Frederik Pischke, Ralf Schlauderer:
Traditional Risk Prediction and Prevention Strategies in the San Pedro Catchment Area, Potosi, Bolivia


1Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), Environment and Natural Resources Service (SDRN), Sustainable Development Department, Italy
2University of Applied Sciences Weihenstephan, Department of Agriculture, Germany

Traditional farming systems depend particularly on their natural resource basis. They have developed measures to cope with natural hazards to prevent damage from their resources and agricultural production. However, especially in developing countries the globally recognised depletion of natural resources is tangible because it is having fatal consequences on the livelihood of indigenous people.

The study has been carried out in the catchment area of the San Pedro River, North Potosí, Bolivia. The objective of the study is to identify and evaluate traditional knowledge and mitigation strategies for natural hazards that occur in the area. Two villages in representative locations were selected for the data surveys. Questionnaires were developed by extensive literature review and key person interviews. They were tested in pre-surveys. In total 60 farm-households were interviewed. In addition participatory observation was used to achieve a greater understanding of the employed strategies. High pressure on the natural resources in the area stems from the interplay of natural hazards and limited access to land. The farm-households could be grouped according to their income. The main coping strategy to a disaster for the high income group is a diversification of the income sources, which is not possible for the low income group.

In both researched communities labour intensive traditional soil conservation techniques as well as other risk prevention and mitigation strategies are still carried out. But while they were successful in the past they are less appropriate due to unsafe socio-economic conditions in the current situation of the households. The main reason for their limited application is the high opportunity cost for installing these measures. Practices of agroforestry with the purpose to halt wind and water erosion, fight drought and stabilize the microclimate are applied inconsistently. Other promising techniques such as fencing livestock, intercropping, rotations of crops, spatial distribution of production and contour farming are only carried out by some of the farmers. Mechanical techniques such as water diversion ditches and canals and retention terraces to save water are the most commonly applied techniques. There is a high need to support sustainable solutions to improve the production system in order to prevent a shift of the household problems into the poverty zones of the cities.

Keywords: Bolivia, farm household, prevention strategies, risk


Contact Address: Ralf Schlauderer, University of Applied Sciences Weihenstephan, Department of AgricultureSteingruberstraße 2, 91746 Weidenbach, Germany, e-mail:
Andreas Deininger, September 2004