Oxfam report by Rob Fuller and Jonathan Lain for Reliefweb:
Resilience in Bolivia: Impact evaluation of supporting communities to adapt to changing weather patterns and improve their livelihoods
This evaluation is presented as part of the Effectiveness Review Series 2015/16, selected for review under the resilience thematic area. This report documents the findings of a quasi-experimental evaluation carried out in April 2015 of the ‘Supporting communities in Bolivia to adapt to changing weather patterns and improve their livelihoods’ project. It sought to assess the success the project had in enabling households that directly participated in the camellones to strengthen their livelihoods, to minimise risk from shocks and to adapt to emerging trends and uncertainty.
The project was carried out by Oxfam in partnership with the Kenneth Lee Foundation in several communities of the municipality of Trinidad in the Beni Region of Bolivia between 2010 and 2013. The key activities of this project (together with its predecessor, launched in 2008) were to construct and promote the use of ‘camellones’, an indigenous land-management system intended to protect livelihoods (agriculture and fish farming) against drought or flood.
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The potential of this Effectiveness Review to draw conclusions about the impacts of the camellones project was limited by the small number of project participants that were available to be interviewed, by the fact that many of them had participated in the project activities only in earlier years, and by the fact that work on the camellones was disrupted by severe flooding in the year prior to the survey. Nevertheless, the survey results clearly show that most of those who were identified by the implementers as project participants had taken part in production at one of the camellones sites at some point. Even though a substantial proportion of the project participants were no longer working on the camellones by 2013, the number of the project households engaged in fish farming and/or crop production at that time was still significantly larger than among the comparison households.
The survey data do not provide any indication that the camellones have made a major contribution to income for the average participant household. No evidence of a significant positive change was found when considering the detailed data on household income (with the caveat that the income data refer to 2013/14, when many of the participants had already withdrawn from the project, and when the functioning of the camellones had been disrupted by the severe flood of 2014), nor the data on crop production in 2013, nor changes in indicators of household wealth (housing conditions and ownership of assets and livestock) since 2008. It should be noted that the project would have had to have made a considerable impact on participants’ livelihoods for that change to be detectable from our data. However, it should be noted that when camellones participants were asked qualitative questions about the project, most reported having generated only a small amount of income from the camellones. Only a minority (12 out of 52 camellones participants who responded to the question) reported having generated significant enough income from the project to make savings or investments. When asked about why they stopped participating in the project, only two respondents said that they had moved on to a more lucrative livelihood activity. (The qualitative questions were unfortunately not asked to the project participants who reported having been engaged only in fish farming; they do, however, include responses from those who said that they had been engaged in both fish farming and crop production with the camellones.)
Project participant households were found to have been just as affected by the flood of 2014 as were comparison households – although that there is some indication that project households in the rural communities may have been more successful in protecting their assets than were comparison households in rural communities. However, the 2014 flood was exceptionally severe and caused damage to most of the camellones sites, so we do not expect this experience to provide a comprehensive picture of how the project affected participants’ ability to deal with risk. Instead, the Effectiveness Review examined a selection of characteristics of resilience, which are thought to be indicators of people’s ability to deal with shocks, stresses and uncertainty more generally. The influence of the project could be seen in increasing the number of household members who were involved in producing income (and therefore reducing dependence on the primary earner in each household), and perhaps – though less clearly – on promoting knowledge and understanding of climate change and improving links to agricultural and piscicultural technical advisers from the municipality. No differences were found between the project and comparison households in most of the other characteristics of resilience, so there was no significant difference between the two groups in the overall index of resilience.
One section of the questionnaire was addressed specifically to the senior female member of each household. A clear effect from the project could be seen in promoting women’s engagement in livelihoods work: women in the project households were found to be responsible for generating a considerably larger proportion of the household’s income than were women in comparison households. However, little difference was found between women in project and comparison households in indicators of women’s confidence or in their influence on decisions within the household or community. There is even some tentative evidence that women in project households reported having less influence on some types of household decisions (and particularly on family planning) than those in comparison households. This may be an indication that they had higher expectations about the appropriate level of influence that they should have, and so more dissatisfaction if this level is not met.
Bolivian Thoughts opinion: Studies like this can become great tools for sustainable development … the 2014 flood and many participants leaving the project activities, was a setback, however, this tool can serve greatly to plan sustainably.
The negative side is the little or ineffective role of both central and regional governments … despite having such tool at hand, continue to have their own narrow-minded conception of development.