food for their communities.

Today these women redeem their vouchers for food in the city of Yacuiba—carrying with them both nutritious food and their dignity. In the city, WFP has established three shops where the vouchers can be redeemed. Moreover, going to the shops gives the women the option to choose which foods to feed their children with, rather than getting a basket of produce from WFP. 

“I come to the market and choose what I want to take home. They treat us well and are very kind,” said Maria Ruth Cerezo from Southern Pachal, which is a community (like many others) that previously never had the opportunity to buy produce at a grocery store in the city. 
“I choose foods that we eat on a daily basis, like: rice, flour, oil and noodles…but also things that I could never buy, like: milk, oatmeal and canned fish,” she says as she fills her basket with more products. “My children love the corned beef and sardines,” she says, referring to the canned meat and fish, “because we hardly eat meat, only on special occasions.”

With her hands full, Pamelita, the store’s owner, helps Guaraní women who have come to the city to redeem their vouchers. After redeeming their vouchers for food, a note of redemption reflects what each family chose and the amount of vouchers redeemed. Sometimes, two or more women gather coupons to redeem a quintal of grains or cereals, which is cheaper than buying in kilograms. When they reach their community, the product is then distributed evenly. This is also done with travel expenses, where they try to save as well. “Sometimes we expect to wait for a long time, “ says a woman in a long line that extends from the storefront and down the street, “but I like to come and buy, today we waited for hours but it is worth it because when I come home, my hands are full”, she concludes.

A Source of Dignity: 
Even if men in the household do most of the physical labour, it is the women who redeem the vouchers. This gives women control over an important resource, and as a result, a sense of importance that validates their role within the family and community.

The Chief leader of the Guaraní people, Mburuvicha* Jorge Mendoza, supports the voucher programme for women. “It is good because it gives them dignity,” mentions the leader of this indigenous community. “The Guaraní people have been stripped of everything by the hands of others or nature: we have no land, sometimes we lack water—both two fundamental things for farming. Without farming, we have no food, and with no food we have no dignity,” he states while personally overseeing the voucher programme in El Palmar. With funding and compensation for the utilisation of natural resources, some plots of land have been acquired to provide families with land to cultivate crops, to avoid them having to live off of the charity of big landowners. In many of these communal lands acquired recently, women have built gardens which are just beginning to bloom. “The vouchers may seem like a humble and simple form of aid, but they feed families while also maintaining our dignity” states Mburuvicha.

Vouchers are a modality of assistance recently implemented by WFP in Bolivia. In emergency settings are proving to be more effective, and speed up the food delivery process, especially if it is in remote areas, where logistics are difficult to co-ordinate. 

* Leader in Guaraní language.

Click here to view the photo gallery of these hardworking Guaraní women!