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The Bolivian government’s major challenge is to achieve economic growth, including for its indigenous people who form more than half of the population. Our assistance has focused on research to advance this goal.

As a result, we’ve helped strengthen Bolivia’s capacity to conduct research on issues such as healthcare systems, mining policies, natural resource management, labour force development, waste management, and land use reforms.

Water conflicts resolved

Control of natural resources has long been at the forefront of Bolivian political conflicts. Access to water has been an especially divisive issue. Rural users often compete for irrigation and household water with private companies and large mining and hydroelectric plants.

IDRC-supported studies have helped resolve water disputes. Using a mathematical simulation model, researchers produced a water distribution proposal acceptable to all users that legitimized the traditional water rights of rural people. These rights were included in an irrigation law passed in 2004 — a remarkable achievement, given the failure of 32 previous attempts to reach such agreement. In 2009, water rights were incorporated into Bolivia’s new constitution.

Improved economic development planning

Decentralization in Bolivia has given municipalities greater responsibility for economic development. From 2002 to 2007, we supported a Canadian-Bolivian collaboration that developed and tested a participatory method to map local assets — such as cattle, crop yields, and small businesses — and potential labour supplies for economic development.

Hundreds of Bolivian communities used the method to design local economic development plans based on the new, comprehensive, and reliable data. The method also helped the Government of Bolivia draft the country’s Development Plan for 2010–2015.

Total IDRC Support

153 activities worth CAD $32.9 million since 1974

Farmer harvesting crops in Bolivia.

Our support is helping

  • stimulate high-quality, policy-relevant research by Bolivians
  • test climate change strategies to improve ecosystems and human health
  • create healthier, more environmentally-sustainable rural communities
  • use fish consumption to increase productivity and income in the Bolivian Amazon


Explore research projects we support in this region.