Pastoralist Knowledge Hub

Latin America

Pastoralism in Latin America has the rearing of camelids such as llamas, alpacas, vicunas and guanacos as its most distinctive trait, although sheep, goats and cattle are also kept. Mountain pastoralism is largely confined to the semi-arid regions of the Andes in a habitat known as the ‘puna’ or the ‘altiplano,’ which lies between 3700-5000 meters above sea level. Much of the pastoral activity in Latin America is concentrated in this region and across four countries, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru.

The important dryland areas include most of Northern Mexico, the Guajira peninsula in Colombia and Venezuela, the Brazilian Cerrado and Caatinga, the dry Chaco bushland between Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay, and the cold Patagonian steppe shared by Argentina and Chile.  Periodically flooded areas also host distinctive pastoralist cultures with great ecological and cultural significance, such as the Llanos shared by Venezuela and Colombia, the floodable areas (“bañados”) of the Bermejo and Pilcomayo basins in Paraguay and Argentina, and the Pantanal in Brazil. Almost 86% of the Peruvian Andes and Bolivian highlands are exclusively used as rangelands with pastoralism as the predominant land use, given the special historical, cultural and geographical significance for pastoralism in Bolivia and Peru.

Pastoralist activities within the Latin America region are largely linked to the wool market. Vicuna fibre is the most valuable commodity in the High Andean Plains. Even so sheep has become the most numerous livestock with approximately 20 million sheep versus 7 million camelids in the Central Andes as their mutton and wool are ready market. In Argentina, sheep are mainly used for their wool 50% of which is exported. Other distinctive traditional pastoralist systems  practiced in the continent have gained less visibility because of being practiced with more conventional livestock (cattle, sheep or goats). Important pastoralist cultures integrate indigenous and criollo elements in many areas of the continents.

In Latin America, a particular challenge is the weak self-identification of pastoralists. Due to the negative perception of pastoralism, many pastoralists prefer to identify as farmers instead. There are also conflicts between the indigenous and criollo pastoralists. They also face large scale land acquisition for mining or commercial crop agriculture and thereby the privatization of pastoral land. Besides this there is a lack of up-to-date livestock statistics, limited access to markets, and poor service delivery within pastoral areas with often poor health and education services.

The Pastoralist Knowledge Hub has provided support to the following:

  1. Advocacy initiatives in Latin America:
    • The development of a regional network of civil society organizations called Pastoramericas, which is active in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Peru in several capacity development and advocacy initiatives.
    • Through the organization NATIVA (Naturaleza, Tierra y Vida), supported the organization of community dialogues for outreach and awareness within the pastoral constituency. NATIVA also organized a regional meeting of pastoralist civil society organizations in Bolivia, Latin America and laid down the foundations of the regional network.
  2. Knowledge generation activities in Latin America:
    • Partnered with  Fundación Gran Chaco, a member of the network, to implement the IFAD funded Pastoralist Driven Data Management System project in Argentina
    • Conducted a  study on integrated landscape management for Latin American rangelands in collaboration with Salta National University and National Agricultural Technology Institute (INTA)

Pastoramericas is part of the global pastoralist network, the World Alliance of Mobile Indigenous Peoples (WAMIP). As part of WAMIP, representatives from Pastoramericas have represented the pastoral constituency within the Civil Society Mechanism of the Committee on World Food Security. The network is also active within platforms such as the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock, Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance Partnership, and the Global Rangelands Initiative of the International Land Coalition. With the support of the Hub, the network has represented pastoral interests in policy forums such as the FAO regional conference for Latin America, Convention on Biodiversity, Committee on Agriculture (COAG), United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Prince Mahidol Award Conference and others.