Peopling mountain environments: changing Andean livelihoods in north-west Argentina 1

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Abstract:

Structural adjustment and neoliberal policy implementation in Latin America have had dramatic consequences for livelihoods and patterns of natural resource use in mountain regions. Restructuring of the agricultural economy has increased socio-economic hardship and reduced industrial labour requirements, altering traditional patterns of seasonal migration from these areas. This paper examines the implications of recent economic and political transformation for Andean livelihoods in the mountains of north-west Argentina. Case study material illustrates the local impacts of such changes on socio-economic dynamics, patterns of urban–rural interaction, and natural resource use. The research highlights the influence of agro-industrial restructuring, protected areas creation, and the distribution of social funds in the region. It reveals that local development is constrained and controlled not only by distant policies but also by contemporary local networks of political clientalism. The influence of both distant and proximate factors governing livelihoods and environmental impacts reinforces the value of geographical study in mountain areas, given its acute spatial and scalar awareness. The paper reaffirms the conception of mountain livelihoods as diverse and dynamic, shaped by economic, political, social and cultural factors as well as physical reality, and critiques the economic rationality of resource use assumed by policymakers and economic models.

Keywords: Argentina; economic restructuring; mountain livelihoods; natural resources; political clientalism; protected areas

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1475-4959.00085

Affiliations: Department for International Development (DFID), 1 Palace Street, London SW1E 5HE, Email: t-tanner@dfid.gov.uk

Publication date: September 1, 2003

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