Peasant Farming Systems, Agricultural Modernization, and the Conservation of Crop Genetic Resources in Latin America

  • Miguel A. Altieri
  • M. Kat Anderson


Many traditional agroecosystems found in Latin America constitute major in situ repositories of crop genetic diversity. This native germplasm is crucial to developing countries and industrialized nations alike. Native varieties expand and renew the crop genetic resources of developed countries while also performing well under the ecological and economic conditions of the traditional farms where they are grown. With agricultural modernization and environmental degradation, crop genetic diversity is decreasing in peasant agricultural systems. Research is urgently needed to document rates and causes of genetic erosion in these systems and the role that peasants play in maintenance of crop genetic diversity. It is proposed that multi-disciplinary teams that work under the paradigms of ethnoecology and agroecology be assembled to integrate farmers’ knowledge with Western scientific approaches to design meaningful in situ crop genetic conservation strategies.


Potato Variety Home Garden Germ Plasm Genetic Erosion Peasant Farming 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature Cited

  1. Alcorn, J.B. 1981. Huastec noncrop resource management. Human Ecol. 9: 395–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alcorn, J.B. 1984. Development policy, forest and peasant farming: Reflections on Huastec-managed forests’ contributions to commercial production and resource conservation. Econ. Bot. 38: 384–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Altieri, M.A. 1983. Agroecology: The scientific basis of alternative agriculture. Berkeley: University of California, Division of Biol. Control.Google Scholar
  4. Altieri, M.A. 1989. Rethinking crop genetic resource conservation: A view from the South. Cons. Biol. 3: 1–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Altieri, M.A., Anderson, M.K. 1986. An ecological basis for the development of alternative agricultural systems for small farmers in the Third World. Amer. J. Alternative Agriculture 1: 30–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Altieri, M.A., Anderson, M.K., Merrick, L.C. 1987. Peasant agriculture and the conservation of crop and wild plant resources. J. Cons. Biol. 1: 49–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Altieri, M.A., Merrick, L.C. 1987. In situ conservation of crop genetic resources through maintenance of traditional farming systems. Econ. Bot. 4: 86–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Beadle, G.W. 1980. The ancestry of corn. Scientific American 242: 112–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Berlin, B., Breedlove, D.E., Raven, P.H. 1973. General principles of classification and nomenclature in folk biology. Amer. Anthro. 75: 214–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brown, W.L. 1983. Genetic diversity and vulnerability-an appraisal. Econ. Bot. 37: 2–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brush, S.B. 1982. The natural and human environment of the central Andes. Mountain Research and Development 2: 14–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brush, S.B., Carney, H.J., Huaman, Z. 1980. The dynamics of Andean potato agriculture. Working Paper Series no. 1980–5. Lima: International Potato Center.Google Scholar
  13. Bye, R.A. 1981. Quelites-ethnoecology of edible greens-past, present and future. J. Ethnobiol. 1: 109–23.Google Scholar
  14. Carney, H.J. 1980. Diversity, distribution and peasant selection of indigenous potato varieties in the Mantaro Valley, Peru: A biocultural evolutionary process. Working Paper Series no. 1980 - 2. Lima: International Potato Center.Google Scholar
  15. Chacon, J.C., Gliessman, S.R. 1982. Use of the “non-weed” concept in traditional tropical agroecosystems of south-eastern Mexico. Agroecosystems 8: 1–11.Google Scholar
  16. Chambers, R. Ghildyal, B.P. 1985. Agricultural research for resource poor farmers: the farmers first and best model. Agric. Admin. 20: 1–30.Google Scholar
  17. Chang, J.H. 1977. Tropical agriculture: Crop diversity and crop yields. Econ. Geogr. 53: 241–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Clay, J.W. 1988. Indigenous peoples and tropical forests. Cambridge, Mass.: Cultural Survival.Google Scholar
  19. de Janvry, A. 1981. The agrarian question and reformism in Latin America. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Denevan, W.M., Treace, J.M., Alcorn, J.B., Padoch, C., Denslow, J., Paitan, S.F. 1984. Indigenous agroforestry in the Peruvian Amazon: Bora Indian management of swidden fallows. Intersciencia 9: 346–57.Google Scholar
  21. de Wet, J.M., Harlan, J. 1975. Weeds and domesticates: Evolution in man- made habitat. Econ. Bot. 29: 94–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ford-Lloyd, B., Jackson, M. 1986. Plant genetic resources: an introduction to their conservation and use. London: Edward Arnold.Google Scholar
  23. Francis, C.A. 1986. Multiple cropping systems. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  24. Gliessman, S.R. 1988. The home garden agroecosystem: A model for developing sustainable tropical agricultural systems. Proceedings of the 6th International Scientific Conference of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, ed. P. Allen and D. van Dusen, 445–50. Santa Cruz: University of California.Google Scholar
  25. Harlan, J.R. 1976. Genetic resources in wild relatives of crops. Crop Sci. 16: 329–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hawkes, J.G. 1983. The diversity of crop plants. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Jackson, M.T., Hawkes, J.G., Rowe, P.R. 1980. An ethnobotanical field study of primitive potato varieties in Peru. Euphytica 24: 107–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jennings, D.L. 1976. Cassava. In Evolution of crop plants, ed. N.W. Simmonds. London: Longman.Google Scholar
  29. Lentz, D.I. 1986. Ethnobotany of the Jicaque of Honduras. Econ. Bot. 40: 210–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mooney, P.R. 1983. The law of the seed. Development Dialogue 1: 1–172.Google Scholar
  31. Nabhan, G.P. 1979. Cultivation and culture. Ecologist 9: 259–63.Google Scholar
  32. Nabhan, G.P. 1985. Native crop diversity in Aridoamerica: Conservation of regional gene pools. Econ. Bot. 39: 387–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nations, J.D., and Nigh, R.B. 1980. The evolutionary potential of Lacandon Maya sustained-yield tropical forest agriculture. J. Anthropol. Res. 36: 1–30.Google Scholar
  34. Ninez, V. 1985. Household gardens and small scale food production. Food and Nutrition Bull. 7: 1–5.Google Scholar
  35. Ortega, E. 1986. Peasant agriculture in Latin America. Santiago, Chile: Joint ECLAC/FAO Agriculture Division.Google Scholar
  36. Posey, D.A. 1985. Indigenous management of tropical forest ecosystems: The case of the Kayapo Indians of the Brazilian Amazon. Agroforestry Systems 3: 139–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Posner, J.L., McPherson, M.F. 1982. Agriculture on the steep slopes of tropical America: Current situation and prospects for the year 2000. World Development 10: 341–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sarukhän, J. 1985. Ecological and social overviews of ethnobotanical research. Econ. Bot. 39: 431–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Toledo, V.M. 1980. La ecologia del modo campesino de producion. [The ecology of the peasant’s way of farming.] Anthropologia y Marxismo 3: 35–55.Google Scholar
  40. Toledo, V.M., J. Carabias, and C. Toledo. 1985. Ecologia y autosuficiencia alimentaria. [Ecology and food self-sufficiency.] Mexico: Siglo Veintiuno Editora.Google Scholar
  41. Wilken, G.C. 1969. The ecology of gathering in a Mexican farming region. Econ. Bot. 24: 286–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wilkes, H.G. 1977. Hybridization of maize and teosinte in Mexico and Guatemala and the improvement of maize. Econ. Bot. 31: 254–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wilkes, H.G. 1979. Mexico and Central America as a center for the origin of agriculture and the evolution of maize. Crop Improvement 6: 1–18.Google Scholar
  44. Williams, D.E. 1985. Tres Arvenses solanäces comestibles y su proceso de domestication en Tlaxcala, Mexico. [The edible wild Solanaceae and their domestication process in Tlaxcala, Mexico.] Master’s thesis, Colegio de Post- graduados, Chapingo, Mexico.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Routledge, Chapman & Hall, Inc. and Diane C. Fiedler 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miguel A. Altieri
  • M. Kat Anderson

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations