Bolivia's indigenous women cope with climate change

Government agencies and NGOs collaborate to empower Bolivian women to take on a greater role in their communities.

With her son playing next to her, Juanita Terrazas uses natural herbicides to protect the crops in her vegetable garden. The NGO Belgian Solidagro helps finance projects in her community. [Sanne Derks/Al Jazeera] Bolivia is among the many countries around the world now dealing with the consequences of global warming, including extreme weather patterns. 

Especially vulnerable are the mostly indigenous farmer communities, which depend on regular seasonal patterns to make a living.

For the Quechua community in southwestern Bolivia, the reduction of the rainy season from five to two months and the flooding and erosion it brings result in a loss of crops and livestock.

During the extended dry season, the community is left with meagre sources of water, affecting the amount and quality of the farmers' harvest. Pest outbreaks have also increased, damaging many crops.

Tiraque is a town located 3,300 metres up the Cochabamba Valley in the country's central region. It has 147 indigenous communities, who mostly depend on agriculture.  

Here, women are responsible for providing food for the family, and their options are usually limited to working in agriculture.

Because of deep-rooted gender inequality, women are less informed, less valued by men and excluded from the decision-making process in the community, making them even more vulnerable.

In the past 10 years, NGOs and the government have focused on reducing the gender gap and teaching the community how to adapt to climate change, while empowering women to take on a greater role in society.

Lucy Lopez, single mother of two, prepares food for her children in the community of Ch'akamayu. For women, it is a challenge to prepare sufficient and healthy food, as the harvest is affected by climate change. [Sanne Derks/Al Jazeera] Arminda Cossio takes care of her four kids while her husband is growing coca in the country's Chapare region. Women are left to raise children as their husbands migrate to find work elsewhere. [Sanne Derks/Al Jazeera] Oligario Cossio shares chicha, a fermented mais drink, with his neighbour Manuel. Men usually have to travel for work. [Sanne Derks/Al Jazeera] Potatoes are harvested during the rainy season. It is a communal job; men harvest, and women sort the potatoes, such as here in the community of 25 de Octubre. People can now apply for 'agricultural insurance' to protect their harvest from unpredictable climate. [Sanne Derks/Al Jazeera] The community of Ch'akamayu works together on the construction of channels for irrigation. Water is indispensable for the farming communities, especially during the dry season. [Sanne Derks/Al Jazeera] In Juanita Terrazas' farmyard, there is one tap for her family. Water pipes were installed in her region five years ago. The oven behind her was constructed by INCCA group to help her cook. [Sanne Derks/Al Jazeera] On Fridays, Trinidad Cossío from Virvini attends the local market in Tiraque where she sells chicharron de pollo, a Bolivian chicken dish. Women often rely on their networks for help. For a small fee, neighbouring women come to help her slaughter and clean the chicken. [Sanne Derks/Al Jazeera] Primavera Besara's daughter helps her prepare lamb meat. The fleece is sold separately. The money she makes is used to invest in livestock and to buy necessities such as clothes and medicines. [Sanne Derks/Al Jazeera] Melinda takes her 'pet calf' to the living room. One way to make an additional living is buying a calf for around $15 to raise for half a year and sell for $74 during the dry season. [Sanne Derks/Al Jazeera] In Virvini, women participate in a workshop by the INCCA conservation group and Solidagro, a food security NGO, to decide on the programmes to be proposed in 2018. Nowadays, women have a greater say in the decision-making process for the community. [Sanne Derks/Al Jazeera] Trinidad Cossio proudly shows the new cow she obtained with the help of Las Bartolinas, the women-oriented farmers' group in Tiraque. A total of 200 cows were donated to Tiraque by the Fondo Indígena, a fund for indigenous communities in Latin America. [Sanne Derks/Al Jazeera] During community workshops, women learn to stand up and speak up for themselves. They learn that their opinions matter and that men have to respect their voice. [Sanne Derks/Al Jazeera] One of the main feasts in the agricultural calendar is the Martes de la Ch'alla or Tuesday of Carnaval. On this day farmers visit their fields and give some offerings to Pachamama or Mother Earth. [Sanne Derks/Al Jazeera] Froylan Fernandez dances in his backyard while his wife Emilia Garcia, adorned and smiling, prepares a meal. Martes de Ch'alla' is usually celebrated with family members. [Sanne Derks/Al Jazeera] Arminda Cossío with her youngest son and eldest daughter in Ch'akamayu. Bolivian Quechua women are in a process of adapting to the inevitable climatological changes in their community. [Sanne Derks/Al Jazeera]

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Sanne Derks