The lake project

Project for the identification, registration and valuation of cultural heritage in the Lake Titicaca basin, Bolivia

Contributing to improve the community management of cultural heritage in the basin of the Titicaca lake in Bolivia and to promote the development of cultural tourism community.

The underwater cultural archaeological heritage in the Bolivian Lake Titicaca’s basin, owned by the prioritized municipalities, is identified, recorded, characterized, valorized, and conserved; and the local actors’ management capabilities and economical leverage are enhanced.


  • The underwater and associated terrestrial cultural heritage, located in the prioritized spaces, is identified and registered by archaeological specific techniques.
  • The archaeological cultural heritage is protected with legal tools and full management.
  • The Municipal Self-Governments and Communities related to the archaeological cultural heritage of the prioritized municipalities have capabilities and tools to manage their cultural heritage and which incorporates the gender as transversal axis.
  • The tangible and intangible heritage of the Communities is revalued, documented, and disseminated through a greater knowledge of its ancestral cultures and the outcome of the investigations.

This project includes the gender’s perspective as transversal axis.


Funders: Kingdom of Belgium; Plurinational State of Bolivia; Ministry of Cultures and Tourism

Implementation: Ministry of Cultures and Tourism; CTB, Belgian Development Agency

Prioritized municipalities: 1) Copacabana, 2) Escoma, 3) Guaqui, 4) Pucarani, 5) Santiago de Huata, 6) San Pedro de Tiquina, 7) Ancoraimes, 8) Batallas, 9) Puerto Carabuco, 10) Puerto Acosta, 11) Tito Yupanqui, 12) Tiahuanacu and 13) Puerto Pérez.

Start of the project: First Quarter 2016

Project duration: Up to 30/06/2019

Budget: Belgian contribution: €1.500.000; Local contribution: Bs768.252.68 (99.706 Euros)

On 12 November 2015, the Plurinational State of Bolivia and the Kingdom of Belgium signed the specific convention for the Project of identification, inventory-making and valorization of the cultural heritage in the Titicaca Lake basin in Bolivia, henceforth referred to as “Lake Project”.

Overall aim of the Lake Project is to contribute to the improved community management of the Titicaca Lake basin cultural heritage and to promote the development of the community cultural tourism. 

More specifically, aim of the Lake Project is to ensure that the archaeological cultural heritage both under water and on the shorelines of the Titicaca Lake in Bolivia, that belongs to priority Communities, be identified, registered, characterized, valorized and safeguarded, and also that the capacities of management and economic development of the local stakeholders be strengthened.

Expected outcomes of the Lake Project are as follows:

  • Outcome 1: Both the cultural heritage under water and on the shorelines within the priority areas was identified and recorded based on specific archaeological techniques.
  • Outcome 2: Protection of the cultural archaeological heritage by using legal instruments and global management tools. 
  • Outcome 3: Strengthened actions relating to the cultural archaeological heritage of the priority Municipalities, of their autonomous municipal and community governments, with capacity building and by providing instruments for the touristic management of their cultural heritage, this being an integrated cross-cutting part of the Lake Project.
  • Outcome 4: Improvement, documentation and dissemination of the communities’ material and immaterial heritage based on a better knowledge of their ancestral cultures and on the outcomes of their research.

The Lake Project has 3-year duration and a total budget of 1,599,706 millions Euros. The Project will be executed in accordance with Belgian regulations in the 13 priority Municipalities of the Project: Guaqui, Tiahuanaco, Escoma, Puerto Acosta, Carabuco, Ancoraimes, Batallas, San Pedro de Tiquina, Tito Yupanqui, Copacabana, Puerto Perez, Pucarani, and Santiago de Huata.

The Belgian Technical Cooperation – Enabel

The Belgian Technical Cooperation – Enabel (BTC–Enabel) is the development cooperation agency providing support to the implementation of development programs on behalf of the Belgian State and other donors in 14 countries worldwide in order to eradicate poverty and help achieve a sustainable development. To its partners, the BTC provide expertise as well as human and financial resources, and all its activities are based on its core principles of transparency and integrity.

Aim of the BTC is to achieve that men and women live in respect of the rule of law, enjoy equal access to quality public services and the freedom of pursuing their aspirations

The BTC-Enabel:

  • Promotes the sustainable family agriculture in order to improve food security and contribute to an inclusive economic growth,
  • Supports the use of digital technologies to enhance development and enable the most vulnerable population groups to provide better services to the citizens,
  • Seeks to ensure access to water and basic sanitation in order to improve public health, environment, gender equality and economics,
  • Promotes education programs in the context of economic and personal development,
  • Increases the access of households, enterprises and institutions to energy in order to improve population’s lives.
  • Aims at strengthening gender equity,
  • Promotes health programs to ensure that targeted population groups can contribute to the development of their country.

Thus, the BTC’s work seeks to help realizing a society offering to present and upcoming generations all necessary means to build up a just, fair and sustainable world.

The Belgian cooperation began its activities in Bolivia in 1974 with actions based on local priorities and achieved to develop programs meeting the country development needs, thus contributing to poverty reduction, to advances regarding the implementation of a sustainable development and to the reduction of inequalities.

The BTC executed the implementation of cooperation projects jointly with the government of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. In Bolivia, priority actions relate to the sectors of health, environment and water, rural development and inter-culturality, a special emphasis being placed on the integration of cross-cutting approaches such as gender, climate change, sustainability and strengthening both institutional and individual competencies.

Project background 

The Lake Project goes back to and roots in the Huiñaimarca Project, which was a 2012-2015 PhD research project led by Dr. Christophe Delaere of the free University of Brussels (ULB) through the Research Center for Archaeology and Heritage (CReA-Patrimoine), that exclusively concentrated on the study and valorization of the underwater heritage of the Titicaca Lake in Bolivia. This project, aimed at valorizing this unknown heritage, proposed a several year plan including systematic surveys on the context of the underwater archaeological conservation of Lake Titicaca, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, the UDAM, local communities and the Municipalities.

The research project was focused on studying the Tiwanaku pre-Inca culture with its different phases of appearance, evolution and peak, all intrinsically related to the Paleolithic environmental factors that marked the pace of the historical land use of the Titicaca Lake basin. In 2012, SONAR operations of geophysical prospection and calibration were carried out in the Titicaca Lake (Huiñaimarca 2012 - Project PH12). In 2013, M. Christophe Delaere submitted above mentioned project to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Plurinational State of Bolivia and, in same year, the first operations of prospection and underwater excavations in the Titicaca Lake were started (Huiñaimarca 2013 - PH13 Project). This project involved a delegation of researchers with different nationalities and fields of expertise, and focused on identifying the different components of the underwater archaeological documentation. Excavations on the archaeological site of “Khoa” revealed size and quality of the submerged heritage. Preliminary data on the historical level fluctuations of the Lake waters were published by the research and have shown that, around 900 A.D., the Lake water level was 6 meters lower than presently, which means that the current shorelines were several kilometers further away inland. Later, in 2014 (Huiñaimarca 2014 -  PH14 Project), a third exploration campaign was carried out, mainly in the Municipality of Copacabana, and in parallel, an important work of conditioning and conserving the project findings of the previous year took place. It is in this precise PhD project that the Project of identification, inventory-making and valorization of the cultural heritage in the Titicaca Lake basin is rooted. It has been submitted during the Bolivian-Belgian Commission meeting of February 2014 and included a financing agreement by the Belgian Cooperation.

Results 2017

The Lake Project aims to consolidate activities in 13 prioritized municipalities of the Titicaca basin. These activities are briefly described below.

1. Underwater archeology

To this day, the Lake Project has carried out archaeological investigations, surveys and underwater excavations in 11 prioritized municipalities: 4 in 2016 (Copacabana, Santiago de Huata, Escoma and Carabuco) and 7 in 2017 (San Pedro de Tiquina, Batallas, Puerto Perez, Pucarani, Tiahuanaco, Guaqui and Tito Yupanqui). The persons in charge of this work were: Mr Christophe Delaere, on behalf of the ULB, and the Bolivian Mr Marcial Medina. 

2. Recording terrestrial archaeological heritage

The archaeological heritage located on the shores of Lake Titicaca was recorded, involving 3  prioritized municipalities out of 13. This activity was conducted in the municipalities of Ojje (Santiago de Tiquina, Ojjelaya, Lupalaya, Silaya, etc.), Tito Yupanqui and Copacabana (Chisi, Chachapoya, Kollasuyo, Bethlehem, Santa Ana, Sampaya, Sicuani, Titicachi, among others).

3. Creating a center for regional heritage management and promoting a community-based tourism in San Pablo de Tiquina

As highly anticipated, the municipal Council President of Tiquina, Mr Florian Intimayta, and the Councilman, Mr David Yujra, met a Lake Project commission. This commission visited an infrastructure on 06 November 2017, with the objective to see the local conditions for a potential management center in the municipality. Before the center creation, a meeting will be held with the authorities of 13 municipalities to define the technical, financial, legal and administrative matters. 

4. 13 prioritized municipalities out of 13 enacted their laws

After long days of sustained work and healthy competitions, all approved and enacted laws to protect the archaeological cultural heritage. In other words, 100% of the prioritized municipalities now have one law and five additional legal tools for their heritage management.

5. Conserving and preserving 10 emergency sites from the prioritized municipalities

The Terms of Reference for carrying out conservation/preservation campaigns of archaeological cultural heritage are being prepared. To develop this activity, an archaeological specialist determined which site should be retained and preserved. 

6. Enhancing the ministry’s AMU equipment

The Lake Project provided the Archeology and Museums Unit (AMU) with modern equipment for the cartographic and documentary recording of the national archaeological heritages in their care. The Lake Project also developed specialized management capabilities in heritage for the technical staff through training. 

7. Municipal plans of tourism are concluded

PRODEPE, a consulting firm, completed and validated a demanding work: 12 Municipal Plans of Tourism out of 13 prioritized municipalities. These documents were drafted through meetings in each municipality. To date, the municipal councils are in the process of approving their implementations.

8. Training trip with municipal managers and local leaders

On 27 and 28 September 2017, we made a trip to the Taquile Island/Urus-Peru, in order to train and strengthen municipal managers and local leaders. The participants came from all the 13 prioritized municipalities. In Peru, Taquile Island/Urus has taken advantage of its cultural identity and cultural/natural heritage: this favored the experimentation and learning of our Bolivian audience. The training trip was realized according to a methodology, an activity-program and an evaluation form.

9. Training in the management of community-based tourism

18 municipal managers and local leaders joined a course in management/planning of community-based tourism (developed by ‘Rural Tourism Bolivia’ and ‘A-TEC S.R.L’). This activity was developed through a virtual platform. Its teaching focused on the use of methodological tools that can facilitate the management/planning of rural tourism in Bolivia.

10. Reappraisal of the Aymaran cultural identity

This activity consisted in collecting oral stories, with an archaeological approach, in 13 municipalities. This activity is still being implemented with great expectations because of strategic concerns: it should contribute to the culture reappraisal and to a possible enhanced knowledge in the communities. In addition to the collection of oral stories, this activity also involves the planning of an Oral Tradition Competition, at the level of the 13 prioritized municipalities, in 2018.

11. Meeting for women leaders from the 13 prioritized municipalities

This event will be held in the city of La Paz, with women councilors and leaders involved in Lake Titicaca’s touristic entrepreneurships. This event will assess the contribution of women to the preservation and conservation of heritage and cultural identity, on the basis of oral stories, with an archaeological approach – hence why strengthening the commitment to their municipalities. 

12. Visibility for tourism and heritage

6 promotional video-capsules showing the wealth of the Titicaca Lake in high quality were created. Soon, they will be relayed through social networks (such as the Lake Project Facebook page and other instances of communication). The firm ‘Panoramique Terre’ arrived from Belgium, our partner-country, to produce these films.
The Lake Project’s activities are based on a Technical Financial Paper. The Ministry of Cultures and Tourism, the Vice-Ministry of Interculturality/Archeology and Museums Unit and the Vice-Minister of Tourism are constantly being involved as focal points of the Bolivian national government. They report to the Belgian Technical Cooperation (designated to implement the Lake Project).

Thanks to their councilors and technical expert in the 13 prioritized municipalities, the native authorities were decisive in the support and constant follow-up to all the activities.

In 2018, last year of the Lake Project, several activities will be consolidated.

The Lake Project is co-executed by the BTC–Enabel and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MCyT) through the Unit for Archaeology and Museums (UDAM) of the Vice Ministry of Inculturality. By early 2016, the BTC signed a grant agreement with the free University of Brussels (ULB) that delegates to this university the execution of underwater archaeology activities as well as the Project visibility.

The Project implementation implies the coordinated action of the various stakeholders committed to the management of both the archaeological and immaterial cultural heritage and of the community tourism.

The 13 priority autonomous municipal governments and their inhabitants are directly involved in the implementation of the Lake Project activities.

The Project implementation is governed by the State new political constitution (2009), the Law on autonomy and decentralization (2010), the general law on tourism (2012) and the law on the Bolivian cultural heritage (2014).