Chiquitanía, Bolivia

"For me, resilience means learning from experience and knowing how to act".

Written by: Rigliana Portugal

Located on the shores of the Guapomó artificial lagoon is San Ignacio de Velasco, a beautiful place and a gateway to Noel Kempff Mercado National Park in Bolivia. With a warm tropical climate, characterized by rain in summer and dryness in winter, this municipality of Chiquitanía in the department of Santa Cruz, presents an abundant forest cover, being of great forest potential, where species such as mara, cedar, oak, tajibo and of course bibosí, curupaú and jichituriqui stand out.

Of cheerful and hardworking people, San Ignacio has tourism attractions that locals and strangers admire, such as the San Ignacio de Velasco Cathedral, Plaster cave, San Francisco de Assis Church, and the missionary era sundial, among others. It is in this place full of traditions and charm that in the winter of 1993, one of his daughters was born, her name is Jimena Bruno Yovetty.


For her parents Wilmar Bruno and Angela Yovetty, Jimena was always committed to the welfare of others, starting with her two brothers, one older than her and the other younger. Jimena's childhood and youth were spent between joys and sorrows, between learning and sharing with Freferick and Keyla. Being the second daughter, she learned a lot from them, and little by little she was molding a remarkable leadership, which characterized her from her young age.

Today she is 28 years old and for many people, Jimena Bruno is considered a leader, a Water and Sanitation Promoter committed to her work, within the Community of San Luisito in the municipality of San Ignacio de Velasco.

«My community choose me to train on the subject of water and thus make replicas to families, in schools, and through my community. What I do is to share everything I have learned»

Jimena Bruno

For her, living in San Ignacio de Velasco is a blessing, but also a resilience test due to constant threats faced by its inhabitants. "Two years ago, fire and drought hit our communities. Fire affected us a lot because we lost our crops, our chaco, and we also lost the grass that feeds our animals. Because of the drought our water pits dried up. We had no water to feed our animals, not even for our own consumption. Some communities in the surrounding area also had this problem. The smoke from fire affected our health, our lungs, causing eye irritation. Also, children and young people could not attend class; our economy declined, because we had no way to sell our products", Jimena's story highlights, while her eyes draw traces of sadness.

In Bolivia, between January 1 and October 15, 2021, more than 3.4 million hectares burned in the country. The departments of Santa Cruz and Beni accounted for 94% of the burned areas [1]. In this context, UNICEF's "Resilience in the Chiquitanía" project entered municipalities such as San Ignacio de Velasco, San Miguel de Velasco, San José de Chiquitos, San Rafael and Roboré to strengthen resilience and the capacity for integrated risk management of families, implementing innovative strategies for livelihoods, water, health, and education, thus enhancing the capacities of families and communities and diverse actors, both public and private. In this process, the role of community promoters, such as Jimena Bruno, was vital.



In addition to the drought and fire, a new threat knocked on San Ignacio de Velasco doors... the COVID-19 pandemic. "We have lost family members and been left with sequelae due to the disease. It was because of the pandemic that I lost my husband, he was infected because he was in charge of the personnel who fumigated the health centers, markets and financial institutions. In just one month, the disease got the better of him and he passed away. I have a baby who, when my husband died, was three months old". After this trial life, Jimena is moving forward with determination, hand in hand with Gael, her little son, who has become the central engine of her life.

"The Resilience in Chiquitanía project has been a hope for us because it has allowed us to learn a lot, because we have been trained in different communities and we have learned methods of water disinfection, solid waste management, also how to prevent COVID-19 by promoting healthy habits, from washing our hands, using the mask correctly, physical distancing, taking care of the nutrition of our children, of the most vulnerable, mainly women and the elder. We learned to make recipes where we use products that are from the same communities and others that also improve our nutrition". For her, women and men share actions in the communities to carry out the "water harvest", as well as the disinfection of this resource, has been an experience that has also demonstrated the importance of shared work in gender equality between women and men.


"I have been able to make replicas in my community as well as in my home to have water to drink. As we know with this time of drought there was no safe water to drink, so we had to see how to consume that water. Now with these disinfection methods that we have been taught, we know how to treat the water for safe consumption".

Jimena believes that the method implemented by the project, executed by HELVETAS Bolivia, has allowed people to learn about agricultural production, health, nutrition, water, sanitation, and hygiene, as well as education. For her, the richness of the project is that it has valued what people think and say having been born at the social base and with the people to succeed in changing habits and improving living conditions.

"Everything I have lived through has taught me that you have to be resilient, and for me resilience means knowing how to face these situations, learning from the experience, and knowing how to act. The project has shaped me, and I know that I am not the same as before... now I am more resilient."


[1] According to the report of the Friends of Nature Foundation Bolivia


Rigliana Portugal
Communication and Knowledge Management Specialist
HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation 
Twitter: @HelvetasBolivia
Youtube: @HelvetasBolivia
Fotos: Jimena Bruno