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Chapter 2 - Ccollana - Chequerec

General characteristics


Department of Cuzco
Maras District, Province of Urubamba
3,400 - 3,900 metres above sea level



1,425 residents
280 households
Distributed over three sectors: Ccollana, Chequerec and Cruzpata


Land resources:

1,625 ha
82 % largely rain-fed farmland


Forest resources:

56 ha forest land
Eucalyptus and other species


Sources of income:

Farming and livestock


The history of land use and tenure

Like other farming communities in the Cuzco uplands, Ccollana-Chequerec has a long history of communal property and collective farming. Yet, over the past several decades, population pressure and the interests of powerful land-owning neighbours have worked to change this pattern. Although no large haciendas have ever been present in the area, a number of small and medium-sized estates near the village have consistently attempted to monopolize the area's water, land and forest resources. The constant threat to their means of livelihood provided an early incentive for Ccollana-Chequerec villagers to underline property boundaries by subdividing most of the community's arable land. Placing community property under official ownership of individual families allowed the village to fortify its members' claims to the arable land and pasture.

The community of Ccollana-Chequerec has faced the problem of a growing popu- lation. With less land available for each household and without the opportunity to expand their resource base, the people of Ccollana-Chequerec have become increasingly dependent on neighbouring estate owners for work. Population pres- sure has been another incentive to subdivide traditional common property; subdivi- sion secures more villagers greater control over their own livelihood. By the 1960s, only 6 entradas were left in the village. They continue to be very important because they are the sole source of pasture land for village livestock during rotat- ing fallow phases.

Ccollana-Chequerec villagers gained a reprieve from increasing land shortage with the enactment of Agrarian Reform in 1973. The distribution of land from larger estate holdings added 242 ha to the village's communal land. More arable land made possible future forestry plantations. Income distribution became much more equitable, and the incidence of poverty declined drastically from 50% to just 10% for local families. By the late 1970s, however, much of the land obtained through Agrarian Reform had been parcelled out to individual families as private land holdings.

Political Autonomy, Economic Dependence

In the early 1960s the village of Ccollana-Chequerec was already an independent community. With their own government and firm control over some land, the community was not subordinate to any of the nearby estates. Yet, despite this relative autonomy for the community as a whole, many households within the village were dependent on work with the small and medium-sized estates located in the area. Over the years, these estates grew and developed, largely at the expense of the Ccollana-Chequerec community, taking over portions of the village's common property, claiming a disproportionate share of scarce water resources, and controlling much of the local forest resources. Land reform in the 1970s provided Ccollana-Chequerec with the means to resist growing inequity.

Despite Agrarian Reform, there was little increase in the area of communally owned faena or entrada lands, and therefore the area of communal fallow land available for pasture remained essentially the same. An increasing population meant a total increase in the amount of livestock in the village. While villagers had more land for crops, the growing livestock population had to survive on a fixed amount of pasture land.

Another area of continuing vulnerability for local villagers was their relationship to estate owners. Ownership of tractors and other equipment gave local estate owners a way to secure cheap labour from neighbouring villagers. In exchange for access to equipment, land owners would request group work on estate lands. As land holdings increased, the need for equipment rose. Consequently, villager dependence on income earning wage labour seemed to increase after Agrarian Reform.

Pressures to Subdivide

Beginning in the 1970s, the downturn in the Peruvian economy caused a wave of returning migrants who had left the uplands to seek work in various urban centres. This increase in the local population placed additional pressure on existing farm plots. At the same time, an increase in the price of manufactured consumer goods made earning supplemental cash a critical survival strategy for village households. While working on neighbouring estates or earning additional income through non-agricultural activities. household members found themselves unable to sacrifice their time for non-paying work in faenas.

As new faena land went unused in times of economic hardship, the pressure to subdivide mounted. Land-hungry estate owners saw the unused fields as a means to justify regaining control over some of the land they had lost to land reform. On one occasion, a handful of estate owners even attempted to invade the untended faena lands. In response, the Ccollana-Chequerec villagers quickly moved to protect their claim by provisionally subdividing the disputed lands, assigning plots to individual households for cultivation of their own food and cash crops. By 1978, only 20 ha of the original reform land remained officially classified as communal property and more than half of this 20 ha was farmed for the benefit of individual families rather thanthe community as a whole.

Community organization

The strength and cohesiveness of the traditional community organization that controls community resources have varied in Ccollana-Chequerec's recent history. Over the past several decades, most community mobilization has been catalysed by developments in land tenure and influenced by interests outside the village proper. Before 1969, the village decision-making system appeared particularly weak; a large proportion of the community questioned whether their views were represented and felt that many resource use decisions did not take their interests into account. Households in the Chequerec hamlet and landless wage labourers felt particularly discriminated against by the Village Council's decisions. As a result, rather than participate in the existing council, these groups formed a parallel Christian organization to both protect their interests and facilitate greater activism in support of their specific concerns, i.e. working conditions and daily wages.

Two things occurred the early 1970s to reawaen more wespreanterest n the traditional village organization. Agrarian Reform introduced the possibility of greater access to land through community membership and, in 1972, a national peasant advocacy group, "Sinamos" encouraged poor farmers to represent their interests more actively. Disadvantaged groups began to see participation as a means to ensure that land reform would benefit them too. Greater participation did increase the potential for fairer distribution of community resources, however, it also made more apparent some basic conflicts within the village.

Increased participation in the Village Council was accompanied by community member readiness to participate in the new village faenas and community development projects. Thus, as new village lands were acquired in the 1970s, at least initially, these lands were worked communally as farmland or tree plantations. Villagers helped construct roads on the newly acquired land, school rooms, and a meeting house.

A major motivation for the initial willingness to cultivate the new property collectively, was the farmers' belief that, like most previous faena land, this new land might eventually be subdivided and assigned to individual households for cultivation. If only those who participated in faenas were eligible to receive land when it was divided, farmers wanted to ensure that they would be able to claim their fair share.

Ongoing tension in communal land management

Dissatisfaction with the faena system grew as the economy worsened over the course of the 1970s. Families became acutely aware that their household income was not increasing despite land reform. Calls for subdivision of faena lands mounted, and many people began to resist the existing system by refusing to participate in further communal cultivation activities. The poorer members of the community were among the first to drop out as it became necessary to devote more time to wage labour. One sector of the community even began to parcel out faena lands in its area directly, defying Village Council resolutions. The risk of allowing the remaining, untended faena lands to fall prey to land grabbing by outsiders further fueled the demands for subdivision. Eventually, the communal system succumbed to these pressures, and subdivision of the Reform lands officially started in 1978.

Forest resources

The disbanding of Sinamos in 1977 provided neighbouring estate owners with an opportunity to meddle in village affairs. Offers of low cost tractor rental or log sale services increased estate owner influence with the community leadership. Estate owners regained official control over some Agrarian Reform land. Corruption and unrepresentative resource management decisions by community leaders led once again to widespread reluctance to maintain the communal system of land management. The early 1980s saw renewed disillusionment.

Population pressure in the Ccollana-Chequerec area has resulted in a steadily dwindling supply of forest resources. There is a constant shortage of fuelwood and building materials.

In the past the community was able to cope with this problem by carefully managing alternative sources of fuel such as native shrubs growing on fallow lands and on untilled hilly areas around the village. A few families planted cape gooseberry, elders or willows on their own holdings.

Building materials from mature trees growing on household lots were shared among families in return for later payment in kind. Eucalyptus was not a component of either village fallow or household farms, and to obtain it villagers would barter with estate owners in the Urubamba region 15 km away in exchange for work.

In the mid-1960s the community tried to deal with the wood scarcity problem through family reforestation and a few small community plantations. More tree plantations were developed between 1974 and 1978. A net increase in local fuel and building material availability was never, however, realized. The further breakdown of communal land management systems after Agrarian Reform weakened traditional controls over the harvesting of native shrubs from community property and the use of tractors became more commonplace. Thus, harvesting rates increased and the native shrubs that had bordered individual plots were often destroyed by tractors.

Communal reforestation

The history of organized reforestation in the village may be divided into three broad phases, reflecting the changes in community support for communal reforestation.

This phase of reforestation was marked by strong community opposition to most tree planting activities. However, two points should be noted about the attitude of community members at the time. Community members did not oppose tree planting per se. Rather, they felt that trees were not the most important priority. Land was already in short supply and proposals to establish tree groves only meant further loss of the resource. The problem was compounded by the technical requirements of commercial eucalyptus plantations which made it necessary to locate new plantations on precious arable land. Many villagers (especially those with little or no land) stood to lose from reforestation.

Second, incentives played a large role in persuading some villagers to support reforestation. In one instance, when promised 30% of the harvest and seedlings for their own use, a handful of the relatively well-off households in the community offered 9 ha of land that they had been tending for reforestation. The fact that incentives could be taken advantage of by some and not other members of the community, contributed to differences in opinion regarding future reforestation proposals. Ultimately, because some could benefit, a new reforestation proposal was approved by community leaders in 1969 despite the strong objections of many villagers.

The acquisition of Agrarian Reform land softened opposition to reforestation somewhat, enabling community leaders to secure approval for new village plantations. By 1978, almost 89 ha of new community land had been planted with the assistance of a loan from the Agrarian Bank. In accordance with national government policy at the time, foresters urged the villagers to manage these plantations communally. The idea was to share the cost of reforestation equally among com- munity members through participation in planting. Repayment on the loan was to be drawn from the proceeds of tree sales. Interest in reforestation was fueled by fears that neighbouring estate owners would soon try to take over community lands. Support for reforestation was, however, far from universal. Many community members who remained desperately short of farmland, felt strongly that as much land as possible should be divided among needy village households. Progress on proposed projects was slow if it occurred at all.

Since the late 1970s, farm and grazing land shortages have continued to be of overriding concern to villagers. They have been unwilling to sacrifice more land for new plantation.

Tenuous Consensus

In anticipation of pending Reform, sizeable portions of nearby estate lands were already being cultivated by Ccollana-Chequerec villagers well before new land policies went into effect in 1973, and formal legal awards were made to the village. Opposition from families already using old estate fields led community leaders to decide to reforest only a part of the property being turned over to

the village through Agrarian Reform. In 1973. a Village Assembly attended by only 18% of the village residents approved a contract to reforest 30 ha of former estate land with a loan from the Agrarian Bank. Much of this land was being used as grazing pasture, and subsequent moves to convert the area into forest galvanized opposition to the project. Despite efforts to plant, many continuedto graze their livestock in the area, damaging the young seedlings.

A subsequent proposal to reforest another 50 ha was approved by a partial Village Assembly in 1975 but suffered a similar fate. Although the plantation was planned, in part, to resist efforts by neighbouring estate owners to re-take the land, many within the community disagreed with the strategy. Groups opposing reforestation proposed instead that the untilled arable land be worked by groups of village farmers, and eventually subdivided. Reforestation was resisted particularly by the young and poorest community members, many of whom had returned to the village after trying to find work elsewhere, only to discover that most of the Agrarian Reform lands had already been parcelled out.

Don Inocencio Mancco, one of the first supporters of the community reforestation of Ccollana-Chequerec, agrees with many other community members, that there is no more land available for new community forests. Photo: Miguel Ramon

Only one new site was approved by the community in 1983, largely to gain government approval to fell an existing plantation.

As villagers emphasize, there is simply no more free land left. A survey completed for this case study in 1985 showed that 90% of the community opposed more communal forestry. This is not to say that the value of trees was unappreciated. The same survey showed that 71% of the village families would be very interested in planting trees on an individual basis, in hedges or on eroded plots that belong to individual households. In short, it seems more important to better integrate trees into their existing farming systems than to establish new plantations.

Ongoing Resistance

While the community prepared to harvest its earliest plantation, the terms of the contract that won government funding for planting obligated the villagers to find a new reforestation site before logging could begin. In 1983, community leaders won Village Assembly approval for one new 25 ha site. Once again, however, only 20% of the community was represented in the vote; many had already become too dissatisfied with the decision-making process to continue to participate. The new site was opposed by many, especially about 70 families of Ccollana Baja hamlet who lived near the chosen land and who used the area for grazing pasture. Angered by the Assembly's decision, community members organized themselves into a vocal interest group to pressure the Assembly to reverse its decision and parcel out the land to individual households. The group cited the heavy burden women would have to bear if the grazing land was taken, forcing them to make longer trips afield to feed their livestock. In the end, only a little over 4 ha were ever reforested in the area.

Forest resources: Supply and demand

The households of Ccollana-Chequerec region continue to need led for housing and fuel. One recent development that may be linked to past reforestation efforts, is the increase in eucalyptus trees found on family plots. Almost 65% of the population now boasts ownership of eucalyptus trees. Villagers have found the trunks well-suited for construction and women have developed a preference for eucalyptus as fuelled, due to its slow and even burn.

Typically it is the wealthier families who have eucalyptus trees. The remainder of the population is often without enough land to support even a few trees next to their food crops. To meet their led needs they still depend on a dwindling supply of native shrubs, barter with wealthier families or led merchants on estates and in distant towns. These alternative sources are often unreliable and/or costly, and poor families often use only eucalyptus branches for fuelled.

Despite the continuing scarcity of fuelwood for the poor, communal plantations are closed to the community. The Community Assembly feared that harvesting by community members would seriously decrease the commercial value of the forest. Consequently, village leaders have prohibited gathering of fuelwood. In some cases, communal forests have already been paid for, and thus they are "owned", by commercial loggers. Villagers have been able to use them only sporadically and on a clandestine basis.

The community forest plantations established since the mid- I960s have been reserved exclusively for commercial logging in the hope of generating revenue. Plans to pay for village electrification led the village to sell its earliest communal plantation. The results were not, however, very good. The community felt pressured to sell their woodlot under highly unfavourable terms. They lost money and, to a large degree, all of the benefits they might have derived from the forest. The experience has contributed to the community's reluctance to begin new communal reforestation projects.

The chance to use revenues from harvesting to fund electrification encouraged community members to rush the sale and accept a low price for trees. Photo: Miguel Ramon

The Middleman's Share

In 1978, the community's electrification committee informed the Village Assembly that the community had most of the resources necessary to install its own electricity system. All that was needed was a small capital investment, community labour, and the eucalyptus trunks from the community's Queracmocco plantation. This was the only time use of the village plantation for the community had ever been proposed.

Four years later community leaders changed the terms of the initial proposal, arguing that it was more cost-effective for the village simply to sell its woodlots and use the funds from the sale to pay for all the necessary materials and labour. This new plan, as it turned out, was much more easily said than done. Only after approval for a new plantation site was gained in late 1982 could the assembly chairman continue with the logging plans. Forestry technicians from the forestry department were needed to make an inventory of the plantation and determine the appropriate prices and the State's share of the proceeds. A long delay in their arrival and disagreement about the plantation's actual worth left the village with prices that were only 5-20% of that which individual families were receiving for eucalyptus growing on their own fields. A last emergency Assembly to reconsider an acceptable price was inconclusive. A forestry employee opposed any change in the quoted timber prices. Only forestry experts, he argued, were able to calculate a plantation's value; setting timber prices was not the responsibility of the community.

Community members decided to accept the price and agreed to proceed with the sale of the 9 ha forest the village had planted 20 years earlier. As the village leaders approached the forestry department for the license, the requirements of the formal application process caused another long delay. It was not until June 1984 that a license to harvest 5,000 (778,000 m3) of the Queracmocco forest's 8,000 tree trunks was issued to Ccollana-Chequerec village. Almost a whole year had passed since the plantation's gross value had been assessed. No new assessment was made.

Distribution of benefits

The problems the community experienced in selling its woodlots reflected problems in the Assembly decision-making process. As became clear in later surveys, 70% of the village households would have preferred to buy the plantation trees themselves; yet they had been unable to have any effect on the final decision to sell the timber.

Despite all initial promises, the distribution of benefits from Ccollana-Chequerec's community plantations has not been equitable. Businessmen have managed to secure a cheap price for the trees and have sold wood back to the village at the prevailing rates. The village paid only 5% of it's total electrification bill with proceeds from the sale of plantation trees. Many community members were as likely as before to have to search for sources of fuel and construction wood outside the village.

There have been significant differences in the distribution of costs and benefits within the village as well. Some community members lost more than others when plantations were established. Those with no tree resources on their own plots could benefit only through illegal harvesting from community plots. Wealthier families, with greater amounts of land at their disposal, could use the new seedlings introduced by the plantations to plant eucalyptus on their own plots. These families even benefited indirectly by the prohibition on local use of the community plantations; prohibition kept the local prices of eucalyptus quite high and families selling private trees could still profit.

The State's Third

Given the already low returns expected from the forest's harvest, community members who had given up pasture and potential farmland to the project were persuaded to renounce their right to a portion of the crop. The same flexibility was not possible when it came to the Government's share of the proceeds. According to the contract signed by village leaders, when the Queracmocco plantation was originally planned, the government's claim to 30% of the harvest's proceeds remained binding. After the middleman felled the trees he had purchased over a year earlier, a bill for 8,100 intis was presented to the new village governing board. The bill represented a full 30% of the new value of the forest rather than of the price negotiated by the middleman. When, in 1986, it looked as if the community would be hard-pressed to provide the full sum, foresters urged the community to meet their obligation by selling additional trees. The net revenue generated from this second sale was again very small.

Women and the forest

Women could potentially have benefited enormously through community reforestation. As gatherers of fuelwood, they had a vested interest in seeing new sources of suitable materials established closer to home. As tenders of family livestock, they had particular interest in any project that provided an additional source of fodder. Yet, in Ccollana-Chequerec, women have been among the most disadvantaged through community reforestation. They have sacrificed crucial grazing land to plantation sites with little in return. The prohibitions placed on community use of the plantations have denied them the possibility of any direct benefits. At the same time, their indirect access to the Village Assembly via male household heads has narrowed their opportunity to influence decisions. Thus, the decisions that are made often poorly address women's needs.

Women have suffered most from the restrictions on access to the community woodlots.

Photo: Miguel Ramon

The loss of grazing area, with little prospect for any benefit in return, inspired strong opposition to communal reforestation among the women of CcollanaChequerec. Alternatively, for men in the village, the interest in subdivision of land for personal use was the key reason for opposition to communal tree planting. For virtually all women in the village, communal forestry has meant greater travel in search of fuelwood. Poor women, whose households are especially dependent on community property for fodder, fuel and building materials, have been particularly affected. The biggest issue facing women in the village today is not whether to plant more community forest sites, but how to gain access to the ones that already exist.

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