In the shadow of the Green Revolution: Constrained spatial imaginaries and smallholder farming in Guatemala’s Pacific lowlands

Authors: Birgit Schmook*, ECOSUR, Unidad Chetumal, Mexico, Claudia Radel, Utah State University, USA, Lindsey Carte, Universidad de la Frontera, Chile, Richard L Johnson , University of Arizona, USA
Topics: Food Systems, Agricultural Geography
Keywords: industrial agriculture, agrarian neoliberalism, smallholder, constrained imaginaries, Pacific Lowlands Guatemala
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 21
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Much smallholder farming currently exists side-by-side largescale, industrial agriculture, as an outcome of the Green Revolution unfolding in uneven and dualistic terms. In Guatemala’s Pacific lowlands, state incentives fuel expansion of industrial, export agriculture. Largescale sugarcane production has come to surround rural farming communities, where small-scale farmers grow maize and sesame with little state support. Drawing on a survey of nearly 200 households, 17 in-depth interviews, and 4 focus groups collected in five communities during 2014-2015 and 2018 in the Department of Retalhuleu, our research explores the realities and imaginaries of smallholders as they negotiate their incorporation into the Green Revolution. In the face of minuscule agricultural plots resulting in limited production, cycles of agrarian debt, vulnerability to drought, and emigration to the United States, smallholders paradoxically work hard to replicate “modern” Green Revolution approaches in their own parcels. We argue that the proximal, uneven expansion of modern techno-centric agriculture, fueled by the model of the Green Revolution, has helped cultivate “constrained spatial imaginaries” among smallholders, in which ideas and desires around improved agricultural practices remain bound to accessing hybrid seeds, chemical inputs, and technical extension, despite the way the Green Revolution has been implicated in their ongoing marginalization.

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