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Chapter 6 - Conclusion

To forestry officials and development agencies, the starkly deforested landscape of the upland region around Cuzco city called for efforts to plant trees. Given the historic precedent of communal work in the area, it was assumed that communal forest plantations would be the simplest way to meet the fuelwood and building material needs of the inhabitants. In reality the situation proved much more complicated. From the communities' perspective, village plantations could indeed be a valuable community asset. However, factors emerged that often worked against communal tree farming.

Availability of land

The process of communal reforestation described in the case studies suggests that one of the most dominant factors influencing the development of communal woodlots is land availability. All the villages have had to cope with a long history of land scarcity. This has been a major constraint to the promotion of communal work in general and the initiation of communal reforestation projects in particular. Population growth and attempts by nearby estates to monopolize land resources have put unrelenting pressure on villagers to move away from communal farming and subdivide most communal property. Of the four villages, only Compone managed to ease the land shortage to a certain extent by acquiring land from a neighbouring hacienda well before Agrarian Reform. Even then, however, villagers did not accept a government encouraged production cooperative. Despite government officials' preconceptions about the deep-rooted tradition of communal farming in the Cuzco uplands, by the late 1960s conditions were unfavourable for establishment of sizeable communally-owned and managed woodlots in any of the villages studied.

It is important to note that, in theory, community members were not opposed to giving up land for community plantations. Rather, their main concern was that sites chosen for reforestation not take up any badly needed arable land or centrally located pasture. Often, however, the chosen sites were precisely those valuable areas. The villagers, once supportive of community reforestation, became reluctant to continue or expand planting. In Ccorao and Compone, where the earliest community reforestation efforts proved quite successful, resistance to reforestation sharpened when it became clear that proposed tree planting was to take place on valuable rather than marginal land.

In many cases, even where land was not being used for cultivation, planting meant loss of convenient grazing area. This proved to be a particular hardship for poorer households with no alternative pasture, or insufficient available labour to take livestock to distant grazing areas. Women, who often bore the primary responsibility for tending livestock, were particularly disadvantaged. Not surprisingly, in Ccorao village, women proved to be among the staunchest opponents to community tree plantations.

In a few cases, land scarcity and the need to protect an area from encroachment by outsiders encouraged villagers to emphasize their property claims by starting community ledlots in disputed areas. This seemed to be an important factor behind renewed interest in communal reforestation in Ccorao village in the early 1980s. In the other villages however, the lack of a systematic land management system allowed outsiders a greater chance to claim the apparently neglected area. The pressure to ensure closer supervision over such land, by placing it firmly in control of individual families, limited the possibility for communal forestry in the future.

The impact of land availability on support for communal reforestation was highlighted when Agrarian Reform made more land available. Opposition to tree plantations on village property softened; the availability of farmland made conversion of land to forest seem a smaller sacrifice.

Whether there will be continued support for community forestry remains unclear. In the case of Equecco-Chacán for example, renewed support for reforestation following Agrarian Reform was linked to the explicit promise by community leaders to award new parcels of land to those households that lost land to reforestation. Similarly in Ccollana-Chequerec, active participation in tree planting and ledlot management was linked to their belief that all Agrarian Reform land that was being farmed communally would eventually be subdivided. Participation in communal reforestation was seen as one way to ensure the household's eventual entitlement to some of this land. Even while communal farming was actively pursued, there remained strong expectation that participation would eventually lead to larger individual family plots rather than larger communal tree lots.

Availability of labour

Another factor that affects enthusiasm for communal tree farming is the availability of labour. Planting and managing community plantations requires considerable labour inputs. In Cuzco many outsiders assumed that labour would be easily available thanks to the area's long tradition of faenas. In reality, farming households did not have large amounts of free time. Household members needed to weigh the demands of faena work against individual work requirements. Often, farmers found themselves with little time for faena work.

The poor and those with little or no land faced particular constraints in allocating labour to community projects. The need to make a living through wage labour or group work on nearby haciendas and in distant towns, limited the amount of time these households had to contribute to communal efforts. In the case of Ccollana-Chequerec, for example, Agrarian Reform did little to improve the conditions of poor farmers who remained dependent on work for neighbouring hacienda owners to obtain income and access to equipment. These were among the earliest community members to stop participating actively in faenas following Agrarian Reform. As the lack of village labour made it difficult to farm or reforest community property, the property fell into neglect; consequently, the pressure to subdivide such plots often overrode plans to continue managing them collectively.

The problem of recruiting labour for reforestation appears to be more successfully addressed when wages are offered to those villagers that plant and manage community trees. In Equecco-Chacán, one of the reasons communal replanting got off to a strong start was because daily wages were paid to tree planters. The community saw the project as a source of income rather than a drain on time.

Contract conditions

In all four villages the conditions contained in the project contracts between the villages and the Forestry Department negatively affected communal reforestation efforts and the distribution of its benefits. The contracts sought to ensure that any loss of community forest area through harvesting would be compensated for by new planting efforts; in other words, to harvest an old lot, a village was obliged to develop a new one. This condition often provided the major impetus behind new plantations. However, villagers saw this as an imposition placed upon them by outsiders. Considerable resentment and opposition were sparked when villagers found themselves losing more arable land to reforestation in order to realize benefits from the original site. Moreover, the inflexible obligation that reforestation contracts placed on the villages to pay 30% of their harvested woodlot's market value to the government, often made it difficult for the communities to realize any net benefits. The debt caused villagers to feel bound to sell their timber at a high price to middlemen, rather than provide the timber at lower prices to community members. Frequently, in any case, the prices paid by middlemen proved unsatisfactory. And such experiences made villagers reluctant to agree to further reforestation. Proposals to begin new sites were often dismissed for fear of commitment to the loss of more valuable land with little, if any, direct benefit in return.

Availability of alternative forest resources

Foresters assumed that the constant shortage of fuelled would be a major impetus for village-wide reforestation. Indeed, the need for fuelwood and building materials mobilized varying degrees of local support for community ledlots. It is important to note, however, that, in many cases, despite apparent local shortages of fuelled, poles and other building timber, farming households met a good part of their needs through alternative sources such as native shrubs, dung, family-to-family exchange (i.e., ayni) and barter with outside suppliers.

In other words, although families were concerned about fuelwood and building material shortages it was not necessarily their primary concern. Local demand for new sources of led may have been significantly reduced by the availability of eucalyptus trees grown on home lots, a phenomenon that often accompanied community-based reforestation. Indeed, as community ledlots matured, the tendency appears to have been to sell them and use the revenue to fund other community projects, such as electrification, rather than consume the wood locally.

Income and emerging class differences

The socio-economic and political structure of the village community seems to greatly affect both the process of communal reforestation and the distribution of its costs and benefits. Significant socio-economic differences within the community tend to translate into vastly different priorities concerning the management of village resources. Reforestation on community lands often means greater costs for poorer community members than their relatively better-off neighbours who are less dependent on access to village property. In the communities studied, poorer community members were often some of the greatest opponents to larger reforestation projects.

At the same time, as community ledlots were established, it was often the members of the community with larger individual plots who could take greatest advantage of the availability of eucalyptus seedlings to plant trees on their own land. Once their own trees matured these families were less interested in using the community woodlots to provide materials for local use. Their priority was often to manage the community ledlot as a community enterprise, selling its timber to merchants to acquire revenue for other village needs.

Given these differences in perspective, it is not surprising that, when time came to decide whether to establish new plantations or harvest existing ones, sharp disagreements often arose. Agreement was often only reached when Village Assemblies were poorly attended. In these cases, many members of the community became disgruntled and alienated, greatly increasing the likelihood that such projects would be passively resisted or even sabotaged.

Reforestation seemed to be more easily accepted in communities like Compone where middle income families predominated and resources were more evenly distributed. In such places, agreement seemed easier to achieve than it did in Ccollana-Chequerec and Ccorao. It should be noted, however, that even in Compone, expanded reforestation was eventually resisted by poorer households that saw the common property fallow and pasture land they depended on, threatened.

Conflicting gender-based interests

Communal reforestation caused conflicts of interest between male and female community members. In Ccollana-Chequerec, closure of the village plantation to locals spelled hardship, particularly for the women of the village. In both Ccollana-Chequerec and Ccorao, a major complaint among women was that use of village lands for forestry meant an increase in the time and energy needed to tend livestock on more distant pastures. Women tended to be shut out of formal Assemblies in most of the villages studied. They commonly remarked that when the theme of the assembly was known already they greatly influenced the men's decisions. When the meetings were called in great haste the women felt more isolated from the decision-making process. A conflict of interest became evident however only when project implementation began; women often continued to allow livestock to graze in plantation areas, damaging the young trees.

By contrast, the case of Equecco-Chacán shows that where women were more organized and had a greater voice in the Village Assembly, they also enjoyed greater power to shape the process of community reforestation. It is no coincidence that the site selected by the Equecco-Chacán Village Assembly for the original plantation was of truly marginal farming quality, was not being farmed by any of the village households, and was not part of the village's core grazing land. In this case, a greater degree of approval for reforestation was secured among the women from the start, lessening the risk of passive resistance later.

Geographic divisions

Differences in socio-economic and political strength sometimes corresponded to geographic lines. Households of more limited means seem to be concentrated in certain areas of a village or in individual annexes. As in the case of EqueccoChacán, such disparity worsened when political power over community resources remained concentrated in the central or parent community, allowing this group to make resource use decisions that often favoured its interests over those of other sectors. The resulting tensions made coordination of village-wide reforestation difficult in the long run.

Community leadership

The concentration of power in the hands of specific leaders did not always benefit communal plantation development. The support of a strong village leadership could be instrumental in getting reforestation started. Unilateral decision-making by leaders was, however, usually not sufficient to reduce underlying resistance from the community-at-large. In some cases, it may have exacerbated opposition to reforestation. Furthermore, the concentration of power and knowledge of legal procedures in the hands of a few, sometimes appeared to encourage abuse and even corruption. This, in turn, increased opposition to further reforestation.

External agents

The outcome of community reforestation in all of the villages was directly affected by outside agents. Middlemen lobbied for and obtained terms of sale that were extraordinarily favourable to themselves. In several instances, an extension agent or forestry worker, whom the community had initially trusted, and on whom it depended to authorize its tree sales, appeared to act on behalf of a middleman, underestimating the true value of the ledlot and sometimes pressuring the community to accept the proposed contract regardless of its terms. In the worst cases, villagers eventually felt obliged to sell more timber than they had planned, at prices far lower than they expected. This prevented the community from realizing any substantial benefit from their own reforestation projects. It is not surprising that over the long-term, such experiences made villagers extremely wary of new reforestation projects.


The case studies reveal a complex set of factors at play in the process of village reforestation. While communal work was traditional in the communities of the Cuzco uplands, changing patterns of ownership and power, as well as a changing relationship to the outside world, made the possibility of long-term communal arrangements much more difficult. Some factors, such as constant shortages of local fuelled, the promises of tangible benefits, and familiarity with communal work, appear to have encouraged rural villagers to engage in community-based forest management. Other factors, however, posed severe obstacles to and caused great dissatisfaction with communal reforestation. Some factors may even have facilitated reforestation at one time and discouraged it at others.

Where community plantations appear to have been successful in one case, their replication at another time or in another village was not guaranteed. When outside agencies and local communities begin to work together on reforestation, there is no substitute for a sensitive and realistic assessment of local needs, customs, socioeconomic structures and social relations.

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