RIBERALTA, Bolivia – Climate change has negatively affected certain trees such as chestnuts in Bolivia’s Amazon region amid the twin disasters of drought and flooding, along with deforestation, harming indigenous communities that depend on the nuts as a source of their livelihood.
The resources provided by the ever-dwindling Amazon jungle region have been used for many years by local Indians and farmers, including rubber, chestnuts, Asai palm trees and wood.
Chestnuts provide the livelihood for some 15,000 “zafreros,” workers who gather the nuts for three months out of the year, and some 200 Indian communities in Bolivia’s Amazon, sociologist Gregorio Quiros told EFE in Riberalta.
The most critical situation occurred last season, when the chestnut harvest was less than half what it had been in recent years, causing many families to go into debt to survive.
Luis Sanchez has been a zafrero for 40 years and told EFE that “in recent years, we’ve seen that climate change perhaps could be responsible, because the trees ... were green, but now they’re partly dry.”
Nevertheless, Sanchez admitted that this year “the situation has improved,” although not to the favorable levels of a decade ago.
The situation appears stable for the moment, albeit with intermittent rains, very hot weather and exhausting humidity, but local residents with more experience say that “it’s no longer raining like before.”
Edwin Endara, an official with the Rubber and Chestnut Union Federation of Bolivia, told EFE that “last year was a disaster ... people didn’t have enough to eat.”
He emphasized the need to look for other ways for people to make a living, but he also demanded more government support to improve the environmental situation and train the public to care for the environment.