About 40 percent of Bolivia’s estimated population of 9.2 million people lives in extreme poverty. The country’s geographic constraints were linked to its economic ones—Bolivia is landlocked and mountainous, with long distances between cities. Given its proximity to neighbors Argentina and Paraguay, eastern Bolivia had a high potential for agricultural trade—but suffered from an underdeveloped road system, limiting the ability of farmers to get their products to market.
By the late 1990s, the poor conditions of the 150 km Abapó-Camiri section of the main highway, which connected eastern Bolivia with its southern neighbors, was holding back economic development. The project was a huge undertaking, since the reconstruction and paving was extremely complex and large in scale. It involved bypasses of a major bridge and towns, and the highway transited several small indigenous communities.