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Institutional support and in situ conservation in Mexico: biases against small-scale maize farmers in post-NAFTA agricultural policy


  • Alder Keleman



One of the major adjustments brought on by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was a change in the relationship between Mexican agricultural support institutions and the small-scale agricultural sector. Post-NAFTA restructuring programs sought to correct previous inefficiencies in this sector, but they have also had the effect of marginalizing the producers who steward and manage the country’s reserve of maize (Zea mays) genetic diversity. Framed by research suggesting that certain maize varieties in a rain-fed farming region in southern Sonora are in danger of loss due chiefly to long-term drought, this article explores the ramifications of post-NAFTA agricultural policies for in situ maize diversity conservation. Qualitative methods, including semi-structured interviews with agricultural support institutions and participant observation with farmers, were used to gather data on dryland farmers’ access to research and extension, as well as possibilities for collective action. In southern Sonora, agricultural support is oriented primarily toward high-tech production, and there are structural barriers to small-scale farmers’ access to research and extension institutions. Further, collective action around agriculture is limited. These circumstances represent significant limitations to farmers’ options for accessing new techniques which might help maintain maize diversity in the context of economic and environmental change. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Suggested Citation

  • Alder Keleman, 2010. "Institutional support and in situ conservation in Mexico: biases against small-scale maize farmers in post-NAFTA agricultural policy," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 27(1), pages 13-28, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:27:y:2010:i:1:p:13-28
    DOI: 10.1007/s10460-009-9192-y

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Shriar, Avrum J., 2002. "Food security and land use deforestation in northern Guatemala," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 395-414, August.
    2. de Janvry, Alain & Sadoulet, Elisabeth & de Anda, Gustavo Gordillo, 1995. "NAFTA and Mexico's maize producers," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 23(8), pages 1349-1362, August.
    3. Barbier, Edward B., 2000. "Links between economic liberalization and rural resource degradation in the developing regions," Agricultural Economics, Blackwell, vol. 23(3), pages 299-310, September.
    4. Bellon, Mauricio R. & Adato, Michelle & Becerril, Javier & Mindek, Dubravka, 2003. "The impact of improved maize germplasm on poverty alleviation," FCND discussion papers 162, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    5. James J. Biles, 2000. "The Interaction of Economic Reforms, Socio-economic Structure and Agriculture in Mexico," Growth and Change, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 31(1), pages 3-22.
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    Cited by:

    1. Eakin, Hallie & Appendini, Kirsten & Sweeney, Stuart & Perales, Hugo, 2015. "Correlates of Maize Land and Livelihood Change Among Maize Farming Households in Mexico," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 78-91.
    2. Hallie Eakin & Hugo Perales & Kirsten Appendini & Stuart Sweeney, 2014. "Selling Maize in Mexico: The Persistence of Peasant Farming in an Era of Global Markets," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 45(1), pages 133-155, January.


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