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Campesinos and Conservation in the Central Andes: Indigenous Herding and Conservation of the Vicuña

  • Wayne Bernhardson

Efforts to protect the wild Vicuña, an endangered relative of the domesticated Llama and Alpaca of the central Andes, and to increase the species' numbers, have been more successful in achieving technical wildlife management goals than in complementing agro-pastoral activities of the indigenous peoples of the region. In both Pampa Galeras National Reserve in Peru and in Lauca National Park in Chile, lack of consultation with native pastoralists, whose lands the reserves occupy, reflects weak commitment to broader social and economic goals on the part of national authorities, as well as the inadequacy of international technical assistance in involving local communities in such projects.

Specifically, those projects have neglected to consider the importance of local patterns of land tenure, which are only in small part communal, and of economic differentiation with those communities. At the same time, authorities have controlled or monitored access to such subsistence resources as pasture and fuel for local residents, while failing to offer short-term alternatives for economic opportunity. This is in contrast to the free hand enjoyed by energy and agricultural irrigation projects such as those which benefit Chile's Atacama port of Arica. Continuation of such policies jeopardizes long-term success of wildlife protection as well as the economic future of the region's human inhabitants.

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Environmental Conservation
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