What We Do in Bolivia

CRECER (Crédito con Educación Rural), one of Freedom from Hunger’s original five Credit with Education programs, was established in 1990 and became an independent Bolivian organization in 2000. Freedom from Hunger is now a member of CRECER’s asamblea (board). For the year 2004, CRECER was honored by the Inter-American Development Bank as the best unregulated microfinance institution in Latin America.

We continue to work with CRECER for the expansion of health protection services in microfinance and, in 2011, a major initiative was launched with CRECER and other institutions to create a community of practice for microfinance and health in the Andean region. 

About Bolivia

  • Population (millions): 10.7 (2013)
  • Life Expectancy: 67 (2012)
  • Infant Mortality Rate (per 1000 births): 31 (2013)
  • Percentage of rural population with access to an improved water source: 72% (2012)
  • Fertility Rate (births per woman): 3 (2012)
  • Literacy Rate: 94% (2012)
  • Primary School Enrollment: 83% (2011)
  • Per capita GDP:  $2,867 (2013)
  • Percentage of population living on less than $2 per day: 13% (2012)
  • Ethnic Groups: Quechua 30%, mestizo (mixed white and Amerindian ancestry) 30%, Aymara 25%, white 15%
  • Languages: Spanish (official), Quechua (official), Aymara (official)
  • Religions: Roman Catholic 95%, Protestant (Evangelical Methodist) 5%

Richness of culture must be Bolivia's greatest asset. The isolated Latin American country is the most indigenous in South America, with over half of the population maintaining traditional values, beliefs, language and dress. Only about 60 percent of the population speaks Bolivia's official language, Spanish, and the remainder speak the languages of the Inca and pre-Inca civilizations that resided in the Altiplano.

Bolivia is a landlocked country located in the center of South America, with a total population just over eight million. It is the fifth largest country on the continent, about the size of France and Spain combined, and shares control of Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake at 11,500 feet above sea level, with Peru.

The landscape of Bolivia is as vibrant as its culture. The five geographical regions of the country include the highly populated Altiplano, an 11,480-foot plateau that stretches from the Peruvian border north of Lake Titicaca southwards to the Argentine border; the highland valleys, which lie to the south and east of the Altiplano; the Yungas, which form the transition zone between the mountainous Andes and the Amazonian forest; the Chaco, a dry and uninhabited plain along the Paraguayan and Argentine borders; and the Amazonian Basin, occupying much of the north and east of the country.

Named after independence fighter Simon Bolivar, Bolivia broke away from Spanish rule in 1825. Its subsequent history consisted of a series of nearly 200 coups and counter-coups until democratic rule was established in the 1980s. The richness of the ancient Aymará and Quechua traditions permeate the culture.

Bolivia continues to face the problems of intense and widespread poverty, social unrest, and drug production, and many Bolivians struggle daily for survival. The average life span is just 64 years and 18 percent of the population is not expected to survive to age 40. The under-five mortality rate in 1998 was a tragic 85 deaths per 1,000 live births (compared to 8 deaths per 1,000 live births in the US), a number actually believed to be significantly higher in the rural areas. Close to 80 percent of Bolivia's rural population live in poverty and only 56 percent of the rural population has access to safe water.

In 1990, Freedom from Hunger created CRECER, a Bolivian organization focused on providing microcredit and educational services to communities overlooked by other development organizations because they are rural and even remote. CRECER has since become an independent organization and a strong partner of Freedom from Hunger. 

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