This initiative shows the progress of a proposal aimed at influencing the combat of desertification/land degradation & poverty through the use of territory endogenous resources, improvement & diversification of goat production (healthy goat milk and by-products), recovering of degraded lands, reduced livestock pressure, increased producers’ income, and reinforcement of local actors’ capacities – communities of indigenous people “huarpes”- to render new services. Desertification is studied and assessed as a complex problem, through an integrated assessment procedure. Work experience is located in the desert of Lavalle, Mendoza, Argentine. The work leans on three pillars: natural, economic & cultural components, through local development and capacity building; training; promotion of producers’ associations; support and technical assistance for product trading. The work emphasizes participatory assessment procedures, remote sensing, field control & establishment of measurement plots.
Argentine Institute for Arid Lands Research - ArgentinaLead applicant
National Observatory of Desertification and Land Degradation - ArgentinaInitiative partner
General Department of Irrigation - ArgentinaInitiative partner
Lavalle Municipality - ArgentinaInitiative partner
Kanay Ken Cooperative - ArgentinaInitiative partner
Pinkanta Community - ArgentinaInitiative partner
The proposal leans on three pillars (natural, economic and socio-cultural components,), through local development and combines innovative aspects of: • desertification assessment and monitoring, • recovery and management of degraded lands for forage production, • optimization of water resources, • revegetation, • establishment of nurseries, • herd sanitation, • design and demonstrative units directed to production diversification (healthy goat milk and by-products), • capacity building in the local population and government, • training of specialized technicians, • promotion of producers’ associations, • support and technical assistance for product trading. The work combines diverse methodologies, highlighting among them are participatory assessment procedures, thematic mapping, participant observation, remote sensing, field control and establishment of measurement plots (pastures, soil, water, climate and production units).
The proposal includes innovative traits in comparison with the strategies implemented thus far in an area whose natural resources have been devastated. It is based on the acknowledgement of the rural environment potential from a surmounting perspective of the assistance and compensatory approach. It is framed within a conception of Rural Territory Development that aims at competitively and sustainably articulating a rural territory with dynamic markets. Its goals are to generate development strategies for a sustainable development in rural indigenous communities in the desert; improve the status of the ecosystem through an integral management of natural and cultural resources, and promote improvement of the socio-economic conditions of dryland inhabitants. It takes into account the compatibilization of ecosystem regeneration and investment in infrastructure and services, transformation and diversification of productive activities and generation of employment and increase in revenue.
The experience is settled in the locality of “El Junquillal”, department of Lavalle, Mendoza province, Argentina. It is located in the non-irrigated area, in the desert.
This area in only occupied by rural people, with small groups living in hamlets no larger than 40 houses –most of them built with adobe bricks and/or reeds- organically arranged around the old courses of the rivers Desaguadero and Mendoza, that currently carry water only sporadically. The population self-identifies as being of Huarpe ancestry, and the productive activities they perform are related to a subsistence economy destined for self-consumption. They include mostly the raising of small livestock for producing meat and manure, and to a much lesser degree apiculture and handicrafts; there also exists an incipient promotion of tourist activities with no significant results as yet. Climate is arid and precipitation ranges from 80–100 mm/year, which strongly conditions the productive activities.
Direct impacts on the livestock tenders involved: with only 28 goats coming into the system of the UPyS, the profit obtained is equal to that generated by 200 goats in the current kind of livestock use. The system would need only 56 goats to double the monthly income of the family group, vs the more than 400 goats with the current model. A significant change would be encouraged by moving the people out of the poverty line, and in reducing the pressure of the stocking rate, would also promote improvement and recovery of the fields. Direct impact on employment: activities generate direct employment for 11 families. It is expected to generate nearly 20 temporary jobs related to other related activities. Impact on the natural and cultural capital: the experience design has been constructed on the basis of a responsible use of the revenues generated by those capitals aiming at, through their direct reinvestment in the project.
We are working on a territory that exceeds 1 million ha, with indigenous communities (huarpes), and with a population reduced by migration and poverty to only 3500 people (less than half an inhabitant per km2), grouped in small settlements (hamlets), with more than 31% of their basic needs unsatisfied, and an illiteracy rate of 8.20%, entirely devoted to subsistence goat production. The experience is focus on a small huarpe community called “Pinkanta”, of around 40 families. 11 families of this community formed the “Kanay Ken” Cooperative with the aim to participate with IADIZA and the Municipality as beneficiaries of this project. People expect the project allows them to improve their quality of life through productive diversification and improvement of their fields, earning higher income to rise above the poverty line, taking on the challenge that the desert can be productive and sustainable.
An interdisciplinary group of technicians and researchers (geographers, architects, sociologists, biologists, social workers, etc.) took part in the design of the proposal and in the integrated desertification assessment in the fields.
In the current stage -building the UPYS- is a greater presence of architects and researchers in renewable energy.
The beneficiary community participates in field work and construction, through their work and contribution of their knowledge, their land and cattle.
The cooperative is comprised of 11 producers grouped in 5 families. This cooperative and the demonstrative experience is the pilot case that can be replicated throughout the territory, nucleating other scattered communities. In this action the Municipality of Lavalle supports the development of infrastructure, equipment and services (roads, water supply, materials, etc.)
The initiative emerged in 2002 as the result of international (Italian and German) cooperation. IADIZA, Spallanzani and the NRD, done the feasibility study and start working on raising awareness and empowering of local communities. Later international cooperation is removed, due to issues of international politics, and the project is halfway, unable to implement. Local people and IADIZA feel the frustration of not achieving progress on the proposal and much of the originally community associated with the project walked away. The research group decided to focus the scope of the original project to a smaller area with fewer producers with the goal of implementing at least one demonstrative experience. At this stage came a new group of people, Pinkanta community, with a strong commitment. We identified funding sources at national level, from the science and technical sector, to resize the project and searched special funding for the construction of the UPYS, stage where it is today.
The experience shows that is possible to promote an integral development in order that communities at risk become able to support themselves with dignity, in health and prosperity, considering basic principles such as:
1) Recovery of cultural guidelines, identity, knowledge of traditional lifestyles; 2) Creativity to associate those guidelines with new possibilities derived from the knowledge of ecosystem structure, functioning, and production capacity, highlighting dryland environments and their socio-cultural aspects of food production and consumption; 3) Innovation in the production alternatives for a healthy diet and a decent life, by applying technological advances adapted to the needs and requirements of the community.
The initiative is integrated, involving environmental, social and economic dimensions, so that during these years the results have increased impact in and outside the community.
Other activities related to the utilization of the area natural resources, such as the production of brooms from collecting rattan (“junquillo”), manufacturing ecological bricks with local materials for the construction of UPYS, genetics improvement of goats to keep the rustic and produce better and more quantity of milk, nurseries of native species with low water requirement for revegetation of degraded areas, etc.
Training, community empowerment and local government interests are the factors that ensure that the enterprise keeps running at the time when IADIZA withdraw the project.
The community has learned and achieved without intermediaries establish links with national and local agencies to access projects that keep this line.
The wealth of the experience has been gathered through the identification of best practices, which have been published by WOCAT and LADA/FAO in 2011.
Numerous scientific publications have been made on the overall proposal and each of their components, including the participatory process for the assessment and monitoring of desertification.
Large amount of media (national and local press), television and radio have spread the experience and its actors in different contexts.
The initiative has been selected and distinguished with an Honourable Mention by the Rimisp (Latin American Center for Rural Development) and it deserves an award of Radio Nihuil Award "Roots" in 2012.
The case was a LADA pilot site and currently is a pilot site of the National Observatory of Land Degradation and Desertification, which ensures high visibility and potential for replication in areas with similar problems.