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Under the project "Strengthening the resilience against risks and climate trends in indigenous communities dependent on tropical glaciers in Bolivia"


 

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In early September the “Second International Conference on Climate Change and Receding Glaciers ” was held in the national Sajama Park in Bolivia. The Conference also included participants from other Andean National Parks such as the Lauca Park in Chile and the Vilacota Park in Peru. Participants worked in groups focused on different topics and drafted a Declaration...... Read More


 
 
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Problems of the Sajama Glaciers

 

For Andean countries such as Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, glaciers are the largest natural water reservoirs, regulating the water flow throughout the year, and providing water during the dry season. In the semiarid region (350 mm of precipitation/year), in which the Sajama National Park is located, glaciers are the major source of water for agricultural activities. Climate change poses a new threat to sustainable agriculture in the Andes.

Trends, forecasts and scenario analysis (Urrutia and Vuille, 2009; Seth et al., 2010) suggest that climate-related pressures have increased and will continue to do so in the Andes due to climate change. This situation leads to changes in land use in production systems, indigenous knowledge in both sexes, in adaptation mechanisms and in livelihood strategies, due to increased climatic variation and unpredictability, from year to year. It is also likely that the frequency of extreme events is more evident at high altitudes than at lower elevations, which implies unequally distributed losses between families, and stronger impacts on the most vulnerable groups.

The traditional production and management capacity in the Andes are highly disturbed by the new conditions, both climatic and socio-economic. The increase in the urban population requires more production, but a more intensive production does not adapt well to a fragile environment. With higher temperatures, climate change allows production of new crops, which is a signs of autonomous adaptation. However, it also affects the fragile soils, increasing the presence of pests and diseases and increases the water requirement (a resource that is scarce and a source of conflict).

The size of the wetlands is shrinking (Flores, 2004), probably due to overgrazing, thereby reducing the potential to develop into an adaptation option, due to inadequate management. Thus, in general, in recent decades, rural communities (women, men, children and the elderly) are facing difficult conditions that modify their production ways and undermine the ability of the population to anticipate their response to climate variability. Families (in the whole or part of them) that lose the ability to adapt to climate variability migrate to the lowlands or cities. These actions threaten tropical forests, resulting in deforestation (Carr, 2010) and emissions of greenhouse gases, and add problems to the cities. Since migration usually involves young and active people, mostly men, temporary migration can also jeopardise the ability of community recovery after droughts and floods due to lack of manpower.

Glaciers are among the most visible and irrefutable indicators of climate change. Tropical glaciers, such as Sajama, which is the highest in Bolivia with 6542 masl., are very sensitive to climate changes and their response is relatively quick.

Since the 80's, the Central Andean glaciers have been retreating at an accelerated rate (Kaser et al, 1990; Francou and Ribstein, 1995, Klein et al, 1999). This trend, which has been observed on a global scale, is more intense in the tropics than in temperate regions (Allison and Peterson, 1989; Hastenrath and Kruss, 1992; Brecher and Thompson, 1993).


According to several reports, the most vulnerable rural population of Bolivia is already feeling the impact of climate change on their lives. Farmers have the perception that the climate is changing, affecting rainfall forecasts, reducing the possibility of access to water, and increasing the presence of pests and diseases to which they were not used. Therefore support for adaptation action is urgently needed.

WEB Design: Mauricio Arriaza- copyrigth 2012 Agua Sustentable