Regional agrarian structure


The Agricultural Census 2013 registered a total of 861.608 agricultural production units (APUs), which –under ownership or usufruct– hold a total of 34.654.983,7 hectares of land. Most of these APUs are located in the plateaus (49,6%) and the valleys (33,3%); however, they only represent 15,7% and 11,9% (respectively) of total number of hectares of land. On the contrary, the plains hold only 17,1% (140.878) of total number of APUs, but concentrate 72,4% of total land area.

The departments with the lowest average area per APU are Cochabamba (6,87 ha.) and Potosí (7,43 ha.). Both of these departments feature a strong presence of small agricultural lands in their territories. Conversely, the complete opposite happens in the plains, where large areas of land are more commonplace. Such is the case of the average area in Beni (451,56 ha.), where there is prevalence of large haciendas[1] and extensive livestock farming; Pando (270,61 ha.), with its Brazil nut exploitations (barracas) and timber-yielding forest concessions; and Santa Cruz (123,60 ha.), where agrarian and livestock farming activities are extremely important.

When comparing the data of the Agricultural Census 1984 with that of the Agricultural Census 2013 (which was discussed in further detail in the article “No substantial change in Bolivia’s agrarian structure”), we can observe that the agrarian structure of Bolivia has not substantially changed in the last thirty years. There is still considerable concentration of land as evidenced by how the minority of APUs exceeds the majority of APUs both in conjoint and average land size.

This structure responds to both the orientation of land policies from 1953 until today, and the functioning of the market, which enabled processes of land accumulation across the country. (See the chart below).

Both the plateaus and valleys of Bolivia present a significant number of APUs in the range of less than 1 hectare in size and 1 to 4,99 hectares in size –these are known for their limited size and –consequently–  for providing temporary workforce in both the agricultural sector and other sectors of economy. On the other hand, these two regions also present a phenomenon that was originally linked only to the plains: 1,7% of APUs –in both cases– concentrate a little more than 50% of total number of hectares of land at the regional level, thus breaking the myth of the inexistence of such great extensions of land in the central and western parts of the country.

As for the plains, the 22.195 APUs that are in the range of 100 ha. and above hold a total of 22,3 million hectares of land, which translates to 89,3% of the regional total, and 64,4% of the national total area of all APUs combined.  Finally, it is important to point out that the average land size of the APUs in this range is far greater in the plains (1009,10 ha.) than in the plateaus (391,73 ha.) and the valleys (486,22 ha.).

 [1] Hacienda: Spanish/Latin American term used to describe a large estate where exploitation of any kind, mainly agriculture-related, takes place.


La Paz, September 5th 2016.