Reclaiming the Food System: Agroecological Pedagogy and the IALA María Cano

Reclaiming the Food System: Agroecological Pedagogy and the IALA María Cano

By Jaskiran Kaur Chohan 

Industrial agriculture has been one of the key contributors to global warming and consequent climate disasters worldwide. In 2014, 44-57% of global greenhouse gas emissions were produced by industrial food production; principally from deforestation, transportation of products, their processing and refrigeration (GRAIN, 2014). This paper will focus on the case of the Instituto Agroecologico Latinoamericano (IALA) María Cano in Colombia, which aims to use knowledge as resistance in an epistemo-political struggle against industrialised agriculture. The piece will theoretically outline the phenomenon of industrial agriculture, the impact this has on societies and ecologies, as well as the overarching epistemologies that maintain this.

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Introduction to the Special Issue: Agribusiness, (Neo)Extractivism and Food Sovereignty: Latin America at a Crossroads?

Introduction to the Special Issue: Agribusiness, (Neo)Extractivism and Food Sovereignty: Latin America at a Crossroads?

By Ana Estefanía Carballo, María Eugenia Giraudo, Diego Silva and Johannes Waldmueller

In Latin America’s history, the agricultural sector has played a pivotal role for each period’s form of economic, social and political development. The papers in this special issue explore some of the tensions, changes and conflicts arising from the expansion of agribusiness as the dominant mode of accumulation and food production in the region. This issue presents evidence – based on original research – on the multiplicity of mechanisms through which agribusiness has transformed the social, political, economic and environmental landscape of the region.

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A new issue of Alternautas is now available!

A new issue of Alternautas is now available!

The contributions presented in this fourth issue offer valuable debates and analysis that resonate with the contemporary transformations and challenges faced by Latin America and the world. On the one hand, several papers offer theoretical discussions of major concepts in the field of critical development studies, such as notions of ayllu, degrowth, cosmopolitanism and cosmopolitics, accumulation by dispossession, and non-western science. The critical lens adopted in the discussion of these concepts is essential in order to conceive new paths of alternative development in the region. On the other hand, some papers adopt a more practice-oriented approach on social policy reforms in the continent, such as social solidarity economy or wage policies. This original focus is intended to create new theories and concepts from the observation of empirical processes.

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Degrowth: Unsuited for the Global South?

Degrowth: Unsuited for the Global South?

Review Article by Miriam Lang

Translated by Diego Silva

Hegemonic common sense suggests that a project as exotic as controlled economic degrowth is at its best applicable only in the geopolitical Global North while for the South, economic growth would be a requirement. Despite this, more and more voices are questioning the arguments that give economic growth a central place in political discussions, suggesting that this type of criticism could be liberating for many parts of the world (Max-Neef 1995; Latouche 2010; Altvater 2013; Muraca 2014; Gudynas y Acosta 2014; Lang 2016). The fifth international conference on degrowth that took place in Budapest, capital of Hungary, between the 30th of august and the 3rd of september 2016, revealed that reflections around degrowth are also a place of convergence for multiple transformatory narratives: from political ecology to ecological economics, considering also feminist perspectives that suggest the organization of society around a logic of care; from ideas of environmental and climate justice to policy ideas of universal and unconditional basic income. In this way, degrowth constitutes an additional contribution from a new internationalism, a contribution that seems necessary for interventions from the plural left over the globalized world. This internationalism is not limited to solidarity practices in struggles that take place in far away places, but instead, it looks for convergence, as well as complementarity and reciprocity between transformatory struggles that are contextualized and diverse.

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Paradoxical wage policy trends: the cases of Uruguay and Chile

Paradoxical wage policy trends: the cases of Uruguay and Chile

BY JUAN VELASCO

The quality and trends of the policymaking processes in Latin America have been under permanent debate. A rich literature has pointed out different factors that have influenced policymaking since the return to democracy in the 1980s. Particularly important objects of debate have been the political and ideological predominant positions, like the neoliberal (1980s-1990s) and pink (2000s-2010s) waves (Castañeda, 2006; Roberts, 2007; Levistky and Roberts, 2011; Kingstone, 2011). It has also been pointed out the influence of the economic trends that the region has faced, and the internal economic imbalances that produced crisis and adjustments (Ffrench-Davis, 2000; Diez and Franschet, 2012; Haggard and Kaufman, 2012). Other issues discussed are more politically structural, like the balance of power under presidential regimes, how the structure of policymaking is set up between Government and Parliament or under Unitarian/Federal regimes, and the structure of political participation and the composition (fragmented/majoritarian) of political coalitions in Government or Parliament (Stein et al., 2008; Aninat et al. 2008; Sehnbruch and Siavelis, 2014). Finally, the debate also highlighted the importance of different stakeholders (i.e. business elites) and their influence in Latin American policymaking (Cook, 2007; Schneider, 2008; Karcher and Schneider, 2012).  The overlapping of these issues are key to understand how policies evolve. However, even though general economic, political and societal waves define a trend or direction, the differences in terms of magnitude and sustainability of policies among countries show there are idiosyncratic elements for explaining changes.

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The ayllu and territoriality in the Andes

The ayllu and territoriality in the Andes

By Simón Yampara Huarachi

Translated by Sue Iamamoto

The ayllu is a political, geographical and ethnic unit that encompasses indigenous communities occupying different ecological levels (Condarco Morales, 1970; Murra, 1975). It was the most basic indigenous territorial organization before the spread of haciendas in the Andean region and it is practiced today in zones historically unaffected by haciendas, or by communities that seek to rebuild their indigenous socio-political organization. The text below focuses on how the Aymara concept of suma qamaña, normally translated as “living well” or vivir bien in Spanish, relates to a native perspective of development stemming from the ayllu organization itself. The book was published in 2001, during a time when “communitarian lands of origin” (TCOs, in their Spanish acronym) were starting to be recognized and institutionalized, a process that began in the mid-1990s. Yampara’s discussion of suma qamaña was highly influential amongst academics and helped to shape the policies adopted by the current administration under Evo Morales.

Despite the important influence of this book in particular, and Yampara’s work in general, in Bolivian national politics, his work has remained largely absent in English-speaking academia. We are very happy to share this first translation with you and we welcome comments and inquiries.

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Furnishing the Social Solidarity Economy

Furnishing the Social Solidarity Economy

BY ALEX D'ALOIA

Despite its historic roots, the Social Solidarity Economy (SSE) is a concept that has come to prominence in South America over the last decade. It is an alternative theoretical construct of “the economy” that seeks to emphasise relationships of solidarity in an attempt to reinstate the primacy of “society” over “the market”. What makes the SSE distinctive is that while it (mostly) professes itself to be a theoretical construct, it is also explicitly intended to be a guide for policy. This contribution first examines the SSE as an intellectual construct, noting the lack of consistency around the term. It then proceeds to relate these conceptions to the practice of the SSE in the field, looking at the program Mobiliario Escolar, introduced by the Ecuadorian government in 2014. There, the SSE shows much potential, with its slightly ambiguous definition lending it a certain utility for guiding policy. Most importantly, the SSE is shown to be a beneficial example of practice-oriented theory.

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(PART 2) Writing history in the present: The implications of localized forms of science in Latin America for a postcolonial world

(PART 2) Writing history in the present: The implications of localized forms of science in Latin America for a postcolonial world

BY ANNE TOOMEY

In the first part of her post, Anne Toomey discussed, in more general terms, the possibilities to explore the research encounters in non-Western settings and how they shift academic practices elsewhere in the globe. In this second part, she turns to the history and development of the “Bolivian science” to illustrate these possibilities.

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(PART 1) Writing history in the present: The implications of localized forms of science in Latin America for a postcolonial world

(PART 1) Writing history in the present: The implications of localized forms of science in Latin America for a postcolonial world

BY ANNE TOOMEY

Scientific research practices, in particular in the biological sciences, are currently undergoing a great deal of scrutiny and change due to recent debates in the social sciences about bioprospecting, biopiracy and the co-production of knowledge.  Nowhere are these debates more relevant than in countries with high levels of both biological and cultural diversity that have been subject to a history of colonialism, such as in tropical regions of South America.  Many authors have written critically about these issues – however, there is less understanding about the links between such histories and the policies, discourses and relationships as occur in scientific practices in these regions of the world today.  In particular, little notice has been taken of localized creations of scientific practice in non-western settings, especially in terms of how they shift scientific trends and debates on a global scale. This essay takes the case of ‘Bolivian science’ in order to show how research encounters in the so-called scientific ‘peripheries’ of the world can have implications for the production and use of science that far outstretch the limits of geographical boundaries, and lead to the decolonization of science back on Western soils.

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Endless dispossession: looking at Mexico through David Harvey’s gaze

Endless dispossession: looking at Mexico through David Harvey’s gaze

BY J. ALEJANDRO DE COSS-CORZO

Mexico seems to be immersed in an unending series of catastrophes. Every day new stories of injustices and horrible deaths smother us. Social networks, both physical and virtual, are continuously filled with outrage, which more often than not, suddenly decays. This processes, some clearly connected and others apparently distant, can be explained in a systematic fashion through the work of David Harvey.

In his work, Harvey has sought to explain how capital accumulation produces and transforms space. This focus has established his body of work as one of the main contributions to Marxist theory in the last fifty years. In particular, he has focused on explaining the production of urban space; the role of violence and dispossession in the accumulation of capital, and the role finance plays in the capitalist system and its crises. Even if these three topics were scarcely explored by Marx, Harvey looks for clues and follows his steps in a critical and complementary way.

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Cosmopolitanism, Cosmopolitics and Indigenous Peoples: Elements for a Possible Alliance

Cosmopolitanism, Cosmopolitics and Indigenous Peoples: Elements for a Possible Alliance

By Fabian Flores Silva

We are witnessing the re-emergence of cosmopolitism. Cosmopolitanism is rising as a politico-cultural movement, which while being globalised in the inter-metropolis connection, it chiefly reaffirms the normative engagement with human rights beyond national borders. Almost simultaneously, several theories have appeared under the term ‘cosmopolitical’. They question cosmopolitan common sense and its mono-naturalism as they reclaim the polyphonic de- and re-construction of the world from the heterogeneous forces and entities that inhabit it. Considering their dissimilar assumptions, cosmopolitanism and cosmopolitics do not seem to encounter points of convergence, except their aspirations to think about the world. For those who support cosmopolitanism, this is the field of human political action, while for advocates of cosmopolitics the world is something to be constructed by involving human and non-human actors. In this way, as suggested by Bruno Latour, it could be argued that we are obliged to decide between cosmopolitism and cosmopolitics; between assuming the urgency of saving the world and the slowing down of decisions that undermine this enterprise; between the ‘logical equivalence’ and the ‘operator of equality’ that Isabelle Stengers tells us about (2014).

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A new Issue of Alternautas is now available!

A new Issue of Alternautas is now available!

This is the first time Alternautas devotes an entire issue to a special topic. In this case, during the second half of 2016, we published a collection of articles and essays discussing the theme of water, a natural resource which is at the core of the debates on the kind of development model Latin American countries engage into. Indeed, water resources are at the core of numerous conflicts in which antagonist visions of development are revealed. To name just a few among those that have received extensive international scholarly attention are the ‘Water War’ against the privatization of drinking water in Bolivia (Olivera & Lewis, 2004; Perreault, 2005), the mobilizations against the mega-projects of hydro-electricity in Brazil (Fearnside, 2006, 2013, 2014) and those against the pollution of the Cajamarca water basin by the mining company Minera Yanacocha in Peru (Bebbington & Bury, 2009).

 

To mark the completion of this special issue, we have collated and published all of the articles, available in a PDF, in open-access format to be distributed freely. We wish you all a happy reading!

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Governance in “Murky Waters”: the Political Fields of Water Extractivism in Honduras

Governance in “Murky Waters”: the Political Fields of Water Extractivism in Honduras

By INGO GENTES

Profound changes in public administration after the presidential elections in Honduras (2013) resulted in a re-structuring and regrouping of public institutions and autonomous entities for the relevant legislative period (2014-2018). These adjustments, thought as a “new public-private co-management” – aimed to “…tangible impacts not only within the administration but also within communities and scattered settlements which, in turn, are expected to be both, beneficiaries as well as participants in innovative sectorial and public policies programs.”

The governments’ goal was to carry out a National Plan for Water and Sanitation (PLANASA, Plan Nacional de Agua y Saneamiento) together with a still pending financial sector policy for the WASH sector (CONASA, 2013b, c, 2014). Both politics established different mechanisms and instruments as well as strategic guidelines according to the Framework Law for Water and Sanitation (2003, FLWS, Ley Marco de Agua Potable y Saneamiento). New secretaries and institutional entities generated adjoined existing ones in their technical and administrative mandate.

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The many natures of water in Latin-American neo-extractivist conflicts

The many natures of water in Latin-American neo-extractivist conflicts

By Cristobal Bonelli, Denisse Roca-Servat and Mourik Bueno de Mesquita

Thousands of diverse ‘water protectors’ representing different ethnic, cultural, and social backgrounds throughout the American continent are standing firm against the destruction of ecological systems carried out by extractive development projects. One recent example concerning indigenous peoples has been the mobilization carried out by the Hunkpapa Lakota and Yanktonai Dakota Native American people of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline project is a $3.8 billion investment to move 500,000 barrels of domestic crude oil a day through four U.S. states. If constructed, the Dakota pipeline would pass through sacred burial grounds as well as the Missouri river – the main water source for the Standing Rock Sioux population.

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Lake Atitlán, Guatemala: “The Possibility of a Shared World”

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala: “The Possibility of a Shared World”

by EMILIO TRAVIESO

Conflicts around development issues are increasingly focused on water. These conflicts tend to intertwine a struggle over whether water should be treated as a commodity with struggles over how its management should be configured, and by whom (Castro 2008). Latin America has emerged as a particularly relevant region for these debates (Ávila-Garcia 2016).

This article presents the case of Lake Atitlán, in the Sololá department of Guatemala, where long-standing conflicts and divergent imaginaries have made it difficult to create consensus about how to solve an ecological problem. The article is based on four months (April to July 2016) of ethnographic fieldwork, in three towns and one village on the shores of the lake. Many names and other identifying details are left out, due to safety concerns.

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Small-scale gold mining, mercury exposure and the Struggle for the Right to Water in the Peruvian Amazon

Small-scale gold mining, mercury exposure and the Struggle for the  Right to Water in the Peruvian Amazon

By Celine Delmotte

Since the 2008 financial crisis, increase in global demand and the price of gold have led to an expansion of industrial and artisanal gold mining (Swenson et al., 2011; World Gold Council, 2010). Worldwide, Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) is carried out by an estimated number of 15 million miners in more than 70 countries (UNEP, 2015; Diringer et al., 2014) and accounts for 15 percent of the world gold production (Telmer, 2011). In Peru – which is currently the sixth largest gold producer in the world and the first in Latin America (Mujica, 2014) –, 70 percent of national artisanal gold production is mined in the department of Madre de Dios, located in the southwestern Amazon basin (Brooks et al., 2007). Since the 2000s commodities boom, Madre de Dios, considered one of the most biological places on the planet, has indeed experienced a rapid development of ASGM operations which have transformed large expanses of rainforests into denuded and mercury-poisoned wastelands (Asner et al., 2013; Elmes et al., 2014; Román et al., 2015). It is estimated that as many as 30.000 miners are working in this region (Fraser, 2009) and are using mercury to recover gold from the river sediments or solids extracted. Numerous studies show that mercury levels found in fishes and inhabitants of Madre de Dios are above the maximum levels recommended by the WHO (Damonte et al., 2015; Diringer et al., 2014; Ashe, 2012), therefore due to ASGM, artisanal miners as well as local population are exposed to dangerous levels of mercury contamination.

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Water Security, Justice and the Politics of Water Rights in Peru and Bolivia

Water Security, Justice and the Politics of Water Rights in Peru and Bolivia

BOOK REVIEW by LAURA TEJADA

The overall goal of Water Security, Justice and the Politics of Water Rights in Peru and Bolivia is to scrutinize the claim by legislators, policymakers and development institutes that legal recognition of local water rights reduces water conflict and increases water security and equality for peasants and indigenous communities. This is indeed an ambitious goal of the author Miriam Seemann, given the fact that nearly no studies have looked at the actual impacts of water rights formalization policies on the ground so far. Nonetheless, the book touches a subject of major importance in view of the trend towards the adoption of new water legislations in the last decades, resulting in the formalization of water rights and entitlements, not only in Latin-American countries such as Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Bolivia, but on a global scale (Baillat 2010). Well aware of the shortcomings of mainstream approaches to property rights formalization, like de Soto's (2000) theoretical presupposition that formal property rights are the most important institution for economic growth and development, the book demonstrates that uncritical formalization of local water rights may lead to weakening, instead of strengthening, local water security.

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Water Conflicts in the Elqui River Watershed: New Water Territories Challenging Chilean Water Institutional Framework

Water Conflicts in the Elqui River Watershed: New Water Territories Challenging Chilean Water Institutional Framework

BY CHLOÉ NICOLAS-ARTERO

Chilean extractive development model remains on a neoliberal water-management institutional framework edified by Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship and perpetuated by the Concertation of Parties for Democracy governments (Tecklin et al. 2011). This model therefore appears as an example of new forms of extractivism in Latin America (Gudynas 2011), which can be defined as a “patrón de acumulación basado en la sobreexplotación de recursos naturales, en gran parte no renovables, así como en la expansión de las fronteras hacia territorios antes considerados como «improductivos»” (Svampa, 2013:33). It was implemented during the dictatorship by means of structural reforms opposed to the Unidad Popular government policies headed by Salvador Allende. Several laws encouraged foreign investments to develop new strategic export industries such as mining, agriculture, hydroelectric energy, forestry or pisciculture (Quiroja 1994). Moreover, the current constitution, enacted in 1980, represents the core of the neoliberal institutional framework currently shaping the Chilean state (Moulian 2002).

This article aims to analyze the plurality of water conflicts existing at the watershed level in an extractivist context.

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Virgin Forest? The Long Human Past of the Tapajós Valley

Virgin Forest? The Long Human Past of the Tapajós Valley

By BRUNA CIGARAN DA ROCHA & VINICIUS HONORATO DE OLIVEIRA

Translated by Louise Cardoso de Mello

This article looks at the archaeological heritage along the rapids of the Tapajós River and its tributaries, such as the Juruena and Teles Pires Rivers, based on the existing record. Apart from archaeology, historical sources as well as oral history may also shed some light on the (often turbulent) past of the Tapajós Valley after the Portuguese conquest (Menéndez, 1981/1982, 2006 [1992]). They also point at the possible location of archaeological sites; stemming from the review of historical and archaeological sources, Alexandre Robazzini (2013) has compiled a comprehensive table containing 423 archaeological sites in the Tapajós Valley. Notwithstanding the limited amount of archaeological fieldwork carried out in the region where the government intends to build the Tapajós Hydroelectric Complex (CHT) –and in contrast to the idea promoted by the official discourse that the area in question is empty and has no history- we present some evidence here that points to the richness and singularity of the existing archaeological heritage. Far from being located in a virgin forest, the Tapajós and its tributaries irrigate an area that has been anthropized, or in other words, altered by humans for thousands of years.

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