Turin 2009 – Seasonal work in Peruvian Altiplano

The Peruvian Altiplano presents different agro-ecological zones and variable climatic conditions. Rural households of the Altiplano from the ethnic Aymara define their livelihoods and strategies according to those natural conditions. Agricultural households of the lakeside zone, with less variable climatic conditions and closer to market places, are mixed-farming consumption and market-oriented, who intensify their agricultural activities at the beginning of the rainy season for the sowing and at the beginning of the dry season for the harvest. Alpaca pastoralist households of the dry puna zone, with less favourable climatic conditions and located in remote areas, are exclusively grazing livestock market-oriented, who intensify their agricultural activities during the rainy season when grasslands are more readily available. Seasonality and spatial location condition their on-farm labour demands but also their off-farm labour availability. In general, mostly male members with more access to education and better command of the Spanish language from households with more access to land and animal holdings, improved animals, forage sources and hired labour are those who go more for off-farm work in both zones. Both agricultural and pastoralist households go for off-farm work during the dry season but because of the uncertain conditions of the labour market they can also go during the year. Agriculture, construction and commerce are the main sectors in which they supply their labour. However, households from the lakeside zone with more access to markets and better infrastructure conditions supply their labour in cities of the region, different from dry puna households who go to cities from the coastal region. Pastoral households, because they lack food storage and have considerably fewer market opportunities, are more vulnerable for food security and therefore more flexible in engaging in different activities and choosing their destination when going for off-farm work. Greater absence of key decision-makers from the household and community weaken communal organisation and burden women and children who remain on-farm, especially in the dry puna zone. Climate and (labour) market variability also stress household’s decisions causing an intensified use of natural resources which leads to soil erosion in the lakeside zone and to degradation of rangelands in the dry puna zone. These are considered push factors for off-farm work, along with limited access to education and little market development in rural areas of the Altiplano. Agricultural industry development in the coastal region encouraged by export-oriented agricultural governmental policy is considered a pull factor. Agricultural and development policies are focused more on articulating rural households to the global market economy rather than to developing local markets. These policies have failed to include seasonal labour variability and geographic differentiation at the moment to facilitate on-farm and off-farm opportunities, marginalising the poorest households of the region. Households from the dry puna zone present different demands that should be reconsidered in development and poverty alleviation efforts. Therefore, understanding off-farm work patterns in the different agro-ecological zones at determinate seasons could improve development and poverty alleviation efforts as well as enlighten policy for the Altiplano region.

File: Turin 2009 - Seasonal work in Peruvian Altiplano.pdf