Food Sovereignty

Lead Organization:

World Neighbors, Inc.

Community of Practice:





Malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are serious problems affecting Bolivia. Over the last four years, World Neighbors (WN) implemented an action-learning nutrition program in the Northern Potosi region. This project adapts and refines this approach to family nutrition in a new region of Bolivia. The nutritional status of approximately 130 children under five years of age will be monitored and improved via project activities. WN will complement this with community strengthening to mobilize human and other resources in support of nutrition and food security. It will also support agroecological production activities that communities deem necessary.  This will support WN in carrying out applied research to define, test, and improve strategies that are effective in promoting positive family nutrition under smallholder agricultural contexts. Insights from the previous project represented a major contribution to the nutrition improvement thinking and underscore the importance of combining technical and social interventions. This project will test the validity of these hypotheses and also systematically ascertain the conditions under which crop and animal-based food production and access can contribute most to nutritional enhancement. It will provide critical insights on how to achieve contextualized scaling through the adaptation of principles, models, and frameworks to different contexts enabling more sustainable impact.

Outputs and Outcomes:

A baseline survey including anthropomorphic measurements and 24 hour recalls was conducted with 100% of the families who have children under the age of 5 in the area of Sikímira, Bolivia (n=56 households, total pop. 196 households). Results show that 60% of the children have acute malnutrition (low weight for height), 21%* of chronic malnutrition (low height for weight). The malnutrition starts at 11 months, there are no babies with malnutrition under 1 year. Interviews with parents reveal that while there was knowledge on good nursing, feeding frequency and complementary feeding practices for the majority of parents, and roughly equal for men a women, a major gap was found in what first foods should be, with only 20% of mothers with children less than 2 years of age (n=31) knowing it should be nutritious with high amounts of vitamins and minerals and specially prepared for the infant. Moreover, while 93% of the mothers with nursing children (n=28) start nursing immediately after birth, only 57% nurse exclusively until 6 months and 32% nurse beyond 1.5 years of age. One of the reasons for the latter is the presence of communal nursery schools which almost 50% of children under 5 attend. No one has access to potable water. In a previous phase of the project in another geographic area, support of father in child feeding was found to be critical in improving nutrition outcomes. Here they found that initial father support in some aspect of child feeding, was 51%, which was better than the other area, but far from ideal. Thus, since the malnutrition starts right when the weaning does at 12 months of age, it is probably related to inadequate feeding practices (nutritious foods, father support, longer nursing) coupled with poor water quality.A very participatory and systematic Participatory Rural Diagnostic (PRD) was undertaken as a first step in working with the 6 communities of the Siki’mira county in Bolivia. The PRD revealed the history of the area, that is at once particular to this context but also speaks to some of the trends that are happening to small scale farming systems across the world. The farmers were part of a hacienda system until land reform, which began in the 1950s, was finalized in the 1990s with private lands and communal unions. There was major outmigration in the 70s and 80s, the arrival of a road in the 90s also initiated a wave of migration, but since then people don’t leave for good, they return at least once a year to plant, harvest or celebrate. Since the road was built, those who stayed moved closer to the road to make charcoal (2000 m.a.s.l). Now that there are few trees left, they are exploring new crops that are more adapted to the changing environment like fruit trees, sweet potato and groundnut, before they produced only potatoes, wheat and maize in the highlands  (up to 3000 m.a.s.l) in both landscapes there are animals (many goats, a few cows per family, chickens and pigs). Only 14% of the families have non-farm related activities. On average, they purchase more food than they sell. Most decision making is shared among the couple, except for participating in meetings, which is a male decision and what food to buy, which is a female decision. Interestingly 51% of the women think their husbands do not want them to participate in the women’s club, but 89% of the men say they are supportive of it. This is an important issue, because the project wants to explore how to leverage organizations as a more effective and efficient way to achieve change at scale and over time. While most families have less than 5 ha of land, 45% have more than 6 has. Much of this is scrubland used to pasture animals. There is hardly no use of pesticides, 93% of the families only use their own labor.  *Correction noted 13-December-2016