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Greenleaf Symposium on Rural Transformation in Latin America's Changing Climate

Header ImagePhotograph via CC © Heinz Plenge (FAO/MINAG). International Day of Quinoa.

November 14, 2018 - November 16, 2018

Hodgin Hall, Bobo Room



CONFERENCE SUMMARY

This symposium brings together leading researchers in the field alongside exceptional junior scholars to advance theoretical understandings of smallholder agriculture and rural landscapes within the context of ecological, political, and economic transformation in Latin America. Rural transformation is happening in Latin American societies in which inequality is extremely high, climate change is increasingly disruptive, economic liberalization is rapid and radical, and globalization is overwhelming local cultures. Despite these challenges, smallholder agriculture and rural people keep contributing to the rural economy and to society at large, because they assert agency and shape their emerging environments.

The symposium is organized around three themes, each representing an aspect of changing rural landscapes in Latin America. 
1. Agroecology: Understanding how agroecology has merged activism and agronomy in the age of climate change to transform agrarian movements in Latin America.
2. Water governance: Understanding contestations over water and how they transform politics in the age of climate change.
3. Security measures: Tensions in securitization among nation-states, industry, and rural people as each works to meet their goals in a changing climate.

The symposium format fosters cross-disciplinary collaborations by bringing together plenary speakers from diverse academic fields, presentations of works-in-progress by invited presenters, and facilitated discussions.

Register now to reserve your space.


CONFERENCE BACKGROUND

A “transformation” is a fundamental shift in system characteristics that results in a qualitatively different system identity (Cumming et al. 2005). Transformation can be intentional (Olsson et al., 2008; Biggs et al., 2010; Chapin et al., 2012), or it can emerge unexpectedly as a result of anthropogenic and natural forces (Batterbury et al., 1997; Scheffer et al., 2001). In this symposium, we propose to explore the tensions, struggles, and interplay between intentional and unexpected transformation in Latin American smallholder agriculture, particularly as driven by climate change and socioeconomic globalization.

In recent decades, agricultural changes in Latin American has widely shared four features: increased rural-urban integration, diversification of rural economies, dominance of agrifood systems by transnational corporations and cartels, and expansion of road networks and communications technologies (Berdegué et al., 2014).

These factors have influenced each other, and are both causes and consequences of continued rural transformation in the twenty-first century. Long-standing rural, agrarian communities have been replaced by new types of communities, in which agriculture is still important but with different roles from the past. These differences do not always benefit rural people. Even as agriculture has grown as an economic sector, its increased integration with global economies has undermined the ability of rural populations to meet their goals, or even excluded them from the sectoral growth (IFAD, 2016). In other words, “the paradox in Latin America is that while agriculture has been doing relatively well … with a sustained 2.5 percent annual growth … over the past 40 years, rural people have not fared well: rural poverty remains stuck at 58 million” (World Bank, 2007, p. 239).

Smallholders, peasants, and indigenous rural actors are under-represented in agricultural development policies in the region. These policies are typically developed through negotiations between the state and small groups of powerful private actors. Rural groups with less power, like smallholders, are almost always under-represented in those negotiations (PIADAL 2013, p. 87-89). This exclusion extends beyond purely economic aspects into attempts to manage the impacts of climate change on Latin American agriculture (Warner & Kuzdas, 2016).

Smallholder vulnerability to climate change results from geography, and adaptive capacities are constrained by various socioeconomic, demographic, and policy-based processes (Morton, 2007). Climate-driven impacts and adaptations have widely undermined the livelihoods of smallholder farmers across Latin America (Warner, 2016). However, continued socioeconomic marginalization and emerging climate-related impacts have spawned new movements that attempt to reshape transformation in more inclusive ways.

The symposium program will include three sessions focused on different aspects related to rural transformation: agroecology, water use and governance, and security measures. The agroecological revolution has merged activism and agronomy, and underlies the vision of food sovereignty supported by La Via Campesina, one of the most important agrarian movements in Latin America (Altieri & Toledo, 2011; Martinez-Alier, 2011). Contestations over water, who can access it, and how it is distributed have shaped regional politics for decades (e.g. Assies, 2003; Perrault, 2005), with these struggles exacerbated by climate change. Negotiating water governance at multiple scales has become a key challenge (Perrault 2014a, 2014b). Finally, tensions among security measures taken by nation states, industry, and rural people complement and compete as they each seek to meet their goals in a changing climate. As the concluding session for the symposium, the focus on securitization will explore competing understandings of the ways in which water, agroecology, and narco-production are constructed as threats or threatened by certain groups, and will then interrogate those tensions as they emerge in competing narratives.



Carmen Cortez
Carmen Cortez

Carmen J. Cortez is the Associate Director of the Community Agroecology Network (CAN), where she is a collaborator in participatory action research (PAR) projects related to women and the defense of land, indigenous campesino food systems, and catalyzing youth led local economies with network partners in Nicaragua, Mexico, and Watsonville California. She has worked on community based art culture and food projects with immigrant communities in Southern California and is committed to strengthening community processes connecting to land, culture, and community self-governance, towards food sovereignty. She holds a Ph.D. from the Graduate Group in Ecology at the University of California, Davis with a specialization in Human Ecology. Her doctoral dissertation focused on examining agroecological strategies for intensifying milpa farming by Maya farmers and the impact of the formalized school system on time spent acquiring traditional ecological knowledge by Maya youth in Belize.


Chris Duvall
Chris Duvall

Associate Professor Chris Duvall received an appointment with the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at The University of New Mexico in 2008. As a biogeographer, Duvall’s research relates to how humans represent and depict their environment, as well as human-plant interaction. Most recently his research has focused on cannabis and other plants that enslaved people in western Central Africa used medicinally. His academic interests include cultural and historical ecology, African diaspora, food geography, and science studies. Duvall discusses how the social constructions of human difference affect access to and use of environmental resources, human-environment interactions involved in illicit drug commerce, and the environmental meanings of food, among other topics. His book, Cannabis, was published by Reaktion Books in 2015 and he has a forthcoming book, Mariamba: African Roots of Marijuana, forthcoming from Duke University Press (expected 2018).


Edward Fischer
Edward Fischer

Edward (Ted) Fischer is the Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt University. He is also the founder of Maní+, a social enterprise in Guatemala that develops and produces locally sourced foods to fight malnutrition. Fischer serves as an advisor to the World Health Organization on nutrition and the cultural contexts of health and wellbeing. He has authored or edited several books, including Broccoli and Desire (2006) and The Good Life: Aspiration, Dignity, and the Anthropology of Wellbeing (2014). He is currently working on a project that examines the ways moral and economic values are intertwined in the high-end coffee market


Raul de Gouvea
Raul de Gouvea

Dr. Raul de Gouvea joined The University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Business in 1988, where he currently serves as a Professor of International Business and Latin American Management. With a geographic emphasis on Brazil and Mexico, de Gouvea specializes in economics and business in Latin America and international trade. He offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses for Latin American Studies students. His classes focus on the nature of international competitive markets, the impacts of technology commercialization on markets, analysis and diagnosis of Latin American environments, and the practical science and craft of international business operations, such as exports.


Kendra McSweeney
Kendra McSweeney

Kendra McSweeney (MSc Geography, University of Tennessee-Knoxville; PhD McGill University), is a Professor of Geography at Ohio State University, with over 20 years of research among indigenous societies of eastern Honduras. Her current research focuses on understanding how the trade and regulation of illicit commodities shapes the socio-ecological systems through which they are trafficked. Her other research has drawn attention to the links between indigenous population growth and ethno-territorial persistence in Latin America; she also studies human-forest interaction in Appalachian Ohio. Her research has been funded by the Open Society Foundations, the National Geographic Society and the National Science Foundation.


Jami Nelson-Nuñez
Jami Nelson-Nuñez

Assistant Professor Jami Nelson-Nuñez received an appointment in the Department of Political Science at The University of New Mexico in 2015. Dr. Nelson-Nuñez’s research explores the challenges of development and extending basic services to the poor in developing contexts, with particular attention paid to the interactions between civil society groups and local governments in decentralized settings. Nelson-Nuñez also studies water, sanitation and health issues in developing countries. This work includes NSF-funded research with an interdisciplinary group from CU-Boulder evaluating the sustainability of water and sanitation projects in Peru. She offers undergraduate and graduate level courses for Latin American Studies students on topics such as inequality and poverty in the U.S. and international contexts; development and theories of change; and the role of politics in attaining access to health services, drinking water, and sanitation in Latin America.


Thomas Perrault
Thomas Perrault

Tom Perreault is DellPlain Professor of Latin American Geography and Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence at Syracuse University. He situates his research at the intersection of political ecology, resource geography, agrarian studies and critical development studies. In particular, for the past 15 years his work has focused on questions of water governance, rural livelihoods and the politics of resource extraction (primarily mining) in Bolivia. Previously, his research focused on rural development programs and indigenous peoples’ cultural and political movements in the Ecuadorian Amazon. He is co-editor, most recently, of Water Justice (Cambridge University Press, 2018).


Gabriela Torres-Mazuera
Gabriela Torres-Mazuera

Dr. Torres-Mazuera is a research professor at the Center for Research and Higher Education in Social Anthropology (CIESAS, for its initials in Spanish) in Mérida, Yucatán. Her field of study is contemporary rural and indigenous Mexico, with research emphasizing three axes, including 1) the lags between official legislation, vernacular and indigenous “uses and customs”; 2) the legal and political resistance of Indigenous peoples and peasant groups facing processes of privatization and commodification of their natural resources (land, seeds, water, forests); and 3) the dynamics of governance of the rural, agrarian and indigenous societies in contexts of legal and institutional change.


Marygold Walsh-Dilley
Marygold Walsh-Dilley

Assistant Professor Marygold Walsh-Dilley received an appointment in the Honors College at The University of New Mexico in 2015. She offers undergraduate courses that explore the social, political, and historical factors that shape our diet, indigenous rebels and fighters who resisted Spanish colonization in the Andean region, and the interplay between indigenous peoples and globalization. Her research geographically centers in Bolivia and conceptually focuses on the political economy of rural development, peasant and indigenous farming systems, food and agriculture, and the lived experiences and local negotiations of global social and agrarian change.


Benjamin Warner
Benjamin Warner

Assistant Professor Benjamin Warner joined the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at The University of New Mexico in 2017, following his appointment as a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the University of Massachusetts. Dr. Warner’s research focuses geographically on Latin America, with additional emphases in Central America, and Southwestern and New England regions of the US. His research is broadly defined as development geography, with specific topics including water governance and institutions; Central American development; agrarian adaptation in Central America’s “dry corridor;” vulnerability, risk, and adaptation to environmental change and globalization; political economy of climate adaptation programs; critical development studies; and mixed methods.


Karl Zimmerer
Karl Zimmerer

Karl Zimmerer (MA, PhD Geography, University of California, Berkeley) is an environmental scientist in the Departments of Geography and Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education as well the Ecology Program at Pennsylvania State University, where he also directs the GeoSyntheSES Lab (https://zimmerergeosyntheses.psu.edu/). His newest book is Agrobiodiversity: Integrating Knowledge for a Sustainable Future (MIT Press, 2018, with Stef de Haan). Zimmerer’s research and teaching address the transformative resilience and sustainability of land use and food systems using agrobiodiversity models, spatial landscape design, and cultural, socioeconomic, and historical analysis. He is involved in projects on strengthening sustainability and justice issues of smallholders and agrobiodiversity amid global changes and territorial initiatives for sustainable development. Recent articles and chapters that Karl has published with collaborators appears in various journals and books, and he has also authored other books, including Changing Fortunes: Biodiversity and Peasant Livelihoods in the Peruvian Andes, Globalization and New Geographies of Conservation, and Political Ecology. He is the recipient of grants and fellowships from NSF, Fulbright, and the Guggenheim Foundation, and is an elected AAAS fellow. For 8 years he edited the Nature-Society section of the Annals of the Association of American Geographers.




For quick reference, please see the printable PDF.

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The conference is organized by the UNM Latin American and Iberian Institute (LAII) under the leadership of a faculty steering committee composed of:

  • Chris Duvall, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies
  • Jami Nuñez, Department of Political Science
  • Marygold Walsh-Dilley, Honors College & Department of Sociology
  • Benjamin P. Warner, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies

It is held as the LAII’s fifth Richard E. Greenleaf Conference on Latin America in honor of Dr. Greenleaf, noted Latin Americanist and dear colleague.

The generous support of the following partners has made the event possible:
  • Department of Political Science
  • Department of Geography and Environmental Studies
  • Honors College
  • National Security Studies Program
  • Office of the Provost
  • Phi Beta Kappa New Mexico Chapter


Accommodations and Lodging: A discounted group rate ($125/night, including breakfast)  has been arranged with the Hotel Parq Central in Albuquerque, NM, for out-of-town guests seeking accommodation. To obtain this rate, please contact Noelle Wallace at 505-242-0040, or by email, nwallace@hotelparqcentral.com. Other student-friendly accommodations may be found by looking at the list of hotels which provide a UNM rate or at the newly-refurbished Mother Road Hostel.

Directions and Parking: The conference will be held in the UNM Hodgin Hall, which is building #103 on the UNM Campus Map. Visitor parking is available within easy walking distance at the Cornell Parking Structure (building #198 on the campus map). All hourly parking is available at a rate of $1.00 per half-hour and may be purchased in the parking structure using pay stations that accept VISA, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover or through the use of Parkmobile to pay remotely by cell phone. The Albuquerque public transit system would also be a convenient transportation method, as a bus stop is located close to Hodgin Hall on Central Ave.