Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

Andean roots, coca, and grassroots development in the Bolivian Yungas : food sovereignty and agrarian change for native farmers Public Deposited

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  • Since the 1952 Bolivian agrarian reform, farmer unions have sought to establish themselves as producers for regional markets. Development strategies led by the World Bank and IMF have largely jeopardized small farmers, and challenged farmers to meet market demands. At present, a new agrarian revolution is being implemented and is conditioned by objectives, which include land redistribution, food sovereignty, and public food enterprises. This research was conducted in the Yungas region of Bolivia in isolated mountain communities that are part of the established traditional and legal area for coca growing and thus clearly integrated into the world "commodities" market via the illicit cocaine economy. Curiously, many farmers continue to grow crops for local markets, their homes, and organic coca for traditional use. Is this part of a greater movement of revolutionary agrarian policy or concern for food sovereignty in local communities? Under this context, I explore how some individual farmers and farming associations have developed a tradition of growing Andean root crops and their lived experience of their involvement in the associations. Through participant observation and ethnographic interviews with members of two Yungueño community associations and with regional technicians, this study explores how associations and individuals negotiate national and international policy, and NGO activity, in order to create specialty niche markets for native crops. This thesis argues that alternative agricultural development that has focused on coca reduction, export-oriented agriculture, and food security has, to a large extent, been a failure. Rather, local initiatives that focus on ecological coca, food sovereignty, and native crops for local markets taken together are meeting some local development goals. This study provides an opportunity for reframing development theory and expanding the literature on food sovereignty. The concept of the La Paz-El Alto food-shed is used as a tool for exploring the potential of reorienting the moral economy around food in re-creating a more sustainable food system. From the perspectives of an Andean root crop association, I explore particular challenges members face in farming in contested lands of commodity coca production. Associations begin by meeting specialty market needs for ritual uses of specialty Andean crops, and may utilize a variety of assistance programs but are determined to maintain a high level of autonomy. Associations are often cautious in searching for assistance because farmers cannot afford to lose time expanding alternative crops that could be better spent in coca production. Failure is common, and few associations achieve goals of significantly increased incomes. Rather semi-subsistence and diversification along with coca growing provide greater autonomy and sovereignty in practical terms when many of the anticipated national reforms are yet to be seen in these particular Yungueño communities. In addition, I briefly explore with farmers the environmental considerations and perspectives to climate, gardening, biodiversity loss, and the concern about the use of chemical applications.
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