March 14 – 24, 2014
The Bolivian Altiplano—a vast tableland flanked by two Andean mountain ranges—is one of the most remarkable areas of human settlement in the world. Beginning North of Lake Titicaca, the region stretches 500 miles to the South at an average altitude of 13,000 feet. On this tour, you will learn about the agricultural systems that have, and continue to, sustain people in this challenging environment. Specifically, you will learn about quinoa and llamas, two products at the heart of Andean food sovereignty. You will travel from the shores of Lake Titicaca in the North down to the Southern Altipano to gain a unique lens into the fascinating world of Andean food and agriculture.
The Altiplano gave rise to powerful civilizations, which domesticated numerous crops and animals for sustaining their populations. Potatoes and quinoa—hearty crops perfectly suited to highland farming—were domesticated along the shores of Lake Titicaca. The American camelid—the llama, alpaca and vicuña—was also domesticated in the Altiplano, providing an essential source of meat, wool, fertilizer and transport. Since these products were associated with indigenous people, however, they received little or no support in Bolivia’s modern development.
By forming strong producers’ associations rooted in indigenous communities, quinoa and llama producers succeeded in overturning racist laws and accessing consumer markets. Llama steak is now available in many Bolivian restaurants, and quinoa can be bought at health food stores throughout the world. However, recent global market forces and climate change have created new challenges in the quinoa-llama production system. The market pull to increase quinoa production through mechanization has eroded fragile soils, and llama herds–vital for providing fertility–have dwindled.
On this tour, you will explore the complex reality of Andean food sovereignty while being immersed in Andean culture and visiting the spectacular landscapes of the Altiplano. This unique delegation is brought to you by Food First in collaboration with La Paz on Foot, a Bolivian ecotourism and environmental education company specializing in Andean farming systems. Guided by a Food First analyst, you will meet with Bolivian quinoa producers and llama herders; local NGOs; experts and scholars; and social movements working to build food sovereignty in Bolivia.
Tour highlights may include:
- City tour of the La Paz and El Alto foodshed with a focus on indigenous food markets; Learn about the history and political significance of El Alto, a young city (est. 1987) now home to over a million mostly Aymara indigenous residents.
- Meet with Bolivian NGO PROINPA for an overview of Bolivian agriculture and biodiversity, focusing on quinoa producing zones and seed conservation
- Meet with Bolivian NGO FOBOMADE, an organization that works closely with social movements to promote food sovereignty and stop the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Bolivian agro-ecosystems.
- Meet with prominent scholars and researchers with expertise in Andean food and farming systems.
- One-night community stay with farming families on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Learn from local farmers about the incredible diversity of the Lake Titicaca region, the “center of origin” of quinoa. Here we will have a chance to participate in seasonal agricultural activities, depending on the weather and community needs.
- Participate in preparing and sharing a traditional Aymara communal meal called “apthapi” with foods grown in the community or acquired from other eco-regions through the Andean tradition of inter-ecological exchange
- Meet with quinoa farmers and visit a producer-owned and operated quinoa processing plant in the heart of the “inter-salar” region, where quinoa real (royal quinoa) is grown. And visit the recently-established Center for Quinoa Research, which works to enhance ecological and economic sustainability in the quinoa sector.
- Stay in a small, family-run hotel on the northern edge of the Uyuni salt flats, owned and managed by a quinoa-farming family. Learn about the family’s experiences in farming and small-scale ecotourism.
- Visit with llama and alpaca producers of the Southern and Central Altiplano region; Learn about the fragile wetlands (bofedales) ecosystem where these animals graze, which is being threatened by the expansion of quinoa monocultures
- Visit the breathtaking Uyuni Salt Flats and Thunupa Volcano in the southern Altiplano; and Sajama National Park, Bolivia’s main llama-producing region.
TOUR COST: $1775
- All in-country transportation during the tour including airport transfer to and from La Paz/El Alto International Airport
- Three-star hotel accommodations in La Paz and Oruro (5 nights); accommodations with rural families on Lake Titicaca (1 night); Accommodations in rural hotels run by quinoa producers/llama herders (3 nights). Tour price is based on shared double rooms; single accommodations are available for an additional fee of $300.
- 2-3 meals per day
- Food First trip leader (country expert/policy analyst), local guides, guest speaker honoraria, translators and drivers (we are committed to fairly compensating everyone who contributes their labor, time and passion to enriching our delegations and making them run smoothly)
- Preparatory reading materials (“Reader”) and Orientation Packet
- All scheduled program activities, presentations and workshops
- Food First membership
- NOT INCLUDED: International airfare, tourist visa (for U.S. travelers), most beverages, tips, insurance, personal expenses
Special Considerations for Travel to Bolivia:
- Entry Visa for Citizens of the United States: If you are a U.S. citizen entering Bolivia as a tourist, you are required to have an entry visa. You can apply for a Bolivian tourist visa by mail or in person at Bolivian consulates in the U.S., as well as at Bolivian ports of entry. Most of our past participants have purchased their visa at the airport upon arrival with no problems. Bolivian tourist visas cost $135, are valid for five years from the date of issuance, and allow you to enter the country three times in a year for a cumulative stay of not more than ninety days.
- Altitude Discomfort: La Paz is the highest capital city in the world (3,650m or 11,975 ft). It is common for travelers to Bolivia to experience symptoms of altitude sickness such as headaches and shortness of breath, especially in La Paz and the Altiplano region. These symptoms are generally mild and subside after a few days. It is important to take time to acclimatize by staying hydrated and not exerting yourself the first few days. Drinking coca tea can also provide relief. Persons with chronic medical conditions such as angina, heart failure, pulmonary diseases, and diabetes should consult with a high altitude medicine specialist before traveling.
-For more information, contact Program Coordinator Katie Brimm at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (510) 654-4400, ext. 223
View Bolivia: Llamas, Quinoa & Andean Food Sovereignty, March 14 – 24, 2014 in a larger map
Hear from Bolivia Tour Participants!
“Words can’t even describe what an amazing country it is. I was also incredibly impressed with the Food First tour leader and her amazing knowledge of Bolivia’s history, politics, culture and agriculture. Not that I’d expect anything less from Food First.” – Jill Richardson, Bolivia
“Two weeks before the Fall 2011 semester started, I had the honor of being part of a Food First delegation in Bolivia with the amazing new project Food Sovereignty Tours. It is hard to summarize all the new information that was presented to me by Bolivian locals and from the wonderful professionals–-now friends—that I met on the trip. I went in with just an interest in food, and left a food activist.” – Daniel Heron, Bolivia
“More than anything, this trip reminded me why I am committed to grassroots social change: because I want to be part of building this beautiful vision of the future where all people are treated with dignity and respect.” -Alexandra Toledo, Witnessing Food Sovereignty Firsthand in Bolivia