This study examines farmers’ agro-biodiversity decision-making through an Andean case study, and expands upon earlier approaches in two ways. First, it incorporates cultural variables into an econometric analytic framework encompassing the influence of demographic, farm physical and market factors on agro-biodiversity. Second, it encompasses a suite of different richness measures of inter- as well as intraspecific agro-biodiversity. Data are drawn from interviews with the heads of 89 farm households in Cotacachi, Ecuador. ANOVA and poisson regressions are used to analyze the relations between explanatory variables and agro-biodiversity measures. Results show that culture and subsistence play key roles in fostering diversity maintenance; those who strongly identify with local Kichwa cultural traditions and those whose production is mainly subsistence-oriented grow the most diverse fields. The findings indicate that initiatives supporting cultural revitalization and agriculture oriented at home consumption will likely enhance in situ diversity maintenance.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
One forage species, alfalfa (Medicago sativa), was also registered. It is used for feeding guinea pigs and rabbits and is typically grown on a small scale in home gardens together with vegetables. For the purposes of the current analysis it is therefore included with vegetables.
For this study a modern variety is defined as a crop variety which has been bred in the formal breeding sector and a landrace as a crop variety which has not been bred in the formal sector.
Number of potato varieties was summed across the species Solanum tuberosum subsp. andigena, Solanum chaucha and Solanum sect. Petota.
The vegetable count differentiated between several crops belonging to the species Brassica oleracea, and is as such a crop count, not a species count.
The anaku costume of Cotacachi consists of dark and white wrap-around skirts, white, embroidered blouses, woven ribbons, in addition to other complements. It is related to, but different from the traditional dress of other regions of Andean Ecuador. Whereas men typically only wear their traditional clothing (consisting of white trousers and shirt, and a dark, woolen poncho) on special occasions, women maintain this tradition to a larger extent. In the case of single male-headed households where the man formerly had been married, the clothing habit of the former wife was recorded.
Original categories for small and medium proportions were combined due to low frequencies in each.
A Kendall’s rank correlation analysis of the three variables (using the categorical variable for food consumption) yields positive bivariate correlation coefficients ranging in size from 0.46 to 0.66, significant at the p < 0.0001 level.
In order to further test the reliability of this choice, separate sets of poisson regression analyses were run with inclusion of each of the three categorical cultural variables, as well as composite measures. These produced results similar to those for the continuous variable (not shown here).
For instance, in the larger dissertation research project of which this study forms part, the author collected recipes for 30 different maize dishes (Skarbø unpublished data).
Introduction of a term for age squared in the full regression model for total variety richness did not improve the significance of age and only improved the explanatory power of the model to a minuscule degree (Δ pseudo-R 2 = 0.0003), and was therefore omitted.
I would like to note, however, that to my knowledge no econometric analysis, the present included, has examined possible differences between men and women in shaping decision-making about agro-biodiversity in relation to other explanatory factors. While the great majority (89 %) of the surveyed households are jointly headed by both a female and a male, making it difficult to detect variation between households due to different gender composition, research from Mexico has noted differences between males and females from the same households in terms of knowledge and perceptions related to agro-biodiversity (Chambers and Momsen 2007). The large extent of the crop diversity documented in connection with the present study might in part be related to the fact that 74 % of the interviewees were women, who in the study area typically carry the main responsibility of seed management, and therefore are highly knowledgeable regarding the area’s agro-biodiversity (see also Skarbø 2006).
A t-test shows that households where one or two spouses work off farm cultivate significantly less land in comparison with those with where both stay on the farm (means 0.74 [SD 2.35] ha vs. 1.82 [SD 1.31] ha, p = 0.01).
Examination of the data supports this interpretation; as much as 50 % (16 of 32) of those with land above 0.7 ha market a large part of their crop production, while only 7 % (4 of 57) of those with less land do so.
Seventy-three % (8 of 11) of the farms in the sample with livestock assets over $1,500 sell a medium to large part of their agricultural harvest. Fifty-five % (6 of 11) are farms located in the high zone.
If climatic conditions continue to change in the Andes and Cotacachi as predicted (Urrutia and Vuille 2009), this relation may be altered in the future, as irrigation may actually allow farmers to maintain more diversity not adapted to lengthened periods of dry conditions.
However, the sample of Major’s team was small (N = 16), and the difference was not found to be statistically significant.
Abbott, J. A. (2005). Counting Beans: Agrobiodiversity, Indigeneity and Agrarian Reform. The Professional Geographer 57(2): 198–212.
Bellon, M. R. (1996). The Dynamics of Crop Infraspecific Diversity: A Conceptual Framework at the Farmer Level. Economic Botany 50(1): 26–39.
Bellon, M. R. (2001). Demand and Supply of Crop Infraspecific Diversity on Farms: Towards a Policy Framework for On-Farm Conservation. CIMMYT, Mexico.
Benin, S., et al. (2004). The Economic Determinants of Cereal Crop Diversity on Farms in the Ethiopian Highlands. Agricultural Economics 31: 197–208.
Birol, E., Smale, M., and Gyovai, Á. (2006). Using a Choice Experiment to Estimate Farmers’ Valuation of Agrobiodiversity on Hungarian Small Farms. Environmental and Resource Economics 34: 439–469.
Brush, S. B. (1992). Ethnoecology, Biodiversity, and Modernization in Andean Potato Agriculture. Journal of Ethnobiology 12(2): 161–185.
Brush, S. B. (1999). Genetic erosion of crop populations in centers of crop diversity: a revision. Paper presented at the Technical Meeting on the Methodology of the FAO World Information and Early Warning System on Plant Genetic Resources, Prague, Czech Republic.
Brush, S. B. (2004). Farmers’ Bounty: Locating Crop Diversity in the Contemporary World. Yale University Press, New Haven.
Brush, S., and Meng, E. (1998). Farmers’ Valuation and Conservation of Crop Genetic Resources. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 45: 139–150.
Brush, S., and Perales, H. P. (2007). A Maize Landscape: Ethnicity and Agro-biodiversity in Chiapas, Mexico. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 121: 211–221.
Brush, S. B., Taylor, J. E., and Bellon, M. R. (1992). Technology Adoption and Biological Diversity in Andean Potato Agriculture. Journal of Development Economics 39: 365–387.
Camacho, J. (2006). Good to eat, good to think: food, culture and biodiversity in Cotacachi. In Rhoades, R. E. (ed.), Development with Identity: Community, Culture and Sustainability in the Andes. Cabi Publishing, Wallingford, pp. 156–172.
Cameron, A. C., and Trivedi, P. K. (1998). Regression Analysis of Count Data. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Chambers, K. J., and Momsen, J. H. (2007). From the kitchen and the field: gender and maize diversity in the Bajío region of Mexico. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 28(1): 39–56.
Cook, O. F. (1925). Peru as a Center of Domestication: Tracing the Origin of Civilization Through the Domesticated Plants. Journal of Heredity 16: 32–46; 95–110.
Crosby, A. W. (1972). The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492. Greenwood Pub. Co., Westport.
FAO (2010). The Second Report on the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Commision on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.
Flora, G. (2006). Circular migration and community identity: their relationship to the land. In Rhoades, R. E. (ed.), Development with identity: community, culture and sustainability in the Andes. Cabi Publishing, Wallingford, pp. 271–286.
Frankel, O. H. (ed.) (1973). Survey of crop genetic resources in their centres of diversity. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.
Gallaher, H., and Fueres, M. (2006). Ñukanchik jampita yuyarishpa/Recordando nuestra medicina. Unión de Organizaciones Campesinas e Indígenas de Cotacachi, Cotacachi.
Hernández Bermejo, J. E., and León, J. (1994). Neglected Crops: 1492 from a Different Perspective. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.
Lee, R. D., and Nieman, D. C. (2007). Measuring diet. In Lee, R. D., and Nieman, D. C. (eds.), Nutritional Assessment, 4th ed. McGraw-Hill, Boston, pp. 77–114.
Major, J., Clement, C. R., and DiTomasso, A. (2005). Influence of Market Orientation on Food Plant Diversity of Farms Located on Amazonian Dark Earth in the Region of Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil. Economic Botany 59(1): 77–86.
Mayer, E., and Glave, M. (2002). Alguito para ganar (“A little something to earn”): profits and losses in peasant economies. In Mayer, E. (ed.), The Articulated Peasant: Household Economies in the Andes. Westview Press, Boulder, pp. 205–237.
Moates, S., and Campbell, B. C. (2006). Incursion, fragmentation and tradition: historical ecology in Andean Cotacachi. In Rhoades, R. E. (ed.), Development with Identity: Community, Culture and Sustainability in the Andes. Cabi Publishing, Wallingford, pp. 27–45.
National Research Council (1989). Lost Crops of the Incas: Little-Known Plants of the Andes with Promise for Worldwide Cultivation. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
Nazarea, V. D. (1998). Cultural Memory and Biodiversity. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
Nazarea, V. D. (2005). Heirloom Seeds and Their Keepers: Marginality and Memory in the Conservation of Biological Diversity. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
Nazarea, V. D. (2006). Local Knowledge and Memory in Biodiversity Conservation. Annual Review of Anthropology 35(1): 317–335.
Nazarea, V. D., Camacho, J., and Parra, N. (2006). Recipes for Life: Counsel, Customs, and Cuisine from the Andean Hearths. Ediciones Abya-Yala, Quito.
Orlove, B. (1998). Down to Earth: Race and Substance in the Andes. Bulletin of Latin American Research 17(2): 207–222.
Perales, H. R., Brush, S. B., and Qualset, C. O. (2003). Landraces of Maize in Central Mexico: An Altitudinal Transect. Economic Botany 57(1): 7–20.
Perreault, T. (2005). Why Chakras (Swidden Gardens) Persist: Agrobiodiversity, Food Security, and Cultural Identity in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Human Organization 64(4): 327–339.
Perreault-Archambault, M., and Coomes, O. T. (2008). Distribution of Agrobiodiversity in Home Gardens Along the Corrientes River, Peruvian Amazon. Economic Botany 62(2): 109–126.
Quiros, C. F., Brush, S. B., Douches, D. S., Zimmerer, K. S., and Huestis, G. (1990). Biochemical and Folk Assessment of Variability of Andean Cultivated Potatoes. Economic Botany 44(2): 254–266.
Ramirez, M., and Williams, D. (2003). Guía Agro-culinaria de Cotacachi. IPGRI-Américas, Cali.
Rana, R. B., Garforth, C., Sthapit, B., and Jarvis, D. (2007). Influence of Socio-economic and Cultural Factors in Rice Varietal Diversity Management On-Farm in Nepal. Agriculture and Human Values 24: 461–472.
Reyes-García, V., Vadez, V., Martí, N., Huanca, T., Leonard, W. R., and Tanner, S. (2008). Ethnobotanical Knowledge and Crop Diversity in Swidden Field: A Study in a Native Amazonian Society. Human Ecology 36: 569–580.
Rhoades, R. E. (ed.) (2006). Development with Identity: Community, Culture and Sustainability in the Andes. Cabi Publishing, Wallingford.
Rhoades, R. E., and Nazarea, V. D. (1998). Local management of biodiversity in traditional agroecosystems: a neglected resource. In Collins, W., and Qualset, C. O. (eds.), Importance of Biodiversity in Agroecosystems. Lewis Publishers, CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp. 215–236.
Sadiki, M., Jarvis, D. I., Rijal, D., Bajracharya, J., et al. (2007). Variety names: an entry point to crop genetic diversity and distribution in agroecosystems? In Jarvis, D. I., Padoch, C., and Cooper, H. D. (eds.), Managing Biodiversity in Agricultural Ecosystems. Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 34–76.
Skarbø, K. (2006). Living, dwindling, losing, finding: status and changes in agrobiodiversity of Cotacachi. In Rhoades, R. E. (ed.), Development with Identity: Community, Culture and Sustainability in the Andes. Cabi Publishing, Wallingford, pp. 123–139.
Skarbø, K. (2012). Reconfiguration of Andean fields: culture, climate and agrobiodiversity. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA.
Smale, M. (2006). Concepts, metrics, and plan of the book. In Smale, M. (ed.), Valuing Crop Biodiversity: On-Farm Genetic Resources and Economic Change. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, pp. 1–16.
Stromberg, P. M., Pascual, U., and Bellon, M. R. (2010). Seed Systems and Farmers’ Seed Choices: The Case of Maize in the Peruvian Amazon. Human Ecology 38: 539–553.
Teddlie, C., and Yu, F. (2007). Mixed Methods Sampling: A Typology with Examples. Journal of Mixed Methods Research 1: 77–100.
Tsegaye, B., and Berg, T. (2007). Utilization of Durum Wheat Landraces in East Shewa, Central Ethiopia: Are Home Uses an Incentive for On-Farm Conservation? Agriculture and Human Values 24(2): 219–230.
UNORCAC (2007). UNORCAC en cifras. Unión de Organizaciones Campesinas e Indígenas de Cotacachi, Cotacachi.
Urrutia, R., and Vuille, M. (2009). Climate Change Projections for the Tropical Andes Using a Regional Climate Model: Temperature and Precipitation Simulations for the End of the 21st Century. Journal of Geophysical Research 114, D02108 doi:10.1029/2008jd011021.
van Dusen, E., and Taylor, J. E. (2005). Missing Markets and Crop Diversity: Evidence from Mexico. Environment and Development Economics 10: 513–531.
Weismantel, M. J. (2001). Cholas and Pishtacos: Stories of Race and Sex in the Andes. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Zapata Ríos, X., Rhoades, R. E., Segovia, M. C., and Zehetner, F. (2006). Four decades of land use change in the Cotacachi Andes: 1963–2000. In Rhoades, R. E. (ed.), Development with Identity: Community, Culture and Sustainability in the Andes. Cabi Publishing, Wallingford, pp. 46–63.
Zimmerer, K. S. (1996). Changing Fortunes: Biodiversity and Peasant Livelihood in the Peruvian Andes. University of California Press, Los Angeles and Berkeley.
I am grateful to the many farmers who participated in this project, to the Unión de Organizaciones Campesinas e Indígenas de Cotacachi for facilitating the research, and to Rosa Ramos and Aida Guandinango for able research assistance. I thank Virginia Nazarea, Bram Tucker and Ricardo Godoy for guidance in the design and analysis of the study, and two anonymous reviewers for insightful comments. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0921859 and an Andrew E. and G. Norman Wigeland Fellowship from the American-Scandinavian Foundation.
About this article
Cite this article
Skarbø, K. The Cooked is the Kept: Factors Shaping the Maintenance of Agro-biodiversity in the Andes. Hum Ecol 42, 711–726 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-014-9685-1
- Crop diversity
- Farmer decision-making
- In situ conservation