Disasters & Accidents

The inhabitants of Titicaca, Bolivia, pray for rain to mitigate drought damage

Esteban Biba

Huarina, Bolivia, Dec 5 (EFE).- Neighbors, mostly farmers from the island of Cojata in Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, complain that where there used to be water, there are now hundreds of feet of eroded soil that cracks underfoot.

“We have no crops because of the lack of rain, we had nothing all year,” Agustín Flores, a 75-year-old farmer, told EFE.

The man recalled that they used to live off fishing, but now many young people are migrating because of the lack of resources and the drought.

At 3.800 meters above sea level, Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake, reached a historic low this year.

On the island of Cojata, once surrounded by Titicaca, the population ages as they watch the lake erode.

Many of them remember the abundance of years past when they would go out to fish in wooden boats that are now stranded and abandoned on the beach.

“This year we failed with the harvest, and we hope next year can be better because there is nothing to eat,” lamented Agustín, who hopes the first rains of December will save the crops.

“The water was up to the edge of my yard, now there is no fodder for the cows and sheep,” said Zenobia Yapo, a 66-year-old woman, as she grazes her sheep on the lakeshore.

Wildlife is also at risk, as pink flamingos (Phoenicopterus) and Andean gulls (Chroicocephalus serranus) are seen farther from the shore.

According to studies by the Permanent Observatory of Lake Titicaca, the smaller lake is one of the most vulnerable areas to climate change.

They also warn that if the drought and global warming continue, the Lake’s biodiversity will become endangered.

The Permanent Observatory of Lake Titicaca also reports that in December the lake will reach a new historical minimum, about 64 centimeters below the drought alert level and 33 centimeters below the minimum level registered in the last 100 years.

Food insecurity

“Thanks to fishing, my three children were able to go to school, but now I can’t sail anymore,” Zenobi said.

The residents are worried about their food security.

In a broken voice, Zenobia mentioned that they depend on rainwater for their livelihood and that a few weeks ago he had to open a well to water the animals.

“The water was brown, you can see it is contaminated, but we have no choice,” he said.

“We have always lived here, but the rain has not come around these years and we have not been able to harvest potatoes. Except for this week and since last night it has rained, I hope this will help us to get food,” said Agustín Yucra, of Aymara ethnicity.

Bolivia is experiencing one of its worst droughts in recent years. The country is in the midst of the El Niño phenomenon, which is characterized by a lack of rainfall.

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