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Uprooting Diversity? Peasant Farmers’ Market Engagements and the on-Farm Conservation of Crop Genetic Resources in the Guatemalan Highlands

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  • S. Ryan Isakson
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    Abstract

    The long-term security of the global food supply is contingent upon the on-farm conservation of crop genetic diversity. Without it, food crops lack the ability to evolve in the face of new pests, emerging plant diseases, and changing environmental conditions. The genetic diversity of many of humankind’s major food crops is cultivated in the field, primarily by peasant farmers of the global south. As the widening of global markets affects the lives of these farmers in new ways, the future provisioning of crop genetic resources and, ultimately, the security of the global food supply is in doubt. The author investigates how the participation of Guatemalan peasants in the market economy is related to the on-farm conservation of crop genetic diversity in three crops: maize, legumes, and squash. Participation in markets is not inherently detrimental to the provisioning of crop genetic resources but, without the proper protections in place, market participation may unleash processes that contribute to genetic erosion over time. The author concludes by sketching seven policy prescriptions that would encourage the on-farm conservation of crop genetic diversity in a way that is consistent with peasant farmers’ development objectives.

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    File URL: http://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/working_papers/working_papers_101-150/WP122.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst in its series Working Papers with number wp122.

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    Date of creation: 2007
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    Handle: RePEc:uma:periwp:wp122

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    Related research

    Keywords: crop genetic resources; peasant agriculture; food security; market integration; Guatemala;

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    1. Gomez, Jose Alfonso Aguirre & Bellon, Mauricio R. & Smale, Melinda, 1998. "A Regional Analysis of Maize Biological Diversity in Southeastern Guanajuato, Mexico," Economics Working Papers 7671, CIMMYT: International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.
    2. Reardon, Thomas & Berdegue, Julio & Escobar, German, 2001. "Rural Nonfarm Employment and Incomes in Latin America: Overview and Policy Implications," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 395-409, March.
    3. Smale, Melinda & Bellon, Mauricio R & Aguirre Gomez, Jose Alfonso, 2001. "Maize Diversity, Variety Attributes, and Farmers' Choices in Southeastern Guanajuato, Mexico," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 50(1), pages 201-25, October.
    4. Bebbington, Anthony, 1999. "Capitals and Capabilities: A Framework for Analyzing Peasant Viability, Rural Livelihoods and Poverty," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(12), pages 2021-2044, December.
    5. Feder, Gershon, 1980. "Farm Size, Risk Aversion and the Adoption of New Technology under Uncertainty," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 32(2), pages 263-83, July.
    6. Goldin, Liliana R, 1992. "Work and Ideology in the Maya Highlands of Guatemala: Economic Beliefs in the Context of Occupational Change," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(1), pages 103-23, October.
    7. Filmer, Deon & Pritchett, Lant, 1998. "Estimating wealth effects without expenditure data - or tears : with an application to educational enrollments in states of India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1994, The World Bank.
    8. Bellon, Mauricio R. & Adato, Michelle & Becerril, Javier & Mindek, Dubravka, 2006. "Poor farmers' perceived benefits from different types of maize germplasm: The case of creolization in lowland tropical Mexico," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 113-129, January.
    9. Hammer, Jeffrey S., 1986. "Subsistence first farm allocation decisions in senegal," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 355-369, October.
    10. Van Dusen, M. Eric & Taylor, J. Edward, 2005. "Missing markets and crop diversity: evidence from Mexico," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(04), pages 513-531, August.
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