Agriculture projects bring vital nutrition to children and families who live in harsh growing conditions.

The country of Bolivia sits in the eastern-central region of South America. Much of its terrain is rugged and mountainous. And though this landscape is beautiful and can be awe-inspiring to see, for many Bolivian people the land is difficult to use for agriculture. With the economy and social infrastructure as limited as they are in some areas, many Bolivian people must rely on farming to fulfill their daily needs of food and income. And the harsh growing conditions they face create a barrier that forces many families to live in a cycle of poverty and deprivation.

Outreach International works in Bolivia to help people overcome their poverty-related issues, and harsh growing conditions are chief among them. Using the community-led development process, two Outreach communities identified a solution and mobilized to make it happen. For this issue, their solution was greenhouses.

Alcance Bolivia helps transform agriculture for families in need.

The Issue: Limited Food Variety

The people who live in the community of Sacha Sacha have dealt for generations with the difficulty of inadequate access to a wide variety of nutritious food. They subsisted mainly on carbohydrates, such as potatoes, which are some of the few crops able to grow in the conditions of the region. But eating this narrow diet is not ideal for health, especially for children, and planting seeds gathered from a previous harvest, season after season, led to low quality crops. It’s an issue they refer to as using “tired seeds.”

If they wanted fresh vegetables for their families they would have to drive at least an hour to the nearest market. And even that produce was of lower quality and would not last long. Vegetable garden projects are popular in Bolivia, but even with quality soil and seedlings, outdoor gardens are exposed to harsh weather and worsening drought brought on by climate change.

The harsh terrain and frequent drought in Bolivia can lead to harsh growing conditions.

The Solution: Create Better Growing Conditions

Under the guidance of Outreach facilitator Maria, community leaders built structures to create a controlled environment for a much longer growing season, protection from harsh weather, and the ability to properly irrigate. Between 2018 and 2020, they built 22 greenhouses.

Building greenhouses in Bolivia help families grow nutrition and income.

During the first months of 2021, participants accessed 3,328 high quality vegetable seedlings, and later accessed 3,000 more. And to date, over 200 people benefit from this bountiful harvest.

Vegetable seedlings bring families in Bolivia quality crops to feed their growing children.

Greenhouses Grow Success

More recently, in the spring of 2023, the village of Misuk’ani submitted a proposal to Outreach to build 25 greenhouses. Along with their Outreach Bolivia facilitator, Juan Roly, the community organization worked hard to earn acceptance of the proposal. As part of the learning process, Outreach asked the Misuk’ani group what they expected their outcome to be if we were to finance their greenhouse construction project. They didn’t just hope for approval or give a general answer. They conducted a survey of other communities that had built greenhouses to gather data that would strengthen their proposal.

  • The Misuk’ani Group met to formulate questions and organize a survey.
  • They developed the survey on a digital platform called KoboToolbox. This allowed them to enter, save, and sort data in a number of ways.
  • Group members who would conduct the survey rehearsed by role-playing to get the most out of their survey efforts.
  • They then mobilized to three communities that were using greenhouses – Kolla Ranco, Sacha Sacha, and Juntutuyo.

After conducting the surveys they documented and analyzed their findings. Taking data from various families, they made the following conclusions:

  • The families who use a greenhouse save on average the equivalent of $33.70 per month in food consumption compared to having to buy lower quality food at the faraway market (a significant savings).
  • The Misuk’ani families who commit to the greenhouse project would have to maintain this same monthly savings for almost a year and a half to recover the investment in the project.

Based on these findings, they decided to move forward with their proposal, and Outreach approved the project.

The design of a basic greenhouse in Bolivia uses local materials for everything but the essential opaque roof material.

Bolivian families are happy to work hard to get their greenhouses up and running.

Agriculture projects in Bolivia are monitored for progress.

Work Hard, Work Together

Part of the agreement for funding the Bolivia greenhouses project was that each of the 25 participating families was required to build the walls of their own greenhouse within a certain time frame in order to receive the roofing materials that make the greenhouses function. In a group meeting several weeks into the project, 10 of the 25 families voiced concern that they had fallen behind on their wall construction and would not complete their obligation by the deadline. This was due to circumstances beyond their control, such as seasonal labor travel and overall hardship. This would put the entire group in breach of their agreement that would allow them to receive the vital roofing.

But like a true community working together, the families who had finished their greenhouse walls helped those who had not. And all 25 greenhouses were ready to have their roofs installed on time. This is a shining example of what can happen when a community works together, and when those who benefit from the work are the people who do the work.

Greenhouses turn rough, dry terrain into lush, green gardens full of nutritious food for families.

Most Recent Bolivia Greenhouses Update

  • To date, 93 greenhouses have been built in various communities in Bolivia.
  • 96% of these structures still have their specialized roofing material entirely intact.
  • 92 greenhouses are still functioning. One was damaged in a storm. Three have been converted to house sheep, which those families decided was their best use for their needs.
  • 80 greenhouses are being used to grow spinach, which is the most common vegetable that families grow in them. Spinach is a vital, nutritionally dense green, but is fragile and difficult to grow when exposed to the elements.

Without greenhouses, families rely mostly on potatoes and not much else. But with them, the bounty is varied and plentiful.

Bolivia Greenhouses: Growing Development

These Bolivia greenhouse projects are such a great example of the strength of the community-led development methodology. People who live in poverty are the most qualified to identify what their problems are. When they’re taught how to organize and mobilize to find solutions, they find within themselves the power to make their own lives permanently better. Greenhouses were the answer for this issue in these communities. Other regions, other climates, other people who live in poverty may not need them. Local solutions are identified and implemented by those most qualified to do so. There is no “one size fits all” solution to poverty. There is no handout that removes the problem. Community-led development is so effective, and it’s what Outreach International is all about.There's nothing like fresh veggies to help a kid grow, and make a mom happy.

How to Help

Help children and families like those in Bolivia by donating to Outreach International. Your generosity makes sustainable solutions to poverty possible all around the world.