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Changing Fortunes Biodiversity and Peasant Livelihood in the Peruvian Andes

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Chapter 3. Transitions in Farm Nature and Society, 1969-1990


  Resource Paradoxes of the Land Reform of 1969

Late one June afternoon in 1969, the joking Eufemia had cajoled a then-youthful Faustino—who years later guided me to the Big Hill or Hatun Loma field—while she heaped platefuls of steaming floury potatoes with meaty hominy and ladled frothy maize beer into a glass that was being passed around. A tipsy Faustino was serving the homemade brew and the maize and potato plates to family and neighbors, who had finished stacking the adobe walls and thatching the roof of the newlyweds' home. The couple's jest hinted at their happiness with the new single-room hut. Its site even offered some space for future expansion of their quarters. They owed the site to Faustino's father, once a tenant worker of the Umamarca hacienda. His family was an updated version of Quechua haves, and both Faustino and Eufemia planned to pursue the current concept of a fit livelihood.

By 1990 the couple's home had grown to include a pair of adjoining huts. When Santusa, Faustino's now-aged mother, looked over the enlarged house compound that year, she pointed out the huts built since 1969, each a new room housing backpack cannisters for spraying insecticides, large piles of fresh seed potatoes, and bags of granular fertilizer. 1 The equipment and supplies stored in the corner huts in 1990 were not unknown twenty-one years earlier, but they have tended to be few. Santusa and her neighbors in Umamarca, literally the Head Place, had hoped their livelihoods would better after 1969, when the coup d'etat of a new Peruvian government—"the government" as the Quechua style it—declared a radical land reform. The hacienda of Umamarca was converted into the official Peasant Community of Umamarca; but their outlook of guarded optimism faded to troubling uncertainty, Umamarca's free peasants find