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Chapter 5 - Compone


Department of Cuzco, province and district of Anta
32.5 km from Cuzco



1,055 inhabitants
211 households


Land resources:

3,047 ha, including irrigated and rainfed
farming lands, grazing
pasture, forests and untilled lands



Communal and private eucalyptus
trees planted in the 1960s


Sources of income:

Farming and stock breeding


The history of land use and tenure

The people of Compone have long struggled with outsiders for control of local resources. They have been particularly oppressed by the large Sullupiciji hacienda. Even before Agrarian Reform the village worked successfully to defend itself against the estate, and gained land and political autonomy. The resulting improved access to land has allowed livestock breeding to be integrated into traditional farming activities of Compone, setting this community apart from the other villages studied in the series. Thanks to this mix of local sources of income, Compone can be considered one of the most well-off communities in the uplands today.

As elsewhere in rural Peru, Agrarian Reform affected Compone in both positive and negative ways. Like Equecco-Chacán, Compone was first forced to accept land in the form of a cooperative, named the Tupac Amaru 11 Production Cooperative (TAPC). By the late 1970s, frustrated with the ineffective management of TAPC, the village seized part of the cooperative's land. Eventually, the government formally handed over 731 ha to the community, consisting mostly of pasture. With this new resource the village started a communal livestock breeding enterprise and encouraged villagers to increase their livestock holdings dramatically. Not all community members benefited equally from these new developments, however. Wealthier families, better able to obtain and care for more livestock, were particularly favoured. Amid mounting dissatisfaction with the management of the village pasture, and pressure from land-short villagers, the Community Assembly decided to subdivide and distribute the communal pasture land to individual households. Once distributed, land was usually converted to farmland and planted with local staples like corn and potatoes.

Improving Prospects

As late as the 1950s Cornpone was still dominated by the neighbouring Sullupiciji hacienda which controlled most of the local farming land, pasture and forest resources. Villagers owned no more than 50 ha of land. Only those few community members that worked as stewards for the nearby hacienda were favoured with greater access to crucial resources.

Fortunately. in the 1960s the situation improved. In 1961 Compone gained official recognition as an independent community and peacefully took over 500 ha of estate land, including dry farming land, some natural forest and a eucalyptus grove the estate had established. When the Sullupiciji hacienda filed a suit to reclaim some of the land, the village community quickly reinforced its newly recognised claim to the resources by starting a small community plantation adjoining the estate.

Changes in land tenure also lead to a decrease in the predominance of communal work or faenas. While the village maintained some communal land, the increase in the size of personal landholdings as a result of Agrarian Reform forced family members to devote more time to their own fields. The labour available for communal cultivation steadily decreased and many communal plots were parcelled out to individual families for private cultivation on a rotating basis. Although commonly owned property still exists, communal cultivation has become increasingly rare.

Livestock and Farming: A Diversified Subsistence Base

By the beginning of the 1980s, only 40 ha of grazing land remained near the village. Larger tracts of potential pasture could still be found further away from the community, but, because of their remoteness, only families that could afford to maintain cabins there for seasonal grazing could use them. As a result, family ownership of cattle, pigs and horses declined. It does. however, remain a significant component of the local economy today.

Community organization

Before becoming an autonomous officially recognized village, members of the Compone community were forced to organize in secret; widespread participation in early village government was extremely difficult to achieve. Legal recognition, however, encouraged participation by more community members, strengthening village cohesiveness and organization.

Most of the land handed over to Compone consisted of pasture.

Despite progress, Compone tension and conflict have hindered operation of the community organization. The problems Compone has faced include: bribery and illegal takeover of community lands by individual families; disputes over the way to secure benefits from village property for all community members; intimidation and the use of other "boss tactics" by some village leaders, and; violation of community agreements and traditions governing land distribution. The conflicts have weakened solidarity and the cohesiveness of the community's decision-making system. Democratic forces within the community have challenged such actions and attitudes. They have not, however, been able to overcome them and considerable tension still exists.

Availability and supply of forest resources before reforestation

The villagers of Compone also have an acute forest resource shortage. While fallow entrada fields provide native shrubs and small trees. Trees along the borders of household plots and family fields allow ayni de palos or "pole exchange" between village members. These sources of tree products have not, however, been enough to meet local needs. Many households remain dependent on other, often distant, sources of fuel and building material.

Continued Dependency on Outside Sources

While appropriation of some forest land from the Sullupiciji hacienda in the 1 960s provided an additional source of wood, it was still not enough to make Compone self-sufficient. Villagers continued to depend on dung and native shrub branches secretly gathered from hacienda lands, and on purchased fuelwood chips from neighbouring Cotabambas province. In recent years, a decline in outmigration and an increase in the number of migrants returning to Compone have increased the size of the local population and exacerbated the fuelwood shortage. The increase in demand for forest products has practically offset the increases in supply.

The process of communal reforestation

Compone's experiences with communal reforestation can be divided into two phases.

When communal plantations were first proposed by extension workers in the early 1960s, the idea was well-received. By November 1963, the Compone Village Assembly, in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture's forestry service, had approved a contract for reforestation of 11 ha of village land, later known as the Acllahuasi forest.

Despite initial hopes of reviving communal tenure and work Compone, residents continued to strongly prefer to subdivide the Agrarian Reform land. Interest in larger family holdings rather than large communal enterprises was reinforced by a high population growth rate which made each piece of arable land even more precious. Additionally, during the same time, restrictions on the use of Sullupiciji hacienda resources loosened, and dung and shrub brush could be collected, providing a relatively reliable source of fuel. Sustained support for communal reforestation no longer existed and once the first plantation was established, many members of the community resisted expansion of the existing plantation site for the next twenty years.

A Welcomed Plan

As arranged by formal contract, Compone's first plantation was to be developed on a "coopera- tive" basis with the Ministry of Agriculture. The Ministry agreed to feed and pay workers, provide tools, and equipment and other necessary items on loan. In compensation for this assistance, the Ministry was to receive 30% of the revenue for all sales from the plantation (including branches and trunks) for the next 25 years. Compone would receive the rest.

The agreement was opposed by only a small number of wealthy community members, all of whom were either employees or stewards of the Sullupucjio hacienda and had little stake in realiz- ing community self-sufficiency. Aside from this group, tree planting was approved unanimously by both the women and men of Compone.

Concerns About Expansion

The ease with which Compone's first plantation was established soon encouraged forestry offi- cials to propose expansion of the original site. This time events developed differently. Although community leaders were enthusiastic about the proposal, many community members were not. Vil- lagers gave a number of explanations for their disapproval. Many of those who opposed the pro- posal felt that land was still too scarce to devote more to plantation cover. Others pointed out that the land designated for the expanded plantation was irrigated and much too precious to be used for a forest plantation. One of the villagers' strongest objections was that, since the land in question had already been reserved for distribution in the future, it should be left alone.

An agreement to begin a new plantation with a loan from the International Development Bank was first reached again in Compone in 1983, two decades after the start of the first plantation. As in the three other villages, a decisive factor behind the proposal's approval was the fact that the original site could only be logged if a new site was approved at the same time. Given the reluctance to expand reforestation, it was not easy to agree on the location and size of the new site. While one small site was eventually chosen, a number of poor households were adversely affected and the resistance of these villagers actually limited the possibility for real progress.

Different Perspectives on a Common Resource

As before, the second community reforestation project required the approval of community leaders, community households and forestry officials. The first debate was over which site to select. Forestry officials argued that some 100 ha of prime plantation land were available in the community, largely on community entrada plots. While some community leaders agreed, others did not and proposed replanting a smaller area.

In the end, forestry officials modified their proposal and the Village Assembly approved a plan to establish a 15 ha eucalyptus plantation. The area included hillside land not yet being cultivated in the village's entrada system, and thus not yet assigned to an individual household.

Although on the surface the community seemed generally to approve of the second plantation site, problems arose as soon as implementation began. As the first seedlings were planted, a number of poor community members strongly objected to the fact that the site cut into resources they depended on. Other community members were disappointed when they were given pine seedlings to plant instead of the promised eucalyptus seedlings. Not surprisingly. very few of the seedlings planted in the village woodlot took root.

Use of the village forests

In the early 1980s, villagers began to plan to sell their first communal plantation, the Acllahuasi forest, to pay off the village's debt to the State Forestry Service and fund electrification of the village's central sector. The sale did not go well. Although the proceeds did help fund electrification, the price the village received for the wood was far below the market price. As in other villages, this encouraged many in the community to demand that all communal forests be reserved first and foremost for use by local villagers.

It was not long before some villagers suggested that perhaps the only way to guarantee the benefits of the common property plantations for all residents was to allow community members to harvest the woodlots themselves. Some community members continued to argue that village woodlots were the only source of revenue for funding village improvement projects and paying-off village debts. Further disagreement arose over who would be allowed to harvest which trees. As the village agreed to reserve a major portion of the second woodlot for local use, a number of wealthier families tried to take possession of the largest number of trees, particularly those with the thickest trunks, arguing that distribution should be based on criteria such as age and number of children. The conflict crippled the village's attempt to open the woodlot to local use. Some charge that wealthier families, that have been able to sell more eucalyptus trees off of home plots, continue to resist the idea of reserving the village woodlot for local use because they want to keep local timber prices high.

A Losing Deal

The sudden opportunity to bring electricity to the area ultimately worked against the village as it prepared to sell the Acllahuasi forest. The urgency with which villagers approached the sale gave interested merchants a large bargaining advantage. To the villagers' chagrin, forestry officers played a large role in setting unacceptably low prices for timber. Official forestry valuations were based on an assessment of only the thicker trees. Thus, thousands of trees below 14-15 cm in diameter were left out of the woodlot assessment. While the village rejected the low prices at first, the approaching payment deadlines on community works like electrification made it difficult for the villagers to hold out for a more favourable assessment.

In 1985, in one last attempt to obtain a better deal; village leaders entrusted the sale to several forestry officials. The money that was ultimately received was far less than the amount the village had turned down two years earlier. The satisfied middleman proceeded to harvest the woodlot, removing its best and thickest trees first. In the end, the village had sold the whole forest without realizing that the middleman had really paid for only part of it.

New Communal Forest Pay for New Forestry Debts

As the first plantation approached maturity. considerable interest in allowing local direct use already existed. Interest was particularly great once the village gained access to new lands for distribution to individual families after liquidation of the Tupac Amaru cooperative in 1978. A number of families received lots near the area's only highway. and many families planned to relocate their homes to the site; there was a sudden surge in demand for building materials.

Use of the communal plantation was hindered by two factors: the relative immaturity of the trees and the obligation to pay the State Forestry Service 30% of the value of the harvest. In order to pay the State, the village felt compelled to sell its first harvest rather than reserve the trees for villagers. The prices being offered by middlemen for the young lot were, however, unacceptably low. Many villagers wanted to get timber to build new homes and they frequently supplemented traditional sources of building materials with clandestinely felled logs from the Acllahuasi forest.

Distribution of benefits

Although the costs of reforestation were shared fairly equally during the first phase of plantation development, its benefits were not. As with Equecco-Chacán, the biggest winners in the first harvest appeared to be the middleman and the State Forestry Service (which was assured of 30% of the lot's market value). Since the proceeds were primarily used to fund electrification of the central sector of Compone, households living in this area , around 70% of the community, also benefited. Some families were able to electrify several buildings.

The low prices that are offered for the community's eucalyptus have proved a consistent problem for the village.

The women of Compone support sale of eucalyptus wood to the community itself.

Electricity never reached the outlying sectors of the Compone community, composed mostly of poor households. These families obtained virtually no direct benefit from the village plantation. A few poor villagers benefited only by secretly harvesting timber and fuelwood.

Disputes over control of new communal resources and distribution of the benefits of communal resources continue to characterize Compone's plantation management. Community reforestation began early in Compone, but to this day, many conflicts remain unresolved.

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