5 lessons on how to improve local purchases in Bolivia

Here is what the World Food Programme (WFP) has discovered through a pilot project to link local smallholder farmers with municipal food-based programmes

Morelia Eróstegui Navia
World Food Programme Insight
4 min readApr 12, 2019


APHMAU Smallholder association in the process of baking quinoa cookies. Photo: WFP/Morelia Eróstegui

1. Break the fear: get small producers and municipal authorities to know each other

Over the past few years, Bolivia has advanced a great deal in terms of laws, norms and regulations to promote the purchase of products from smallholders. However, these norms are not being implemented at all government levels, including municipalities. The main cause for this is the lack of knowledge on the part of national, departmental and municipal authorities and local producers. As a result, food — and particularly processed food — continues to be purchased from big food companies.

To address this issue, WFP conducted training sessions on the mechanisms of sale and purchase to 17 municipalities using two different payment modalities: cash and voucher. As a pilot activity, WFP facilitated the purchase of processed food from smallholders’ associations for use in municipal school feeding programs. WFP helped both parties overcome barriers and jointly face any problems that might arise. This experience allowed local producers to strengthen their productive and distribution capacity, so they could meet the quality and quantity requirements of municipalities and appreciate the potential of municipal purchases. It also allowed WFP to decide on the most cost-effective payment modality so that it could inform the formulation of its strategic planning for 2018–2022.

A smallholder association delivers quinoa flakes to a Municipality. Photo: WFP/Patricia Choque

2. Ensure sustainability through securing markets

The sustainability of any smallholders promotion project can only be guaranteed by securing stable and secure markets. Project participants stated that although many previous projects allowed them to improve the quality and quantity of their production, marketing their products remained the main bottleneck. Supporting local producers through management skills, marketing and sales, while linking them to markets, such as municipal school feeding or other food-based social protection programmes, can greatly benefit the economic development of the associations and indirectly the flow of goods in the communities.

Julián, his father and the principal of his school receiving dehydrated meat from smallholders. Photo: WFP/Jose Velasco

3. Cash is best

Through the pilot’s implementation, WFP learned that the best payment modality for local purchases of food products intended for school feeding is cash. The experience and results showed that the use of cash allowed for more flexibility in the purchase negotiation process at municipal level, both for the buyers and for the smallholders, thus proving to be more effective and direct.

Griselda, a smallholder peanut producer posing with her latest production in Entre Ríos Tarija. Photo: WFP/Morelia Eróstegui

4. Create networks of small producers and links to municipal authorities

In Oruro, a showroom was organized for small producers to exhibit their products to Municipal Integral Nutrition Units, municipal and department authorities. This allowed producers to establish new contacts with potential buyers and with one another, evaluate their products and share recipes and advice on how to improve production. Small producers valued this experience because they found that they were not alone and that they could count on one another and join forces, for example, bidding together for larger tenders. This also gave WFP the opportunity to identify the producers and Municipalities that were most interested in the creation of new links, and find ways to support them.

Fidelia preparing quinoa bars for the school meals programme in her municipality. Photo: WFP/Morelia Eróstegui

5. Support spontaneous initiatives

Thanks to the pilot, beneficiaries spontaneously came up with initiatives which showed ownership and motivation on their part. For example, to guarantee WFP’s quality requirements, one of the participating small producers association implemented a “seal of quality” which helped them to improve their processes and ensure compliance with their buyers.

The WFP team in Bolivia works to support the national Government in the framework of the fulfillment of Sustainable Development Goal 2: ‘Zero Hunger’ and Pillar 8: ‘Food Sovereignty’ of the Economic and Social Development Plan and the Patriotic Agenda of Bolivia. One of the objectives of WFP’s Country Program 2018–2022 is to strengthen the capacities of small producers to support them in their connection to food-based social protection programs.

Between June 2017 and February 2018, WFP developed a pilot project in the Municipality of Entre Ríos in Tarija department and in 17 municipalities in Oruro department showing high levels of food insecurity. The pilot project aimed to strengthen small producer associations, composed mostly of women, and to enhance the capacities of municipal authorities to purchase processed foods to complement their municipal school feeding programmes.



Morelia Eróstegui Navia
World Food Programme Insight

Escribo para el Programa Mundial de Alimentos desde Bolivia. Writing for the United Nations World Food Programme in Bolivia.