This past Monday, July 17th, our class headed to Los Andes Province located high in the rural Bolivian Altiplano to visit the leaders of a project in the community of “Jaillihuaya.” The project’s goal is to research ways to solve the water problem that many villages and cities in the arid southwestern region of Bolivia currently face, and to begin implementing the discoveries made. Previously, many cities in this sector of Bolivia depended on water yielded by glacial runoff high in the mountains, but because of the pressing phenomenon of global warming the glacial water has become less and less of a reliable option. The indigenous people who work daily on the project in Jaillihuaya have introduced over 15 species of plants to see which ones are able to survive in the harsh climate of the Altiplano, and they also test completely unique methods of protecting the young plants from the constant wind and cold. So far the project has found 4 species that are able to survive, and these will continue to be planted and maintained with the intention that they will release chemicals that will rectify the inconsistent water patterns. In addition, these indigenous groups have given up their own land to make the project possible – land that they would typically use to grow quinoa or other crops – meaning that people in the altiplano are sacrificing some of their own income for the opportunity to solve the environmental issues plaguing their community.
Seeing individuals from very different backgrounds cooperate on a project that aims to help themselves as well as people of other varying backgrounds was an extremely positive experience. The fact alone that Bolivian citizens are realizing the importance and necessity of working to cope with changes ushered by global warming was fantastic in itself. Considering how Native Americans in the United States and the non-native people from the US continue to struggle to cooperate with one another on even the most basic issues, I enjoyed seeing what coordination like this could resemble. Perhaps this partnership in Jaillihuaya only exists because the situation is dire, but either way it is a step in the right direction that not only Bolivian citizens, but citizens in any country with native populations can learn from.