Country Profile


Crossroads' Work in Bolivia

Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, with an estimated 59 per cent of the population living in poverty. The situation has left many communities, particularly rural and indigenous ones, struggling to meet their basic needs.

In Bolivia, Crossroads focuses on strengthening the local economy through partnerships with local organizations employing micro-finance tools (communal banks and micro credit) in working with the urban and rural poor.

Our people improved their skills, they are more motivated, tolerant and flexible because of this partnership. This exposure to other cultures and other ways of work has been very beneficial. ANED is stronger because we now have stronger people working for us.

- Jose Luis Pereira Ossio, Board Member and former Executive Director of ANED.


Full Name: Plurinational State of Bolivia

Population: 10,3 million (UN, 2013)

Capital: Sucre (official), La Paz (administrative)

Largest city: Santa Cruz

Area: 1.1 million sq km (424,164 sq miles)

Major languages: Spanish, Quechua, Aymara, Guarani

Major religion: Christianity

Life Expectancy: 67 years (World Bank, 2012)

Monetary Unit: 1 boliviano = 100 centavos

Main Exports: Soyabeans, natural gas, zinc, gold, silver, lead, tin, antimony, wood, sugar

GNI per capita: US$ 2,540 (World Bank, 2012)


Bolivia is a country of contrasts. It has abundant mineral and energy resources, yet is also the poorest country in South America.

Until recently, governance of the country at the national level was in the hands of an urban-based elite, primarily of Spanish descent. The 2005 election and 2009 re-election of Evo Morales, the country’s first president with roots in the indigenous majority (who make up about two-thirds of the population) represented a major shift in Bolivia’s political landscape.

In January 2009, voters backed President Morales' project for a new constitution that aimed to give greater powers to the indigenous majority. The proposed constitution met with opposition in wealthier parts of the country.

Mr Morales has made poverty reduction, land reform favouring poorer peasants, the redistribution of wealth and public control over Bolivia's oil and gas resources his main priorities. He has nationalised much of the energy sector.


Morales’ election was the culmination of popular dissatisfaction with IMF-mandated austerity programs intended to curb inflation as well as government efforts to privatize water utilities, state energy companies and other critical areas of Bolivia’s economy. The country has the second-largest reserves of natural gas in South America.

The Morales government has pledged to raise taxes for foreign corporations working in the mining sector and to re-distribute one-fifth of the country’s land to individual farmers.


Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, ranking 108 out of 186 countries on the UN Human Development Index of 2013. While the adult literacy rate is over 90 percent, nearly 35 per cent of Bolivians live on less than US$2 a day. Life expectancy at birth is 64 for men and 69 for women.

Women’s Rights

According to the UN Human Development Index, women in Bolivia, on average, earn only 60 per cent as much as their male counterparts. The percentage of women in senior positions in politics and business between 1999 and 2005 was 36 per cent. The World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index of 2011 (which compares economic participation, educational attainment, political empowerment and health/survival between women and men) ranks Bolivia 62nd in a list of 135 countries.

While only 25 per cent of seats in Bolivia’s parliament are held by women, a political milestone was reached in 2005 when the current national government appointed the first woman to head the Interior Ministry.


In Bolivia, about 65 per cent of adults with HIV and AIDS are men and 35 per cent are women. A total of about 6,800 adults are living with HIV and AIDS. UNAIDS reports that the provision of HIV and AIDS services to vulnerable groups is low (3% in men who have sex with men, 30% in sex workers) and that some of the main obstacles to achieving progress are high levels of stigma and discrimination towards people with HIV and AIDS.

Amongst young people, levels of awareness of ways to prevent HIV are low, as is condom use. According to UNAIDS, only 20 per cent of men, aged 15 to 24 were able to correctly identify ways to prevent HIV. The percentage of young people in the same age group, who used a condom the last time they had sex with a casual partner, was 37 per cent for men and 20 per cent for women.


Crossroads International gratefully acknowledges the support of: