Resiliency in Hostile Environments: A Comunidad Agrícola in Chile's Norte Chico

Resiliency in Hostile Environments: A Comunidad Agrícola in Chile's Norte Chico

Resiliency in Hostile Environments: A Comunidad Agrícola in Chile's Norte Chico

Resiliency in Hostile Environments: A Comunidad Agrícola in Chile's Norte Chico

Synopsis

The agricultural communities (communidades agr icolas) of Chile's Norte Chico are dynamic systems of indivisible communal land, inherited use rights, democratic decision-making, and diverse economic strategies closely linked to changing environmental conditions. In this semi-arid region where drought is chronic and poverty is widespread, families reproduce their livelihood and comunero culture through a variety of integrated economic, subsistence, and social practices. Based on fieldwork spanning years of extreme climate changes, this vividly detailed ethnography of daily life in a peasant community explores the full range of income-generating and resource management strategies and forms of cooperative mutual assistance that are available to these households. One family's story is highlighted to illustrate the extraordinary resiliency of these communities despite the harsh ecological and, at times, social and political environments in which they are situated. The book places these descriptions within the political economy of development in Chile's current transition to democracy. While the state is more attentive to rural poverty in the post-dictatorship era, some programs and policies informed by a discourse of modernization and standardization limit these traditionally flexible livelihood options.

Excerpt

The Comunidades Agrícolas of Chile's Norte Chico are unique community systems of indivisible communal land, inherited land use rights, democratic decision making, and diverse economic strategies that are closely linked to changing environmental conditions. Families reproduce their livelihood in this semiarid region where drought is chronic and poverty is widespread through a combination of pastoralism, dryland farming, and temporary labor migration. As this research is based on fieldwork that spanned three years of extreme climate changes, the reader is presented with an opportunity to observe a full range of flexible risk management strategies and cooperative mutual assistance that these people make use of at both the family and community level. One particular family’s story is given as an illustration of the extraordinary resiliency that these communities have shown despite the harsh ecological and, at times, social and political environment in which they are situated. State attention to the problems that the comunidades face has increased during Chile’s transition to democracy over the past two decades, but economic development programs sometimes limit the options of people living there and at times conflict with local ideals and practices. This book brings to light the specifics of their livelihood and culture and addresses important questions concerning the persistence and the future of peasant culture and small commodity producers in Latin America.

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