Researchers study periurban farmers in Peruvian Andes


A new research project on urbanization and peasant agriculture in Peru – funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), Austria's central funding organization for basic research – launches 1 November 2019 at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research (IGF). The project is titled “Periurban form in the Peruvian Andes: Peasant perception and performance” and is scheduled to operate for approximately four years, until October 2023.

The project aims to describe and explain land cover changes in the Andean cities of Cajamarca, Huancayo and Cusco (including their hinterland) over the past three decades. Researchers will use satellite imagery from 1988, 1998, 2008 and 2018 to analyse these changes. The researchers will also carry out a periurban morphological analysis based on town plans and aerial images (1988–2018) to better understand the development of the settlements' form and function, and to create maps that support their survey of periurban farmers.

During the past three decades, the conversion of fertile, arable land into built-up areas has been one of the main land-use changes. These effects are especially evident in mountain valleys of the Peruvian Andes, where productive zones on the limited space of the periurban valley floors have been increasingly urbanized for crop production and real estate purposes since the end of the 1980s.  

This land-use change has had both positive and negative effects on periurban farmers. Different forms of urban growth in Andean valleys have different degrees of impact on periurban smallholders, who do not always prefer compact growth on the valley floor. Instead, dispersed urban growth on the valley floor is often preferred, for it allows urbanization to drive profit (e.g. improved infrastructure) while continuing the cultivation of remaining arable land. This is one fact that has largely been ignored in research.

As an outcome, the project plans to identify periurban farmers’ perceptions toward these land-use changes and assess the consequences of these changes on farmers’ vertical agrarian land-use. Farmers’ perceptions will be measured by surveying a target of 900 farmers in three periurban villages per study site (Cajamarca, Huancayo and Cusco).

Additionally, the project will seek out future periurban forms that are more ideal for smallholder farmers, jointly define quality criteria of future periurban development, and collaboratively map potential “performance zones” for the transition area between city and countryside, as well as valleys and highlands, to assess potential approaches to land-use planning.

This project can become an important contribution to understanding the problems of Andean farmers living and farming on the edges of expanding cities, and a significant attempt to improve periurban areas in developing mountain regions.

News from the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OAW)/the Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research (IGF)

Photo from Carlos Palacios Núñez

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