Diakonia - People change the world
Instead of focusing on the increasingly diminished production of llama wool, Emiliana now works with handicrafts, which is not affected by climate change. And the women of the village have followed her.

Bolivia: Emiliana promotes adapation to climate change

For generations, a glacier has provided Emiliana's village with clear water. But now, the ice is melting due to climate change. To combat that, Emiliana leads a redevelopment project for the village women.

7/30/2013 Publisher: Julle Bergenholtz

Emiliana was forced to stop studying

48 year old Emiliana has lived her entire life in Sajama National Park, named after the glacier. She grew up with her mother and brother, and the family lived on bredding llamas and alpacas. But the little income they received was not nearly enough and in the patriarchal society in Bolivia, it was obvious that Emiliana, and not her brother, would have to quit her studies. She was later forced to leave home and seek jobs in the capital, La Paz, to support her family.

Developed determination and became a leader

It was in the capital, far from home, that Emiliana developed her leadership abilities. She became a volunteer in a church, and her drive and thirst for knowledge led her not only to preach - but she also learned to read and write in Spanish, in addition to the native Aymara language.

At age 16, Emiliana returned to the village to help her mother with the llama farming. She also became involved in the only allowed local sorority, where she established contact with local women of all ages. Despite strong opposition from the men, Emiliana used her leadership skills among the women.

"I wanted to teach other women to read and write," she says.

Noticed that the glacier changed

When she worked with her llama livestock, Emiliana noticed that the glacier lost parts of its snow cover each year. The wet pastures of her childhood were drying out and the quality of the llama wool deteriorated, making it almost impossible to spin the thread of it. The production therefore decreased and with it the already small income opportunities Emiliana had.

Emilianas observations were later proved to be correct. Scientific studies by Diakonia's partner organization, the Bolivian environmental organization Agua Sustentable (Durable Water), indicated that the glacier mass had decreased by 51 percent between 1986 and 2012. The reduction corresponds to 150 square meters a year and seems to only accelerate.

The glacier: For the people around Sajama, the glacier is sacred. Glaciers are considered as animate beings that preserve the harmony between man and nature, and their existence is something that concerns everyone.

Started an association for women

To deal with climate change adaptation and cope with the shortage of water in a sustainable way, Emiliana started an association for women working with crafts, Association de mujeres artesanas. Through the organisation, women could also secure their income, since it made it possible for them to sell products manufactured within the national park.

"Despite opposition from the men, we created the organisation. It was the only way we could go to make money," Emiliana explains.

Women's participation is now more valued

The women have thanks to the organisation been able to organize themselves and demand respect for their rights. Society now values the women's participation higher, and their perspective on how to manage the water in the Sajama National Park is seen as important.