Climate change, inequality and resilience in Bolivia

Publication date: 3 December 2020
Author: James Painter

In 2009, a group of Oxfam experts traveled across Bolivia, gathering information about the country's vulnerability to climate change and interviewing experts, government officials and NGOs, particularly the most vulnerable men and women, largely members of indigenous communities, about their experiences with climate change and their efforts to adapt to it.

The resulting report highlighted five main effects that Bolivia could expect as a result of climate change: less food security; less water availability due to the retreat or disappearance of glaciers; more frequent and larger-scale “natural” disasters; an increase in mosquito-borne diseases; and more forest fires.

About 10 years later, a similar team of experts traveled to different regions of Bolivia, in part to explore some aspects that could not be covered in the previous visit and to observe the changes. They visited the small community of Khapi in the municipality of Palca, at the foot of Illimani in the department of La Paz, where the villagers felt the effect of the scarcity of water, in part due to the disappearance of glaciers.

The team also spent time examining the results of the devastating forest fires, the worst in Bolivian history, that affected the Chiquitanía regions in the east of the country during the second half of 2019. In this situation, climate change multiplied the threat, creating the appropriate climate conditions (less water availability and higher temperatures) for fires and other significant effects to consider in relation to poverty and inequality in the country.