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Sweet Onions Yield Sweet Profits for Bolivian Farmers

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2008-03-18 08:04:57     
U.S. Agency for International Development

More than 150 tons of sweet onions are giving some Bolivian farmers a $340,000 harvest. The recent bountiful shipment to Los Angeles marked a three-year U.S. Agency for International Development effort to make Bolivian onion growers international competitors.

The onions are cultivated more than 12,000 feet above sea level on land once considered unsuitable for traditional agriculture, says USAID's Jorge Calvo, the program's manager who views the high elevation as an advantage. The onions, along with a dozen other crops, are part of a USAID training program to improve Bolivian agriculture.

Because the rarified atmosphere prevents pests and crop diseases from thriving, the onions are grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides, earning a coveted organic label. Organic sweet onions are in big demand and command higher prices, he says.

The agricultural program strives to make farmers prosperous by matching niche crops such as chili peppers, grapes, peanuts, peaches, raspberries, garlic and fava beans to Bolivia's diverse topography and climate. Growers also apply the latest farming methods such as soil management, irrigation and mechanization in achieving year-round harvests, says Calvo.

So far, it's working. The agency's $20 million investment in 2002 has generated more than $40 million in family earnings, boosting per capita income for the 40,000 participating households by almost 50 percent in a country where the average family exists on just $4,400 per year.

"We sit down with them, we work with them," says Calvo, describing USAID's personal approach in carrying out the program. "The farmers have been open to this."

For more information about USAID and its programs in Bolivia, visit http://www.usaid.gov.

The American people, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, have provided economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide for nearly 50 years.

Public Information: 202-712-4810

Specialized in: United States Agency For International Development - Agency For International Development - Aid - Foreign Aid - Foreign Assistance - Development Assistance - Foreign Disaster - Humanitarian Assistance - Democracy - Democracy And Governance
URL: http://www.usaid.gov
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