Making ASAP fit in Bolivia: the role of knowledge management

By Ilaria Firmian and Estibalitz Morras

We recently started the design of a project funded though the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) in Bolivia, which will complement an existing programme of US$ 45 million that was recently signed by the Bolivian Government.

The Economic Inclusion Program for Rural Families and Communities in the Territory of the Plurinational State of Bolivia (ACCESOS) invests in selected community-based natural resources management initiatives which are also deemed fit as economically viable business plans. The business plans enhance food security, generate income, and improve access to financial services. The best plans are selected by the communities themselves and funded through an IFAD loan.

During the design of ACCESOS, the vulnerability of rural poor to climate change was identified as a major area of concern for both the Government and IFAD. In fact, the 52 municipalities included in ACCESOS are located in a large and dispersed area, covering highlands, valleys and plains, that is extremely susceptible to a number of climatic phenomena affecting the rural economic base and preventing progress in poverty reduction.

Additional funds of $10 million from ASAP
One of the tasks of the design mission was to better understand the implications of climate change for the lives and livelihoods of the communities IFAD works with. The mission split into two groups and visited 20 municipalities, where we undertook focus interviews by applying a framework developed by CARE, the Climate Vulnerability and Capacity Analysis - CVCA process.

The community members raised concerns on drought, frost, hail and floods that badly affect crop and livestock. Interestingly enough, we did not only heard about the difficulty of dealing with current climate variability, but also about the opportunities generated by the change in climate. In the highlands, due to temperature increase, the farmers were keen on exploring the possibility of growing fruit trees, which would have a higher value on the market than currently grown crops such as potatoes.

Watch and listen to local people and their climate concerns.

Knowledge means action
Focus group discussions also revealed that human-induced impacts on ecosystems were not understood in their cause-effect relations, for example the increase in climate-related risks associated with bad land management practices.

Therefore, knowledge management – intended as different approaches for knowledge sharing, sensitization and joint learning among different stakeholders that eventually results in behavioural changes - appeared to be a practical strategy to facilitate community-based adaptation to climate change.

In Bolivia traditional technologies exist that may help in copying with floods. At the same time, new technologies, such as biogas, appear to have the potential to help crops recover from frost (through the application of fertilisers generated through biogas systems).

Following this line of thought, part of the project response will include systematisation and validation of both ancestral knowledge and new technologies, with the notion that project stakeholders, through community meetings, exchanges of experiences and trainings, identify practices that improve productivity and reduce climate risks.

The results of the systematizations will also generate a ”menu” of options that the project may finance through the “concursos” (competitions) approach.

In fact, the ASAP ACCESOS will apply the same competition approach as the baseline project, but with a difference: its focus will be on funding investments at landscape or larger territorial level to complement those at community/group level funded by ACCESOS. The underlying principle being recognising the complexity of people’s interactions with landscapes and the fact that investments or management practices in different parts of a landscape unit can produce benefits or reduce climate risks on other parts, well beyond the local administrative borders.