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Bolivia: Basilia Decides What Food Her Family Will Eat

Since she was a little girl, Basilia already knew about orchards. Her mother died when she was eight years old, meaning she had to leave school to take care of the orchards and the care and feeding of her little brothers alongside her father. Today, a WFP cash and vouchers programme, financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), teaches Basilia and other women new techniques to cultivate orchards. The result is a better nutrition for their families.

LA PAZ --Today is purchasing day for Basilia Varga Diaz, neighbour of the El Carmen community, in the city of San Julian in Santa Cruz. Through the cash and programme, Basilia, a small holder farmer and mother of five children has obtained 30 coupons of 20 bolivianos each, the equivalent of 600 bolivianos (roughly 85 dollars) in order to redeem them in exchange for food.

It is the result of her participation in the bettering of family orchards and her training, as a trainer, in productive techniques. Like her, other 20 women of El Carmen received coupons, even still if the work of their orchards had been done by their husbands.

Basilia remembers the last time she was able to save a certain amount of money for bigger purchases was more than six months ago. When the smallest of her children became sick, Basilia and her husband spent all of their income in order to save her, but she died last August.

hands holding a food voucherCoupons and the power of choosing
“We used to make these sort of purchases when we were able to save money, to be precise, after each harvest, every four to six months. Usually my husband would come to buy,” says Basilia, while she chooses in the stock those food items that she has written down in a list. Moved, she stacks the rice, sugar, noodles, eggs, salt, quinua and oil that she has decided to exchenge.

Basilia estimates that these food items will last for more than five months. She feels empowered because her work in the orchards was recognized through the vouchers and because she herself has arrived onto the city of San Julian- 21km south-west of El Carmen- to exchange for food.

“For me it is better to receive coupons because that way we are given the choice of choosing what we want, what we need on the table, and the quantities that are lacking,” mentions Basilia smiling. A few years ago when the rio Grande inundated, Basilia and her family received food from the WFP. That experience allowed her to compare the benefits of receiving the coupons.

“The little orchard frees us from having to purchase in the market”
Basilia and her husband are subsistence farmers without land. When it is possible, they rent one or two hectares of land for the cultivation and production of corn and beans that are destined not only for the feeding of her family but also for the selling and purchasing of other consumption goods.

Basilia and other women of her community, with the support of the WFP and the Food Security and Emergency Programme (PISAE, in Spanish) allowed for a communal terrain to work on a parcelled orchard. Each family earned a piece of land of approximately 500 square meters.

There, Basilia cultivates vegetables such as tomatoes, beets, onions, carrots, chard, bell peppers and even potatoes and that way she avoids having to purchase costly vegetables. “The little orchard frees us from having to purchase from the market. The families here eat healthier and we lower costs,” that is how Basilia weighs the usefulness of the orchard.

The new technique is the key to a productive orchard
The WFP also provided training in production technique in orchards to the families of the community, complemented by the Agricultural Service Department (SEDAG, in Spanish). “The training was important, since the communal orchard had a few years without producing anything. I like the project, it is interesting, above all learning new techniques, because even if I planted since I was a little girl, I did not know that manner the techniques, now we have a better idea of how to prepare organic fertilizer, for example,” mentions Basilia.