Carmen Zapata has been our coordinator in Bolivia since 2014. She lives in La Paz and works closely with the local Swisscontact office. She was also active in development cooperation before becoming involved with the SEC.
What she likes about working for SEC is that she can support entrepreneurs all over Bolivia. In order to acquire potential clients, she is in contact with Swisscontact projects, various chambers of commerce and SMEs. She thinks it’s impressive that you can achieve great results with few resources and a lot of commitment and knowledge.
SEC in Bolivia
Since joining SEC, Carmen Zapata has accompanied over 50 SEC assignments to date. The industry with the highest demand in Bolivia has always been the food industry. Many of the assignments were carried out with enterprises related to dairy products, bread and pastry making, grain processing, and even beer brewing. In this regard, many innovative products have been created for the Bolivian market; such is the case of “Pacha seasoning: from the field to your table”, a byproduct made from the surplus of vegetables and aromatic herbs production. This seasoning was developed by organic farmers’ families in Oruro together with a food expert as a new way to avoid food loss and food waste and to provide a source of income for more than ten families in a rural area of Bolivian.
Most entrepreneurial sectors can benefit from SEC assignments in Bolivia. We believe that the food industry, clothes manufacturing, jewelry, carpentry, construction, and tourism are particularly suitable.
Until today, the SEC program has mainly supported enterprises located in areas of Bolivia with a higher population density and more economic growth. However, SEC is seeking to expand its horizons and reach more and more regions with SMEs that have great growth potential.
Experiences with SEC assignments
SEC has allowed Carmen Zapata to make very valuable connections with women and men from Bolivia. People who pursue their objectives and gladly accept new challenges; people that who big dreams and are unafraid to chase them. That the experts have a passion for helping and giving their knowledge wholeheartedly to these SMEs is something that moves Carmen Zapata. Undoubtedly, working with these people has led to a lot of personal growth for her.
During the COVID pandemic, many enterprises experienced a downturn and sought new ways to keep their business running. Thanks to remote assignments SEC was able to offer help to these businesses. One of them was “Jardín de Colores” (Garden of Colours), an enterprise dedicated to the daycare of small children. Because of the pandemic, they had to close down and they stopped getting income. Karina Rocha, the owner, started to think about new ideas about how to continue her business. With the help of Julian Vomsattel, an SEC expert in pedagogy who thinks the best way to learn is by playing, they started exchanging ideas and designed a collection of toys. These toys are made with wood and cotton and seek to reflect the culture and identity of the country; they tell local stories and legends and are truly Bolivian toys for Bolivian children.
“For sure, we faced some challenges during these nine years,” Carmen Zapata says. “But teamwork, coordination with the Main Office in Zurich, and the support of the Swisscontact Bolivia office have allowed me to overcome the tough times and to keep on growing.”
“Bolivia’s diversity – the country has numerous unique plant and animal species. It is also one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Bolivia has over 35 registered indigenous peoples with their own culture, language and customs.”, Carmen Zapata replies when asked what makes her country special.
Facts & Figures Bolivia
|Area in km2||1,099,000 km
|Language(s)||Spanish + 36 indigenous languages
|SEC assignments conducted since 1997||118|
|Main industries of assignments since 1997||Food (41 %), Tourism (11 %), Construction (9 %)
|Swisscontact in Bolivia||Since 1998
5 projects are currently running
Learn more about Swisscontact’s activities in Nepal:
Bolivia – Countries – Site