With a flourishing sugar industry making important progress in recent years, Bolivia -- South America's poorest country -- has introduced cotton growing in an effort to diversify agricultural production further.
With a flourishing sugar industry making important progress in recent years, Bolivia -- South America's poorest country -- has introduced cotton growing in an effort to diversify agricultural production further. But the experiment hasn't been altogether successful.
For the peasants of Bolivia, work in the cotton fields in the Santa Cruz province starts at four in the morning. For a small wage whole families work through to the evening harvesting one of the Andean state's newest crops. Although Bolivia is never associated with boom conditions,Santa Cruz is providing the workers of this poor country an alternative to scraping a living from half-exhausted tin mines.
Cotton may be new but the producers have made it an important part of the development of the country's agricultural sector although the quantity is still small in world terms.
But this year, the producers are worried.They fear up to fifty per cent of the harvest might be lost. They attribute this to a shortage of labour and a lack of hard work.
But for the peasants, conditions and wages are often bad. They arrive in trucks at the cotton mill each day from there they are placed in different encampments. An experienced worker can pick 80 lbs of cotton administrative capital of La Paz. However, the cotton producers cannot get enough workers to harvest the cotton and fear big losses. For although Bolivia is twice the size of Spain there are only five million inhabitants.
Sugar, on the other hand, is one of this land-locked country's most important crops. Since the agrarian reform of 1952, sugar-cane production in the extensive region east of the Andes has flourished. Today, it produces a harvest of 1.7 million metric tons. Sugar-cane production has come a long way form the days in 1954 when the Central Government in La Paz completed the surfacing of the first road to Santa Cruz from the outside world. This lifted the town from a situation of relying on mules to carry out exports of brown sugar to developing refineries capable of processing the sugar-cane to a finished product.