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Urban vegetables

Women in Bolivia’s cities are finding new ways to grow food

Interview with Yolanda Cáceres 2023

A Bolivian woman holds a plastic bottle that has been cut open and filled with soil and plants

Ezequiela grows lettuce and other vegetables in recycled plastic bottles. Photo: Yolanda Caceres

Three smiling Guatemalan women, one heavily pregnant, hold bowls of food in a kitchen with wooden walls.

From: Food and nutrition – Footsteps 119

How to eat well, address malnutrition and reduce food waste

Yolanda Caceres leads a support group for women who have moved from rural Bolivia to the city of Cochabamba. She is part of Tearfund’s Inspired Individuals programme.

Here Yolanda explains why she is passionate about helping the women to grow their own food.

Why are people moving from rural to urban areas?

‘As the climate changes and rainfall patterns become more unpredictable, farmers in some parts of Bolivia are finding it increasingly difficult to grow crops, feed their families and make a living. 

‘This, coupled with other social and economic pressures, is causing thousands of rural Bolivians to move to the cities in search of new opportunities.’

Why do you work with older women?

‘When older women arrive in the city they often feel isolated, lonely and unproductive. This is particularly the case if they are widows, or if their children have grown up and left home. 

‘I show the women how to grow fruit and vegetables, even if they only have small yards or balconies. The act of looking after the plants often gives them a sense of purpose and helps them to feel more settled and fulfilled in their new homes. 

‘One lady, Ezequiela, told me, “I’m very glad because I have been able to grow lettuce, onions, coriander, parsley and celery. I can harvest and eat with confidence and I can save on some purchases I used to make in the market. I do not feel sad missing my land because now I have my little garden that keeps me active, and I am happy to see it grow every day.” 

‘The gardens also provide the women with important opportunities to teach gardening skills to their grandchildren.’

What skills do they need?

‘I teach the group how to make containers out of waste items such as tyres, pieces of wood and plastic bottles. They also learn how to make a nutrient-rich compost out of weeds, dead plants and kitchen scraps, and how to use waste water from the kitchen for irrigation.

‘The group is always glad to welcome new people, and they are quick to share seedlings and ideas with them to help them start their own gardens.’

Additional resources

  • Improving food security - a Pillars guide
    By Isabel Carter
    Learn about grain banks, natural pest control, food preservation and other topics
  • Healthy eating – a Pillars guide
    By Isabel Carter
    Ideas to help improve household nutrition at low cost 
  • Food and livelihoods - Reveal toolkit
    How to preserve and prepare food, eat healthily, grow fruit and vegetables and form self-help groups

Interview with

Interview with  Yolanda Cáceres

Yolanda Caceres leads a support group for women who have moved from rural Bolivia to the city of Cochabamba. She is part of Tearfund’s Inspired Individuals programme.

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