Somerset farmer visits Bolivian flood-hit communities

Liz Crew meeting Bolivian community to talk about how flooding affects them Image copyright David Levene
Image caption Liz Crew met residents in Mangalito at their village school which has been built on concrete stilts

A small-holding farmer from the Somerset Levels has visited Bolivia to observe how communities in the Amazonian basin cope with flooding.

Liz Crew, from Moorland was invited to visit the Beni region by Oxfam which is raising awareness of how poor countries are becoming more vulnerable to extreme weather.

Ms Crew said: "The heat and humidity and the amount of water there is so much more, but the link is that we're both having to come to terms with excess rainfall and managing where we live, so there is a common bond between us."

Large parts of the Somerset Levels, including Moorland, were severely flooded last winter and Ms Crew had to sell her livestock and show horse.

She visited the villages of Mangalito and Soberania in the Beni region.

Image copyright David Levene
Image caption For several months when the area is flooded, children in Mangalito are taken to school by canoe
Image copyright David Levene
Image caption Camellones are raised beds of soil irrigated by large canals of water - this ancient method enables crops be planted all year round
Image copyright David Levene
Image caption The canals of water in the camellones also act as reservoirs which store fish

Ms Crew also visited the Pim co-operative on the outskirts of Trinidad, the capital of the Beni region, where they use "camellones", a 3000-year-old irrigation system.

"When Kenneth Lee was surveying oil stocks for BP, he came across the man-made structures. He went back with another scientist and they found these camellones were an ancient system to protect crops from the water," she said.

Image copyright David Levene
Image caption Ms Crew also met Graciela and Santiago Morales and their four children. Their house in Mangalito has been built on concrete stilts

Graciela Morales, 36, who lives with her family in Mangalito, said: "When the floodwaters come, we are surrounded on all sides.

"And this lasts for months - the water stagnates. The children get sick too, just with their legs in the water they catch diseases."

Soberania, a remote village which can only be reached by boat, is populated mostly by nomadic people, who have settled in order to educate their children.

Ms Crew said: "They've got their houses up on wooden stilts and on wooden platforms so that as the river encroaches on the land, they can dismantle them and move them further back."

Image copyright David Levene
Image caption Victoria Ujui 66, from Soberania, lost all her possessions last year as her home was not raised on stilts

After her visit, Ms Crew pledged to raise funds for a solar-powered water pump for Soberania.

She said: "It's not just very hot, it's unworkable, you cannot physically move water from the river as far as they need to get it up to irrigate their crops and they can't afford diesel for generators.

"These people work hard, they're not lazy - I could not carry a bucket of water from the river to where the crops are - it needs pumping."

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