Land Use Change and Commodity Frontiers: Perceptions, Values, and Conflicts Over the Appropriation of Nature

Published in Case Studies in the Environment
Authors

Daniel M. Cáceres, Esteban Tapella, Diego A. Cabrol, Lucrecia Estigarribia

Publication year 2020
DOI https://doi.org/10.1525/cse.2020.1223610
IAI Program

SGP-HW

IAI Project SGP-HW090
Keywords

Abstract

Argentina is experiencing an expansion of soya and maize cultivation that is pushing the agricultural frontier over areas formerly occupied by native Chaco forest. Subsistance farmers use this dry forest to raise goats and cattle and to obtain a broad range of goods and services. Thus, two very different and non-compatible land uses are in dispute. On the one hand subsistance farmers fostering an extensive and diversified forest use, on the other hand, large-scale producers who need to clear out the forest to sow annual crops in order to appropriate soil fertility. First, the paper looks at how these social actors perceive Chaco forest, what their interests are, and what kind of values they attach to it. Second, we analyze the social-environmental conflicts that arise among actors in order to appropriate forest&rsquos benefits. Special attention is paid to the role played by the government in relation to: (a) how does it respond to the demands of the different sectors and (b) how it deals with the management recommendations produced by scientists carrying out social and ecological research. To put these ideas at test we focus on a case study located in Western Córdoba (Argentina), where industrial agriculture is expanding at a fast pace, and where social actors&rsquo interests are generating a series of disputes and conflicts. Drawing upon field work, the paper shows how power alliances between economic and political powers, use the institutional framework of the State in their own benefit, disregarding wider environmental and social costs.