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Between Extractivism and Conservation: Tree Plantations, Forest Reserves, and Peasant Territorialities in Los Ríos, Chile

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Ecological Economic and Socio Ecological Strategies for Forest Conservation

Abstract

Chile is one of the top 10 countries in the world in terms of land allocated to tree plantations, reaching 2.4 million ha in 2016. Particularly in South-central Chile huge tree plantations were developed under an extractivist model, which massively changed landscapes, ecosystems, and human-nature relations. The process was increasingly legitimized through a sustainability discourse based on notions of soil protection, sustainable development and, more recently, green economy. Concomitantly, the Chilean state increased the number and size of protected areas for nature conservation. Until recently, however, both models have largely failed to include local communities. In this context, we analyse territorial transformations between tree plantation extractivism and primary forest conservation taking the case of a peasant group that inhabits the sector Lomas del Sol, in the municipality of Valdivia, Region of Los Ríos, South-central Chile. Lomas del Sol is located between the forest reserve of Llancahue, considered of high conservation value since it supplies water for the city of Valdivia, and industrial tree plantations (pine and eucalyptus) that were often developed on previously peasants land. The study is based on empirical local field research using participatory action research and mixed techniques which allow us to present an in-depth description of the territorial transformation processes. The chapter provides a discussion about the tensions between the territoriality of smallholder peasants, forest conservation, and tree plantations. We conclude that while tensions emerged more vividly between the local territoriality and the conservation model, the silent trigger of territorial transformation has been the extractivist tree plantation model.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In the definition of Acosta (2013), extractivism consists in “those activities which remove large quantities of natural resources that are not processed (or processed only to a limited degree), especially for export. Extractivism is not limited to minerals or oil. Extractivism is also present in farming, forestry and even fishing” (2013: 62).

  2. 2.

    For a definition of sustainability see Azkarraga et al. (2011).

  3. 3.

    The use of the concept of ‘community’, as highlighted by Roberto Morales (personal comment to an early version of the paper), can be problematic in this case. We use the broader notion of ‘social group’, which share a common history, productive practices and common way to appropriate nature. Therefore, we opted for the concept of territoriality, which captures the strategies and actions of these shared practices.

  4. 4.

    ‘Sector’ corresponds to a political unit in Chile under the level of the municipality (‘comuna’ in Chilean nomenclature). At this level, local associativity institutions are legally recognized, such as peasant or indigenous associations.

  5. 5.

    Group of indigenous people in Chile and Argentina. Mapuche in the original language means “people of the earth”.

  6. 6.

    We propose to call this process “Usurpation of Araucanía”. The process starts with a series of negotiations and finalized with a military campaign covering most of the nineteenth century. Military control of the frontier was gained by the Chilean state in the 1870s.

  7. 7.

    FSC is a global organization dedicated to promoting responsible forest management. In short, their activity engages stakeholders in the process of verification of responsible practices of companies. Companies which decide to comply to the protocols pf FSC have to demonstrate certain standards, so their products get an eco-label. With this eco-label, consumers can verify that the companies are following the standards (Heilmayr and Lambin 2016; Millaman et al. 2016).

  8. 8.

    Planted land ownership (x): (i) Large-size company: x >30,000 ha; (ii) Medium-size company: 5000 ha < x < 30,000 ha; (iii) Medium-size owner: 200 ha < x < 5000 ha; and (iv) Small-size owner: x <200 ha

  9. 9.

    An individual of a community.

  10. 10.

    However, as reported by Donoso et al. (2014), even in the present several of the families do not have formal titles.

  11. 11.

    For a description of Chilean fungus see Furci (2008).

  12. 12.

    These practices were only banned in the municipality of Osorno (Ministry of Health 2000). However, it might have been a corporate decision which changed practices.

  13. 13.

    Community-based tourism (CBT) is a tool for communities to achieve defend their territories from threats such as real estate speculation and cultural de-characterization. With this tourism it has been possible, the generation of work and income, protect biodiversity and cultural identity, conserving ways of life of rural and indigenous communities (Pacheco and Henríquez 2016a).

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Acknowledgments

AMM is grateful to Laura Fúquene, for her assistance, Viola Debus for her collaboration, and José Valdés Negroni for the elaboration of the mapping tool. Also, to the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) which provided the financial support for this research through the RLC Campus Bonn. We are especially grateful to the community members of LdS who shared their experiences and knowledge with us. Besides, we are grateful to the line of Economics and Politics of the TESES research centre for discussion, comments, and criticism on an early draft of the document.

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Mora-Motta, A., Stellmacher, T., Habert, G.P., Zúñiga, C.H. (2020). Between Extractivism and Conservation: Tree Plantations, Forest Reserves, and Peasant Territorialities in Los Ríos, Chile. In: Fuders, F., Donoso, P. (eds) Ecological Economic and Socio Ecological Strategies for Forest Conservation. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-35379-7_6

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