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8157 - Decentralization and development projects in Bolivia: changes in peasant livelihood strategies 1996 - 2011

Bolivia ’s experience with development projects goes back to 1953, when an extensive land reform took place. But it was only during the severe drought of 1982/83 that the number of development projects and institutions (mainly NGOs) started to grow explosively. In 1994 the Bolivian government introduced the Law on Popular Participation which decentralised competences from higher authorities to local municipalities. Under this law, the rural municipalities for the first time have at their disposal own incomes that they use to implement projects. Under the Morales government, which came to power in 2006, the position of municipalities was strengthened and their budgets increased manifold. The main research question of this paper is how these projects impact peasant livelihood strategies. The research was originally carried out in 1996 in 17 villages in the rural areas of the departments of Chuquisaca and Potosi . It was repeated in fifteen years later in 2011 in 14 of these villages. The results show very different responses to the changes. In villages with a high agricultural potential irrigation systems were constructed. Production and incomes increased and livelihoods improved significantly. In low potential villages livelihoods are stagnant or deteriorating, with high out-migration, a weakening of community organization and sometimes even a complete disintegration of the village. It remains a big challenge to shape the process of people’s participation and development projects in the rural areas in such a way that livelihood strategies in different types of villages, including the remote and low potential villages, are strengthened.

Keywords: rural livelihoods, local development, local governance

Author: de Morree, Dicky (Cordaid, Netherlands / Niederlande)

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