LA PAZ—Eugenia Fidenzia Colque, 42, has seen many floods before, but says the ones that destroyed her farm last February were the worst she can remember. “It took days for the waters to recede and then when they finally did, all of my crops were gone.”
Worse still, out of a flock of 45 chickens that formed the backbone of her family’s livelihood, only seven survived. Their fate seemed sealed as well, as Eugenia and her eight children struggled to find food to survive on.
She had just made the painful decision to slaughter one when emergency food assistance from WFP arrived in her village. “We were having such hard time,” she says. “We had nothing to eat or sell except for my chickens, and I prayed that I wouldn’t have to do that.”
No home, no food
Eugenia and her family belong to the Tsimán-Mosetene ethnic group, who live in the village of Carmen Florida in eastern Bolivia. The village lies on the banks of a tributary to the Rio Beni—one of the largest rivers in Bolivia—which surged over its banks in February following heavy rains driven by the La Niña weather phenomenon.
The floods came without warning, submerging Carmen Florida under waves six metres high, and killing at least one of Eugenia’s neighbours—a single mother of nine.
While Eugenia and her family were luckier, the loss of their rice, maize, cassava and plantain crops was a heavy blow. Eugenia guesses it will be five months or so before she can start planting again, which means her family will have no source of income for the better part of a year.
“Before the floods, we used to eat three times a day. Now, we’re lucky to eat at all,” she said. “Thanks to the food we’re receiving from WFP, we’ll be able to raise more chickens, which we can sell at the market to get back on our feet.”
Carmen Florida isn’t the only village hit by the floods. Local officials say that at the height of the floods, some 50 communities were underwater and that over 10,000 hectares of cropland have been damaged.
In total, more than 45,000 people were affected by the floods, most of them small farmers like Eugenia who survive on what they grow. According to experts, they now face a “double shock” of losing their home and livelihoods and high food prices, which have risen dramatically across Bolivia over the past eight months.
Thanks to funding from the Government of Japan, WFP is now assisting some 35,000 people like Eugenia, so that they won’t have to use up their few remaining resources in order to survive.
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