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Improved farming, healthier families in Bolivia

Bolivian farmers at a workshop.

In our project Small Animals, Big Changes, along with our Bolivian partners CENDA, we promoted improved animal husbandry practices as a means of increasing the production and consumption of animal source foods (meat and eggs). Through some good planning, a lot of hard work and a bit of luck, we helped about 500 families in the highlands of Bolivia to improve their diets.

 In this area, the farmers are experienced and skilled with raising animals: sheep, llamas, alpacas and other animals. We worked to build on their farming strengths, as animal-source foods can provide the nutrients and fats missing in their diets.

With worked with about 400 families on chicken production. We helped these families build improved chicken coops, and provided a starter flock of 10 chickens to the families.

Egg production soared

Between grain and insects the chickens ate well. And since they ate well, they produced well. Average egg production went from less than one per day to about four per day, and so consumption by the families rose from almost nothing to about one-half of an egg per person per day. 

Although results are still coming in, it seems that the longer families have been involved in chicken production, the better the
production is, and consumption should exceed one egg per person per day after a couple more years.

Meat consumption more than doubled

With another 100 families we worked to improve sheep husbandry. We worked with the farmers to improve their corrals, putting a roof over part of them so that the pregnant ewes and newborn lambs could be warmer and drier. In doing so, the ewes had more lambs, and the lamb survival rate increased to almost 100%. Now, being able to replace the animals that are harvested, the farmers harvest more often. Meat consumption has increased from 90 g to 220 g per person per day. 

The evidence is clear that increased consumption of animal-source foods has definite, significant health benefits for people with marginal diets. Improved physical growth and cognitive development, and decreased disease incidence can all be expected if the higher intake of meat and eggs continues.

Given that the practices are now well established, and the farmers have expressed their favourable impressions of the chicken rearing and improved sheep husbandry practices, we are optimistic that the practices will become part of the normal farming systems, and
will spread to other communities thus be sustained indefinitely.