Enhancing Food Sovereignty and Food Security through the Revitalization of Indigenous Knowledge: Experiences from the Bolivian Andes

Mariscal, Juan Carlos; Mathez-Stiefel, Sarah-Lan; Rist, Stephan; Delgado, Freddy (2010). Enhancing Food Sovereignty and Food Security through the Revitalization of Indigenous Knowledge: Experiences from the Bolivian Andes (Unpublished). In: XII International Congress of Ethnobiology (ICE 2010). Tofino, Canada. 09.05.-14.05.2010.

Endogenous development is defined as development that values primarily locally available resources and the way people organized themselves for that purpose. It is a dynamic and evolving concept that also embraces innovations and complementation from other than endogenous sources of knowledge; however, only as far as they are based on mutual respect and the recognition of cultural and socioeconomic self-determination of each of the parties involved. Experiences that have been systematized in the context of the BioAndes Program are demonstrating that enhancing food security and food sovereignty on the basis of endogenous development can be best achieved by applying a ‘biocultural’ perspective: This means to promote and support actions that are simultaneously valuing biological (fauna, flora, soils, or agrobiodiversity) and sociocultural resources (forms of social organization, local knowledge and skills, norms, and the related worldviews). In Bolivia, that is one of the Latin-American countries with the highest levels of poverty (79% of the rural population) and undernourishment (22% of the total population), the Program BioAndes promotes food sovereignty and food security by revitalizing the knowledge of Andean indigenous people and strengthening their livelihood strategies. This starts by recognizing that Andean people have developed complex strategies to constantly adapt to highly diverse and changing socioenvironmental conditions. These strategies are characterized by organizing the communities, land use and livelihoods along a vertical gradient of the available eco-climatic zones; the resulting agricultural systems are evolving around the own sociocultural values of reciprocity and mutual cooperation, giving thus access to an extensive variety of food, fiber and energy sources. As the influences of markets, competition or individualization are increasingly affecting the life in the communities, people became aware of the need to find a new balance between endogenous and exogenous forms of knowledge. In this context, BioAndes starts by recognizing the wealth and potentials of local practices and aims to integrate its actions into the ongoing endogenous processes of innovation and adaptation. In order to avoid external impositions and biases, the program intervenes on the basis of a dialogue between exogenous, mainly scientific, and indigenous forms of knowledge. The paper presents an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of enhancing endogenous development through a dialogue between scientific and indigenous knowledge by specifically focusing on its effects on food sovereignty and food security in three ‘biocultural’ rural areas of the Bolivian highlands. The paper shows how the dialogue between different forms of knowledge evolved alongside the following project activities: 1) recuperation and renovation of local seeds and crop varieties (potato – Solanum spp., quinoa – Chenopodium quinoa, cañahua – Chenopodium pallidicaule); 2) support for the elaboration of community-based norms and regulations for governing access and distribution of non-timber forest products, such as medicinal, fodder, and construction plants; 3) revitalization of ethnoveterinary knowledge for sheep and llama breeding; 4) improvement of local knowledge about the transformation of food products (sheep-cheese, lacayote – Cucurbita sp. - jam, dried llama meat, fours of cañahua and other Andean crops). The implementation of these activities fostered the community-based livelihoods of indigenous people by complementing them with carefully and jointly designed innovations based on internal and external sources of knowledge and resources. Through this process, the epistemological and ontological basis that underlies local practices was made visible. On this basis, local and external actors started to jointly define a renewed concept of food security and food sovereignty that, while oriented in the notions of well being according to a collectively re-crafted world view, was incorporating external contributions as well. Enabling and hindering factors, actors and conditions of these processes are discussed in the paper.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > NCCR North-South Management Centre [discontinued]
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Geographies of Sustainability
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Geographies of Sustainability > Unit Critical Sustainability Studies (CSS)
10 Strategic Research Centers > Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)

UniBE Contributor:

Mathez-Stiefel, Sarah-Lan, Rist, Stephan


900 History > 910 Geography & travel
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics




Stephan Schmidt

Date Deposited:

12 Jun 2015 08:48

Last Modified:

16 Feb 2023 23:22



Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback