| By Anthony Bebbington | Published in Geographical Journal, July 1997 vol. 163 (2): 189-197 |
Abstract: While the general image of much of the Andes is one of poverty, environmental degradation and out-migration, and of rural economies that refuse to develop self-reinforcing and inclusive forms of growth, islands of sustainable intensification of rural land use and livelihoods can be found. Analysing how these ‘islands of sustainability’ have emerged can help us understand how far policy and development intervention might encourage similar successes elsewhere in the Andes. This paper considers six localities in the Ecuadorian and Bolivian Andes, four of which are characterized by such success, and two, though located nearby, which are not. Common to the cases of successful intensification is the manufacture of high-value products for middle class and élite markets. Another critical factor is the existence of base and federated local organizations, and of external actors who have networks of contacts with non-local institutions. These two dimensions of local ‘social capital’ – organizations and networks – play a critical role in helping these localities renegotiate relationships with the market, state and other civil society actors. This renegotiation can generate new resources, entitlements and opportunities that, when linked to local social capital, facilitate local processes of socially-inclusive intensification that can ameliorate both poverty and environmental degradation. For this to be successful also requires a wider enabling context: in particular the existence of appropriate technologies, strong support institutions and significant levels of market demand.