At Bolivia’s Lake Poopo, the once abundant water now lies in a dry bed. Despite many droughts in the past, this dry spell has persisted for 20 years due to the combined impact of increased water demand and the El Nino weather cycle.
“Our ancestors used to say that the lake came back every 10 years, but so far it’s still gone,” says Erasmo Suna Flores, a leader from the local village Punaca Tinta Maria in the southwestern region of Oruro.
Lake Poopo used to be the second-largest body of water in Bolivia, and its loss has forced local communities to seek alternative livelihoods.
Many men have left to work in mines, and the population in Punaca Tinta Maria has decreased by half in the past decade.
Evarista Flores Alvarez is among the few who remain, now making and selling arts and crafts to make ends meet.
“We do this to survive. To be able to put food on the table. But we don’t make much money,” Alvarez says.