How gardens are transforming community food systems in Bolivia

How gardens are transforming community food systems in Bolivia

Gardens in Bolivia are transforming communities

This year, Canadian Feed The Children’s (CFTC's) partners around the world are focusing on growing more gardens to support children and families. But how exactly do gardens create long-term food security? Gardens can do more than grow food – they can transform local food systems.  In Bolivia, families are proving just how transformative home, school and community gardens can be. 

3 reasons why gardens are so important

In Bolivia, Canadian Feed The Children partners with local Bolivian organizations who serve migrant Indigenous families living in peri-urban areas, which are areas of land outside an urban city that have both urban and rural characteristics. In these areas poverty rates are high, and access to fresh produce is limited and expensive. Families are turning to gardening more and more because: 

  • Growing vegetables and fruits at home reduces family food costs and improves child nutrition 
  • Community gardens are educational training grounds for youth 
  • Gardens create economic opportunities for families – especially for women 

Improving nutrition and reducing food costs

Silvia with her sister in the garden.

Silvia's family plot made healthy produce cheap and accessible.

9-year-old Silvia in Bolivia told us about all the things her family grows in their garden plot.

We plant cabbage, chard, parsley, beets, spinach, celery and lettuce. I like all of them because they add flavour to our meals!” Silvia told us.

Even at a young age, Silvia understood the importance of the garden for family nutrition: It’s very important because eating healthy improves our health. It’s very important for me to take care of the plants so they keep growing and not die off – you need to care for your garden.”

At the time, the garden was relatively new. It was a project started by her school, supported by CFTC's local partner IPTK, to give families access to garden plots so they could grow their own food. This was important, because almost one third of Bolivians living in rural areas cannot afford the cost of a basic food basket that includes nutritious vegetables.

Thanks to their garden, the family could cheaply and easily access produce, which they used in a variety of healthy meals. Gardens like Silvia's play a vital role in creating family food security, but their benefits go even further to establish community food security.

Educational training for youth

Three boys in cooking uniforms stand in front of a tray of food they prepared.

These students completed their BTH in Gastronomy along with 33 other peers.

In one community, gardens are providing a unique educational opportunity for youth. CFTC's local partner IPTK teamed up with the Ministry of Education to offer local secondary students the chance to earn a Bachillerato Técnico Humanístico (a Baccalaureate in Technical and Humanistic studies) in Gastronomy.

Thanks to a CFTC and IPTK supported consultation, students were invited to choose the subject for the BTH in their community in 2018. They immediately chose gastronomy, because they knew they had the raw materials at home in their family gardens. Four years later, two cohorts have completed the program, including 36 students in 2021.

Robert is a teacher in the program who says it's not just the youth who are motivated by the opportunity.

"I’ve seen the interest in learning and the support provided by parents so that youth can be trained too," he told us.

By 2023, the community-developed gastronomy program will be fully taken over by the Ministry of Education - an example of how community-led change can ripple out to create positive benefits for all.

Economic opportunities for women

Maria and her young son.

Maria now wants to upgrade her skills to become a full pastry chef.

Maria in Bolivia is a pastry producer and mother of a young son. For a few years now, she has grown produce in her family garden to sell but wanted to do more.

Recently, she joined a CFTC-supported gastronomy program to learn how to turn garden produce into pastries to sell at local fairs. 

“The instructor taught us everything: how to use the oven, the kitchen, how to prepare the food and pastries. We were taught about costs and how to treat our customers,” she says.

She and her fellow trainees began selling their goods on Saturdays, allowing them to earn up to 350 Boliviano ($64) per month to supplement family income. Now that she’s learned the basics, she hopes to train further to become a pastry chef to support her family, including her young son.

Indigenous women in Bolivia have a higher unemployment rate, and even though Bolivia has the world’s largest informal economy, an Indigenous woman who is active in this economy will earn an average of $128 CDN a month while a non-Indigenous man will earn an average of $525 CDN in a formal sector. Women like Maria are increasing their economic power thanks to gardening.

Partnership makes a difference

A man crouches in the garden with his three sons.

Proud father Francisco with his sons in the family garden.

Strong partnership has been key to gardening success in Bolivia. Community members work closely with CFTC and our local partners IPTK and SCSJ to achieve their food security goals, in partnership with CFTC's donors.

How you can support gardening programs in Bolivia and around the world.

  • Opt for a monthly donation to make sure communities have access to stable, reliable funds to run programs for families - including garden programs. 
  • Sponsoring a child to be a Child Ambassador is a great way to support community gardening efforts. Child Ambassadors receive special family support to grow gardens at home, and their schools also benefit from school and community gardening programs.
We thank all our donors and supporters for helping this transformative change come to life.