Sustainable agricultural development

Programme description

Title: Sustainable agricultural development (PROAGRO I and II)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ); Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA)
Country: Bolivia
Lead executing agency: Ministerio de Planificación del Desarrollo, Viceministro de Inversión Pública y Financiamiento Externo (VIPFE)
Overall term: 2005 to 2014


Large sections of the population of the rural drylands of Bolivia live in extreme poverty. Their livelihood depends largely on irrigated agriculture. Scarce water resources limit the development potential of agricultural production. There is often a lack of appropriate irrigation infrastructure, functional coordination mechanisms for the distribution of water resources and needs-driven support from state institutions. The generally difficult conditions in the rural drylands are exacerbated by the impact of climate change. A reduction in water availability, shorter growing seasons, an increase in extreme weather events and production risks are effects already being felt today.

The Bolivian government has established important promotional instruments in the form of national programmes for irrigation, watershed management and improving agricultural production. In some cases, significant funding for rural development is also made available at regional and municipal governmental level. There are still major shortcomings in implementation and support needs, however. At the same time, climate change presents public authorities with new challenges. This makes risk mitigation measures for agricultural production increasingly necessary, for example safeguarding water resources, more efficient use of water and the promotion of drought-resistant crops and farming methods.


Small-scale producers in rural drylands have built up their resilience to the risks of climate change, have geared watershed management better towards safeguarding availability and fair distribution of water resources and have seen a lasting increase in their agricultural production yields.


Since the start of the second stage (2011), PROAGRO has been run as a German-Swedish-Bolivian cooperation project. The project consists of three components:

  1. Preservation and fair distribution of scarce water resources as part of integrated watershed management

    In particular, organisational and decision-making structures are reinforced and support provided for important individual measures. Furthermore, the implementation and further development of the regulatory framework, especially the Bolivian Plan Nacional de Cuencas (PNC), is promoted.
  2. Development and most efficient use of water resources for agricultural production

    In addition to technical measures, priority is given to organisational development matters as well as accompanying advisory services for the implementation and quality assurance of large national investment programmes.
  3. Promotion of agricultural production and marketing

    The focus lies on advancing irrigated agriculture in the most market-oriented way possible.

Bolivian farmers in the drylands have been adapting to climate extremes for centuries. Climate change adaptation strategies can therefore build upon local knowledge and experience of extreme weather and the associated risks. In the priority regions Chaco, Norte de Potosí and Valles Mesotérmicos, solutions and management models have been tailored to the prevailing conditions in the region for the preservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Together with agricultural producers and local organisations, these solutions and models are being implemented, documented and, with the assistance of local, regional and national partners, replicated. This includes different forms of sustainable livestock grazing in forests, methods for water collection, retention and use, and erosion and source protection measures.

Results achieved so far

Over the course of the first phase of the project (2005 to 2011), 13,000 hectares of new irrigated land were made available to 10,000 agricultural producers. In addition, 1,700 families in the poorest region of the country saw their access to water improved as a result of the construction of 775 micro-irrigation systems, most of which were fed from rainwater storage basins. Agricultural production and marketing advice has led to an average rise in income of 300% by participating producers, in Chaco especially. Over the same period of time, public investment levels in the agricultural sector rose by 20%.

Since 2011, the number of participating farmers has risen by almost 10,000. As part of the policy advice provided, climate change and its associated risks were incorporated, for instance, as a binding planning criterion in the national investment programme MiAgua.