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Special Collection

Rural Development in Latin America

Collection launched: 12 Sep 2019

Studies on land distribution, rural development, and the so-called agrarian question in Latin America were crucial in interrogating theories of modernization and agrarian transformation in the fields of rural sociology and economics in the 1960s and 1970s. There is now renewed interest in understanding current agrarian development in relation to global dispossession, social inequalities, sustainability, and the role of state policies in all three processes. The following articles revisit some crucial debates in Latin American rural development from perspectives of land concentration, conflicts over land tenure, and the role of the state with regard to peasant and family farming, as well as the role of nonstate actors in promoting development.

Chris Carlson examines land use, tenure, and investments in Colombia, Brazil, and Peru, arguing that large latifundio estates are still a relevant factor throughout the region constituting a serious barrier for development. In the same vein, Raúl Paz, Cristian Jara, and Navé Wald look at tensions around land tenure in Santiago del Estero, Argentina, a region that combines modern agribusiness production of soybeans with small-scale peasant producers. The authors point to the concept of land grabbing as useful in reaching a more complex understanding of agribusiness expansion in marginal lands. The role of state policies is also addressed by Paulo Niederle, Catia Grisa, Everton Lazaretti Picolotto, and Denis Soldera. Their article looks at the emergence of a policy narrative of rural development in Brazil that promotes a new dualism, no longer between family farming and agribusiness but instead between productive and unproductive farmers, thus marginalizing family farming to the role of small unproductive producers and questioning the policy effectiveness of integrating family farmers into modern markets. In the final article, Alberto Fuentes deals with the role of ideas and expert knowledge in promoting rural development and transformation from below, examining the rather successful experience of seven cheese-processing cooperatives in Nicaragua in adopting a new organizational model.