Systematization in the Bolivian Amazon

Mònica Lomeña-Gelis

This is the case of a systematization process of the experience of rural fish farming development in the Bolivian Amazon conducted by the NGOs who promoted the experience (CEAM and HOYAM) and its partners. The objective of the systematization was to start a critical reflection to analyze progress and results of the experience with the main direct and indirect stakeholders involved in this development process. Lessons learned from the systematization were meant to be used to formulate future phases of the project under scrutiny as well as other similar development interventions. The “systematizers” also aimed to unveil intangible results, emerging from participants’ responses, as well as to engage with the research community through the publication of this systematization in the framework of a bigger publication about the context and techniques of fish farming tested in the Bolivian Amazon.


Where, when

The development process started with a ethnologic and environmental research phase which led to the choice of adaptation of the old fish farming techniques of the area through low cost technologies. The “fish farming project” started in 2001 near San Ignacio de Moxos (Bolivian Amazon) and by the time of the systematization more than twenty rural communities of the province were part of the project. Participants in the systematization process were a group of Bolivian fish farmers (direct partners of the project), representatives of other sectors (fishermen, salesmen, livestock cattle breeders and ranchers, other local NGOs), city council staff, indigenous representatives, local university staff, donors, CEAM and HOYAM staff.

 The process

The authors used the methodological guidelines of FIDAMÉRICA and PREVAL for systematization of local experiences of agriculture and rural development2 as a source of inspiration. In practice, the systematization followed the following steps:

  • First, the axis of the systematization was chosen. The overall project of rural fish farming was selected to be analyzed, acknowledging it is part of a bigger development process.
  • Second, the actors and stakeholders were identified and all available documentation was collected.
  • Third, participants were chosen purposefully. Three sites were chosen to conduct interviews and workshops: San Ignacio de Moxos and Trinidad (in Bolivia) and Barcelona (Spain). The preliminary conclusions of interviews in Bolivia were shared and confirmed by participants in workshops (4 in San Ignacio and one in Trinidad).
  • Fourth, a questionnaire was used covering different aspects related to before and after the project, as well as the main perceived results according to the stakeholders. The questionnaire in Barcelona also included questions about the reasons of funding the experience in Bolivia and the communication and diffusion done by the NGO.
  • Fifth, data collection was conducted, interviews were recorded and transcribed.
  • Sixth, for data analysis, the information was organized in different tables for each site (San Ignacio, Trinidad and Barcelona). Each table includes in the first column the “opinion of majority” and in the second column, “divergent opinions” or those with some complementary information.
  • Seventh, context information, conclusions and lessons learned were organized as it is detailed in next sections and taking into consideration the overall context of the publication which the systematization was part of.


The systematization was divided in three sections: synthesis of responses (in a table for each site), detailed explanation with quotes from interviews and workshops and a synthesis of the main lessons learned through the systematization process. The results were organized following the four main sections of the questionnaire:

  • the initial situation and context before the project: economic and food security, organization and gender, environmental dimension;
  • intervention process, phases and dimensions: evaluation of the project, consolidated aspects of the projects, participation of stakeholders during project implementation, cost-efficiency, external factors;
  • current situation and results to date: quantitative and qualitative impact, distribution of benefits, achievements of the project, failures of the project;
  • Recommendations and projections.

 Challenges and lessons learnt

  • Difficulty to get organized accordingly to ensure full participation of key stakeholders.
  • Doubts about the suitability of using a conductive questionnaire in systematization process instead a more open-ended tool to allow each participant to come up with different categories of analysis of the development experience.
  • A decision was made of including some “marginal actors”, like cattle breeders of the region and fishermen, who did not participated directly in the project. This contributed with interesting insights about the development process of fish farming in the area, although it is not that clear how these results could be used.
  • Need to start the process well ahead, even include some questions during the monitoring of the project to inform the systematization process and enrich it with the views of actors active in early stages of the project.

© 2016, CTA. Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation

CTA is a joint institution operating under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement between the ACP Group of States (Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific) and the EU Member States (European Union). CTA is funded by the European Union.