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Chapter 4 - Equecco-Chacán

General characteristics


Department of Cuzco, province and district of Anta
3,300-4,000 metres above sea level
34 km from Cuzco



652 households distributed over
6 sectors and 3 annexes


Land Resources:

2,285 ha
57% rain-fed farmland
20% irrigated farmland
1.7% permanent pasture


Forest Resources:

388 ha, mainly eucalyptus groves;
some native shrubs on hilltops


Sources of Income:

Farming, wage and unpaid labour
on neighbouring estates


The history of land use and tenure

By the 1950s land was in extremely short supply in the upland village of EqueccoChacán near Cuzco city. The village boundaries included only 600 ha of rainfed farmland, few pastures, and virtually no forest, cultivated or otherwise. All available arable land was farmed by individual households. During the 1960s, the community increased its land holdings through a successful lawsuit against a neighbouring hacienda. This land was eventually parcelled out to individual families.

As in the villages of Ccollana-Chequerec and Ccorao, the goals of Agrarian Reform in the early 1970s ran in opposition to the Equecco-Chacán community preference for individually farmed plots. Reform land was made available to the village in the form of a production cooperative. Though the cooperative provided some profit shares, services and employment for local residents, many in the community objected to this form of ownership. By 1975, with the economic downturn in Peru, the community of Equecco-Chacán began taking de facto possession of portions of the cooperative land. By the early 1980s, the cooperative had been formally disbanded and its land legally sold to former partner communities.

The increase in arable land after the Agrarian Reform made a significant difference in the size of village plots. The average plot size increased from 0.8 ha in the 1960s to 1.7 ha by 1987. This, in addition to improvements in the service infrastructure brought about by local inhabitants and outside assistance, upgraded the overall standard of living for the village's households. General improvement did not, however, benefit everybody in the community equally. There remained a marked difference between different income groups. The relatively well-off seemed to benefit most, while the majority of the population still owned less than 1 ha of land.

Community organization

Equecco-Chacán, like other upland communities, has maintained a strong degree of political independence and organization. Having gained official recognition as an independent village in 1948, the community not only brought a successful suit against its neighbouring estate to obtain more land, but also engaged in numerous other struggles to negotiate better labour conditions for community members working on nearby haciendas.

In Equecco-Chacán there is a high level of women's participation in decision-making and community activities. This is due in part to the high proportion of migrant husbands whose seasonal absence makes it necessary for women to take part in the Village Assemblies. Their influence in the community has been strengthened by the presence of active and outspoken women's organizations like the Mothers' Club and women's committees. Women participate on an equal basis with men in Village Assemblies.

The level of cooperation and participation in village activities has varied over the years. Periodic surges of community participation have often been short-lived. In part, this has been due to the large numbers of residents who have had to leave the village to find work and have been unable to commit themselves to involvement in village affairs. More important have been the divisions between different sectors and annexed hamlets of this geographically scattered community. The greater degree of access certain sectors (especially the core, or "parent" community) have enjoyed to water, arable land, pasture and services has created a great deal of tension and conflict, making long-term collective participation and cooperation difficult.

When the government-fostered farming cooperative showed signs of failing in 1975, community members mobilized and village leaders organized a formal takeover of one part of the cooperative estate. This mobilization was accompanied by a surge in participation in all realms of community life, including Assemblies and new faena activities. Yet in the late 1970s, when the cooperative estate was formally broken down and parcelled out, disputes about how much land different sectors and households would get, made continued communal management impos- sible. Once the Village Assembly approved and organized subdivision, participa- tion in faenas and other collective village activities dropped dramatically.

Internal Struggles Over External Funding

When Agrarian Reform began in the early 1970s, Equecco-Chacán received several offers of support from the United States Agency for International Development, the United States Peace Corps and state public works agencies. At first, these agencies encouraged projects that organized the village's food production system on a communal basis. Eventually, however, the unequal distribution of project costs and benefits stirred a lot of internal community disagreement. For example, problems arose when a tractor that had been purchased using taxes collected from all sectors and annexes was used only to benefit the parent community, Equecco-Chacán. Outraged members of the Piñankay annex formally, though ultimately unsuccessfully, requested legal recognition as an independent village.

Within the village governing body itself, considerable tension arose because resources and funds were placed in the sole custody of unsupervised community leaders. Community ignorance of how project funds were being managed tempted some leaders to use money for their own benefit. Coupled with inequitable distribution of the land received through the village's suit of the late 1960s, community members increasingly became disillusioned by village government; by the mid-1970s, communal farming and cooperative community development efforts were in marked decline.

Almost paradoxically, the conflicts over land distribution in the wake of Agrarian Reform led to a new sense of strength among those that had traditionally been dis- criminated against. They were able to make future participation in faena activities and other village activities conditional on the direct and proportional distribution of benefits. For example, participation in clearing ditches, improving irrigation, or building and equipping new schoolrooms was now demanded only of the families hat would directly benefit. Monetary contributions for purchases or rentals were made in proportion to benefits received.

Inequitable Resource Distribution

Taking advantage of its status as legal representative of its annex communities, the parent community of Equecco-Chacán attempted to keep some of the land intended for the village annexes when former cooperative lands were being parcelled out. This led to renewed calls for autonomy by Piñankay. Two other annexes joined Piñankay to demand independence as well- The crisis was eventually overcome when the parent community agreed to grant special concessions to the annexes.

Conflicts over land distribution also erupted within Chacán. Although the Village Assembly had agreed to determine who received what parcels of Agrarian Reform lands by drawing lots, the poorer and less influential families of the village were clearly discriminated against. While most families received a single plot, wealthier families and relatives of several community leaders received more. At times, this was camouflaged by awarding lands to under-age sons or to relatives living outside the community.

By the early 1 980s, in the face of such inequity, community solidarity and community activities disappeared. When a neighbouring community attempted to take possession of land still held communally by the Equecco-Chacán village, only those families from Chacán who owned plots near the disputed area attempted to block the take-over.

Dissatisfaction in the decision-making process continued to exist. A number of community leaders tried to restrict women's participation in Assembly Meetings and transfer decision-making authority over certain issues to the Board of Directors. This was done to counteract the power and vociferousness of some of the community's different interest groups. Nevertheless, the community's struggles for autonomy, collective management of new resources, organization of women and involvement of the poorer sectors in decision-making, all helped offset efforts to fragment and weaken community organization.

Forest resources

Gathering wood has traditionally been the responsibility of women in Equecco- Chacán, however, all family members, especially children, provide some help. Men are particularly involved when wood needs to be carried large distances.

By the 1960s, only a few groves of native trees and shrubs existed along plot borders, in ditches and on the hillsides around the village. Although eucalyptus had once been introduced to the area, few trees had been planted. The community depended heavily on outside sources to meet fuelwood demands. Native trees for construction were usually bartered for or purchased from the haciendas in Urubamba province. Families used dung, stubble and straw for fuel and, in many cases, worked without pay on neighbouring haciendas to have the opportunity to gather wood secretly.

Communal reforestation

In Equecco-Chacán the history of organized community reforestation is divided into two phases.

Reforestation started differently in Equecco-Chacán than it did in Ccollana-Chequerec and Ccorao. Proposals to reforest received support. Between 1968 and 1973, large areas of land were planted with trees. The community was assisted by the "Forest Plantations on Non-Agricultural Lands" programme and a trust fund that provided 20 year loans at a 2% annual interest rate. Community leaders were enthusiastic and their endorsement was a key factor in the initiation of tree planting on a surprisingly large-scale. Many families saw community plantations as a new source of income and favoured the proposals.

Early Support for the Right Planting Site

The first initiative for communal tree planting in Equecco-Chacán came from residents of the Piñankay annex. In July 1967, the Village Assembly approved Piñhankay's application to plant 50 ha of eucalyptus around the annex boundaries. Most of those supporting the application were from Piñankay itself; 42°%o were women and 50°%á were illiterate community members. The selected site consisted of eroded hillsides used for grazing, land rented out on a temporary basis. abandoned land and land worked by groups of farmers from different villages. For the most part, it was not land being actively used by members of the Piñankay community.

Agrarian Reform allowed community leaders to promise members that any land they had to sacrifice to the project would be exchanged for new land. Thus, plant- ing efforts continued relatively smoothly and participation in tree planting activi- ties was remarkably high. By 1973, almost 370 ha or 40% of the village's commu- nity-owned property had been converted into eucalyptus plantation, exceeding the village's own approved targets.

That is not to say that reforestation proceeded without complaints from certain community members. When plans for reforestation were drawn up for the Chacán region, a number of households voiced concern about the project's costs in terms of land, time and effort. Similarly, despite a strong start in the Piñankay annex, unresolved tension between reforestation's critics and proponents elsewhere in the village dampened further efforts.

By the middle of the 1970s, farmland scarcity became an overriding concern in Equecco-Chacán. Over ten years passed before further plantation development was given serious consideration. In 1984 only 50 ha of land were approved for refor- estation, with the promise of assistance from outside sources.

Reforestation from Annex to Parent Community: Halting Progress

In 1968, following the success of the community reforestation initiative in Pihankay annex, a Village Assembly of 79 members, mostly from the parent community of Chacán, approved plans to reforest 100 ha of land. This time, however, the burden of developing anew plantation was felt keenly by community members living near the site. Even though families in the area were particularly short of land, the approved reforestation target exceeded the amount of appropriate area. When preparations for the new plantation began, many local residents became alarmed. At one point a handful of angry residents even denounced several community leaders to the police, forcing them to give up part of their own land for the reforestation project. The planting of eucalyptus seedlings finally began only after those households that lost land to the project were promised the first coppice re-growth.

Despite tension and conflict the third and largest reforestation project in Equecco-Chacán followed several years later. Agrarian Reform allowed some community leaders to promise that families giving up any farmland would eventually be entitled to land elsewhere. Perhaps more than anything else, this promise allowed village leaders to secure community approval for reforestation of 200 ha, half of which were located directly within the parent community. The rest were distributed over the village's three annex communities.

Contrary to local expectations in the mid-1970s the land obtained for the village through Agrarian Reform was allotted to a village cooperative rather than individual families. Earlier promises to compensate individual households for losses due to reforestation could not be honoured. Tree planting had already begun on specified sites and it was not legally possible to reverse the process. Not surprisingly, the plantations were resented by many residents. Unlike Pihankay, the plantations of Chacán were damaged considerably by grazing; resentful villagers allowed their livestock to enter the sites.

The major impetus behind the new site lay in the conditions of the original reforestation contract, which specified that harvesting an old plantation could only occur if accompanied by replanting.

The community leaders' opinions were important factors in the decisions whether or not to reforest. Photo: Miguel Ramon

In 1986, the majority of the community felt land was simply too scarce to justify additional tree planting. Seventy-four percent of those interviewed opposed all further plantation development, even the replanting of woodlots. Only 8% felt more trees should be planted. Women appeared less interested, only 5% supported continued reforestation. Since past reforestation efforts were quite successful, villagers argue that any new "free" lands should not be devoted to forestry. Only 30 of the 50 ha that were approved for reforestation by the Village Assembly in 1983 have been planted.

Forest resources: Supply and demand

One of the most promising developments in Equecco-Chacán in recent years has been the increase in the number of individual families growing eucalyptus trees in their own fields and along the borders of their plots. The case study survey, completed in 1986, showed that 86% of Chacán farming families own eucalyptus trees. Seventy percent of those have trees that are more than ten years old, and 16% own trees that are still immature. Different socio-economic groups vary greatly in the amount of eucalyptus trees they own. Middle-level and wealthy families own, respectively, an average of between 5 and 14 times as many trees as their poor neighbours.

Individual ownership of eucalyptus is partially the result of the efforts of reforestation promoters who handed out eucalyptus seedlings to encourage villagers to accept the added work associated with starting community plantations (during 1968-1973 and 1984-85). However, 58% of the families said that they possessed eucalyptus trees before the community reforestation projects. Personal initiative has been important in growing trees in Equecco-Chacán.

Thanks to community and family reforestation, there is enough eucalyptus to meet a significant proportion of the local fuelwood and construction needs. Our survey showed that all families use a certain amount of eucalyptus trunks for construction; ninety-five percent use trunks for fuel while 5% use branches. Branches and chips are also used by the villagers, especially during the rainy season.

Average annual consumption of eucalyptus trunks is quite low (1.4 trunks, 50-60 cm in diameter per person). Consumption is especially low among the village's poor, 0.8 trunks per person/year. Although eucalyptus consumption is widespread, only 24% of Equecco-Chacán families are fuelwood self-sufficient. More often than not, eucalyptus is supplemented with other fuels such as cattle, sheep, and guinea pig dung, stubble, dried broad bean and potato stalks, and native shrubs. Poor families own far less eucalyptus and livestock than do better-off families. They are therefore more likely to have to look for diverse sources of fuel and building materials. Although community plantations comprised a reliable source of wood for a while, sales from communal forests were prohibited in 1985.

The abundance of eucalyptus in Chacán has influenced the type of housing and construction. Photo: Miguel Ramon

Thus, at the time of this case study, 74% of all Equecco-Chacán villagers bought eucalyptus wood from more well-endowed community members.

Distribution of benefits

Use of the community plantations has been marked by a long series of struggles between community factions over control and access to the resource. Initially, direct community access to the forests was officially limited to branch and leaf collection. However, clandestine felling of trees by both the parent community and its annexes began while the trees were still relatively immature. As members of the Piñankay annex began selling the wood products they obtained from the communal forest, forestry officials intervened, declaring that a felling license was required for any further tree cutting. Conflict, however, particularly between the parent community, Chacán, and the Piñankay annex, made it difficult to agree to get such a license. After an uneasy agreement to apply for logging a license was reached, tree felling proceeded while the license was being processed.

New Plantations, Old Disputes

Old disputes between the Piñankay community and the parent community of Chacán over the distribution and use of community resources re-emerged when the village plantations were ready to harvest. When Piñankay community members expressed the wish to obtain a formal logging license, leaders from Chacán refused to begin the application process, arguing that Piñankay would first have to accept some basic limitations on access and use. In 1982, the conflict escalated when Piñankay community members discovered that leaders from the parent community had secretly arranged for the sale of 350 trees from the forest grove within Piñankay itself. As the buyer began felling the trees. Piñankay residents quickly moved to block realization of the full sale. Although the annex found itself powerless to punish the responsible community leaders, the incident did allow the community to secure explicit recognition of its exclusive right to benefit from forests planted within its own territory.

When in 1983, the community ratified a plan to electrify the village, community leaders became intent on selling the community plantation as profitably as possible. Plans were made to sell more than 10,000 eucalyptus trunks to an outside merchant. To win support from community members, the leaders proposed that forest trees be sold to members at a lower price than that given to outside merchants. While this idea was well-received by a majority of the community, no agreement as to the fair price for merchants could be reached. Most participants at Village Assemblies felt that the price estimates for the timber provided by one forestry official were far too low. In 1983-1984 leaders decided to act on their own, planning the sale of large numbers of trees to outside merchants without consulting the Assembly. The leaders quickly applied for and were granted a logging license for 17,000 trees from the Forestry Department.

For the next year, major objections to the illegal sale of under-priced timber were tempered by the availability of low cost trees. By 1985, however, general disillusion about communal forest resource management led to the election of a new Governing Board. The trees the former leaders had planned to sell were never felled, and among the first actions of the new leaders was the indefinite suspension of all further timber sales from any community woodlot and a general ban on all other wood gathering activities.

Although meant to reverse an unpopular decision made by former village leaders, the new measures were adopted without prior discussion in a Village Assembly meeting. The new restrictions on fuelwood and fodder gathering caused a great deal of discontent, especially among the poor and middle-level families. While many members of the Equecco-Chacán community supported the idea of a tempo- rary suspension of logging in the plantation, only 22% supported indefinite sus- pension. Seventy-eight percent of the community (83% of the poor, 75% of -the middle level, and 50% of the wealthier residents) supported resumption of sales to the community as soon as possible. Seventy-four percent of the villagers stated that they would have been amenable to selling wood to outside merchants, although at a higher price than that offered to community members.

Although the Village Assembly formally resolved to re-initiate sales of community plantation products after a year's suspension, leaders had not applied for the neces- sary logging licenses as of 1987. Perhaps the most pressing issue facing the vil- lagers of Equecco-Chacán (like those of Ccollana-Chequerec) is not whether to establish new plantations, but how to gain access the plantations that the villagers themselves have already established.

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