Face to face with climate change in Bolivia

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by Phil Evans

If you don’t believe the climate is changing, take a trip to Bolivia. I was lucky to be able to visit Christian Aid partners working in both the Bolivian Amazon and the High Andes. In both places, people have been suffering from the effects of global warming for decades. And the situation is becoming ever more acute. Children in Capaina, deep in the Amazonian rainforest, told me how last year’s floods were even worse than usual.

“Our village was submerged. Wenceslao, our Corregidor (community leader), swam through the snake-infested water to get help” they told me. “For a long time afterwards, we just didn’t want to play outside. We were still frightened,” they said.

The children also told us how Christian Aid’s local partner Soluciones Prácticas had been the first to come to their aid – assessing the situation and getting to action before any other organisation. Their crops had been devastated. So Soluciones Prácticas made sure Capaina had enough food to tide them over until they could grow new crops. They sourced quick-growing seeds from another part of the Amazon to replace the lost plants as quickly as possible while preserving the indigenous biodiversity. Wenceslao continued, “The village is being flooded more frequently as a result of global warming. These floods were the worst anyone can remember.”

I left the village thinking: “Is this really due to climate change? How can you know?” The answer came when visiting Fundación Solón in La Paz, high in the Andes. Fundación Solón is another Christian Aid partner that raises awareness of climate change, economic justice and access to water. Bolivia’s glaciers have been disappearing for decades. It’s not a recent phenomenon.

Many Bolivians in the High Andes  and in two of Bolivia’s main cities — La Paz and El Alto — depend on the partial melting of Andean glaciers for drinking water during the dry season. Bolivians are truly in the forefront of climate change. Christian Aid partners in Bolivia are helping poor communities like Capaina mitigate the effects of changes to the climate. On a more strategic level, Fundación Solón’s Director, Elizabeth Peredo, is a powerful voice on the international stage. She recently ran seminars at the Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change during the COP20 Climate Conference in Peru.

When I spoke to her, she was shocked that some people in the UK don’t believe climate change is even happening. “Tell them our story,” she told me, “we’re living with climate change every day”.

Phil Evans is the Christian Aid Regional Co-ordinator for Buckinghamshire.

Artists raising awareness of water issues through murals (Fundacion Solon)

Artists raising awareness of water issues through murals (Fundacion Solon)

glacier

Glacier Cahaltaya in teh 1940s and recently.

Lisbeth and her quick growing crops.

 

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