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Food Voucher: A Promising Modality in Bolivia

Seedings, defences, gardens and nutrition training have shown the close relationship between disaster risk reduction and food security for more than 600 settler families in 11 communities in the municipality of San Juli├ín in Santa Cruz. These communities, highland and valley cultural enclaves in the middle of the eastern plain, are participating in the modality “Food Vouchers.”

This programme is implemented by WFP for the first time as a pilot programme in Bolivia. Families receive coupons to be exchanged for food as an incentive for the production of gardens, constructing defences, and participation in nutrition training.

Women, the leaders of the modality in Bolivia

The participation of women was mostly in the gardens, in the production of seedings and in the nutrition training. The men put all of their force into the construction of defences along the Rio Grande. Nevertheless, in the distribution of coupons, special emphasis was placed on women receiving and redeeming them. “We know the best way to ensure our family is well fed,” says Martha Carrasco, community leader of 2 de Agosto. Apart from this, for the project, putting resources like the coupons in the hands of women is a way of empowerment within the home and improving their status within the community. Coincidentally, Martha affirms that “the coupons dignify the work of women.” At the end of the day, the effort and work of women is recognized through the coupons, adding value to what usually would be considered an extension of reproductive tasks, often devoid of remuneration and value.

The women are proud of the production techniques and knowledge acquired, especially those that allow them to develop their gardens. These gardens provide them with a secure supply of vegetables for home, but also provide revenues from the sale of the surplus. While improving their homes, women are generating the income and savings necessary for meeting the health and other needs of their children, apart from food. They are also happy with the seedings they are producing, for these plants allow them to protect their crops from the overflow of the Rio Grande that year after year threatens to engulf their land.

An opportunity to diversify food

In contrast to the modality, “Food for Work,” the majority of the families mentioned that the coupons give them an opportunity to choose the food they want to eat. At the same time, these families are diversifying their food with the crops in their gardens, while also redeeming their coupons for foods like quinoa, beans and corn willkaparu, which were not available before. They are aware that the incentive of coupons cannot be sustained over a long period of time, and that they fulfilled their mission in establishing gardens and seed production. Even so, the women say they will continue to produce food in their gardens, even without the coupon incentive because of the evident benefits for themselves and their families. 

The pilot programme, “Food Vouchers” is co-financed by WFP and the Swiss Cooperative (SDC), and is developed within a larger project for recovery of households affected by natural disasters.