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Market Incorporation, Agricultural Change, and Sustainability among the Machiguenga Indians of the Peruvian Amazon

Joseph Henrich
Human Ecology
Vol. 25, No. 2 (Jun., 1997), pp. 319-351
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4603241
Page Count: 33
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Market Incorporation, Agricultural Change, and Sustainability among the Machiguenga Indians of the Peruvian Amazon
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Abstract

By marshaling empirical data from five Machiguenga communities studied over 20 years, this paper disputes two common assumptions about the behavior of indigenous peoples in the face of increasing commercialization. First, many Amazonian researchers suggest that the social and ecological deterioration confronting native populations results from externally-imposed political, legal and market structures that compel local groups to pursue short-term, unstable economic strategies. Second, these structural explanations are combined with the increasing recognition that indigenous peoples possess a substantial agroecological knowledge to suggest that, if indigenous people receive control of adequate land and resources, they will implement their traditional knowledge in conservative resource management practices. In contrast to these assumptions, this analysis shows that the Machiguenga are not compelled by external forces (such as land tenure, migration policies or economic trends), but instead are active enthusiastic participants seeking to engage the market in order to acquire western goods. Further, despite highly adaptive traditional subsistence patterns and a vast agroecological knowledge, households and communities facing increasing degrees of market integration are progressively altering their traditional cropping strategies, planting practices, labor allocation and land use patterns toward a greater emphasis on commodity crop production and domesticated animal breeding. This increasing concentration on income generating activities subverts the environmentally-friendly nature of traditional productive practices and creates a socially, economically, and ecologically unsustainable system.

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