Adapting to climate change in Bolivia: reviving an ancient farming system

The camellones (or ‘camel humps’) system was last used 3,000 years ago. But communities in this jungle region of Bolivia are now reviving the system – with impressive results.

The camellones are raised platforms of land, surrounded by water. The relationship between the land and the water rapidly increases the fertility of the soil – in stark contrast to the traditional local system, which involves farming a small area intensively for 3-5 years until the land is infertile, then slashing and burning the area before searching for new land elsewhere.

Because the land is raised, the crops and seeds are protected during floods – an big benefit in an area which was hit by serious flooding in 2007 and 2008. In 2008, families from both communities we visited (in Loma Suarez and Copacabana) were forced from their homes – some living in a school, others in a ‘protection zone’ organized by the local government.