Alejandra Huamán Tejo

Biography

Social anthropologist specialized in rural development and critical agrarian research. She is currently working as a policy specialist at the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion of Peru and as a teaching assistant at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. Member of the Research Lab on Ethnological Analysis of Cultural Politics and an associate member of the Permanent Seminar on Agricultural Research (SEPIA). Her research and areas of study include rural livelihoods and household economies, land tenure, political participation and natural resource governance with peasant and native communities, youth and women in Peru.

Researchgate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Alejandra-Huaman-Tejo

Abstract

Agribusiness and small-scale farmers in the Peruvian highland Amazon: an ethnographic approach to the palm oil value chain in Tocache, San Martín.

In the last three decades, the Peruvian state, transnational corporations and some NGOs have promoted the agribusiness paradi gm as a new way to modernize and globalize the country agriculture on multiple scales and in diverse geographical spaces. Indeed, there has been an expansion of plantations and agricultural industries in Peruvian rural zones, which have generated new relationships between small-scale farmers and large-scale agribusinesses, mainly through the value chains model. Our research analyzes the controversial palm oil chain from a critique of the global value chain approach in a former Peruvian Amazon coca valley. Our goal is to understand how power relationships and local historical processes shape value chains and facilitate product and value grabbing. From a case study in a Tocache (San Martin), we discuss with ethnographic data the interplay between different actors, questioning power relationships and agency through the detailed discussion of a small-farmer association considered successful within the value chains model. Our findings suggest that palm oil expansion doesn’t necessarily depend on dispossession and coercion. On the contrary, while agribusinesses control the production process and commodities within the value chain, small-scale farmers contest and dispute these relationships through actions from below that go beyond the concept of resistance. Considering the diverse incorporation process, small-scale farmers can contest and take over the value production process through industrialization, as well as constructing narratives based upon the symbolic value of small-scale production, which will help them take on a more advantageous status within the global value chain.

 

Affiliation:        Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú