Chacra Farming in Peasant Livelihood Portfolios and Identities in the Peruvian High Andes

Authors: Anna Bebbington*, Macalester College
Topics: Latin America, Agricultural Geography, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: Peru, Andes, subsistence agriculture, peasant livelihoods, wellbeing
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Stones Throw 1 - Granite, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Nearly fifty years after land reform in Peru, and in the face of dramatic climatic and social change, small-scale, high-altitude agriculture and the livelihoods of peasant households have fundamentally changed. Nonetheless, low-input subsistence agriculture, known as “chacra” agriculture, remains a prominent feature in Andean landscapes and peasant livelihoods. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in 2017 and 2018 in two agro-pastoral communities in the Ancash region of Peru, this paper seeks to understand how and why households in these communities continue to rely on the chacra as part of their livelihood strategies. While seeking to understand the role of the chacra in peasant livelihood portfolios, I consider the ways in which the chacra is meaningful beyond its purely subsistence value. Findings show that agricultural and pastoral activities are largely inseparable within these communities: household resource use, labor and incomes are intrinsically shaped by this agro-pastoral system, even as livelihood strategies have diversified. Moreover, while it is evident that the chacra remains consequential in the subsistence of peasant households, it is closely tied to Andean and peasant identities, representing a connection to the landscape, secure access to land, and the ability to feed and maintain wellbeing in the family. This research suggests that a more holistic understanding of Andean chacra agriculture as part of a larger agro-pastoral system, a diversified livelihood portfolio and a broader value system, would help to explain the persistence of the chacra while also improving our ability to respond to the mounting challenges to high-altitude, subsistence agriculture.

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