The Last Herder  ||  Apolobamba, Bolivia

Reymundo is one of the last alpaca herders in the Apolobamba Cordillera of Bolivia. He grew up here with his mother and sister in the straw roof buildings just below his current house. Nestled beneath a small rise, homemade stone walls a few feet high surround the property, discouraging brave or curious alpaca from straying. The wind sounds hollow as it moves overhead.

Reymundo is one of the last alpaca herders in the Apolobamba Cordillera of Bolivia. He grew up here with his mother and sister in the straw roof buildings just below his current house. Nestled beneath a small rise, homemade stone walls a few feet high surround the property, discouraging brave or curious alpaca from straying. The wind sounds hollow as it moves overhead.

Life in rural areas has always been difficult but with an increasing pressure from a changing climate, rural communities around the world, often in remote, unseen and unheard places, are shrinking quickly as residents, both young and old, migrate to nearby urban centers. The tragic irony is clear: the countries which have contributed least in terms of global CO2 emissions are the ones most directly hit by the effects of climate change. Bolivia is no exception. Reymundo tells me of colder winters with ice so thick the alpacas can’t break it to find grass. Summers are hotter, drying up what little water is here. When it rains, it rains harder causing erosion and a degradation of top soil, further exasperating the lack of grass. And, most often, there’s a drought. For Reymundo, finding pasture for his alpaca is becoming more and more difficult. Consistent watering holes have disappeared. What was once a staple of this region, herding animals has become a dying lifestyle.

Alpaca herders in the Apolobamba are seeing their communities splinter as families retreat to cities, straining urban infrastructure. It's a lose-lose. His son Alberto, works in the Oriente in the construction industry and has no interest of returning to the family farm. It’s too challenging he says. Too much pressure and it’s only getting worse.

As long as he has animals, Reymundo will be here moving them from pasture to pasture looking for a disappearing pool. It's not lost on Reymundo that his ancestors' lifestyle will die with him.


 

MICHAEL HANSON

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