Bolivia - geography
Bolivia is twice the size of France, but immensely sparsely populated; over
half of the country are virtually untouched natural areas.
The largest ethnic groups are the Quechua and Aymará Indians in the
highlands; they constitute resp. 30 and just over 20% of the population. In the
northern lowlands, there are a number of smaller Indian tribes, totaling
approximately 3%. Slightly more than 1/3 is mestizos,
i.e. mixed European/Native American, 1% are descendants of black slaves from
the Potosímins and 6-8% are of European descent. The country's power elite comes
mainly from the latter group.
Do you know how many people there are in Bolivia? Check this site to see
population pyramid and resident density about this country.
Since the 1980's, there have been significant improvements in health
conditions, but the widespread poverty and harsh living conditions in the
highlands mean that child mortality remains high. The average life expectancy
has increased from 40 years in the 1950's to 64 years around 2006, but is still
one of the lowest in South America.
Nearly 40% of the population lives on the vast Altiplano plateau, but living
conditions are difficult, so many young people move with government support to
the lowlands. The large eastern department of Santa Cruz thus has a population
growth of over 4% per year. The northern department of Beni, which is partly
located in the Amazon rainforest, is also experiencing strong growth, while the
traditional mining areas around Potosí and Oruro are stagnating. Of greater
importance, however, is the vigorous migration from country to city; in the
three largest cities, the twin city of La Paz-El Alto (1.7 million residents),
Cochabamba (930,000) and the low-lying village of Santa Cruz (1.4 million), live
almost 45% of the country's residents (2006). Bolivia's official capital,
Sucre, lost its role as seat of government and administrative city to La Paz as
early as 1899; left is only the country's Supreme Court.Andes Indians.
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see song lyrics and singer about this country.
Traditionally, Bolivia is an agricultural and mining country. The highlands
and valleys are characterized by small unmechanized farms with sparse yields and
limited development opportunities. Yet, today, 3/4 of
the food supply here. In the highlands, barley, quínoa and a variety of
different types of potatoes are grown for the families' self-sufficiency. Quínoa
is a local species of the saltwort family with small, bitter, starchy fruits,
popularly called "Inca rice". The livestock is significant. It consists of
sheep, of which there are 12 million. in the country, llamas and alpacas. The
poorest part of the population also keeps a lot of goats, which can wear hard on
the natural vegetation. In the valleys, agricultural opportunities are greater,
but erosion is a significant problem.
Most of Bolivia's area is made up of the sparsely populated eastern
lowlands. Here are a few giant cattle farms and large modern farms that mainly
produce for export; the traditional export crops sugar and cotton are
increasingly being replaced by soy and rice. In the northern rainforest areas, a
lot of precious wood is felled, while the collection of rubber has decreased due
to low rubber prices. The lowlands also produce and export coffee, cocoa
and Brazil nuts.
Mining has a long tradition in Bolivia. Even before the Spanish
conquest, the Indians mined precious metals, and around 1650 the silver city of
Potosí was one of the great cities of the world. Silver production and prices
declined during the 1800's, and tin took over the role of the main export
commodity. Strong competition in the tin market has hit Bolivia's economy hard
several times, including in the 1980's. However, the country still has
significant mining; in addition to tin, antimony, zinc, gold, silver
and tungsten are mined. In the eastern and south-eastern regions, oil and
natural gas have been found; sales of natural gas to Argentina form a
significant part of Bolivia's exports.
Hard-to-reach mountains and forest areas, which are often flooded, make it
difficult and costly to develop infrastructure. Trade and other connections with
the outside world are hampered by this and by the lack of direct access to the
sea. Only a very small part of the road network is paved, and even on many main
stretches the roads are difficult to access due to the terrain and periodic
floods and landslides. It also affects the country's 3,500 km long railway
network, which is divided into two parts without interconnection. The west is
connected to Chile, from where a large part of Bolivia's exports are
shipped. These railways are some of the highest in the world with several lines
at over 4000 m altitude. The eastern network is connected to Brazil. Compared to
the road network, however, the railways have only a very limited significance
for land transport.
In the northern, low-lying part of the country, passenger and goods transport
is often only possible along the rivers. There are many domestic flights, but
only a few abroad. El Alto International Airport at La Paz is located at 4050
meters above sea level and is the world's highest civilian airport.
Bolivia has a magnificent and very varied nature. The Altiplano between
the eastern and western Andes chain forms approximately 16% of the country. Large
parts of the plateau are above 4000 m, and several mountain peaks are above 6000
m; Nevado Sajama at the border with Chile is 6542 m. The large Lake Titicaca is
located 3810 m above sea level on the border with Peru and has regular scheduled
sailing. In the arid southwestern areas are large, completely or partially dried
up salt lakes, of which Salar de Uyuni is the largest. This huge salt crust is
estimated to contain 32 km 3sodium chloride. The area is almost
uninhabited and difficult to access. The climate in the highlands is cold but
dry and sunny in winter from April to September. The summer months offer
moderate rainfall, 300-600 mm. The winds in the highlands may seem almost
arctic, yet indoor heating is largely unknown.
The valleys below the highlands to the north and east make up 19% of
the area, and here live 40% of the population. The climate here is humid and
The large lowland areas have tropical rainforest in the north, grass
steppes with annual floods in the central part and dry steppes to the south. In
this largest part of the country live only 1/5 of the
Wildlife is varied. In the highlands, the llama and alpaca wildlife
live guanaco and vicunja, the rabbit-like viscacha,
and in most lakes there are flamingos. In the lowlands there are alligators,
turtles and snakes as well as a myriad of different monkeys, parrots and
butterflies. Less common are highland jaguars, cougars, anteaters and condors.
Bolivia - language
Since 1991, Bolivia has had three official languages: Spanish, which is
spoken by half of the country's residents, and the Native American
languages Quechua and Aymará, which are spoken in the highlands. In addition, a
small proportion of Bolivians speak the Tupi language Guaraní.
Bolivia - economy
Bolivia is South America's poorest country, it is indebted and like the
others characterized by high income inequality. It is rich in raw materials,
natural gas and ores, but historically corruption and international
exploitation have hampered development. Falling international metal prices, oil
crises and rising interest rates meant that Bolivia, like so many other Latin
American countries in the 1980's, was hit by a deep economic crisis. The crisis
involved declining output, hyperinflation and debt problems; in 1984, interest
payments on foreign debt were suspended. In 1985, a new economic policy was
introduced, whose aim was the abolition of government regulation, the fight
against hyperinflation and the implementation of a currency reform. Prices,
wages and exchange rates have since been determined by market forces, foreign
trade has been liberalized and import restrictions have been
reduced. Furthermore, the state's role as a producer of goods and services has
been reduced through a comprehensive privatization program, just as foreign
investors have been encouraged to participate in e.g. the country's energy and
Support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has reopened access to the
international capital markets and facilitated the possibility of obtaining debt
restructuring and reduction agreements with the country's creditors. The reform
policy resulted in a period of economic growth and low inflation, but it had
severe social effects and the illegal sector grew. Around 2000, GDP growth
stagnated, and a number of government measures, including plans for increased
gas exports and restrictions on coca cultivation, triggered social unrest. The
new government (from 2005) decided to introduce state control of the energy
sector during 2006; after this step, foreign investment has almost ceased.
The informal economy is mainly based on cocaine trafficking. Bolivia is
considered to be the world's third largest cocaine producer, and its extensive
drug exports have periodically strained relations with the United States, which
is one of Bolivia's most important financial backers and trading partners. Other
important trading partners include Argentina, Brazil and Chile. Bolivia has been
actively involved in the development of regional cooperation and is a member of
the LAIA (Latin American Integration Association) and the Andean Pact.
In 2005, Denmark's exports to Bolivia were DKK 24 million. DKK, while imports
only amounted to 3 mill. kr.