Sustainable consumption and production is about promoting resource and energy efficiency, aiming at “doing more and better with less,” thus increasing net welfare gains from economic activities by reducing resource use, degradation and pollution along the whole lifecycle, while increasing quality of life.
Bolivia has a lot of potential for such efficiency gains, as current patterns of production are dismally inefficient in most areas. In agriculture, for example, agricultural yields per hectare are about half the levels found in neighbouring countries, and agricultural output per worker is a third of the level in Paraguay, a fourth of the level in Colombia, and fifth of the level in Brazil. Not to mention Argentina, where each agricultural worker generates 15 times more value added than agricultural workers in Bolivia1. One consequence of the inefficiencies in agriculture is that we sacrifice a lot of tropical forest while getting very little in return.
Similar inefficiencies are found in many other areas. For example, the labour force in Bolivia on average has more years of education than the labour force in Chile, but GDP per worker in Bolivia is less than a third compared to Chile, implying that we get much too little out of the high private and public investments in education.
In addition, Bolivia’s systems to collect and process waste are extremely limited. Almost all wastewater is led directly into rivers and lakes without treatment, and 1.3 million Bolivians are forced to throw their trash into the river or the street for lack of trash collection services2. According to the GAP Frame Index analysing 24 different dimensions of development in Bolivia, Waste Treatment is the dimension where Bolivia scores the lowest (1.1 out of 10)3.
Promoting more resource and energy efficient production methods and less waste should be a high priority in Bolivia.