At Bolivia’s lake Lake Poopo, where there used to be water, there is now a dry bed. The lake has suffered many droughts before, but this dry spell has endured for the past 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. Without it, local communities which formerly relied on fishing have had to find new ways to earn a living. Many men have left to work in mines and the population in Punaca Tinta Maria has halved in the past 10 years.
One of the few still living there is Evarista Flores Alvarez, who now makes and sells arts and crafts. “We do this to survive. To be able to put food on the table. But we don’t make much money,” Alvarez says.